On April 17th, 1931, the Jackson family packed all their “stuff” into their Norwegian trunks and moved from Tava over to a house on Elovoi (Russian word for spruce) Island at Dorothy Narrows. If and when fox farmer Claude Huff needed help with maintenance and operations, or anything from branding his fox “MP1” or preparing pelts to send to the market, Grampa was on call, available 24/7 all 365 days a year.
A really good way to hear what was going on at the time that the Jacksons moved over to Elovoi Fox Farm is Claude Huff’s diary. Here are highlights, April 1931 to March 1932. This diary is in the collection of the Sitka Historical Society Museum.
Note: I’m not sure this is right- Don said their boat was named Ironsides cause it was a steel hulled life boat, and that it was 204 (really?) foot with a cabin and powered with a mighty 6 horse engine! His dad would tow the row boat right behind him as he went fishing and he’d drop you off, and you would troll out of the row boat.
April 17th: Claude helped Jacksons move from Tava to house at Narrows!
Saw deer on the way over
April 19th frosty and fair with a breeze for Mabelle’s (Mrs. Huff’s) birthday.
Went to lagoon to cut 6 yellow cedars for trulking poles.
April 23rd rough water but fair skies. Molded, leaded and spaded garden;
then planted peas, beets and carrots— (Wow--in April!)
April 24th NW wind, very rough water and fair skies. It was so rough Mabelle and I carried feed to the North end. There was a big movement of geese going north, and it was hard for them to go against the wind. We planted more carrots.
April 25th: Very warm at noon today-- 73 degrees! and fair skies. Begin rigging up poles and lines on I.S. Brought box trap home from Narrows and a few hand trollers working Big Bay and Windy Passage
April 26th: 67 as Mabelle cooked and planted dahlias. I worked on Ironsides and took her off the beach. We also polished spoons.
April 27th: Cloudy with East wind. Trolled Big Bay,Windy Passage, BNH- About 30 hand trollers working; a few getting salmon.
April 29th Breezy and saw 2 deer on No. 2 beach while feeding. Mabelle saw two across on the beach at the Indian shack.
First plane of season went over towards Sitka!
April 30th 1931: SE wind and rain, kept Donald home; sick with flu. I went out of range on east half island trying to locate grouse and lost sense of direction. It was so bushy I was lost for an hour before I got to beach. I came out South Narrows and went for mail. Mrs. Goddard sent eggs and lemons with oranges for Don’s cold.
May 1st SE wind with rain. Mabelle down with flu too in P.M. Don still out of school
May 2nd mist and quiet. I’m getting it too
May 3rd mist and quiet- Mrs. got up and did housework; really too sick. Don is better with a bad cough! Deer at No. 3
May 8th: SW breeze swells and showers. Saw 2 deer at No. 3 and 6 geese landed on the beach near head of bight B- A gun went off and then there were five!
May 9th : 42 SE wind and Bear—Jackson stopped and gave us nice king salmon to eat.
Mabelle sighted a bear on the beach at Indian Cove. We saw it walking along and took Ironsides and ran over to the Narrows but it had gone!
May 10th was more SE wind and hard rain. The peas and spuds were beginning to show. We think there must be pups now. Sunday rains will be hard on them.
May 11th Another SE breeze shower; then sun. We got up about 6 am and around 6:30 saw bear in beach at Indian Cove again. In a few minutes it went out of sight in brush!
May 14th Don and I fished for bass at Halibut rock and caught 17 in 1-2 hrs!
May 15th We took Ironsides to town for gas. and were home at 6 p.m. We got mail for CJ Mills and sack lettuce for the Goddards!
May 18th Started trolling at Biorka and got a few fish.
May 19th North breeze and fair. We came home at noon to cook fox feed.
Prices for fish: 10 cents large, 5 or 6 small and 3 white,
May 22nd Got windy at noon and we heard the first fox puppies on the point.
May 23rd: rain. Saw 2 puppies at No 6D and I started for Sitka at 1:20 pm, sold fish and got a few heads, gas and groceries then got home at 9 pm.
May 26th—saw 4 pups at 6 and were off again at 3 pm
May 27th: Mrs. and Don saw bear again at Narrows, at same place. I trolled in the morning, then to Lazaria to sell fish. It was too rough so I followed fish buyer back
May 29th: I came home at noon to help feed and took fish to Narrows for Jacksons.
June 1st Fair and rough seas. Trolled till 8 AM only 1 bass then went to Lazaria. Overweight. Saw 79 trolling boats at one time from the deck of I.S.
