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Survival in a Northern Wilderness: A Mother's Story--Part XXXVII

Violet didn’t have a visa to enter the United States, husband Orrah who was an American citizen had lived in Canada for over forty years was considered an “honorary Canadian citizen”. All Wesley and Orrah Jr. had to do was go to the Immigration office and swear allegiance to the United States of America. The reason being, that Congress had passed a law that whomever was born to an American parent before 1934, would automatically become American citizens. The same Immigration Office that took their oaths was ready to deport Violet because she was still waiting for her visa. Violet felt “intimidated” by the very same person who had sworn their son’s allegiance while she witnessed it and, according to her, she had to be screened “with a fine toothed comb” and be in perfect health. Orrah told her he would be willing to go back to Canada and live with her there.

Orrah got a job as a cleanup man in a bakery in Ketchikan. Violet testified that it was an awful drop from a woodsmen, logger and trapper for Orrah to bow down to, but he had to take the first job they handed to him in order for her not to be deported. They were living on their boats, but they all cooked and ate on the steamboat. They still didn’t have a house to live in. About three months later, in September of 1959, Violet took Tony, who was seventeen, and the two younger children, Billy and Linda, back to Vancouver to get their visas from the American Consulate. The lady in charge berated Tony and called him illiterate because he was raised in the bush. They didn’t recognize the fact that he had finished his schooling on a home course nor that he had lived three years among folks from British Columbia. Tony was embarrassed and so was Violet. However, after much intimidation, they finally gave them their visas.

Violet arrived back in Ketchikan where Orrah met her with the news he had found a place on Griveena Island. She took one look inside, turned around and went back out to the steamboat; she was disgusted with what she saw. The windows were all broken out and the rubble was three feet deep; though the house was a lot bigger than the one they lived in in British Columbia. Violet decided she absolutely wasn’t about to tackle such a mess but her kids and Orrah started shoveling the junk out of the combination kitchen/ dining room, the living room, two bedrooms and the pantry. Daughter Elnora scrubbed the floors with lots of ocean water, then the boys carried freshwater from a nearby stream to rinse them. Orrah Jr. went across the harbor and bought some clear heavy plastic to cover the open windows with and Elnora bought some linoleum and paint. As per Violet she “finally got enough nerve to go look inside.” She was amazed how clean and different it looked. Elnora painted and helped Violet paper the remaining walls, the boys moved the big table and chairs in, put up cupboards, brought in a chest of drawers and beds and set up a barrel stove in the living room. Orrah came home from work at the bakery and he beamed “heck, this home!” Tony ran a plastic hose to the nearby stream and set up a hand pump over the sink. Violet opined that “no one could say they didn’t have running water.” The owner charged them a dollar a month until fixed up and then charged them ten dollars a month.

In May of 1960, Orrah had the cruiser hauled out and blocked up above tide level and was working on it, with the two younger children sitting on the front deck playing. Suddenly Orrah came in sobbing “we lost our boy.” Both Violet and Elnora thought that Billy had fallen off the front of the boat and hit the rocks below. They rushed outside to see Orrah Jr., holding a telegram in his hand, and Violet instantly “knew” that they had lost their beloved Frankie. It read “Frankie drowned on Harris Lake.” It hit their entire family with a blow; it was the first real tragedy in her family and she iterated that it was “the most sorrowful time of their entire life.” Her husband wept and wept.

Next up, some regrets and finding out that one can do a lot of speculating especially when you do not know what or how it happened.

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