BOOK REVIEW, Alaskana
Patty, Stanton H., Fearless Men and Fabulous Women: A reporter's memoir from Alaska and the Yukon. Epicenter Press. Softbound 292 pages, black-and-white photographs. $17.95
Stan Patty has all the credentials for writing about Alaska. He was born in Fairbanks, spent summers as all Fairbanksans seem to do, i.e. at the gold creeks, and his father was the third president of the University of Alaska. He was a reporter on a small Washington paper for 16 years, then moved on to the Seattle Times, so spent 50 years on the job, covering not only the big stories in the 49th State, like the 1964 earthquake, the discovery of big oil, and the native land claims settlement, but many Alaskans who invite adjectives like gcolorfulh and glegendaryh.
If the reader is hoping for an exposť of some or indeed any, of the seamier side of any of this, reader must look elsewhere. Patty's sunny, optimistic temperament insures not only a host of friends but a cheerful and rather sentimental view of the people involved in the big stories, not to mention the little ones.
Klondike Kate, famous dancehall girl, and her faithful lover who thought her beautiful all her long life, Don Sheldon, flightmaster of glacier landings, Howard Rock, Inupiat journalist who worked hard for the land claims, and the reaction of the people of Kodiak after the big quake tossed fishing boats into the heart of the town; these are only some of those treated sympathetically by the author.
There is the tough Montana family that tried to establish a sheep and cattle ranch on Unalaska, a whaling trip on the ice with the Point Hope traditional hunters, and a nice piece on the great Ivan Veniaminov, the gentle missionary who became Saint Innocent of the Russian Orthodox Church; Stan Patty was fascinated with them all.
Various women; Sadie Neakok, fearsome magistrate of Barrow, Eva McGown, famed Fairbanks hostess during World War II, Etta Jones, little known survivor of a Japanese internment camp after the attack on Attu, artist Dale De Armond, and many more show Stan Patty knows his Alaska.
Many short features describe incidents in Alaska history; Fairbanks's editor, Wrong Font Thompson, who refused to either confirm or deny he wrote a headline on a story of the hanging of a murderer, gJerked to Jesush; the 1975 race to get a flotilla of tugs and barges to Prudhoe Bay to deliver equipment to get the drilling started on the big discovery; the 1968 surprise appearance of Charles Lindbergh at the state legislature; collecting Ping-Pong balls from Howard Hughes's Lockheed Electra when Hughes visited Fairbanks in 1938; enough good stories to last for years.
Patty is semi-retired now, living the happy life of a free-lancer and enjoying his family in Washington, but he is the first to say he's still an Alaskan.
He writes of looking down from a jet at the Yukon River and Fairbanks.
gI looked down on Alaska --- where my parents broke trail for future generations, where a brother had died while piloting his airplane in stormy weather, where lifetime friendships were forged, where my dreams began.
There were tears in my eyes. And I didn't care who noticed.
Alaska. I'm part of it. It's part of me.
As I said, I'm the luckiest guy I know.
Buy a copy if youfre new to the state and want to know more, buy more copies for gifts if youfve been an Alaskan a long time.