June 6th: South wind, showers, mist and fog. We fished at Biorka till 3 PM then went to town and got heads. We anchored cross channel from town overnight. Heard talking of having a strike over cut in price of salmon.
June 7th: We got home at 6:30 A.M. Canned SIX Pts. Rhubarb (wow) and we all went to Jack Knife I. for some tar paper(?)
June 8th: Off to troll early at Biorka – A big boat came and told us of the strike and to quit. We came home at 11 AM to help feed then went back to troll in the evening. We did see 5 pups at No.6. and believe a litter has been moved to No. 5.
June 10th The fishing was Very Poor and we were home at noon; cooked and canned 20 cans salmon.
June 12th A bit of breeze but quiet so I got up at 2:30 AM and went to troll first at Biorka then to Lazaria, got 6 fish, over weight.
June 23rd—Jackson children at Springs for supper and saw 3 or 4 pups at No. 2
June 24th: Went out on island and CJ Mills got one bear on Tava.
July 6th Went to Biorka to troll; got 3 salmon and 30 bass and were home at 8:30 pm.
July 7th Picked blueberries. Yum!
July 19th: Good News: The fish strike was over!
July 25th Plane landed at Springs
Aug 3rd: Fish were found near Biorka - 110 coho were sold for $45
Aug 9th Mrs. Jackson was here with children this afternoon to pick 4.2 gallons of huckleberries.
Sept. 4th Miss Dickson accepted the offer to teach school next year!
Sept. 5th—Claude and son Don went to Sitka to do trading and got some groceries for our Jackson family. Our Grampa had been out of town for trolling and was due to return home that evening from Icy Straits.
Sept.7th Jacksons stopped by in the evening and Claude gave them a ham.
Sept. 30th Claude took 2 Jacksons and his son to and from school. The Mills couldn’t come in this particular storm because the water was too rough and it was raining too hard.
October 31st was another day of very windy and stormy rain in 38 degrees. George and Hannah (also known as our JoAnn) stayed with them overnight! It was Halloween. Not a whole bunch of houses to do trick or treating- Darn!
November 4th—Chris and George Jackson took the MV Star out to West Crawfish for wood logs with Don and Claude Huff on the Ironsides anchored at the head of the bay.
November 26th—Thanksgiving Day—Claude wrote in his diary “spent day at Jacksons. Home by moonlight”
December 19th Chris and Mrs. Jackson had visited the Huffs in evening.
December 21st George and Hannah Jackson (our mom, aka JoAnn) were helped to get a pine for Christmas tree.
January 1st, 1932—Even though it was cloudy and 32 degrees the Jackson family was at the Huff’s place for dinner!
January 3rd Our Grampa Chris Jackson and Claude set 3 skates gear in Windy Passage. They got 4 nice halibut and 2 rock cod.
Jan. 16th Claude Huff gave the Jacksons meat.
Jan. 27th, George and Hannah (aka JoAnn) were at the Huffs to visit and on February 3rd, George was visiting again with Don to sail boats.
February 15th—George and Hannah visited for ice and to sail boats--
February 19th Don spent the day at Jacksons for George’s birthday and his mom and dad went over for lunch.
February 21st Mrs. Jackson (Anna, my gramma) went over to Huffs for lunch even though snow was about 12 or 14 inches deep again and my Grampa Chris brought mail.
Feb. 22nd Jackson let his MV Star loose too quick and it dropped on its side, which caused a hole in the hull and filled with water—Don and Dad helped put her back on even keel and bail out. They put a patch over the hole in the evening and he took her off the cradle in the evening.
George was visiting for supper the 24th
Feb. 28th Mrs. Anna Jackson and all the children went to the Huffs’ for lunch and Grampa was still in town.
March 6th 1932: Major event: Jacksons moved to Torsar!
Life on Elovoi Fox Farm
My Aunt Gertie says that wasn’t really a lazy way of life because most of the time in the winter our family didn’t get up till it got light. Most folks used kerosene lamps and needed to be “fuel conservative” since it wasn’t really cheap, so that made sense.
One of the jobs on Don Huff’s other list of “things to do” whenever there was free time was to gather clam shells to cover ground in the pig pen. Sometimes it would rain so much and got so muddy you couldn’t move around in it to feed. Usually in September or October, when they butchered their pork, they would share a ham with our family. That was very generous and appreciated. Gertie remembers Nanny would make it last as long as possible with things like split pea soup, casseroles and maybe just one slice of ham for a sandwich.
There’s an entry in Huff’s diary about shooting a dolphin one day (he was always looking for ways to make some extra money!). It started to sink in the deep water before he could get it out. Fortunately, at the same time, there was a sea lion checking out this dead dolphin and Claude was able to shoot in the right place. So they made some good money with this “water treasure!” Just imagine if he had killed only one of those sea mammals today, he could have been fined $20,000!
