Alaska Statehood Pioneers: In Their Own Words

Episode 4: Jack Coghill

Episode transcript

Opening Titles

Narrator: Jack Coghill has spent decades in public service in Alaska as a school board member, a territorial legislator, a constitutional convention delegate, Nenana’s mayor, a state senator, and most recently four years as lieutenant governor during the Hickel administration.

Born in 1925, he had humble beginnings as the youngest of three sons of Scottish immigrants who settled in Nenana. His father opened a general store in Nenana in 1916, which the family still runs today.

Intertitle: Growing up in Nenana

Jack Coghill: Three of us boys and we were raised right here in the store. We – all of us went to high school here. Bill went to the University of Alaska and Bob went to the University and I went in the Army.

When I was four years old I used to go into the fur room and I learned to count to five. …

My first job was counting muskrats. And dad would – because you know I remember that in those days why everything was barter. Up until 1939 dad’s general store was 95% barter. I mean the cash register would only probably ring in maybe $20 a day because it was only the floaters, the people that worked for the railroad that came by that had any money.

These people were all trappers you know. And dad would buy their furs.

So he had three notches in the floor. This was for small, for medium, and this was for large. And you’d sit there and put them in between the lines and if it was one put it over here. Once you got five then you would put another five this way and another five this way, and when you got five bundles of five then you would wrap them up and bundle them. And that’s how I learned to count …

See I was raised in the 20’s and the 30’s, different. Different than it is today. And of course we didn’t have electricity. We had – our power plant would go off at midnight and would start up in the wintertime, start up at six in the morning.

And of course you didn’t have all of the modern equipment that you have today. You didn’t have coal stokers or electric furnaces or electric motors that drove all of our furnaces. We were coal or wood and everything was stoked that way. Nothing was automatic.

But we were a modern town. You went down the river to Tanana or you went down to Ruby and places like that they didn’t have that. It was all log cabins and stuff like that. So you know a lot of the convenience that you and I nowadays are – just take for granted didn’t happen in those days.

See when we were growing up here there were not very many white kids in town. So most of our chums – most of kids were Native kids. And so we all knew how to and learn how to understand and speak the Athabascan Pokatan Native language that was here. Well old John Evan, the Chief came to dad one day and says you know the Elders had a big conference and we’d like to have your kids stop talking our language because the Elders kind of think that you’re mimicking them. So dad says knock it off kids. No more talking about – no more talking, but see we all understood it.

So when these people would come in Toklat or from the Wood River or from their trapping lines, why dad would always make sure that one of us went over and listened to them doing their bargaining. And I’d go over and they’d say Alex Fowler is going to give us little bit more than Coggy is going to give us, so maybe we ought to go to Alex Fowler. Alex Fowler is giving us about 50 cents more on the skins. So we’d go back, dad you ought to raise it up 50 cents. So there was always good ways to be able to use your talents.

Intertitle: Caught Greasy Gloved

Jack Coghill: Dad was a hard taskmaster. I mean he was a Scot. And you could always tell when his patience was – when his patience was taxed why he started rolling his R’s and when he started rolling his R’s why you knew that you were in deep, deep trouble.

One time we at Halloween why we went up to the railroad Marine Ways, which is up there by the bridge and we stole a couple 35 pound pails of wax grease that they put on the track – the ways to pull the ships up. And we went up and we greased the track. And the coal train the next day couldn’t get up over the bridge. And Jim Hagen was the marshal and we could hear this train chug, chug, chug, chug, urrrrr – and they finally had to send another train and a flatcar with a boiler on it to come down and steam the track.

So Jim Hagen, he come into the – in the afternoon to the schoolhouse and of course this was the old Franklin Kaleen School. It was a two-story building.

He come and he says that any of you lads know anything about how the grease got on the tracks on the bridge? Everybody’s halo was out, no, no, nobody knows anything. He reaches in his pocket and pulls out a pair of gloves and he says whose gloves are these? And somebody says those are mine. Full of grease. Second pair of gloves he pulled out were mine. Whose gloves are these? Oh, God, mine.

Guess who got the chores for the next three weeks all by himself. My two brothers got off Scot-free. And they thought that was great and I would have to get up and go do this. And I’d have to sweep the store floor and I had to do all of those things, but you know when you play like that I guess you got to take the consequences. And out of all of that came a good lesson as you grew up and of course when I raised my family of four boys and two girls why I always remembered when they got into trouble I always remembered that. Well now if I were that age when I was that age what was I doing?

Intertitle: Another Undertaking

Jack Coghill: Well, because I was raised in the store, up above the store, I was always helping dad. …

And old French John was the local undertaker at the time. And of course he wasn’t a mortician or anything like that, it was just an undertaker. Come in the store one day and he says Coggie, they called my dad Coggie. Coggie, old John Lunds passed away and I need somebody to help me. He’ll help you. …

So off I went with John Lund – my mom wasn’t very happy about that, but I helped old French John – his name was John Orlette. I helped him two or three times and then he moved away. And when he moved away why the next thing I know old C. C. Hyde came to the store one day. C. C. Hyde was the commissioner. She was the niece of Judge Hyde from the First Division and then she had her little office right here in town. Come in and said to my dad where’s Jackie? Dad thought that kid is in trouble again. Got to be in trouble. And – Jack Devaral has just passed away Jack and you’ve got to go take care of him. ….

And that was the start of my career as the local undertaker and 37 graves later why I ended my career when they passed enough laws that you couldn’t do that any more. You had to be a mortician.

Did a lot of things when I was 15 you know. I had to witness when old Bill Mosher died, Ms. Hyde had to have witnesses and of course I’d already been the undertaker two times when Bill Mosher died. And we went up to his house and took an inventory and I was writing down the inventory for Ms. Hyde.

And she says now I understand there’s a still downstairs. Silence. So there was a trap door. One of the old trap doors opened up like this. Went downstairs and sure enough here was a great big vat and a still right next to it. About a 500-gallon wooden vat and it had foam and yucky stuff on top and Ms. Hyde says, “Boys, destroy it.”

So they went down to the fire hall and they got a couple of the old fire axes with the pick nose on it and stuff like that and started hammering away on this wooden vat. And finally it broke and (pish) – and of course everybody was kind of halfway in tears because they had been drinking out of that for a long time. And down in the bottom of the vat was old shoes and a couple of skeletons of a couple old cats and just all kinds of garbage that had fallen into this vat over the years while it was cooking because all of that stuff didn’t make any difference cause it just went through the still you know and once they got it going. But those guys would come out of there and throwing up and saying, God, to think we’ve been drinking out of that damn thing for five years you know. All of that stuff was just terrible.

Intertitle: “Learning How to Be an Entrepreneur”

Jack Coghill: I remember one time talking about that dad used to right after prohibition was over in 1937, ’38 when we had moved into the new store where we’re at now or not into that new store but in that location. And dad used to get three casks. He’d get a cask of apple cider. A cask of port wine and a cask of Muscatel wine. And a cask was 557 gallons, a cask. …

Well we noticed that when they put these casks in and put them on these bunkers that there was a bung on the other end and the other end was in dad’s warehouse where he kept all of the cigarettes and what we called it a kind of a security room, where he kept shoes and shelves and stuff like that because in those days there was no self-service. Everything was across the counter.

So in the back of the liquor store we noticed that there was the same amount of bungs in the back end as there was in the front end. So being ingenious red blooded American boys we noticed how they pounded those bungs out with a great big mallet and then they’d take and put the bung or the wooden bung right next to the – and drive it in and in would go the plug and the wooden bung would catch and wouldn’t spill a drop. …

So I went back in the back of the store in the warehouse and got a number three washtub, stuck it underneath the cask and we hammered away at it and we got it finally started and of course it got enough pressure that once you got that bung a little bit while it started (swish) like this so you had to really work. So you had your hand over it and you pounded away and we got it in.

We got – we have an old spigot that had been used before. Well they use new spigots each time because you know we have got that thing. We had three gallons of wine in this number three tub. So we bottled it all up and got it all squared around. Got it all cleaned up and we had to take a couple of buckets of water and of course no plumbing in the store. So we had to go get water and so that was no stench of wine or anything. Got the cigarettes back up there and had our spigot in there.

So we took this wine and we had it. …

And that went on all that winter.

Well about the end of March dad’s port wine cask ran empty. It shouldn’t have. He couldn’t figure it out so he went a looking and he moved those cigarette cases away from the back end there and there was a spigot. Guess who was on restriction for six weeks? Cause I was the one that went down to the store and I was the one that banked the store and stuff like that. Well anyway that’s what you call learning how to be an entrepreneur.

One of my first businesses that I had here was I owned the Northland Theater. And when I was just in school why Mr. Fisk, who had bought the machinery from a guy by the name of Gross, whose brother had the theaters in Juneau I believe. And he had a movie house here and he had a movie house in Talkeetna, two or three places and he’d bounce back and forth and bring these films in. They were pretty scratchy and everything, but. So Mr. Fisk bought it out and he was a schoolteacher. Then he went to the FAA in 1939 when they – so I bought the equipment. My dad financed me and it took me about four years. I never seen a penny of the take. My mom was the doorkeeper and I ran the theater until by golly I had her all paid off. And then I had a few pennies in my pocket. And then my brother Bob could see that I was making some money so then he talked me into putting him as a partner and we ran the theater oh up until television became pretty prevailing in the first part of the 60’s.

It was interesting, but it was part of the opportunity of a young person raised in a small community.

Intertitle: 1943, Drafted into the Army

Jack Coghill: When we got done with our basic in Anchorage why they shipped us off to Whittier to be a port battalion and from there why some of them wanted to go on to other things and Major Wakefield, who was from Kodiak knew my dad and he asked me if I was a Coghill from Nenana and I said yeah. And they associated through the Masons.

And he said well I’m going to get you to go into the Tanana River and because that was when they were shipping all of the barrels down – barrels of fuel for the lend lease to Galena and they were rafting it from Nenana down the Tanana River and they were going to a slough just below Tanana. And that is where they would gather the single rafts from the Tanana and they’d bundle them up into several big rafts. And then the people would float them down from there to Galena on the Yukon River.

And so I was taken – I was a supply clerk in Whittier and they said well we’re going to ship you off. So they shipped me off to Galena and I landed in Galena in a Norseman. And the flood had come and I taxied up to the second story of the hangar and they said well there’s no more lend lease coming through Galena. So what are you going to do with us?

