Evangel Island Journey 13 -
The Evangel returns to Kodiak for the first 4th of July since statehood
By Timothy Smith (NEW in 2020)
EVANGEL Island Journey: Return to Kodiak (4th of July ‘59)
Introduction: This article contains elements of many of the Evangel’s visits to Kodiak in the late 1950’s, concentrating on one very special visit. It also contains a little more Smith family storyline than most articles. We begin with a photo gallery of Kodiak as it looked in the 1950’s.
A Kodiak 1950’s Photo Gallery (the Kodiak of my childhood)
Kodiak / Near Island Channel in 1957: From left, below Barometer Mountain, is the
Alaska Packers Association cannery, Donnelley and Acheson store and warehouse, the
roof of the Baranof House (Erskine), the Standard Oil dock, Kodiak Airways seaplane
ramp (with a Lake Skimmer and Sea-
This 1957 photo (scanned from a 4x5 print) was taken from Near Island by my older brother Noel in 1957. The Evangel is tied up at the Standard Oil dock (center), and the FAA Woody Island ferry, the Fedair IV, is the white boat at center left near the large APA cannery. The future Baranof Museum is the large home in the center of the photo.
Back to Kodiak!
Tonight I have a hard time sleeping even though the Evangel’s patient Lathrop engine
and constant swaying usually lulls me into a deep slumber. We are coming back to
town from our home in Larsen Bay, and have already stopped in all the Shelikof Strait
communities on the way. In a few days we will take campers over to Woody Island.
Tomorrow I will wake up in Kodiak! In the Pre-
Yet suddenly it’s morning. Somehow I was sound asleep when we docked. I don’t remember tying up, or the moment when the Evangel ceased to be something very nearly alive, and became merely a boat in the harbor when the Lathrop was finally shut down. I can hear the clatter of breakfast preparation in the galley directly below me, and my foggy ears take in the indistinct sounds of the crews of various fishing boats going about their morning tasks. The unmistakable clatter of busy feet and the rhythmic thunking of the wheels of freight carts rolling across the thick planks of the floats outside remind me that we are in the Kodiak boat harbor. We are moored just across the float from Dr. A. Holmes Johnson’s sailboat (Kodiak’s only), the beautiful Windbird. And in a flash, I remember: it’s the morning of the Fourth of July! There will be a carnival, parade, and just about everything else I could never see in a village or aboard the boat.
I clamber quickly out of my little green sleeping bag in the tiny cubbyhole over
the galley stairs that is reserved for the Evangel’s smallest crewmember. I roll
up the thick green fabric shade that covers the tiny window, carefully tie the shade
in place at the top of the window, and peer out without much success. Emerging from
my little compartment, I crawl across the thick mattress that is my parents’ bunk,
past the Northern marine band radio, toward the half-
I’m a little more squirmy than usual, but manage to eat my breakfast, knowing I won’t be permitted to leave until I do. Before we head out, we do the dishes. I dry, and somebody taller puts away; all the storage cupboards are above the galley stove and still too far overhead for the likes of me. My last task is to get the little “foxtail brush” and dustpan and sweep the ladder steps. This is my usual morning chore aboard. Then I get my allowance. Mom and Dad have not forgotten what day it is and where we are. Two whole 1959 dollars grease my palm, and I fold them carefully and put them in my pocket. It’s a big allowance for a big day. My grandma Benthin in Washington sent me five dollars for my birthday in May, and I fish through my bin for the $1.75 that is left after squandering my riches buying candy in various cannery stores this summer. I am a rich boy, on the town, on carnival day. But I’m not alone, because my big sister Jerilynn is walking with me through the carnival. Even on its best behavior, Kodiak in the 1950’s has an alcoholic haze about it. Many of the fishermen will be especially festive today, on the first big official celebration of our recent statehood. Big sister Jerilynn will tactfully steer us away from unsavory situations. (Continued below…)
Scenes of Kodiak:
Top: The Evangel enters the channel in this 16mm movie frame.
Middle: a faded slide taken by Bob Railsback, 2nd in command at the Kodiak Naval Air station, circa 1958.
Right: the Evangel with Dr. A. Holmes Johnson’s sailboat the Windbird, are in the foreground in this 1957 photo of the Kodiak small boat harbor, taken in 1957.
Even before I reach the ramp that leads up to the dock and out to the street, I see
all the carnival booths, crudely created out of two by fours, plastic sheeting, and
canvas tarps. The booths stretch along the gravel parking lot on the boat harbor
side of Marine Way. The front sides are all brilliantly decorated with hand-
We turn right, past the harbormaster building, and the first booth that catches my
eye is a marine surveyor’s display, replete with stunning 8x10 glossy photos of various
shipwrecks he has salvaged. But the real eye catcher is the genuine deep sea diving
suit, with its huge shining metal helmet and tiny porthole. It looks like a real-
Parades Through The Years:
Top: A tractor made to look like a locomotive pulls cars full of kids to the parade
route from its starting place below the Community Baptist Church (mid-
Bob Railsback took these faded slides at the parade on a rainy Fourth of July in 1957.
