[various places in Alaska]: June 29 - July 12, 1958. A 16 pp. typescript, rectos only, approx. 7800 words, stapled in the upper left hand corner. First sheet detached from the staple, a few ink corrections, lightly creased from a horizontal fold else very good. Although unsigned, the author mentions both her husband's name and her own in the text. From their base in Anchorage, the couple began a two week vacation to Fairbanks, Fort Yukon, and Circle Hot Springs, then on to Dawson City and Whitehorse in Canada, before returning to Alaska. The couple's first stop was at the "novelty" floating hotel, the Nenana, "the last of the old river steamers now permanently docked on the Chena River." They spent the night on board before continuing on to Pedro Dome, one of the White Alice Communications Systems [WACS] sites some 25 miles from Fairbanks on an isolated mountain top. Her husband Bob Donnelly's job was to check out the station which was part of the North American 'over-the-pole' defense system developed by the U.S. Air Force during the Cold War. [By 1958 there were 71 sites installed through-out Alaska]. There they met with the site supervisor Ralph Johnson. The buildings were all "immaculate, spotless and glistening. One would think a king lived there, but I understand from Bob and others that all the sites are kept that way." They were treated to lunch which a pregnant Patricia consumed with gusto. "Ralph kept insisting I eat more as excess food gets thrown out to the bears, and I do hate to see waste." Returning to Fairbanks they witnessed a balloon floating over the main business district with a big gold star attached to it, indicating that the Senate vote on statehood had been "yea."
From Fairbanks the couple flew to Fort Yukon where Bob examined another WACS site while Patricia took a tour of the town, "comprised almost exclusively of Athabascan Indians who hunt and fish for a living." She describes the roads of soft dirt, the giant mosquitoes, and an old Indian woman who was tanning a moose hide using a moose claw (hoof) to smooth it. She also saw the modern school maintained by the Native Service. The Donnellys then flew on to Circle Hot Springs run by the Burdahl family which she describes in some detail: "The springs are just as the name implies - hot, steaming and bubbling. The water temperature is 138 [degrees] as it came out of the earth, and flows at an even 65 gallons per minute summer or winter, wet season or dry. There are over a dozen hot springs and one cold. The water is so alkaline that it felt like hand lotion...." From there they returned to Fairbanks and started their drive to Dawson City, one-time capital of the Yukon Territory. They left the Alcan at Tetlin Junction to travel over the Taylor Highway, a narrow gravel road. Along the way they encountered a moose who tried to keep up with their car while Bob tried to simultaneously drive and film the creature.
She describes Dawson City as a place where "the sidewalkes were rickety boardwalks, the streets dirt" and the populous a combination of Indians, Orientals, "and the rest looked like DP's." She says the hotel they stayed in was run by a family of German DP's [a reference to the Displace Persons who emigrated to Canada following World War II]. The trip from Dawson City to Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon (as of 1953), was perilous because a wildfire was raging in the area. Patricia, pregnant with her first child, worried and fretted the whole way. From there the Donnellys returned to Alaska, stopping at the Halsingland Hotel in Port Chilkoot, "a miniature town adjoining Haines." They took a Grumman Goose amphibious plane to Juneau for the night, to see the sights including Governor Stepovich's mansion. A ferry ride back to Haines, and then a turn toward home, with a couple camping adventures and an encounter with a lynx completed their vacation, over 2570 miles, a lively, descriptive account of Alaska in the 1950s. Item #66922
The University of Alaska, Anchorage, has a collection of material related to the White Alice Communications Systems operating in Alaska from 1958 until the late 1970s: "WACS was designed by the Western Electric Company, with construction beginning in 1955, and system dedication in 1958. WACS linked the AC&W and the Distant Early Warning System (DEW-line) with Elmendorf and Eielson Air Force Bases and also linked the Ballistic Missile Early Warning Site (BMEWS) at Clear Air Force Base with the North American Defense Command. 71 systems were installed throughout Alaska, which included a tropospheric scatter system and a microwave relay for shorter line-of-sight links. In 1976, WACS was leased to RCA Alascom. By the end of the 1970s, most of the system was deactivated." Advancements in satellite communication quickly rendered this technology obsolete.