So they shipped me off to Nome and from Nome I went up to Project Nan and from Project Nan they shipped me back to Nenana. And Major Wakefield says well I guess we’ll just have to keep you here until we close the river season. So from July until September why I was in charge of the PX here. And then when they got done with that why Major Wakefield says well now you’re going to pay for your being stationed home. They sent me off to Adak.

Cog: They sent me down there and by the time I got there I was a staff sergeant and so I was the head of the motor pool that we had. And we had jitneys, which are little tractors that they use on the dock. And the big push for building Adak had been over with.

And I was on the Aleutians Islands and did the rest of my service there and came back and got out of the service in ’46.

I had learned to fly. I learned to fly when I was in the Army. Of course that was the thing to do in those days and everybody flew. But I found out early in life that was not – that was lots of work, not much pleasure.

Intertitle: Back in Nenana

Jack Coghill: When we got out of the service why I was going to head for school and my father passed away and so Bob and I started to run the store and we’re still partners in the store and we still got it. Still got it running and my brother passed away several years ago.

In fact I was on my way to college in Washington State when my dad passed away and I turned around and came back. And so we, both Bob and I that took care of any higher education, so we became both of us became colleges of the hard knocks.

So after the war when I got out of the service, I met Frances at one of the school dances in Fairbanks and two years later we were married and 55 years later why – I got out of that marriage why we had six children, we got 24 grandchildren and now at the last count I think it was 18 great grandchildren. So we are helping populate the state.

Frances and I got married in 1948.

After Frannie and I got married there was a lady here by the name of Mrs. McNavish and Opal McNavish. And she was married to the roadmaster and his name was Joe McNavish. …

And she was on the School Board. And so when her husband, when Joe died in 1949 they said – they came to me and Billy Monroe was the – had the section, he was the section foreman. Harry was on the School Board and he came up to me in the store and says well Mrs. McNavish is going to leave and we want you to go on the School Board. So they appointed me on the School Board. And I says I’ll go on until the next election. Well the next election nobody ran so here I was and I ran for the School Board and I stayed as a member of the School Board for 10 years until 1959, from ’49 to ’59.

And in those days why you didn’t have a restriction that you couldn’t hold a local seat like you can today. So when I was in the territorial legislature, I was still on the School Board. When I was in the Constitutional Convention they called me Schoolhouse Johnny in those days. In fact the School Board Association bill is one of my bills that I sponsored, wrote and sponsored, got put through the territorial legislature.

I won the ice pool in 1951. I won $18,000. That’s a lot of money in those days. And so what we did was we decided well there was not a good roadhouse or a good hotel in Nenana so I bought a sawmill. And we bought a sawmill and I think we paid $1,800 for it. And we shipped it in and we set it up right here next to where dad’s old store was where the place had burned down. And yarded all of these logs in from Poggie Slough, which was six miles up the river and set them in here and we three sided all of the logs, set them up, let them dry for a year and so we poured the cement foundation. …

We hand mixed all of the cement for the foundation of this building and it is still just as solid as can be so.

Then we had a roadhouse. We had 20 rooms.

Eventually, why we had a restaurant up front.

Then as the world turns and as things evolve why now I’ve got the state court system in the front end of the apartment where the dining room and the kitchen and the lobby used to be. We have over on the north side we have a hairdresser outfit and we have an apartment and we have a Laundromat.

And then over on this side we have part of the judge’s chambers and my little apartment. And I decided that after Frannie had died why I’d sell the house at North Pole and move back here.

Bob passed away and his daughter now is our manager of the store. I – because of families and all the rest of it why my interest in the commerce was that I started what we call Nenana Fuel Company. It was a Union Oil distributor and I started that in 1957 and ran it up until 1988.

We shipped propane bottles up and down the river. And that – the Union Oil Company came in and built – Standard Oil was here and Union Oil came in and built a terminal. And the third year why they said would you like to be our consignee distributor. And so I became their consignee distributor in 1957 and I ran that whole fuel business. And of course in ’57 was just right because Clear started in ’59 and I was – then Anderson came into being, Lehora and Browns Cork and several places out around Clear.

What I would do is I followed the same basic principle that I did when I was in the political arena is that in most of your villages you find that the last person in the village with the bubble gum usually got the votes. So I was the last person in the village with bubble gum to get their orders for their winter fuel. And I got real good relationship with lots and lots of people.

And of course that just blossomed and I had – when I sold it to Earth Resources why I had 39 employees.

Intertitle: Territorial Legislature

Jack Coghill: When I ran for the ’53 legislature, I had my own airplane. I had been a family of traders on the Yukon River and the Kuskokwim River, so my name was known. People didn’t know me but they knew Jack Coghill was Bill Coghill’s son and so he must be all right.

Why I have one of the placards of my original run in the territorial legislature, which was, it said, “A Golden E in ’53″ which was my motto and one with education and economic development. And I had five E’s. I forget what all of them were down here. But the idea behind it is like I say everybody and when I got into the legislature in ’53 why of course the Republicans followed – took over because we came in the wake of Eisenhower, which only lasted that one year. I mean then the D’s came back in the next year. But the idea behind it was that so I became a chairman right off the bat. So I was chairman of the Educational Committee.

It was the Eisenhower sweep as we used to call it when in 1952 when Eisenhower was running for president and so a lot of our people were on the bandwagon and they were getting elected. And the legislature and some of those people that were elected to that first legislature in ’53 should never have been there really, but they came in with the sweep.

You ought to remember that in those days you prayed an awful lot because you had no authority. So every time you wanted some authority you had to right a memorial. And the memorial – the end of the memorial was we the Alaska Legislature on behalf of the people of Alaska pray that you will enact this piece of legislation for our benefit because you had to ask for it you know.

About the only authority we had was around trails and so we had what we called the Alaska Highway Commission, but we had in territorial days we had about five different commissions and the commissions had authority, but the legislature didn’t have any of that authority. The governor didn’t have any of that authority.

There were several reasons why statehood was becoming very imminent. And of course I was an advocate of statehood right off the bat because I felt that we needed to have our own authority.

I had run for the ’55 legislature but the swing was so great, an anti-Eisenhower swing, that everybody that was a Republican or a Conservative had lost in that election.

And I didn’t get elected to the ’55 legislature and I learned an awful lot from that too. That you have to have new and aggressive programs and you have to know your homework. You just can’t try and work off of a rhythm. So then I took that lesson to the Constitutional Convention.

Then in 1955 the legislature nominated – they established the Constitutional Convention bill which created the election of the Constitutional Convention delegates.

I’d spent six weeks – I’d go out eight weeks ahead of the election and I’d spend six weeks flying around in the old Fourth Division and then the last two weeks I’d spend just rent a hotel room in the Nordale Hotel and I’d just spend it all right there at KFAR and KFQD were the two radio stations at the time. And I’d go in and talk to the publisher of the News-Miner all the time.

Well I served and I ran for the Yukon Kuskokwim Tanana River District and I won. And I went – and I served in the Constitutional Convention.

Intertitle: 1955-1956 – Constitutional Convention

Jack Coghill: The thing is that Juneau, and of course there was big push by a lot of the heavies in Anchorage to move the legislature to move the capitol and all of that was a part of it, so Juneau and southeast Alaska didn’t want anything to do with Anchorage. And so Fairbanks, we became the neutral ground. And so the Fairbanks delegation, the Nome delegation, and the Southeastern Delegation ganged up on them and said we’re going to have the Constitutional Convention in Fairbanks.

And of course at that time in 1955 we already had the Tote Road between here and Fairbanks and it would take us five hours to drive from here to Fairbanks. And you had to take a chain saw with you because it was only a Tote Road was just the width of a D8 cat. And as you well know the root system of your Arctic trees is only about six inches deep so every time there was a wind why you’d have a couple more. So we had one of the normal things that we took with us when we traveled to Fairbanks was a chain saw. And the idea if you didn’t have a chain saw you took a bucksaw because you would have to saw a tree out in order to keep going.

I think we went from November until the 20th of December or something like that and then we took a three week break and we came back in January and we finished up in February.

I was second to the youngest and I was 36 years old

A lot of old geezers you know. I was young and still had that drive – I was still the insurrectionist what they called me you know and in the territorial legislature they called me Coghill, the insurrectionist. Cause I didn’t believe in all of this government and I wanted to keep it as simple as possible. I was from the old school, the old prospectors. What they found, they kept you know and that sort of an attitude about it.

And Bill Egan in the committee on committees said well we need to have one conservative so one conservative they picked me as the Chairman of the Administration Committee.

He says I’d like to recommend you to be Chairman of the Administration Committee and it’s kind of a work haul type committee.

You didn’t have staff people like you have today. I mean I think in the Constitutional Convention we had only five staff people and they were all consultants, basically consultants from different organizations.

Well we had $350,000 to run the Constitutional Convention.

As Chairman of the Administration Committee, my target was to make sure that we didn’t spend over $300,000, that we had $50,000 left, that we could give then to the Statehood Committee and the Statehood Committee then created the lobbying group or the group that went out and told everybody about the constitution.

I had to make sure that these guys were wanting to spend all of that money on publicity and stuff like that, that they weren’t going to get away from it. He always said well the only reason why the Constitutional Convention got through the way it was is because they couldn’t get through that hardheaded Scot, Coghill. And it was a lot of fun. It was fun.

We set it up where that they got $20 a day for their subsistence and that was about the size of it. And there were a lot of them – Herb Hilscher was one of them I can remember always wanted to have new promotional things within the constitution.

He wanted to promote the constitution. He wanted to have more things of what we were doing up at the University. He wanted to have PR going and of course we didn’t want to do that. In fact if you’ll see in the constitution itself we have – there is none of the intent is in the constitution, and in the document …

… was to not have speeches or not — just have the yea’s and nay’s and who voted for, who spoke for, who spoke against, that type of thing, but not any of the rhetoric that was put into it, except for some of the amendments and the amendments were put in. But that was to keep people from getting up and talking for hours and hours on things. So once they knew that it was not going to be recorded, it didn’t happen.

Plus the fact is that the media … they didn’t have any negative or positive side to what was going on in the Constitutional Convention preliminary sessions. I mean it was straightforward type. And I think the reason for that is because Bill Snedden from the News-Miner and Bob Atwood from the Anchorage paper were supporters and so you didn’t have organized groups. You didn’t pressure groups coming out there to the University and sitting. And a lot of times a lot of school groups were out. I had school people from Nenana come up and we had one of the gals that was a senior that gave a talk to the Constitutional Convention. We had a lot of visiting firemen that spoke to us and one thing or another, but pretty much left us alone to do the things that we had to do.