Apparently, I once got to ride in the parade! DeWitt Fields, Kodiak cattle rancher, holds on to me as I sit on the Alvine’s Marine Repair float, probably in 1955 (courtesy of the Fields family)
The Parade Begins!
I’m not even half-
Next come floats provided by local businesses and organizations. The floats are either decorated flatbed trucks or trailers pulled by noisy cannery jitneys. I’ve never seen so much crepe paper in my life! The float for the Kodiak Baptist Mission goes by, and I wave at some kids I know, who are acting out a little scene. “The 49th State at Worship” is the theme, and sure enough, there are kids sitting in rows while one stands in front of them acting as the preacher. Most of the other floats also have a theme of statehood, and the whole crowd seems swept up in the pride and excitement. One float goes by with the Miss Kodiak contestants; Jerilynn knows all of them. I’m impressed (not necessarily positively) with the tall hair and cat eye glasses on display. “City” adults sometimes seem sort of silly to me.
Then there’s the high school baton twirlers; they are not quite as successful as
the rifle twirlers had been, but entertaining, nonetheless. Nobody twirls batons
in the villages. I’m not sure what might happen to them if they tried. But nobody
bothers these girls, and in fact, most people clap loudly. Then the parade ends
in a flurry of dignitaries and big, official-
Photos from Independence Day, 1959
Two photos taken by my brother Noel on the Fourth of July, 1959, looking at the booths
and crowd from the boat harbor dock. The new 49-
“The 49th State at Worship” – The Kodiak Baptist Mission, a children’s home at the time, decorated their truck as an outdoor church complete with children as preacher and congregation. Here’s the truck coming and going!
The author on the stern of the Evangel, proudly displaying the new 49-
Except for the flag, the cotton candy and the curly fries, I haven’t spent any money, and it’s burning a hole in my pocket. Not in the least disappointed by the carnival, I know that Kodiak still has a whole pile of interesting things for a village kid to do. When I hear that Dad needs to go on a shopping run, I beg to go out on my own, and decide to end at Knudsen’s. That’s my favorite store, because it’s usually got the best toys. And I didn’t find any toys (except the elusive stuffed animals from the games) on my adventure at the carnival. Krafts, Kodiak Commercial, and Donnelley and Acheson all have toys of varying quality and price. Knudsen’s is on a little dock that extends out into the boat harbor, and it’s the one on the far left of town (from the boat harbor perspective). The others are more or less in a line along the shore, making it logical to end at Knudsen’s. I’m a boy on the town with big money in his pocket!
I make my rounds, taking a good long time agonizing over all the dizzying possibilities
each store has to offer. I have died and gone to heaven, although my Baptist Missionary
parents would doubtless contest my theology at that point. I return triumphantly
to the boat harbor, bounding onto the Evangel and down the steep stairs with my treasures:
A Visit to the Kodiak Baptist Mission
For supper, we have all been invited to the Kodiak Baptist Mission for a cookout.
A house parent is waiting for us near the Harbormaster’s office. We all pile into
the Mission’s dark green Travel-
We pile out and join the festivities at the Mission. Many of the kids are friends of mine; some once lived in Baker Cottage in Ouzinkie, which just recently became our home when the Baptists consolidated the orphanages. There are cool rope swings and “merry go rounds” (ropes tied high in the limbs of a tall spruce, with loops on the lower ends to sit in). I run around the tree until the rope curls enough around the trunk to make me airborne, and then zip around through the air as the rope brings me faster and faster toward the trunk. With expert skill, I walk up the trunk, still sitting in the rope loop, and then lazily glide through the air as the rope unwinds. That swing is one of the simple pleasures of the north end of Kodiak Island, blessed with many tall spruce trees. When it’s someone else’s turn, I automatically step beyond the rope’s arc. When you’re blindsided by someone on a merry go round swing, it’s like being a bowling pin, because of course, the swinger can’t stop in midair. I’ve actually absorbed a lot of village technology in my six short years! (Continued below…)
Top: Near where Mission Road meets Spruce Cape Road, the Kodiak Baptist Mission, with its three “cottages,” from left: Ayer, McWhinnie, and Doane (named for major donors to their construction in 1938 when the operation was moved from Woody Island). Left: our family and the Bill Stone family at Chamberlain Lodge, the home of the superintendent of the Mission. (Slides taken in 1952)
Movie frames from about 1952. Right: My Mom, Joyce Smith, with a lot of Mission girls and my two sisters. The shortest is my sister Robin, and beside her in the black blouse is my sister Jerilynn. On the far right is Nadina, whom I got to know when she came to the Camp Woody Fiftieth Anniversary celebration in 2006. Below: the Mission’s “Merry Go Round” swing in action. Ouzinkie and Camp Woody also had this type of (very popular)rope swing. My older brother Noel is the blue blur!
