Added: Ildefonso Wise - Date: 08.12.2021 13:45 - Views: 34424 - Clicks: 3808
Help us rede the Project Jukebox website by taking a very short survey! In this interview, Orin talks about growing up in Pilot Point, Alaska, getting interested in flying, and starting his own flying business, Peninsula Airways PenAir to provide service to people in Bristol Bay.
He also discusses the importance of aviation to the canneries in the region, landing on beaches versus on airstrips, and working with George Tibbetts, Sr. Orin also talks about the connections between the canneries and local communities, and how things have changed in the region. Becoming a pilot, and founding Peninsula Airways PenAir. Learning to fly as a teenager, and being inspired by Jay Hammond. First airplane, flying back and forth to Chignik Lagoon, and flying people to the hospital.
Stories about Novarupta Katmai volcanic eruption, and the Spanish Flu pandemic. Stories about Father Hubbard, the "glacier priest," coming to the region. Connections between people, salmon, and the landscape. Importance of aviation to the canneries, and construction of airstrips. Canneries as self-sufficient communities, and reliance on airplane support. Memories of Gary Johnson when he was superintendent. Flying into Cannery in South Naknek, and medical care at canneries.
For the love of flying, and importance of preserving history. Memories of Sam "Salad Sam" Egli, who flew produce to villages. Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview. While you won't be able to watch the video in your browser, we've provided a transcript of the entire video so you won't be missing out on any important information. After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.
My name is Katherine Ringsmuth. So, thank you, Orin for taking the time to talk with me today. Can you spell your name for us? I'm Orin. Which became abbreviated as PenAir. And, can you describe to me where you are -- where we are right now? Well, first of all, I -- I founded the airline in Pilot Point. I was brought to Pilot Point when I was thirteen years old. My mother was a schoolteacher there. And then, I started flying because this little village had about sixty people.
Still to this day, it's about the same. Two of my children still live there. And, uh, as I became a teenager, um, I saw this beautiful country around. The mountains and the rivers, and the lakes. And -- and the only way to get out to see all of that was by airplane. Was the smallest of the five, but still it was -- was -- it was a lot of activity there. Got a lot of money. I mean, a sixteen year-old kid could make a couple thousand dollars in a month's fishing. That was amazing. So, I decided to learn to fly. Can you just, uh, explain where Pilot Point is in relationship to Anchorage, where we are now?
It's 80 miles from south of King Salmon. Again, on the Ugashik River. And my mom was -- was the teacher. And in those days, the government, the Alaska Native Service, um, staffed the schools, furnished the schools, uh -- this was through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. And after the war, mom decided to move to Alaska. She was kind of adventurous. And she had the teaching background. So anyway, -- so, we got to Pilot Point. There was a -- there was a --an old salmon cannery there.
It was no longer operational, but it was a fish station. Because it was a -- a nice run of fish, but the cannery had to shut down 'cause, uh, it was too shallow. But they still wanted to catch the fish and process them. So, there was a pretty active fishery every -- every summer. And that's what we did. And in the wintertime, we could go trapping, make a few extra bucks that way.
But, there was nothing there. But, the cannery had a store and there was a post office, and then there was the school. And that was it. Through the eighth grade. My mom had anywhere from fifteen to twenty students each year. With a one room classroom. Eight grades. So first eight grades, one room and she taught -- taught everybody. And I went there though the eighth grade. I grew up with the Native kids. And we became good friends, and have -- have been ever since. Uh, that was the next year. I was fourteen. When Jay came flying -- after -- after he left the military service, he decided to come to Alaska.
He was from back East, New England somewhere. And he found Bella in Clark's Point. She was from Clark's Point. Married her, and they settled in Naknek, but he was -- had a job flying for the Fish and Wildlife Service, and so, he used to -- he would fly into Pilot Point. He didn't like for me to tell this part of the story, but his job was to hunt wolves. And he became friends with my mom and dad, so they invited him to stay with them, with us, in the schoolhouse. And we had the teacher's quarters as part of the schoolhouse, but there was an extra room. So, Jay spent nights with us, quiet a few, in -- in the wintertime.
And he was my hero and my idol. Edgecumbe or Chemawa or -- So, she sent me to a military school in Kansas, where I was born. And my grandparents still lived there, and so I spent two years in that military academy, and they had a flying program with the local operator.
And I'd made enough money again fishing. It was the only gas engine in the whole village at -- at that time. And was anybody else flying at this time that you would of, uh -- you would've been inspired by or copied? And then, the other thing was I got -- by the -- later on I got to be fifteen, then sixteen, then seventeen, background announcement from speaker and there was no girls my age in the village. And, uh, and I thought, "Well, I gotta look around.
And I heard there was a lot of pretty girls down in Chignik and whatever. So, this is my side story. I found Jenny in Chignik Lagoon. Married her. I was eighteen when I got married. And we had forty-two wonderful years. We have eight children. I'm gonna do it anyway, somebody's gonna give me money.
A two seater. Like that one out there. Not Jack Carr. But then the winter of '55, fifty -- The other thing was, um, was, um, I'd be down in Chignik. Chignik had virtually no air service at all. And their schedule was once a week, and they made it maybe once every three weeks. So, I would be there, and somebody would be sick or hurt and they needed to get to the hospital. And the hospital was up in Dillingham, Kanakanek. So, I had to say, "Oh, I -- " I'd throw him in the airplane.
It took me all day to get back up to Dillingham. I did that four or five times that first winter.Lets chat on chitnik
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Chignik Lagoon adjusts to life on 94% hydropower