In fact the ordinance that we put in abolishing fish traps. We didn’t get the fishing industry out of Seattle or the pressure groups from the fishing industry that were Nick (inaudible) and all of those that were the big fishmongers. They didn’t show up because nobody thought we were serious. Thought we were just a group of people going through an exercise.

And you could always tell when Bill Egan disagreed with ya because he would frown. Whenever he frowned, you’d say oh Christ I’m in trouble now. I’m in trouble now you know, but – and two or three times. One of them was during the article on education that went into the constitution. I was the one that see I was at that time I was Chairman of the School Board Association. And public education was very, very strong with me. Well also there was a tremendous amount of parochial schools going on in the state. And Monroe had just started, but most of them were mission schools. And I was not opposed to them but I was opposed to domination of sectoral attitude and I was a real firm believer in free public education. I have arguments with my son right now John, who is a teacher in his Baptist church school, and there was a teacher over there and he always questioned me as to that because that’s a part of our American way. And it was one of the arguments that we had at the Constitutional Convention.

We had good debate, but see when the constitution when we had a lot of votes that were split but when we finished the document and the Style and Drafting Committee, which was headed by George Sundborg, when they got done putting it all together everybody, all 55 of us, signed the document. Now one fellow got a little bit upset. He was from southeastern Alaska.

Robertson. And he went home, but he did sign the document afterwards when they got down to Juneau why they got – Tom Stewart and the guys got him to relent and to sign the document – the constitution. So different than the United States constitution, which had 55 delegates, only 30 what – 38 of them signed the United States constitution. So there was a lot of dissenters.

And when we got done arguing there was no minority reports, no majority reports, except what was done by the committees. …

The only way we could keep these people like Herb Hilscher and some of the other orators from expounding and expounding is that if you had a proposition and you put it up and it failed, you couldn’t put it up again. There was no parliamentary procedure. We blocked all of that so that there was no delaying.

The only reason why we got through the constitution and we made the constitution as brief as we possibly could, that was part of the – Bill Egan’s thrust with his committee chairmen was keep everything simple. Don’t get legislative intent into the middle of the constitutional structure. And of course that followed through and so we actually in my estimation and a lot of other people that this is out still the best state constitution in the 50 states.

When we signed the constitution in Signers Hall it was not the elaborate structure it is now. We had to kick the basketballs out of the way in order to put the seats in for the general public to come and watch us sign the document. …

It was the University gym.

Intertitle: Statehood

Jack Coghill: The fish trap issue in my estimation was the thing that created the biggest push for statehood, push for ratifying our constitution. See our constitution was ratified in ’58 before we were a state. It had to be ratified by the people of Alaska and then we took it and we sent it to Washington.

Economically the big structure in Alaska was the Guggenheims, which had the mining interests and the FE Company and all of the rest of them. And it was – the only reason why we became a state to be real frank with you was because of World War II and because there was enough people that were coming in from Washington and Oregon and California and Ohio and all of the Lower 48 that saw the great opportunities in the north country that finally we got enough that we had more people in Alaska from those states that were not beholden to the special interests of the fishing industry or the mining industry. And it was out of that you know because the people in Nome, a lot of the people in Fairbanks that were part of the institution of the FE Company. And it was tough. It was tough. And you just had to and finally that measure of percentages started creeping away from them and by the mid-50’s, by the end of the 50’s when we had our first vote on statehood why it was two to one.

The thing that really promoted our constitution and promoted the statehood was the other articles that were put in in the transition when we endorsed and put into the program the Tennessee Plan where we elected a house member and two senators and we sent them back. And the reason why it was called the Tennessee Plan is because back in 1832 I believe it was Tennessee cut away from Virginia and became a state and when they became a state they went down to or up to Washington, DC and moved onto the floor and said we’re here, we want to be admitted. And they were admitted. So we thought well we got Ernie Gruening and Egan were our Tennessee senators and Ralph Rivers was our Tennessee representative.

We sent them back to Washington with the explicit instructions to go demand a seat on the floor. Well they got themselves bounced pretty fast. So what happened in 1830, didn’t happen in 1950. So we set up offices for them and they went around and they lobbied and they took material to every legislator, every senator and every staff person, every house member. And they lobbied the statehood thing. Well it was coming that Hawaii was doing the same thing because Hawaii had had their Constitutional Convention and they were getting ready and they wanted to have statehood. Well the thing was that the reason why we’re the 49th state and they are the 50th state is that in those days Hawaii was very Republican. It was the Dole Company and the big farmers and stuff like that. And we were a very strong Democrat state at the time. So we became the 49th state. That’s how and the next year why Hawaii became – was elected and they became the 50th state.

Intertitle: 1959-1964, State Senator Coghill

Jack Coghill: Jack Wise and I were the only two Republicans. And in the first session why Bow Smith from Ketchikan and Tom Stewart from Fairbanks or from Juneau and the people they organized state government and they’d kick us out of the assembly and they had their caucuses in the senate chambers. And it just shows you that that’s a good lesson for people in this democracy. The next year they split nine/nine. Guess who had balance of power? Neither one of their sides could do anything unless they had Jack Wise, who was a Republican from Bethel and myself. And we kind of worked that to our advantage.

In 1959 I have a picture and I’ll show it to you. We had during statehood because we were working off of grants and we didn’t have much money and we had to keep it down. We spent $87M and we called it the $87M Committee, cause it was unheard of that we spent that much money.

And I think it was the third session of the legislature or something like that. I’ve got a picture of it. Frank Chapados was the Chairman – the Co-Chairman and he was from the house side and Bill Noland, yeah Bill Noland from – was the Chairman from the senate side. But it was interesting and what we’d do is every time somebody increased the budget they had to put a dollar into the pot. And we had a big jar in the middle of the table and at the end of the session we took that money and we had a party for just the Finance Committee. It usually was pretty (inaudible) because at that time why there was a lot of drive to increase that and increase that.

Oh, we were struggling. We were struggling I mean and with all of the requirements and you see during statehood we had $400,000, no $4 million was given in what they called transitional grants from the statehood and that went on for six years.

The federal government was pretty stingy, but it was taking over the Johnson O’Malley Schools. Johnson O’Malley was the act that took Bureau of Indian Affairs schools and put them into the public school system you know. And you had that and so you used all of those transition type funds to keep things rolling, keep things going you know. And it was tough, it was tough.

I was on the Finance Committee and I could show you where you know we really had some knockdowns and drag outs, but we had a joint committee between the house and the senate, which after I got out of the senate why they broke away from that because they didn’t want the unicameral type system. But we had to do that in order to keep things going because we had it down where I think the first session of the legislature we adjourned it in 87 days or something like that. And then it just kept creeping up and creeping up and it got to the point where they had to put a trigger on it because it was going way beyond 120 days.

Intertitle: Looking Back

Text: Coghill served as Nenana’s mayor from 1962 to 1985, becoming the longest serving mayor in Alaska history.

Jack Coghill: That was probably and I think that probably the most satisfying time was my tenure as Mayor because it was local, because you were affecting people on a local basis and I think that my most frustrating time was being Lieutenant Governor.

You couldn’t get anything done. I mean bureaucracy had gotten to the point where it was – if, you know, I had dot charts put together. The first year I was in there when I was still in favor you know we put these dot charts together to reorganize state government.

And the charts were color-coded so that it showed the different categories of people and how you could cut through all of that and where you could take. And I figured that we could take 25% of government structure tomorrow and I still believe it in today’s structure. You could take 25% of government and do away with it if you had the will.

Territorial law, state law, and the things that you got done or amended are molded or twisted to accommodate contemporary time. Constitutional law is something that should be short, sweet, and direct. And that’s the reason why the people that put the amendment in for the Permanent Fund Dividend and the Permanent Fund Account really got out of their element when they started getting too wordy. They could have put that document together with 10 or 12 paragraphs or sentences, not 10 or 12 paragraphs.

The thing that I remember the most about the Constitutional Convention was the camaraderie that happened after we decided that the document was the best we could do. And so when we signed those documents we had a hundred of them. The first five copies of the constitution went to government, went to the United States Government. And then the next 60 went to the Constitutional Convention delegates and then the others were distributed to the different archives. And – if you go into the Signers Hall at the University of Alaska in the hallway that goes from Signers Hall into the next building you will see a whole series of pictures and those are my pictures that I have collected of different delegates and all of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention. I think I had a copy of the constitution and the whole bit there.

Closing titles

Recorded January 26, 2004, in Nenana.

Conducted by Dr. Terrence Cole, UAF Office of Public History

 

Full interview transcript

John B. “Jack” Coghill:
Conducted by Dr. Terrence Cole, UAF Office of Public History

Coghill: Single family owned store in Alaska now.

Terence: Is that right? No kidding, oh wow, okay.

Terence: Okay. Am I all right? Can I slide over tiny bit? I was just thinking that way.

Terence: So that was the only question is if they’re up to it, you know Jack.

Coghill: Well it is just like when we had the with the interview we had with the court group you know Buckalew, he just got up and said hello, I’m Buckalew and sat down because he just can’t bring things in.

Terence: Yeah. Yeah. So I don’t know, well we’ll see. I think we are going to get people to talk about them and –

Coghill: Get a hold of Tom Stewart.

Terence: Yeah, yeah.

Coghill: And see how Burke Riley is doing.

Terence: Is doing, yeah.

Coghill: And Tom can – will give you a good assessment.

Terence: Right and just ask Tom to give us the thing. Well let me say today is – make sure we have it for the record is January 26th and we’re here in beautiful windy Nenana, where it is 20 below down here Jack. What’s your temperature down here, are you guys warmer?

Coghill: No, it’s only about five below.

Terence: Five below. Okay, so it is actually.

Coghill: The wind chill factor is probably about 40.

Terence: Yeah, right, that’s exactly right, yeah, probably easily a 40 below wind chill. But anyway Jack Coghill: in Nenana. So Jack, thanks for letting us come in and bug you today.

Coghill: Anytime.

