Angstman Law Office website by Front Range Web

  • Facebook - Grey Circle

Virginia Johnston -

"I was born in Nulato, 1927. I was adopted right after I was born. I was daughter of Hayman and Helen Henry but she was losing alot of babies from tough life. Long time ago there was no hospitals, no nurses, no nothing. Charlie and Lena Hochi. I never knew who my real parents were until I was 9 years old. I was on my way to school then my cousin, John Henry, ran up to me and said you have 2 Moms and 2 Dads. I got into a fight with him and pushed him then ran home. I told my step Mom and on the way to school the next day he said it again and that's how I found out. Once in a great while I'd see my parents but not stay with them. In 1940 I went to Catholic school in Holy Cross for 7 years. From Holy Cross I went to Bethel and I got married and I didn't come home for 36 years. I got married and had 14 children. Out of 14 there's now only 6 still living. When I came home I had no nothing and I was lucky to get a job cleaning rooms at the fire fighting department. I was divorced by then. He was a nice guy, a good carpenter, mechanic, welding, cut fish but he had a drinking problem. I was 58 when I left him. Galena is my home, I was raised here. I forgot my language. I was 36 years away from here, nobody spoke my language, I never heard it. It was Eskimo. There was Eskimo Russians and Eskimo. Eskimo Russian was more like white people Russian. And then there was Eskimo. They speak Indian here and that is different to Eskimo. It was a lot different then to now. We had no electricity, no lights - only gas lamps and candle and sometimes we used get a piece of rag and soak it in lard and just light for candle. I've never seen no Christmas tree before 1940. We never had no presents like now. We never seen Santa Claus. My bother Herbert was asked by Charlie Evans the teacher in 1937 to wear the Santa Claus costume and I didn't know it was him for many years. I never went to school because I worked at a fish camp. We'd come back from camp at Christmas and Easter and go back until after break-up until spring-up. Freeze up is when the ice stops moving. We'd drive only with sled, no ‘snow-go’ in those days. We'd travel with dogs all the time. There was a lot of King Salmon in those days, big King Salmon but not so much anymore. We'd just dry the salmon. They cut King Salmon for strips. That's good for the winter. Everybody would share. We had rice with the salmon, we'd buy it from the store. Food was cheap those days. Not now. Now it's high. No welfare then, no hospital, no food stamps. In 1930 and ’40 a lot of TB then. A lot of people died. No pain-pills, no nothing. After I had 4 kids I had a touch of TB from my Mother. I went to hospital and stayed there for two and a half years. They cut half my lung out. That was 1953. Well I'm still here thank God. I smoked for 7 years but I quit. That's when you get depression and everything but I quit. I went home 1956 and my oldest daughter Ruth had a touch of TB. I have 103 grandchildren. They’re all scattered all the way down the coast to Anchorage and I have 2 or 3 great great great grand baby girls. My daughter Ruthie and Pam and Pam’s daughter had a little one. But I don't know their names. I'm rich…rich. They say “Eskimo you are rich with kids!” So my kids are Eskimo and Indian. We did not have food like what we have now. I'm very thankful for everything. After the ice melts the birds start coming and there were duck eggs so there were fresh eggs we were having. When I was 12 we eat Beaver meat, Muskrat, Whitefish then geese, mallard, crane soup. Water birds, they swim under water, that. So the winter we have rabbits, Lynx, mountain squirrels, we eat that too, wild grouse and strouse but we never know where their eggs, we never find eggs. My mother used to make Parkie and socks and boots and gloves and long underwear and I used to wear coveralls alot, made from jeans. We were warm, we had rabbit blankets for mattress, we had caribou skin, we had feathers for down so we were warm. We never had no log cabins like now - we stayed in tent. We make big fire outside and cook and make sour dough hot cake and catch blackfish. They turn the water in the winter and it never freeze so we dip the nets to catch them and they're good eating too. You had to be careful where you're walking in case you fall in to beaver house. Those are big house. I'll make a pair of gloves in a week taking my time. I have a pattern book. Musk oxen is better than moose. It's good eating. Better than beef. In Unakleet they were out there. There was 20 of them. Somebody killed one, cut it up and cooked it and I said “Boy that's good eating”. Better than beef." [Posted on a sunny Seattle sunrise]