It’s moonrise in the Near Island channel in this beautiful slide taken by my Dad, Rev. Norman Smith, in the 1950’s. The amount of light in the photo could be midnight on the fourth of July!
A Swift Return and a New Crew Member!
About a week later, the Evangel hurried back into port to accommodate Mom Joyce. So in Griffin Memorial Hospital, on July 11, she delivered my baby brother, Kelvin (Kelly) Smith! In typical style for a six year old, I was mostly clueless about any of this until invited to meet him up in the attic apartment of the Community Baptist Church. He’s been my best friend ever since. Fittingly, as the last of the Smith family’s Evangel crewmembers to arrive, Kelly was also the last person to pilot the Evangel, taking it out for its last voyage under its own power, on a trip to Ouzinkie and back in the fall of 1978. Also as the last crewmember, Kelly was probably the best, seemingly born to all things mechanical, and becoming the right hand man to Dad for years as Dad ran the skiff, drove the truck, and operated the Evangel for Camp Woody, and did an equal number of mechanical tasks at home in Ouzinkie. But Kelly is not a one trick pony! In 1973, he began playing bass at camp, filling up the sound of “Tim and Kelly” as we led music at Camp Woody for five seasons. (Not to mention all the things he’s good at as an adult!)
A Kelly Smith Gallery—The Last of the Evangel Crew
Brother Kelly arrives! In the photo on the left, I seem to have my mouth open! This is the attic apartment of the Community Baptist Church, occupied at that time by Estelle Marlin, who had served as a missionary in Kodiak since the 1940’s, and was on the church staff. She shot these photos.
Summer of 1963: Kelly stands on the old Lathrop gear shift, next to his Dad, in the pilothouse of the Evangel in this classic photo taken from down the galley stairs by Mab Boko.
Both Robin and I had occupied that spot when we were little. I love this photo because it shows so much: Dad, the charts rolled up over his head, the shiny green paint, and of course that childhood dream of standing next to Dad, watching him at work, and observing all the scenery. It was an “E Ticket” ride (to borrow old Disneyland terminology) to stand on that gearshift in bad weather, and was akin to riding a bucking bronco. None of the Smith kids had any trouble with this; we had our sea legs from earliest childhood, and loved to stare the swells in the face, especially with our capable Dad beside us. Incidentally, the little cubbyhole bunk that I occupied in this article (and Kelly inherited by the time this photo was taken) is right above the photographer’s head, at the rear of the pilot house.
Top: “Tim and Kelly” do an outdoor concert at Camp Woody in 1975 (Cody Custer photo). Left: Kelly in the middle of helping maintain something at Camp Woody, 1974
Top: My brother Kelly helping Dad run the Evangel, summer of 1976. Note the kids staring out the window as the boat heads back to Kodiak from Camp Woody.
Right: Kelly piloting the Evangel in the summer of 1973. Kelly was the last to run the Evangel, under its own power in the fall of 1978, after Debbie and I had moved Stateside.
I loved shopping in Kodiak as a kid, and saved these old receipts from long-
Since it’s a national holiday, dinner is traditional hot dogs, macaroni salad and soda. Soda is a bit of a rarity for me, and I choose a Shasta Grape. I decide to stay with Cream Soda or Orange next time. After dinner, the big finale is fresh watermelon, imported at great cost and cut with great fanfare by some of the adult workers at the Mission. Although the adults see this as a real treat, and probably ache with nostalgia for hot summer evenings in towns and farms stateside, for me watermelon is a major disappointment. It’s almost tasteless, the seeds are annoying, and it’s the messiest thing I have ever attempted to eat. It’s a little like trying to eat a wet sponge, and is completely unappetizing. As a boy raised on tin can cuisine, I wish I had a bowl of pear halves or something else regular and canned! I can’t wait to get back to “normal” food, eaten from a bowl with a spoon.
The Fourth of July is only a few days removed from the longest day of the year, and at our latitude, that means daylight for practically ever. Soon, however, as something approaching twilight approaches, Mission superintendent Bill Stone calls for all the kids and grownups to line up. So, long after my normal bedtime, we all hop in the long, dark green Mission bus and drive for what seems like hours to a place where we can view the Navy base’s fireworks display. I have to admit that although it should have been stunning for the likes of me, I am far too tired to appreciate it. I have a foggy recollection of being carried to the boat, dressed into my P J’s and laid to rest in my little green sleeping bag. There has been far too much excitement in Kodiak this time, and I sleep like a log until morning.
Back Out to Sea
A future (Concluding) article is: “The Evangel: Adventures and Legacy”
(Chronicling Unique Events, and Concluding The Island Journeys)
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