The Fact of the Matter Is. . .
From the Files of Gustavus Historical Archives & Antiquities (GHAA)
www.GustavusHistory.org - by Lee & Linda Parker
Q - Did the 1943 missionary trip on Glen Parker’s boat the “Glenellen” (see the detailed visit to Porpoise Island recluse Black Ole in the January FW issue) run into any difficulties due to wartime restrictions?
A - That’s an interesting question without specific answers simply because they were not allowed to say! Nell Parker documented these words about the trip, “there are an awful lot of things we could tell, but they would never get past the censor. Things are surely happening in this part of the country, though.”
For the 3 couples aboard, it was to be a whirlwind 3-day combination gospel tour and pleasure trip, leaving Juneau just 3 hours after 3 weeks of evangelistic meetings concluded. Their first stop was a bit of R&R to explore Swanson Harbor. What they found energized the group. A very old Indian dugout canoe was discovered overgrown high up under the trees. Mr. Mallough, the evangelist wrote, “It had the rust of antiquity upon it and was disintegrating with age many decades after its owner likely went the same way. If it could but speak, what a story it could tell!”
The next stop on the missionary voyage was to visit the lone Porpoise Island 20-yr. resident—a 73-yr. old Swede known as Black Ole. That successful and cordial call provided GHAA with the only documentation found to date that describes this man with wonderful historic details—details that may have otherwise melted away with the few remaining sticks of his cabin.
Then, in the missionary’s report, evidence of a nation at war and the necessity of treading lightly…
Their next stop was Excursion Inlet (although not identified as such), our next door neighbor pressed into service during WWII by the U. S. Government. The inlet housed prisoners of war, built great numbers of structures (including hospitals) to support troop action, and was for a short time a strategic location to supply ships heading north. But our missionaries were only allowed to say…
“In late afternoon we tied up our boat at the dock of a large construction company. Suppertime finds us seated at a long table amidst hundreds of men at the mess hall. Eyes seem to all be turned to our table. Many of these men have not seen a white woman for 6 months or more, and confess that the 3 in our party are an oddity to them. Even we men stand out in contrast to the work clothes of the camp. I witnessed the greatest profusion of beards and mustaches that I have ever seen. No one has any reason to shave and there are growths of whiskers of all colors, densities and designs.”
“Eight o’clock starts the gospel service in the recreation hall. Every seat is filled, and all standing room taken. Late comers go away disappointed or stand on the outside. These rough appearing men sing lustily the old revival hymn to the accompaniment of our portable organ. There are special vocal selections and numbers on the novelty instrument—the musical cowbells. I have never preached to a more attentive congregation. In spite of the great numbers standing, there wasn’t a person that moved. Any preacher would have been delighted to have such a receptive audience.”
Next, a quick trip to Strawberry Point…and a 2 a.m. race for Salmon River to beat the outgoing highest tide for a month… proving disastrous when the Glenellen runs aground on a river sand bar. Glen Parker (in his best clothes) instantly flipped overboard in the water in an attempt to push the boat off of the bar. Finally it broke loose and they made for high water where they anchored out for the next 12 hours—leaving only minutes to hike the flats.
Leaving Strawberry Point for a short stop in Hoonah on Chicagof Island (“a quaint hamlet of 514 souls”), found our group dodging massive deep bluish/white icebergs. Not to miss an opportunity, the Glenellen party “circled a large iceberg, shot off a piece of ice and then with pulleys got it on board so we could make ice cream”! Standing on deck, as the sun sank beneath the snow-capped mountains, the report concludes, “The hues and colors defied all powers of description…speaking the handiwork of a great God!”.
Ah, our Strawberry Point homesteaders... never left home without their ice cream manufacturing machines. Never knew when they might stumble upon an iceberg! Even on a missionary trip, presumably to invest in willing hearts and receptive ears, it was perhaps, once again the ice cream cranked on the way home that brought wonder and tranquility that soothed the soul.