Monday, December 6, 2010

A Fishy Love Story, Part 2


Aircraft Charter Service flight from Oregon to Alaska in 1937: $50

Making your boyfriend’s day: Priceless


This continues the story from Part 1 about the Great Depression Era lovebirds R.W.M. (most likely Ralph Marlyn), working in Southeast Alaska, and Marjorie “Midge” Miller, vacationing Hood River, Oregon. Unlike Ralph’s first letter that has four handwritten sides of paper, his second has two one-sided typed pages on new business stationary. It was dated July 18, 1937, stamped by the Ketchikan post office at 2 PM the following day, and mailed to Route 3, Hood River, Oregon. Ralph’s greeting might have been a private joke, another mystery needing to be solved:

Dearest, darling Midge, & G.O.T. Jury

After updating her on his father (a nail two inches into his foot!) and the weather (raining and windy), Ralph apologizes for not carrying out her orders regarding cherries she sent for friends in a timely manner. He talks about being lonesome for her, continuing with the kind of teasing sentiment found in the first letter, but it’s possible that he was just plain bored, feeling trapped on the island.

A week before, Ralph had expressed remorse about not being able to explore and go mountain climbing as friends had done, but he finally got a break from the cannery. This letter mentions fishing on “Ward’s Lake creek” (most likely Wards Lake, Ketchikan) with someone named Dick Borch, during which he successfully caught “at least a dozen steelheads [rainbow trout] and had the thrill of my fishing career.”

There are two little hints about the economic climate before the storm: The purpose of Ralph’s typed letter on business paper was to show off his logo designs for “The Marlyn Fish Company, Inc.” and the “Berg Packing Company.” J.E. Berg was manager of Ralph’s father’s company, which had branches in Tacoma, Washington and Petersburg, Juneau, and Sitka, Alaska. As the United States heads into the 1937 Recession, Ralph believes that his father is optimistic about future business, evident by him printing enough stationary “to last us a dozen years.”

Sensing a lost opportunity to make money, Ralph regrets not purchasing a boat that spring:

[M]y share of the boats [sic] earnings would by now have been about half the cost of the boat, and the chances of earning a lot through the cannery season are considerable.

As we shall see later from Ralph’s letters, making such a purchase in expectation of a good salmon season would’ve been disastrous. These love letters hold a bit of cultural and economic information that I hope may prove to be valuable to historical researchers someday.

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