Terence: And so basically maybe we’ll start out talking a little bit about your dad coming over here from Scotland. How did that happen? What was his –

Coghill: Well dad when his father passed away why he went into an apprenticeship program as a printer in order to provide money for the family. And when he graduated from his apprenticeship, then he took – he was assigned to a print shop. This was in Shrewsbury in Shropshire County in England. And he wanted to get away from the family so he took a job down in Swansea in the lower part of Wales. That is where he met my mother. In fact, he found an advertisement in the paper where they were advertising for an extra room for somebody. So dad applied for it and my grandfather was a train master for the railroad system and dad was – let’s see, dad was about 12 years older than mother and this was now we’re talking about 19 – probably 1905, ’05 I think it was. And mom was 11 or 12 years old and they got a friendship and started writing to each other.

And when dad decided that the print shop that he was in and assigned to that the person across the table from him had been at the same shop for 30 years and he said this isn’t the end of the line for me. So he saved up his pennies and shekels and went to Liverpool.

And in 1907 why he booked passage from there to Canada. Then he worked his way across Canada and got into Vancouver in the fall of ’07 and went down to – it’s a long story, but went down and three of them – three Scots got together in Seattle and decided that the news was the big strike in Fairbanks, Alaska. And so off they went. He booked storage to Valdez and it took them 18 days to go from Valdez to Fairbanks. The three of them they had their rucksacks and their stuff and they put it on a double ender. You know what a double ender is?

Terence: Why don’t you describe –

Coghill: The double ender is a sled that is pulled by a single horse and the reason why they call them double ender is because it has got the sloped skis on the front, just like it has on the back. So then you can hook two or three of them together. And every night why’d they’d stop at a roadhouse and unload the stuff.

Well they got into Fairbanks and the next day why he said – (clock bong) that in his memos he says it took him four different steam baths to get rid of all the lice that he had picked up on the road going from Valdez to Fairbanks. But – he landed in Fairbanks and went to the print shop and it was the Miner-News. It was a fellow by the name of Swarthout. And he went to work immediately because he was the only union typist that came in – all of the rest of them were kind of roughnecks. And he said the one thing they liked about it was that when he threw his type and you’re a printer so you know what I’m talking about.

Terence: Well let’s describe that –

Coghill: Throwing your type – well we know type – the problem with type is that you have your easel and you do everything backwards. And you start from the end and you come across and then you come across and then you come across. So in other words you read everything backwards and you print everything backwards in throwing your type. Well a lot of people would make an awful lot of mistakes doing that and but because of his perfection why he was really good at it and Swarthout had just really enjoyed that quite a bit. Well then –

Terence: And that was – was that Roy Swarthout.

Coghill: Swarthout.

Terence: Right, yeah, yeah.

Coghill: Swarthout and Roy Swarthout and he – Roy Swarthout and he had the Miner-News. Well then a printer that was working for him by the name of W. F. Thompson. Huh?

Terence: Oh, yeah he was drinking my water. That’s okay.

Coghill: Well we can get you another one.

Terence: It’s all right, baby, I know who comes first in this house. I know that. I’m going to watch my plate. That’s like the whole thing though isn’t it Jack about the mind your P’s and Q’s. Always heard that’s where that saying came from. I don’t know if it did or not but that they –

Coghill: That’s right.

Terence: Because they’re backwards and stuff.

Coghill: Yeah, everything is backwards.

Terence: So he must have been very gifted because that’s a real skill isn’t it I mean?

Coghill: Very skilled. And he used – I used to watch him (clock) because when he moved to Nenana –

Terence: (Inaudible) to know for whom the bell tolls, right.

Coghill: We have 11 o’clock chime.

Terence: So Jack does your clock –

Coghill: I haven’t been able – when I brought it down here I set it and I set it I screwed up the chimes and it doesn’t chime any more, just –

Terence: Anyway so where were we – talking about setting the type.

Coghill: Setting the type and of course you had racks – you had regular typeset racks and you had the different denominations or the different or what did he used to call – the different typesets. The high type – I used to know all of that –

Terence: Fonts.

Coghill: Fonts. The different fonts, type and dad would sit there and he just go like this and he always had a – looked like a pencil, but it wasn’t a pencil. It was a wooden stick with a sharp point on it and that is what he would adjust everything. Then he’d get it all into the rack, set it over, and put it in there and then he’d clamp it together. I learned what printer’s lice was when I was just a boy. And a lot of people don’t know what printer’s lice is. But that is when after he would get done running the type you open up the set. You release the set and then you take a brush and kerosene and you scrub the ink off of the type and all of the ink with the kerosene goes to down below and then you take each one of those and you take and put them in a bucket and you swill them off and put them back into the different boxes.

Well I used to have – my two brothers and I we would do that. We would take the type and we would put them back into the box. And boy I’ll tell you if we made a mistake, we were in real deep trouble because old dad when he had to reset something why it was automatic with him. It was just like running a typewriter, but printer’s lice is when you get that all scrubbed off then before you start taking the type out why somebody would take and re-crank it back so that it was – so the type was set again and all that of that kerosene would come (psst) up like that and it would come all over you and you’d have black spots all over you. Well that was printer’s lice. Now did you learn something or you knew that?

Terence: I did – no, I had never heard that before. That’s great. So was this Jack something that when he was printing up here in – was this when he was printing the Nenana paper or this was down in Fairbanks?

Coghill: This was down here in Nenana.

Terence: When you were a kid?

Coghill: When I was a kid, because dad then went with W. F. Thompson and W. F. Thompson – William F Thompson they called him Wrong Font Thompson because he was always screwing up the font on the paper. And he always had it messed up. Well he went up to Ridge Top, which is now up on the highway just – Fox, where the roadhouse is, well just down the hill from that is where Ridge Top was. Well that was when the railroad – when the Tanana Railroad went from Fairbanks to Chena and up through the Goldstream Valley up to Fox. And they had a paper at Ridge Top because then it served all of the different creeks. Dad went up there for one year. And then when that was over with why he moved back to Fairbanks and that is when he bought the one-cylinder Brush car.

Terence: Well tell us about that. It was – how many cars were in Fairbanks before that?

Coghill: Three. Bobby Sheldon’s car that he built himself and a fellow – oh, what was his name? The fellow that had a dredge going out to Salcha. I want to say Briggs, but I don’t think that’s right. But anyway dad had a race with him one time. They raced and that is when dad broke the axle on his car and said that’s enough of that foolishness. I’m not going to do that any more. He bought that one-cylinder Brush in 1909. In 1910 he bought his second car, which was a Model T, which was much better because when he – I got to back up a little bit because what Thompson and the printers – the Swarthout said Coghill: if you want to come back.

He said I don’t want to go back into the print shop. He says I want to do something else. He says well so he offered him 300 subscriptions, he said you go and sell 300 subscriptions at Ester Creek and at Berry and at Chena, I’ll give you 300, but you got to sell 300 first. Well he went out and sold the 300 and actually sold all 600.

And that gave him enough money to buy himself a horse and a buggy. And I have a picture of dad and his horse and his sleigh. Cause he was then starting his tour of being an express service between Fairbanks and the creeks. And that is when he bought the one-cylinder Brush. Found that it was not heavy enough or not scucom enough to get over the hill at College. So what he’d have to do he’d always offer somebody a free ride to the creeks but they had to get out and push him over the hill at College.

And when he got the Model T why then he didn’t have to have that push, so that’s when his revenue got a little bit better. And of course dad followed that and created quite a following in merchandising. And Bob Bloom, who had the haberdashery store in Fairbanks became a good friend of dad’s and they – and he was one of dad’s suppliers for all the stuff that he’d take. That’s how he kind of got into the merchandising business.

So in 1912 when the railroad decided that they were going to build the railroad from Seward to Fairbanks instead of from Valdez to Fairbanks. And you probably know the whole background of that where the Guggenheims lost the election in 1912 and the Democrats took over and McKinley said well we’re not going to build the railroad from Cordova through Chitna –

Terence: And give it to the Guggenheims, that’s right, yeah.

Coghill: Into Fairbanks because we’re not going to honor the people that didn’t support us. So they built – they bought the railroad from Seward. There was a railroad that was starting from Seward to Portage and they bought that and then the next thing you know why they shipped up all of the equipment from the Panama Canal and they brought it up the Tanana River to a place called Tokanishna, which was the beginning of Nenana. And they put all of the equipment off here at the mouth of the Nenana River and started pushing the railroad from the Tanana River watershed south through the canyon and that is how Nenana got started.

Well that and the boom city and of course dad started a haberdashery down here with a fellow by the name of Gus Lashore and bought him out the next year, but Gus – dad – so 1916 dad opened the store in the spring of 1916 and we have had it going ever since. We are the oldest family-owned store and general mercantile store in Alaska today.

Terence: Now Jack was that and the store basically was the center of town in a way wasn’t it. I mean that’s the store – cause you had like the roadhouse and all that stuff right. I mean didn’t the store support other things too.

Coghill: Well, yeah, (inaudible) at that time Nenana was the northern terminus. So the roundhouse was here. The commissary was here. The dormitory was here. In fact, there was a general hospital here that was all owned and operated by the railroad. And we had six, eight commission houses where all of the different superintendent of the railroad lived and all of that. In fact, there is still several of those buildings still in Nenana. They’ve been moved from where the railroad used to be – the railroad houses used to be. In fact, when you came over the bridge, the highway bridge, and down the embankment right over here right behind the lodge is where the railroad commission houses used to be.

Terence: And are any of them – the ones that they built they’re still standing somewhere around town?

Coghill: Yes.

Terence: Maybe one thing we could do later on is just drive around town – if you see one, we can just film or something.

Coghill: Sure, sure. The one because my dad when Nels Peterson, who was my wife’s grandfather, when he retired from the railroad in 1937, he sold his house, his commission house, to dad because we had lost everything in the fire. This block that we’re sitting in right now burned to the ground in October 3rd of 1936. It was one of those nice windy Nenana days. The grease trap in the bakery, which was Dutch Rodekite’s terminal café, and it got away from him and the wind and it just burned the whole block in a matter of hours. And so we were – and we lived above the store. So we lost our home and lost everything. Dad, the next year why we moved into a railroad house down on the commission row for the winter and next year why we bought Nels Peterson’s. And that was a long association with his family because I remember pulling Frances’ hair when she was just about five years old and she always thought that we were rough boys in Nenana you know. And so after the war when I got out of the service, I met Frances at one of the school dances in Fairbanks and two years later we were married and 55 years later why – I got out of that marriage why we had six children, we got 24 grandchildren and now at the last count I think it was 18 great grandchildren. So we are helping populate the state.

Terence: You’re doing your share. You did your share.

