Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Workday Wednesday - North to Alaska

Sometime in 1957 or early 1958, my family moved from California to Fairbanks, Alaska; I think perhaps my father had been there before, maybe as early as 1953.

My sister's birth certificate states that my father, Jasper Jackson "Jack" Spurlock, was employed by Greer Sheet Metal in Fairbanks. I tried a Google search and came up with a hit for Greer Tank and Welding in business since the early '50s. I emailed their Fairbanks location inquiring whether it was the same company, and if so, whether they would have any employment records for my dad. I wasn't sure I would get a reply, but I did; unfortunately, it was not the same company.

I recall hearing that Daddy had been to both Nome and Point Barrow, Alaska, and also that he worked on the Distant Early Warning (DEW) line. The DEW line was a series of radar stations in the Arctic regions of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland built during the Cold War to provide advance warning of enemy air or missile attacks over the North Pole. President Eisenhower authorized U.S. participation in construction in 1954; it was completed and deemed operational in July 1957. This map shows the location of the radar stations:

Map from Wikimedia Commons.
Drawn by federal employee, and in the public domain.
I also found several YouTube videos about the DEW line. Here is a short one, just over two minutes, which was uploaded by the National Archives:

Work on the DEW line would have accounted for Daddy being in Point Barrow, but I'm not sure how he came to be in Nome. He did tell us he had looked across the Bering Strait on a clear day and was able to see Russia. It's not likely that experience was a comfortable one, given the state of U.S.-Russia relations at that time!

© 2011 Denise Spurlock