"We would make our own fun. We used our tools to make toy airplanes or wooden boats or sleighs just to play with. We make our own tools and we found some discarded ones, too, like an old file, old pliers, maybe an old chisel. I had a cigar box full with them old things. That's what I brought from Holy Cross. But then after I came home, I suppose I threw them away.
Nails for the awl we make out of box wires. There used to be a lot of that come to the Mission. Butter, gas, near everything used to come in wooden boxes with wires wrapped around. That's the way they were packed.
One boy used to make pretty good airplanes. They sent some out to Juneau for an exhibition and he used to get first prize for that. He was so good at it. Martin Ott was his name. He was fifteen or sixteen and a good carpenter. They gave him the job of replacing windows. He could really handle this putty so good, it looked like it was right from the factory. Whatever he did we used to do the same. He make a wood airplane with lumber and skis. A bunch of us would pull it up the hill and he'd get in it and slide down.
He make a coaster and put a propeller in front of it. When he came down the hill, it would turn fast. He was the first one to do that."
"We'd just play all sorts of games. Just make them up with whatever came to our minds - hide and seek, racing, and football. For football, we had a goal on each end and you do mostly kicking. If you ever happen to get that ball through a goal, then you'd win. We just run back and forth, but I never played too much of that. Mostly old people played that.
We used to play this catch can. You'd stand with your foot close to the bank on a can and you'd count. All the other children would be behind the houses. You'd have to name everyone of them kids. Who they are and where they're hiding. If you make a mistake naming the wrong kid, they're allowed to kick the can over the bank. And then you'd have to walk down the bank and get the can. Sometimes they'd kick the can right in the water and you'd still have to get it and try over again. Right now they play mostly the marbles whenever the ground is cleared in the spring. And as the time comes along, they play this basketball. You never see a game of catch can anymore."
"The other thing we did in the spring was hunt geese. I remember the years when there used to be a lot of white geese up here in Alaska. I'd say around 1929. There was lots on this Koyukuk River. Even my old grandfather used to like to hunt them. He'd get many. In those years, they used to hunt mostly in canoes.
Their canoes couldn't hold much, so they cached them. Dug a hole on the bar, threw the geese all in there and then covered them over with brush. That would protect them for a little while from other animals. Of course they'd have to come right back to get to them. A bear would get to it.
In the fall, they used to hunt mostly ducks. When the ducks are real fat, they could hardly fly. They'd carry canoes into lakes and hunt the time of day when it's getting dark. Then the ducks could hardly see. At that time they don't pay attention. They just like to mill around along the shore feeding. The hunters could get quite a few of them like that, cache them like with the geese. Later they'd bring them home plucked and then salt them in a barrel, so they'd keep. Just like salting fish.
"I didn't have much schooling in my life. We were mostly out trapping. When we came back out of Koyukuk, what little time we spent here, I used to go to school. But that time was too short. We didn't learn anything at all here. My parents sent me to Holy Cross for five years and I went up as far as third grade and then no more after that. We move out in the fall time before freeze up and stay out there all winter. Just two or three families stayed in town and lot of times there wasn't enough kids to have school.
My parents sent us down to Holy Cross, two of us, in the summer of 1930. Me and my younger brother, Oscar. He was three years younger than me. They made arrangements with the missionaries there that we were going to be there for five years. When five years was up they sent for us. My brother passed away just a few months before we were set to come back home. He got sick somehow. I don't know what kind of sickness he got. He was sick for about a month and then he passed away.
When we first got there, my brother and I used to talk our language quite a bit, but the missionaries didn't like that. They couldn't understand us and they might think we're talking about them. The made us speak English so they'd understand what we're saying. They'd remind us not to speak our language, but we never got punished for that. We got punished for fighting and for being lazy, and for answering back or whatever mischief we'd get into.
When you start school there, they don't put you in a grade. They start you off with Primer A and B, both of them. Then I went to first, second, and third grade. That's the highest I went to, third grade.
There were over two hundred kids down there, so to us that was a lot. We knew just what to expect because my father and mother were down there themselves and they used to talk quite a bit about it. There were rules and regulations and all the kids were alike. There was not love too much for one kid or nothing. The missionaries handled it like that. They didn't favor nobody. I suppose it was good for us. Of course, when we'd get into mischief, they'd discipline us quite a bit and they spanked us.
I got disciplined for answering back. I still remember I got paddling in the mouth for answering back. It hurt so much I still remember that. It wasn't like now, you know, they hardly lick any kid in school anymore. And there's lot of other ways you get punished. Sometimes they make you miss a meal. Sometimes make you go to bed early.
I spoke very little English when I went to Holy Cross. Then after five years I completely forgot my language up here. When I came back to Koyukuk, I couldn't even understand my own father and mother.
There were kids from all over the place in Holy Cross. Some from Fairbanks, some from way down river, some from the Kuskokwim River. All over. Kids from different places spoke among themselves. Like Eskimos among themselves and Natives from here use the language from the Interior. Some of the kids when they were sent there didn't know a word of English. After awhile they'd catch on.
It was like any regular school. Start around nine o'clock and out maybe three o'clock in the afternoon. But they sure make us learn. Oh yes, they make us learn. Mostly about Bible history. Well, it was since missionaries being there. They talked mostly about Bible and the Lord. They see to it that the kids learned. And if they didn't learn they got disciplined.
Sometimes instead of being graduated, they'd put you back. Anybody that couldn't learn. There was some kids like that. And they were year after year in the same grade. They just couldn't learn anything. It was just natural I guess.
Sometimes we'd get spanked pretty hard for smoking. I used to get into that. Maybe when we'd take a walk down to the village, we'd pick up pelts here and there. That was how we obtained tobacco. And the bigger boys were allowed to smoke. Camel, Lucky Strike, or whatever the bigger boys gave us. Like if we gave them some candy, they'd give us cigarettes. It was a pretty good trade but of course we'd get punished for it. We got pretty hard spankings for that with a strap about quarter inch thick. They make us put down our pants and whoa! That really hurts. A leather strap.