Coghill: But this building that we are sitting in right here is when Frannie and I – when we were – our family was growing and I went – I won the ice pool in 1951. I won $18,000. That’s a lot of money in those days. And so what we did was we decided well there was not a good roadhouse or a good hotel in Nenana so I bought a sawmill. And we bought a sawmill and I think we paid $1,800 for it. And we shipped it in and we set it up right here next to where dad’s old store was where the place had burned down. And yarded all of these logs in from Poggie Slough, which was six miles up the river and set them in here and we three sided all of the logs, set them up, let them dry for a year and so we poured the cement foundation.

I went into Fairbanks and George Cooper had the gravel – sand and gravel thing out there just north of Ladd Field. And I bought a carload of cement from him and we brought it in here and we hand mixed all of the cement for the foundation of this building and it is still just as solid as can be so.

Then we had a roadhouse. We had 20 rooms, had this apartment (clock) and eventually why we had a restaurant on Front.

Terence: How many – say that again Jack, how many rooms did you have in this roadhouse?

Coghill: Twenty. Twenty rooms. We had 20 rooms and the apartment. And as things changed why we reconstructed it two or three times. The one time what we did was that it was after the flood in 194 –

Terence: Eight.

Coghill: Eight, 1948, the first flood. You see that’s why our elevation of our building is as high as it was because we took and figured that was the 100-year flood. It wasn’t. It was the ‘68 flood that was a 100 year flood.

Terence: Or ’67 flood.

Coghill: ’67 flood. And the ’67 flood right now the height of the flood is about here in this building. Well after the flood Frances said I’m not going back into the roadhouse. So we bought a trailer. We set it up out on the hill south of Nenana, sand dune, that we had purchased about two years before and decided well now is the time to build a house up there. And we built a home out there. That is where we raised the kids and we changed this into six apartments. And then as the world turns and as things evolve why now I’ve got the state court system in the front end of the apartment where the dining room and the kitchen and the lobby used to be. We have over on the north side we have a hairdresser outfit and we have an apartment and we have a Laundromat.

And then over on this side we have part of the judge’s chambers and my little apartment. And I decided that after Frannie had died why I’d sell the house at North Pole and move back here. And when I refurnished this apartment after it had been rented for years and years and years and years. I spent more money redoing this apartment than it cost me to build the whole bloody building in the first place. But that shows you how things. But I’m comfortable here and it is a nice place and I got lots of books and I just really don’t have the space that I wish that I did have, but I’ll do. It’ll do. It’ll work.

Terence: That keeps the amount of junk down a little bit when you don’t have too much space you know.

Coghill: Well yeah and what I did was that – so I had a 20 foot cono box and when I started moving well I said I need to have another cono box so I bought a 40 foot cono box and by golly I filled that up too. So I’ve got plenty of storage space.

Terence: Jack, let’s talk a little bit about how are we on time boys? Are we okay? The tape?

Terence: Okay. Jack, so tell me a little about when you were born and your brothers and sisters and stuff like that.

Coghill: Well I was born in 1925. Bob was born in 1924 and Bill was born in 1923. Dad went over – dad corresponded with mother all that time and after World – and the only reason why she didn’t come over here in 1912 or 1913 was because of World War I. And they couldn’t get – couldn’t leave Europe or England.

Terence: All right so he started corre – met her when she was 12, is that right?

Coghill: Yeah.

Terence: Yeah when he was down in Wales or the south of England.

Coghill: That’s right.

Terence: And then – so when did she finally – and he corresponded with her since the time she was 12?

Coghill: That’s right. And they – and he said well I’ll go to New York if you’ll come to New York and I’ll marry you. And Grandpa Fortune said if Winnie, that was her name, if Winnie is worth having you got to come get her. So over to England he went and he had a fellow by the name of Walt Tieland. Walt Tieland was working for the Alaska Railroad here and he was just a young fellow and dad taught him everything that was necessary to run the store.

And he headed over for England and they were married. He went over there in December of 1918 and they were married in June the 18th, 1919. And it took them a month and a half to come back. They came back via the Canadian Railroad and up to Skagway and up to Whitehorse and down the Yukon River and up the Tanana River. It was because there was no railroad at that time. That’s the only way they could get other than to take a ship all the way around from and so they – we had a sister that was born in 1921 and she passed away with the flu and then Bill came along in July of ’23, Bob came along in August of ’24, and I came along in September of ’25. Bang, bang, bang. And three of us boys and we were raised right here in the store. We – all of us went to high school here. Bill went to the University of Alaska and Bob went to the University and I went in the Army.

And when we got out of the service why I was going to head for school and my father passed away and so Bob and I started to run the store and we’re still partners in the store and we still got it. Still got it running and my brother passed away several years ago.

Terence: Now that was Bill passed away several –

Coghill: No Bob.

Terence: Bob did, okay, yeah.

Coghill: Bob passed away and his daughter now is our manager of the store. I – because of families and all the rest of it why my interest in the commerce was that I started what we call Nenana Fuel Company. It was a Union auto distributor and I started that in 1957 and ran it up until 1988.

Terence: Where did you distribute oil? Are we okay on time?

– Break –

Terence: Okay. You want to stop that one then? Yeah, the big experts are the people who never do anything. That’s what I’ve found in life you know. You want an expert opinion ask somebody who has never accomplished anything.

Coghill: Or never tried to do anything.

Terence: Exactly, yeah. Let’s see what were we talking about – we were talking about when you were born. You were born in 1925 and then you went to the Army. What year was that? What year did you enlist?

Coghill: I was drafted.

Terence: Drafted, excuse me. That’s right. Yeah, it would have the war.

Coghill: ’43.

Terence: Okay. So right when you were 18 basically.

Coghill: 18 or 19. There was Al Wright, Bob Hopbreck, Bill Burke, a whole bunch of us kids and we did our basic in Anchorage. In fact, when we got done with our basic in Anchorage why they shipped us off to Whittier to be a port battalion and from there why some of them wanted to go on to other things and Major Wakefield, who was from Kodiak knew my dad and he asked me if I was a Coghill: from Nenana and I said yeah. And they associated through the Masons.

And he said well I’m going to get you to go into the Tanana River and because that was when they were shipping all of the barrels down – barrels of fuel for the lend lease to Galena and they were rafting it from Nenana down the Tanana River and they were going to a slough just below Tanana. And that is where they would gather the single rafts from the Tanana and they’d bundle them up into several big rafts. And then the people would float them down from there to Galena on the Yukon River.

And so was taken – I was a supply clerk in Whittier and they said well we’re going to ship you off. So they shipped me off to Galena and I landed in Galena in a Norseman. And the flood had come and I taxied up to the second story of the hangar and they said well there’s no more lend lease coming through Galena. So what are you going to do with this?

So they shipped me off to Nome and from Nome I went up to Project Nan and from Project Nan they shipped me back to Nenana. And Major Wakefield says well I guess we’ll just have to keep you here until we close the river season. So from July until September why I was in charge of the PX here. And then when they got done with that why Major Wakefield says well now you’re going to pay for your being stationed home. They sent me off to Adak. And I was on the Aleutians Islands and die the rest of my service there and came back and got out of the service in ’46.

Terence: Did – so you ran the PX Jack up here in Nenana or down in Whittier?

Coghill: Here.

Terence: In Nenana, oh my gosh, that was something, wow. But so what was it like out at Adak? What was the – everything had been pretty much cleared up by then, right? It was just –

Coghill: Oh, no, it was booming, yeah.

Terence: Was it?

Coghill: Yeah, and I was – they sent me down there and by the time I got there I was a staff sergeant and so I was the head of the motor pool that we had. And we had jitneys, which are little tractors that they use on the dock. And the big push for building Adak had been over with, but – and that’s where I met George Sullivan.

George Sullivan was the first sergeant for the engineering company. And he used to get all of his transportation needs from our transportation company. So I got to know him real well down there, argued with him. When I heard he was going to be assigned to the US Marshal to Nenana, I thought oh man I’m in trouble now. And we became very good friends.

Terence: Yeah, because he ws born in Valdez. Was he born in Valdez, right?

Coghill: He was in Valdez. Uh-huh. Yeah, I met him the first time before we were in the service in Fairbanks at one of the basketball tournaments that they had up there. And we didn’t have enough to have a team, but we’d go in and scream and holler at the old gym there in the Main School in Fairbanks. Yeah. And so George was here I guess from ’48 through ’54, something like that and then he went to work for Alaska Freightlines.

Terence: Jack, tell me when you were a kid did you ever go to Fairbanks much. I mean what was Fairbanks like for a kid growing up in Nenana?

Coghill: Oh, it was going to the big town. I mean you’d get on the railroad. The only way you could there was by railroad and we used – the thing that we always looked forward to was the Fairbanks Winter Carnival. You know they didn’t have Golden Days in those days cause everybody was working on the mine. And you see you got to remember that prior to 1939 Fairbanks or Alaska was basically a natural resource development type country. It was not military. It wasn’t until ’39 when they started building the – actually they didn’t it – well they called it Ladd Field, but Ladd Field was not necessary a military base. It was a coal weather test station. And from there why it developed into what it is today.

But, yeah, as a kid we used to go into Fairbanks and that was like going up town you know. And of course we stayed at the old Pioneer Hotel on the Chena River and it was – got to know all of us wild kids from Nenana.

We’d go in and then of course Mr. Oldroyd, who was the extension service guy at the University of Alaska Extension Service out the University Farm was the head of the 4H Program and we became members of the 4H Club. And we’d go in Fairbanks. They’d take us into Fairbanks and we’d go out there and bivwack. In fact I remember one year living in the Hess Hall in the basement of the Hess Hall for a week and a half when we had a 4-H rendezvous. And all of the kids from the Matanuska Colony were all in Fairbanks, and we from Nenana. A lot of that stuff has gone by the wayside now.

Terence: So, but it might be only a couple times a year. I mean it wasn’t a regular thing going down there, right, I mean?

Coghill: Oh, in Fairbanks, oh no, no. We’d maybe make one or two trips and that was it. Everything was pretty much self-sufficient here at that time. Of course you had – you didn’t go in and do any shopping sprees or anything like that. I mean it was you’d go in because of an event. The winter carnival and they had the dog races and stuff like that and then you had – you’d go in for 4-H roundup or something like that.

But most of our time was spent providing our own entertainment. We have a fish creek out the railroad out here at Milepost 408 which we’d walk out to all the time, then do all of our fishing and Grayling fishing and the recreation that we did.