When our Jackson family moved over to Elovoi in 1931, George and JoAnn were really happy too because now they could drive their own “school bus” instead of having to wait for a “ride”. They and Don only had to row a little ways to get to the school at Goddard. Don Huff said the school was right across from the cove he lived in and, actually his dad had the contract to run the school bus route out to the different islands where the other students lived.
George and JoAnn also loved living on this island because Don was their best friend and now he lived in the next cove--a lot closer than when they were living on Legma and Tava so they got to spend a lot more time hanging out with him.
Plus they were probably the best rowers in the world because when they took anybody anywhere, it was a really fast boat ride even if it was rough water. (Well, geeze, they had enough practice and would row whenever and wherever they wanted to.) If they could have found the money to pay for a trip to Los Angeles for the 1932 Olympic Games they would have won the gold medal for the double sculls. JoAnn would have had to tuck all her hair into a hat and wear guy clothes because only men were allowed to enter the rowing competitions. But no doubt, with her daily rowing in that environment, she would have been better than any of the guys in that competition.
Grampa had left his boat (FV Star) over at Huff’s in December. On Elovoi, most of the streams and small ponds were ice-free all year and there were a lot of them. That was very nice because Grampa found a small bay on the south shore which happened to be a great spawning place for herring in the spring. Definitely, a good way to “start the season”. When the Forest Service did their appraisal they also rated it high because it was located in the center of the good fishing grounds and only 16½ miles south of Sitka where you could get to a cold storage, cannery and curing plants which were a great resource for free fox food.
In the spring, fox farmers on any of these Goddard Hot Springs Islands could see bear coming out of hibernation and messing around on the beach. In June one was digging in the fox caves in Indian Cove and found a den of pups. Claude had already found a total mess where they were wrecking his fox trap houses on the north end of the island. Obviously these bear definitely liked to break in the trap house and devour the fox food.
In October when he was hunting near the lakes at North Lagoon, a bear came running out of the woods and he shot it from about 45 yards. That bullet broke its neck; then the cub ran 20 feet up a pine tree and he shot and killed it too from about 80 yards. When he skinned and took both of them home, his wife and son were impressed because these bear were so fat and had really nice fur coats. Uncle George was really glad he could help when he went over a couple of days later to help flesh the bear hides.
Everybody was glad to hear CJ Mills had killed one on Tava, and Grampa saw two, and killed one, at Crawfish as well.
A lot of fox farmers were fishing but not to just feed their fox. They also made some good money selling fish from around these islands as well. An extra challenge to deal with happened the first week of June in 1931, when there were 79 trolling boats at one time at Lazaria. Because of the cut in the price of salmon, there was serious need for a strike. Grampa and all the others were told to stop selling fish. The following six weeks were not an easy time. The fish strike was finally over on July 19th. Our family didn’t have a freezer and had borrowed Huff’s. It was sent back stocked full. It was the only way they could pay back and was definitely appreciated.
October 7th was another major calendar event that year-- Nanny had asked Mrs. Huff to cut her hair because she was going to Juneau to visit the family and wanted to “look nice”! Indeed. Very important because sometimes she never got off the islands for an entire year. For sure, this time off was very exciting because her daily list of things to do was never-ending.
Fox Farm wife (and mother) sample job description: At least three times a week she helped prepare the fox food, cooking oats and barley and extra “fish specials.” She always had to get water from a creek or river for drinking, cooking, baths and laundry. They had “outside” plumbing and probably some toilet seats which she kept really sanitized (but she didn’t have to worry about keeping a toilet bowl clean.) She also had babies who were not potty trained so she had a whole bunch of diapers to wash along with every-day play clothes. Daughter Gertie remembers she was always keeping everything mended and spotless. (They didn’t have money to order new clothes whenever needed.)
Probably most important was cooking three meals a day, plus making lunches for her students to take to school- good grief!- dealing with growing children who needed snacks, too. Unbelievable! I bet they had some awesome dinners over at the Goddard Resort - which they couldn’t afford - and she couldn’t even order a pizza delivery. Wow! Every once in a while, she’d even help the kids pack wood. Amazing!
When the Huff family was invited over for Thanksgiving dinner, Don said that his mom was not really “social” but they did accept the invitation, had fun, and were served an awesome dinner. As part of a thank-you, four days before Christmas Don helped them cut and drag a Christmas tree home to decorate. It wasn’t too hard to find a nice one because Elovoi (like all the islands in Southeast) had a whole bunch of beautiful spruce growing all over.