My favorite position working on the RV road was working as an interpretative ranger for the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Skagway, AK in 1998 and 1999. The gold rush was a fascinating time in our history when thousands of people stampeded north to find gold in the Klondike in the Yukon territory of Canada. The majority came through Skagway or Dyea, a few miles away. Of course, by the time the stampeders arrived in Dawson City, all the claims were taken and most returned home richer only from surmounting the challenge but with no gold in their pockets.
During my first year there, I met Barb Kalen while participating in a Christmas in July program for NPR. Her grandfather had come on the gold rush in 1898, but stayed in Skagway to "mine the miners." He built and ran the Golden North Hotel. Though family lost the hotel in the Depression, Barb's mother had opened Dedman's Photography Studio. Barb helped there and eventually took it over.
When I met her, she was in her mid-seventies and quite a character. We got together to sing folksongs, but her songs were those collected over many years with very few by Peter, Paul and Mary, the ones that I knew. So, she loaned me an autoharp and I learned to play- after a fashion. Everyone in town knew her. Usually she was riding her bike as she went out and about. She was quite outspoken about national and local issues.
The second year I added a gold rush song, accompanied by the autoharp I had purchased, at the beginning of my program in the auditorium. Barb joined me a couple of times plus we once did an evening program. The cruise ship passengers, which flood Skagway each day, loved it! She showed me parts of Dyea and Skagway I would not have otherwise known. On the lowest tide of the year, she invited me out to her beach property between Skagway and Dyea to to walk along the beach. I was amazed at how quickly the tide rose once it had turned. We also went out there for one of her well known beach picnics, which was basically a wiener roast. And we took a number of hikes, exploring the area.
George and I stopped and saw her in 2009 on our Alaska trip. She was slowing down some but was now in her 80s. I just got word from another fellow who worked with me at Klondike Gold Rush as a ranger that she had passed away. Her obituary is an interesting read. She helped reforest Iceland among other things. Check it out in the Skagway News. I'll miss her long handwritten Christmas letters, duplicated and sent out in late January or February, bringing us up to date on family and goings on in Skagway. Jaimie Hall Bruzenak