Terence: But it was – when you were growing up Nenana was a little town, wasn’t it? I mean it was pretty small I mean –

Coghill: It was a small town, but it was a compact town. It was more compact than it is today. Today because of the highway and people will jump in their car and in an hour they can be go in and go to a movie.

One of my first businesses that I had here was I owned the Northland Theater. And when I was just in school why Mr. Fisk, who had bought the machinery from a guy by the name of Gross, whose brother had the theaters in Juneau I believe. And he had a movie house here and he had a movie house in Talkeetna, two or three places and he’d bounce back and forth and bring these films in. They were pretty scratchy and everything, but. So Mr. Fisk bought it out and he was a schoolteacher. Then he went to the FAA in 1939 when they – so I bought the equipment. My dad financed me and it took me about four years. I never seen a penny of the take. My mom was the doorkeeper and I ran the theater until by golly I had her all paid off. And then I had a few pennies in my pocket. And then my brother Bob could see that I was making some money so then he talked me into putting him as a partner and we ran the theater oh up until television became pretty prevailing in the first part of the 60’s.

Terence: Did you guys sell popcorn and stuff like that?

Coghill: We had a popcorn machine and of course that made the janitorial service rather easy because the more popcorn you sold the easier it was to sweep it out. Because you know you’d put plenty of imitation butter. It wasn’t butter. It was I forget what they called it. It was coconut oil is what it was. It made popcorn look yellow like if there was lots of butter on it. Get a lot of salt on it you know and then we’d sell pop and stuff like that. And we had the one machine and after we paid off the machine with dad, then I bought the second Bell and Howell. So then we had continuous movie, but when we only had the one machine why then we’d have an intermission in the middle when we’d have 15 minutes and that is when popcorn, you know, and all of the rest of it.

It was interesting, but it was part of the opportunity of a young person raised in a small community.

Terence: Which building was that in, Jack, which one?

Coghill:: That was in the old Pioneer, well it originated in the Northland Theater was in a old theater building which was that Warren Thompson had next to his drug store. And I did that in the summertime, but in the wintertime you just couldn’t heat that old building cause there was no insulation or anything in it. So we then leased the Pioneer Hall and we’d have movies in there and then we’d have to take all of the equipment out because they used it for other things.

Terence: It is the Pioneer’s of Alaska Hall you mean?

Coghill: Yeah, yeah.

Terence: That still stands, right?

Coghill: No.

Terence: No. Did that burn down or –

Coghill: No, it fell down.

Terence: Oh, is that right, oh yeah.

Coghill: It had – it didn’t – it had all rough lumber trusses in the ceiling and the snow load one winter just collapsed it.

Terence: Took it down, yeah. Do you remember any of the movies that you showed in that thing or what was the first – do you remember the first one or do you remember

Coghill: No. I remember Tom Mix and a lot of cowboy movies and a lot of singing movies with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope and Hedy Lamar and I just don’t want to date myself you know.

Terence: That’s right, yeah, yeah. No, that’s great. I didn’t know you ran – I knew Gross, yeah, I mean I know who that guy was so.

Coghill: Yeah. So we ran the theater and it was one of the things that we did and we’d use the equipment in the summertime we’d use the equipment for our PA system when we ran the 4th of July program. In fact, this year I will have done the 4th of July – I started doing the 4th of July program for the kids, announcing, in 1946. I missed one year so this year why it will be something like 55, 56 years that we have been doing it and we have a real program that we put on. We start at 11 o’clock and we finish about four. We have pie-eating contests and we have foot races and everybody gets a quarter. And the thing is that all of these kids and I’ve got third generation people coming and saying do you still give a quarter. And I says you come and you’ll hear me and everybody gets a quarter. And so that way nobody got left out. Cause I can remember when I was a kid and the rail road commission had the 4th of July program and they’d give first and second prize. And it was really a let down for you to go there and not get something so everybody gets a quarter.

Terence: Well, that’s wonderful.

Coghill: And we still do that. So you’re invited to come down, bring your camera crew. Come down the 4th of July. And in fact we even have a beer race for the men.

Terence: What’s the beer race? What’s that?

Coghill: Well we take two or three cases of beer and we set it out on the – down by the railroad station depot and line up the men, 21 and over, and they have to run down. They can scoop up as many beers as they can get. And we do that for the kids. We have potato races and we have three legged races and we have sack races. And when the railroad used to sack up coal and send it down to the Public Health Service Hospital in Tanana, they had a coal stoker. And of course the only way they could get coal was by sacking it up and shipping it down on the barge. And so we’d get all of these old sacks. Well we still got some of those old coal sacks and they’re getting – every year why we get kids will push their foot through two or three more of them. So we’re going to have to find some place where we can get some good gunnysacks, put the kids in them. We have pie eating contests and the whole thing and it’s something that families enjoy.

Terence: That’s wonderful. Well Jack in a little town like this so you got involved even as a kid in a lot of businesses, running the film – what else did you do as a kid? I mean that was the first business you got involved in?

Coghill: Well that was the first business, but I of course after my dad died why I was in the store for several years and finally we started the propane business. And we shipped propane bottles up and down the river. And that – the Union Oil Company came in and built – Standard Oil was here and Union Oil came in and built a terminal. And the third year why they said would you like to be our consignee distributor. And so I became their consignee distributor in 1957 and I ran that whole fuel business. And of course in ’57 was just right because Clear started in ’59 and I was – then Anderson came into being, Lehora and Browns Cork and several places out around Clear. And of course that just blossomed and I had – when I sold it to Earth Resources why I had 39 employees.

Terence: And did you deliver down the river too?

Coghill: Oh, yeah.

Terence: And – but you never ran like your own boat did you – I mean did you use with Utana or what was –

Coghill: I used Utana and I used Weaver Brothers. Weaver Brothers had what they called Inland River, which was started by Binkley. And I used them and they’d come into town and of course Utana was pretty much connected with Standard. So I was connected pretty much with Weaver Brothers and they would stop day and night, fuel up here and fuel up their barges and got them to buy all the Useral fuel, fuel that came in over the pipeline. They’d truck it down to north Nenana and they’d fill their barges and take it on down to Galena. And so that, along with – I just had a regular trade business.

And what I would do is I followed the same basic principle that I did when I was in the political arena is that in most of your villages you find that the last person in the village with the bubble gum usually got the votes. So I was the last person in the village with bubble gum to get their orders for their winter fuel. And I got real good relationship with lots and lots of people.

And I at that time the railroad was in the process of going into the 20-gallon – 20,000 gallon tankers, the bigger ones and getting out of the 10,000 gallon. So I would buy the 10,000 tankers, because they were real heavy steel. I’d bring them in here to Nenana and I cut the wheels off of them and put them on skids and we’d skid them down and put them in. In fact there are several villages who have still got tank farms of oil Alaska Railroad 10,000 tankers as their storage facilities.

Terence: Did you skid those down on the ice or how did you do that?

Coghill: No we put them right on the barges.

Terence: Oh, on the barge in the summertime.

Coghill: We built – we had the fellows over here at north Nenana and they built wooden skids for us and we’d take them off and put them on wooden skids or regular and they would last until such time as – in other words you got tankers in place and everything and now you go down there you’ll see that they’ve got them concrete blocks or something or other that they have them on foundation because the wooden skids have all deteriorated.

Terence: So Jack when your dad died in 1946, right?

Coghill: ’48.

Terence: ’48. And so –

Coghill: No, ’46, ’47.

Terence: ’47. Now you had been planning on going to go to college basically?

Coghill: Yeah.

Terence: And that kind of derailed that – because somebody had to take over the business?

Coghill: That’s right. In fact I was on my way to college in Washington State when my dad passed away and I turned around and came back. And so we, both Bob and I that took care of any higher education, so we became both of us became colleges of the hard knocks. And it has done me well. I mean I can’t you know I can’t complain. I served a good number of years as the territorial and state legislator and –

Terence: Did you ever get an honorary degree from the University?

Coghill: It is coming at me in May.

Terence: Is it, oh good, okay.

Coghill: I’m going to be – I’ll have an honorary doctorate in May of this year.

Terence: Well that’s wonderful, yeah, that’s a great honor.

Coghill: Yeah.

Terence: Did – so you came to take over the store. I mean was your – before we get that, was your dad sort of an easy guy cause you know sometimes it is difficult with fathers and sons you know? How was that working with you?

Coghill: Oh, dad was a hard taskmaster. I mean he was a Scot. And you could always tell when his patience was – when his patience was taxed why he started rolling his R’s and when he started rolling his R’s why you knew that you were in deep, deep trouble.

Terence: What’s that sound like when he rolls his R’s, what do you mean?

Coghill: R – and he was – but he was a kind man, but he was firm. I mean everything was black and white with him. And he didn’t you know if you – we all had our chores in the store. We all had to put coal into the basement or wood into the basement. We all had to stock shelves. We all had to do and when we got into trouble, which I did several times. One time we at Halloween why we went up to the railroad Marine Ways, which is up there by the bridge and we stole a couple 35 pound pails of wax grease that they put on the track – the ways to pull the ships up. And we went up and we greased the track. And the coal train the next day couldn’t get up over the bridge. And Jim Hagen was the marshal and we could hear this train chug, chug, chug, chug, urrrrr – and they finally had to send another train and a flatcar with a boiler on it to come down and steam the track.

So Jim Hagen, he come into the – in the afternoon to the schoolhouse and of course this was the old Franklin Kaleen School. It was a two-story building.

Terence: Is that building still there – that’s not still there is it?

Coghill: No, no. I’ve got pictures of it, but part of the foundation is under that porch but –

Terence: Right here, is that right?

Coghill: Right under that porch.

Terence: Oh, yeah.

Coghill: Pillars that were and got four of them when we tore the building down. But he come and he says that any of you lads know anything about how the grease got on the tracks on the bridge? Everybody’s halo was out, no, no, nobody knows anything. He reaches in his pocket and pulls out a pair of gloves and he says whose gloves are these? And somebody says those are mine. Full of grease. Second pair of gloves he pulled out were mine. Whose gloves are these? Oh, God, mine. We all got restricted. But because everybody, all the kids in the school knew about it why they took their lumps on it, but – so don’t grease tracks, especially when a coal train is trying to get to Fairbanks.

Terence: That’s so funny, oh God.

Coghill: Bunch of mischief. I mean stuff like that I mean – you’d think that was a Tom Sawyer type story, but we –

Terence: So the R’s were rolling that day.

