Most people don’t really know about Alaska. We haven’t had the best press lately, with the serial killer who flew women into the middle of nowhere and killed them and then had them suffer the indignity of having Nicholas Cage star in a movie about the subject…..and Sarah Palin. Me personally, I’ve always thought of it as America’s prison colony. HoweaAlaska has a diverse weird culture, almost quirky enough to have Zooey Deschanel star in a show about it. Here are some little known hopefully interesting facts I dug up about this place.
During World War 2, Jewish populations in Europe were being “bothered” (see: exterminated) by the Nazis and were desperately looking for a way out of Ausweichen (German for “Dodge”), the problem was that not a lot of countries were willing to take them. That’s when in 1938, the US Secretary of the Interior, Harold L. Ickes thought up the idea of moving Europe’s Jewish population to Alaska as a “safe” haven for them and he figured it would help explain the plethora of beards already in the region.
I say “safe” sarcastically because Alaska at that time was still/ is very rugged and untamed, also he was wanting to settle populations in Alaska to help provide a defense against the Japanese whom he was thinking were going to invade when war finally broke out between the US and Japan, so basically, out of the frying pan, into the arctic, then back into the frying pan. But Secretary Ickes reasoned that the Jews would be willing to ignore all of that just to be out of the clutches of the Nazis.
The plan was shot down by FDR, after massive protests by political groups who concerned that letting in massive amounts of foreign populations would endanger the US (apparently working on Saturday was a sticking point).
Population KIND OF
Alaskans often like to state that we are the biggest state, that we are about as big as half of the US, which is basically the equivalent of building the world’s biggest mansion for your single child (also, filling it full of bears).
Alaska, is not the sparsely populated state in the Union (looking at you Wyoming) but we are the lowest in population density. Before 1986 you didn’t even need to buy property. You could just build a entire house and way of life, tell people you lived there now and it’s your land and now you own it, you barely needed a ink pen. If New York had the same population density, 16 people would be living in Manhattan, a thought that must occupy the people of Manhattan when they’re looking for parking.
How easy is it to not see another person while living here? Just ask Richard L. Proenneke, he came to Alaska in 1967 and then spent the next 30 YEARS by himself (three days in a camp ground drives me to start writing REDRUM on RV walls and looking out my secret window).
He built a log cabin (and probably a separate cabin to house his gigantic balls) complete with door locks (he didn’t want any moose stealing his dope CD player) and lived off of a diet of dead animals that he found before the bears did, and porcupines. He LITERALLY had two choices for dinner, fight a bear for leftovers, or put a animal with thousands of tiny knives on its back into his stomach. Which begs the question: How horrible were the people back home where he came from?
In order to survive the harsh conditions of Alaska, you need to develop a strange sense of humor. I think it comes from the lack of human contact (remember the movie Castaway? Wasn’t Tom Hanks hilarious talking to a volleyball?). One of Alaska’s most famous practical jokes happened on April 1st 1974, when soon to be local legend named Oliver “Porky” Bickar. He lived near the dormant volcano of Mt. Edgecumbe, and one day he looked up at that mountain and thought “wouldn’t it be funny if people thought it was erupting and death was imminent?”
So he set to work, he managed to gather 70 old tires, several gallons of fuel, smoke bombs, somehow without the FBI asking questions (it was the 70’s). Then he enlisted his friend who owned a helicopter and had him fly him and his giant roman sparkler to the center of the crater of the dormant volcano and set to work. The thought of all the calories burned in this attempt to make a joke is awe inspiring. They stacked the 70 tires, dumped the fuel on top, and then Oliver set about stomping out a 50 ft. message to the authorities.
After the set the tires alight and flew out of the volcano in a helicopter like every Bond villain, the population Sitka was busy making peace with their maker. The local Coast Guard station was flooded with calls, so they sent up a helicopter to investigate and found the 50 foot high message inside the crater that read “April Fools!”
Since this was the ’70’s, nobody went to jail, and the prank went nationwide. When Mt. St. Helens blew up, someone sent Porky a newspaper clipping that read “this time you’ve gone too far!”
The Drunk Moose
Have you ever been to a frat party and one of the bros had a dog that loved to drink beer until it passed out and in the back of your mind you were thinking, “good thing that’s not a 1,000 pound animal with antlers on its head that could easily stomp me out”? If so, then I have bad news, because Alaska has just such a creature, it was a moose named “Buzzwinkle”.
Apparently Buzzwinkle was a somewhat of a local celebrity, he was an extremely old moose that always hung out downtown, wandering the steers eating the leaves off of the downtown trees. Apparently he was so good at surviving that a Fish and Game Warden once witnessed Buzzwinkle wait at a crosswalk until the light changed and it was okay to walk across (oh, your pet is potty-trained? Ours refuse to jaywalk).
One day Buzzwinkle was walking around downtown (as giant wild death machines are known to do in Alaska) and got into a crabapple tree. As it turns out, eating rotten crabapples will get you drunk (how they do that, I do not know, my alcoholism has not reached that level…yet). So instead of calling it a night and wandering home to watch “Aliens” and quote all the Bill Paxton lines, Buzzwinkle had a different idea. He went and painted the town red that night, with his huge antlers, he accidentally tore down christmas lights that were hung in the bushes and kept on staggering around looking like a four-legged party bus until Animal Control was able to untangle him and take him home (the woods apparently).
Buzzwinkle hurt his leg and had to be put down in 2008…Sorry, I thought this story would have a happy ending too. Oh well….
So yeah, there’s some little known Alaskan facts and knowledge for you. Enjoy that. Tell your friends. Flash that superior knowledge at parties and feel better than them.