We Could Drive
to Alaska
but not to New Zealand

by Philip Richardson
(Lynden, Washington )


My parents were school teachers and in 1956, they were teaching in a small rural school district in eastern Colorado.

When they decided to find better paying positions elsewhere, they narrowed their destination down to New Zealand or Alaska.

My dad was an avid sportsman, so these destinations were the most logical.

At this time New Zealand was seeking teachers to go there because the male population had been decimated due to WWII.

Everything would be provided except for the transportation to NZ and that meant taking a ship.

My dad would get deathly seasick.

Alaska was the obvious choice with Homer being the ultimate destination and jobs in the Homer Territorial School.

So in August 1956 with his newly acquired master’s degree in hand from Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado, my dad, my mom, my sister and I left for Alaska.

My parents prepared for the trip by buying a brand new 1956 Chevrolet Red and White Station Wagon, a one-wheeled trailer and the trusty Milepost magazine.

After visiting family and Yellowstone along the way, we crossed the US-Canada border near Havre, Montana.

We started our ALCAN Highway journey in Dawson Creek and proceeded to bump our way over the rutted gravel road toward our goal.

Eventually, the constant bumping caused the welds of the trailer’s wheel mounting to break free. Fortunately, we broke down near Burwash Landing where an ALCAN road maintenance facility was located. Mom and Dad’s travel budget was extremely tight, but the welder charged a nominal fee.

When we finally crossed into Alaska, it was a relief to see a paved road for the remainder of our trip. (Except the Sterling Highway to Homer was all gravel.)

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