Coghill: Oh, boy were they rolling. And of course the superintendent he told us all that he was going to put us in the custody of our family and oh, man, guess who got the chores for the next three weeks all by himself. My two brothers got off Scot-free. And they thought that was great and I would have to get up and go do this. And I’d have to sweep the store floor and I had to do all of those things, but you know when you play like that I guess you got to take the consequences. And out of all of that came a good lesson as you grew up and of course when I raised my family of four boys and two girls why I always remembered when they got into trouble I always remembered that. Well now if I were that age when I was that age what was I doing? So you know taking cans and putting rocks in them and throwing up on the superintendent’s roof in the middle of the night you know so bang, bang, bang and stuff like that. Creative but it was good fun.

Terence: Did that make it easier you know were you easier on your kids as a result of that, Jack, your own kids, or harder? What would you say?

Coghill: It all depends. If you talk to them, they’d say it was hard. I thought I was pretty easy with them.

Terence: Especially compared to your dad?

Coghill: Yeah, well, yeah, I mean he was raised from the old school you know. And you know I remember my mom standing in the doorway several times saying don’t you go hit him. Don’t you go hit him. But that I mean I think that the old-timers in those days – back in the 20’s and the 30’s you know – see I was raised in the 20’s and the 30’s, different. Different than it is today. And of course we didn’t have electricity. We had – our power plant would go off at midnight and would start up in the wintertime, start up at six in the morning. But he didn’t run that old Henry Kaiser, he didn’t run the power plant. It was a one-cylinder Fairbanks Morse and it blew big smoke rings. And you could tell that because the exciter on that – on his system was that it struck every third piston stroke and so the lights would go – just constantly had a little grip to it until that was all – after the war why of course they put in regular diesel engine caps and stuff like that.

Terence: When you were a little kid –

– Break –

Terence: Well Jack you had mentioned that as a kid you didn’t have electricity. When was it would go off at midnight, was that now before the war? What was that situation?

Coghill: The Alaska Railroad had built this town. Nenana was an Alaska Railroad town and they had the roundhouse here and they had the commissary and they had all of the offices and the administrative buildings and they had a hospital and they had a power plant. And of course the power plant was all coal fired. And they brought the coal in from Healy.

Well when they closed all of that down in the early 20’s why a fellow by the name of Henry Kaiser, who was a WAMTTCC, Washington Alaska Military Telegraph and Cable Company. And he had hurt himself and so he, being a veteran, why they financed him and they bought him a diesel one cylinder Fairbanks Morse power plant. I think it was 30 KBW generator on the back of it. He had to heat it with a blowtorch in order to get it going every morning. And he’d heat the top of the structure so that it would vaporize and once it got vaporized why then he had an air compressor. Then he had an air tank that would run the flywheel and got it going. It was a beautiful big flywheel, about that thick and about that wide.

In fact I think at Alaskaland is part of the machine is up there. But it was part of the original electrical stuff that they used and he had that well he’d start it off. And in the wintertime he would start it off at seven o’clock in the morning and he’d run it until midnight. And at midnight he’d give two or three blinks to tell you if you are going stay up later why you better get your kerosene lamp out or your candles because I’m shutting her down.

And of course you didn’t have all of the modern equipment that you have today. You didn’t have coal stokers or electric furnaces or electric motors that drove all of our furnaces. We were coal or wood and everything was stoked that way. Nothing was automatic.

In fact, I know when we moved into the commission house after the ’36 fire, why dad bought a little 5KW generator and he charged up batteries and that is what he used for lights and stuff like that we’d have and at the store because you had to have some kind of lights. You couldn’t have kerosene lamps running around. So you’d have a little battery light, a little night light, and every morning why’d he have to start up the generator to charge up the batteries again. But it then after the war, and of course in those days why –

Terence: Now what about in the summer, Jack, did he run the power plant in the summer at all?

Coghill: No, in the summertime he’d – in the summertime he’d run the power plant from six in the evening until midnight. And on Monday mornings he ran it from seven in the morning until noon. Give the ladies time to get their washing done. And on Thursday he ran from seven in the morning until noon and that’s when you did your ironing. So you did your ironing. So you did your ironing and did your washing according to Kaiser time not according to your own schedule. So that was part – that’s the way that worked in the early days here.

But we were a modern town. You went down the river to Tanana or you went down to Ruby and places like that they didn’t have that. It was all log cabins and stuff like that. So you know a lot of the convenience that you and I nowadays are – just take for granted didn’t happen in those days.

Terence: And did anybody – people didn’t have refrigerators though did they? Did you have refrigerators?

Coghill: Icebox. We used to – that’s one of the things that we used to get when we were kids. We used to get five dollars a ton for cutting ice on the Tanana River. We’d go up there right below the Alaska Railroad Bridge and you’d scribe out on the ice and you’d start and you had to be real careful. I mean you’ve have ice tongs and you’d put these big chunks of ice and you’d cut them. You saw down the line this way and then all you used was a slick. A slick is a big chisel. It’s a wooden what they call the old-timers call slicks that they made and that is how they would level off a log when they were making a log cabin or something and they had these big chisels and they were slicks. And you’d take that slick and you’d pop it and it would bust the ice. Take it and you’d pull it out of the river. You’d push it down about three times until you got momentum going and then you’d pull them right up and get on the ice. And we’d get $5 a ton. And they estimated the tons and I know darn well that they were always cheating us but the thing is that we still got $5 a ton. And you’d say well I got five tons out of the ice out there, got $25 worth. $25 in the 30’s was pretty good money.

But that didn’t last very long. So what they would do is that Billy Heinz and George Hubbreck had an icehouse. And the railroad had an icehouse. And an icehouse was a building that was insulated with sawdust and you’d stick the ice in there and then they would put layers of sawdust on top of it and that would hold it all summer long. In fact we used to go in in the middle of the summer and be able to get a piece of ice and take it out and chop it up and make ice cream. But you didn’t have ice machines or stuff like that, but all of that was stuff that you learned how to do.

Terence: Did – was – did George Heinz did they have like a little horse drawn car or how did they deliver it around town?

Coghill: Yeah, they had a little, well they had two or three and they had two Model A’s and they had a regular winch jack on the back of the car where they would lift the ice up and then they’d take it around to places people that had iceboxes and you’d get a chunk of ice and they’d chisel it off right there from the front.

Terence: What did you do with the ice? Was the icebox outside or in the ground?

Coghill: Inside.

Terence: Was it inside and so what did you do then? You’d just stuck the ice in the box?

Coghill: Stuff the ice in the box. It is just a regular refrigerator instead of the freezer being on the top, why that was where you stuck the ice and that kept the rest of the box cool. And we had two different services in those days. We had a guy by the name of Bill Elwell, who was Turd Head Bill because he had – he was the guy that went around collecting the honey do buckets out of the – and you didn’t have flush toilets and stuff like that. So behind every house in town you couldn’t dig a hole and have it like you did out where you didn’t have the population you’d have. So he would come up to an outhouse and he’d bang on the thing like that and if somebody didn’t holler why then he’d open up the trap door and pull out the bucket and take it to his horse – and dump in his barrel and put the bucket back.

Terence: And so what did they call him?

Coghill: What did they call him?

Terence: Yeah, yeah. You said – what was his nickname?

Coghill: His name was Bill Elwell. You would call him Horse Shit Bill cause you could smell him coming. He was the Honey Do Wagon.

Terence: But he is also the guy who delivered the ice too though?

Coghill: Yeah. He helped Bill Heinz and George Hubbreck deliver the ice. So you had to make damn sure that he had the right wagon when he was delivering the ice. So, but in those days you know they had – that was when we were a five horse town. We had Nels Anderson, Con Peterson, Tommy Jones, and Bill Herman – all had horse teams here and of course in those days the main thrust of heat was wood and they’d go up an cut wood and haul it in and of course you had – when you had horses why you’d have to have hay and it was kind of a self-sustaining type business.

But until the automobile came along and of course most of your automobiles – my dad always had a Model T and he had a Model T with a Rucksell gear, which was the first shifting gears that they had and he used to haul coal, was a coal agent here with the store for Healy Coal Company. But it was a novelty, because you (inaudible) on gasoline. You didn’t go to a gas station.

In fact out in my yard is a gas pump where you pumped up the five gallons to the ten gallons in the dome and then you opened the nozzle. That used to be behind our store and I’ve got it now. It is not hooked up or anything. It is just out there because it reminds you of what used to be. And I used that for a long time, a lot of years. In fact, old Cy Heathington had it down there in Manley Hot Springs for several years. Used those things to dispense this stuff and of course in the early days you didn’t have all of that. When I was a kid we used to get five drums of gasoline from the Standard Oil Company in Fairbanks and then ship them down. We’d get 55-gallon drums and they were all – it was real heavy duty galvanized barrels with rims around them and roll them in. In fact I have one of them as a water barrel I managed to hang onto. Had – the thing is we’d – the people would come up with their motors and of course in those days you didn’t have outboard motors. You had one cylinder putt-putts in the inboards. And they’d come up from Minto and from Tolovana and we’d siphon off gasoline into their five-gallon cans and they’d take them back to their boats.

Terence: But the motor boats were pretty early right I mean they – the little tiny with the little putt-putts, right, wasn’t that even in the 20’s didn’t they have it back then, I don’t know?

Coghill: Yeah, they had little putt-putts, but in those days it was just like dad’s car in Fairbanks was called Coggie’s Benzine Buggy because in those days it wasn’t called gasoline. It was called Benzine. That was the nomenclature for gas in those days.

Terence: And so when your dad had the car here was he the only guy in town with a car too, I mean in Nenana?

Coghill: No, when he had his car –

Terence: First one here in Nenana?

Coghill: Yeah, when he had his car here Al Gazzi’s dad had a haberdashery here, he had a car. George Hubbreck had two Model A’s. Dad had his two Model T’s. He had a Model T Runabout and then the truck that he bought for delivering coal. And it had – the Model T’s had a wishbone in the front. And the front part of the axle was held against the engine at the back side of the engine with a T like this that came out to where the spring was and the spring was not this way on the – the spring was this way. The spring was from wheel to wheel on the axle not part of and so the wishbone. And when that cup that held that wishbone in would break, why the front axles would go (swish) up like that. And I know that happened a couple of times and dad would always say I’m going too fast. You’re going too fast.

So you’d have to go in there and jack the thing up and put that cup back. And it had two bolts held it on right in front of the bands. You know in the early days those engines didn’t have gears. They had bands. And when you wanted to go into low why you pressed the one – there were three pedals on the floor. One was for low. One was for high and the middle one was for reverse. And if you wanted – when you went you held your foot on that pedal because that kept the band around the flywheel that would drive the axle when you left it up, why then there wasn’t any drive to the back wheels and so that was that if you did it too much why you’d burn the bands up. So you always used horse webbing. The webbing that they use for making horse harnesses and that is what you’d line the bands with. Every now and then why you’d have to take and put a new band on. So everything was self-sufficient you know. Just like – in the early days if you didn’t go to the store and buy a new part. You went to the local machine shop and had them cast one. And they’d have these bellows you know and the fellow’s name was Jack McClain that had the old machine shop here. In fact, I bought it from his estate after he died and we messed with it for a while and that is where we got the garage and then we made it into a fire hall and that goes on as a whole other story.

Terence: Well you know Jack, one thing that’s one more thing about the ice before we’re done with that talking about politics a little bit. But what ice in the store. I mean what about perishables and stuff and then how did the stuff from the store come in? Did it come in by boat or by train? How did you – how did your dad get the stuff for the store?

Coghill: Dad would get – we had a basement in the bottom of the store, in the old store that burned. We had a full basement. And what he’d do is he’d get a carload of groceries in October and that would last him until spring and if he needed other things why West Coast Grocery had a store in Fairbanks and that store is where that Pizza Parlor is now on the corner – Samson Hardware.

Terence: Oh, across from the News-Miner, yeah.

Coghill: Across from the News-Miner that used to be the old West Coast Grocery Store. And they would bring stuff in and dad would bring in once a week he would bring in perishables on the Alaska Railroad. It would come up by steamboat to Seward and then on the passenger train that would leave Seward on Tuesday – no, Saturday morning, go to Curry and it stayed overnight at Curry the next day and they would have what they called the express car. Wasn’t the baggage car, it was the express car. And it had a stove in it. It had a charcoal burning type stove.

And what they’d do is when they got to Curry they’d stick it into the roundhouse and keep it warm and that’s how they got the perishables from Seward – from Seattle to come up five days on the boat and then two days it’d have to come and they’d stop here and the next day it would stop here about seven o’clock in the night. And we’d have to go down with our sled and pick up how many boxes or whatever it was that he would have. And we’d get fruit and you’d get vegetables and stuff like that. That’s how we’d get.

Terence: Eggs. Would you get eggs or –

Coghill: Well, no eggs that’s another story. What dad would do right after the fire yes, but during when I was a kid one of my first jobs – well, second job. My first job was counting muskrats. And dad would – because you know I remember that in those days why everything was barter. Up until 1939 dad’s general store was 95% barter. I mean the cash register would only probably ring in maybe $20 a day because it was only the floaters, the people that worked for the railroad that came by that had any money.

Terence: The guys with jobs?

Coghill: Yeah.

Terence: Yeah, with cash jobs, yeah, right.

Coghill: These people were all trappers you know. And dad would buy their furs. Then he’d buy their furs and it was – he had four methods. He’d say all trade, highest price. Half cash – half trade. Next price. All cash a little bit lower. And then he’d say or I’ll give you an option. I’ll advance you 25% of my value of the fur and I’ll send it out and I’ll consign it for you. The Seattle Fur Exchange or one of the fur exchanges. And most of the people would take half cash – half trade. And so he would always get their trade cause that’s how he – because the NC Company and Northern Commercial Company and those people that would buy furs they didn’t have all of the ability, the flexibility that dad had.

And so I’d get that and he had a fur room. And his fur room was about as big as this living room. And he’d just throw the muskrat skins and he had wire and the foxes, wolves, wolverine, coyotes, lynx would all hang on these wires. And of course different times of the year you had different types of furs. In the fall your first fur catches were ermine, mink, and marten. And of course the long hairs, the fox and stuff like that. Because once the sun started coming up the fox would rub themselves and when they were mating they’d rub against the – and when they did that why then they would destroy their furs.

But Dad would throw all of these things and hang all of these furs and he’d ship them out. But we’d do when I was four years old I used to go into the fur room and I learned to count to five because he had three marks on the floor. He had a mark that size, which was for the smaller muskrats. Cause a muskrat skin is you’d grade the skin from the inside out not from the outside in. Most furs are graded by the primeness of the skin and the mat of the fur. But with a muskrat it is just the prime of the skin. So all your muskrats are always bought inside out with the skin side out. And he had three. So he had three notches in the floor. This was for small, for medium, and this was for large. And you’d sit there and put them in between the lines and if it was one put it over here. Once you got five then you would put another five this way and another five this way, and when you got five bundles of five then you would wrap them up and bundle them. And that’s how I learned to count because not 25 – I mean that too much of a mental thing when you were that young you know. Five’s why and he’d come in every now and then open the fur room door, us three boys would be in there arguing whether that was a medium or a large or you know. And that’s how we learned to grade furs for dad and that’s how we did all that.And then we’d take and he’d bundle them up into gunnysacks and we’d ship them off.

Terence: Now did you have to grade, but muskrats you’re not, because there is no evaluation of the value but with fox and stuff like that your dad would have to figure out what the quality was. Would he judge it that way?

Coghill: Well yeah you’d take a skin and you grabbed it by the nose and you’d grab it under the tail and you whack them like that. And if the guard hair stood up and there wasn’t a dent in it, why that was a good skin. That was a good fur, but if there was a dent in it, why then it had been what we call robbed – not robbed – rubbed. And that would be set off to one side. And you’d always have your quotes that would come in and dad would get them in by telegraph. They would come in on Morse Code at the railroad station and he’s have a quotation for different furs and it was all in code and it was done by Morse Code and so nobody could tell what was going on.

But we had several friends of his who were fur buyers and of course old Sammy Shuckling was one of them. And he was quite a guy. Used to call him Muskrats Johnny. Johnny Shlegler, that was Johnny Shlegler, Muskrat Johnny. And they would come by and they would always promote and have dad sell them their furs. Oh, no, no he says I’ll take my chances at the market because he had five markets that he worked. And he had the New York market, the London market, St. Louis market, San Francisco market, and the Seattle market. And he’d get quotes from each one of them. Bad times in the United States was good times in Europe. And when you had good times, long-haired furs were a lot higher. And so during the depression years when things were slow in the United States, they were good in Russia and in Germany and then England. And the big fur exchange was the London Fur Exchange. Dad would send all of his stuff over there.

Terence: Well your dad must have been quite a haggler when the guys came in with their furs, right? Didn’t he have to sort of – he knew how to bargain I suppose?

Coghill: Oh, bargain, you bet. I mean that is where we all learned the trade from. I mean you didn’t give away anything you know. In fact, one of the things that dad – see when we were growing up here there were not very many white kids in town. So most of our chums – most of kids were Native kids. And so we all knew how to and learn how to understand and speak the Athabascan Pokatan Native language that was here. Well old John Evan, the Chief came to dad one day and says you know the Elders had a big conference and we’d like to have your kids stop talking our language because the Elders kind of think that you’re mimicking them. So dad says knock it off kids. No more talking about – no more talking, but see we all understood it.

So when these people would come in Toklat or from the Wood River or from their trapping lines, why dad would always make sure that one of us went over and listened to them doing their bargaining. And I’d go over and they’d say Alex Fowler is going to give us little bit more than Coggy is going to give us, so maybe we ought to go to Alex Fowler. Alex Fowler is giving us about 50 cents more on the skins. So we’d go back, dad you ought to raise it up 50 cents. So there was always good ways to be able to use your talents.

Terence: Well I think but the whole thing cause with furs is such a – got to know the business right?

Coghill: Oh, that’s right, yeah. You had to know what you were doing. In fact, during the war dad had a whole bunch of mink and martens in the London Fur Exchange and they got froze. I mean the money during all of the assets that were in Britain got froze and you couldn’t get your money out. And dad about $28,000 worth, a lot of money in those days, in the fur market over there and it just wasn’t there until 1949 that finally mother – after dad passed away, why we sent her over there. Sent her over there to visit her folks and to visit all of the people, but to get the money. She come back with the money.

Terence: So –

Terence: Okay. I never heard about prices, right. That’s kind of how you did it.

Coghill: Well in those days you know and in those days the pensioners you know they only got $90 every three months. They didn’t $30 a month. So a lot of the old-timers that I knew in those days you know they’d have on the first of each quarter they would get $90. In January they’d get –

Terence: Yeah, no, no. Where was your dad from? No, no, no. Let me ask you though about the store. That’s a good thing, like you said you could still buy moose skinned out?

Coghill:: Yeah, we can buy it. We sell moose skins, but the only place we get them from – tanned moose skins is from the Peace River country in Canada. You very, very seldom will you get – but what we used to buy moose hides for $40 a skin, now they’re around $900 a skin. And I can take you down there and show you. We have them. And they’re basically smoke hides. They smoke them. And what they use is they use urine to tan the hides with and then they smoke them. We sell that at the store. We sell beaver skins. We sell unborn calves – calf skins so black and white or the brown and white kacker that goes around the mukluk. That’s what that is called is unborn calf. We sell that.

Terence: And what about the Babee? You said that has disappeared.

Coghill: The Babish has disappeared, but Babish is moose hide in the raw, before it’s hung up and stripped and it is just – and then it is put in skeins. And you put it in a skein and you wrap it. And they used to bring that in. We’d buy that. We’d have a whole bin full of Babish. But the mail carriers and the people that were delivering mail why they would be building new sleds and repairing sleds and they always needed Babish. Because what you do is you tie that together with that rawhide and then you’d wet it and once you wet it why when it dried it would – you’d stretch it and get it wet and then you’d stretch it. And when it dried why it would tense up – tension up.

Terence: So it would be real tight and they use that for lashing and stuff.

Coghill: Lashing and putting in the baskets of the sleds and what not.

Terence: Jack, so Nenana really was a central place as far as where the Bush kind of met the modern ways, isn’t that sort of true?

Coghill: Well that’s true you know. When air mail first started in Alaska, Pan Pacific Airways, which was the forerunner of Pan American Airways, got the contract to put –

Terence:Go ahead, Jack, we were talking about –

Coghill: Pan Pacific Airways and they had four or five airplanes stationed on the river here and Millegun and some of the old mail carriers that used to carry mail went to work for Pan Pacific Airways and later for Pan American Airways. And they were all part of that. But that all started right here because we were the fourth class distribution city for the interior and all of the mail that went to McGrath and went to Bethel and went to the old mining camps like Iditarod and Flat were all – all of that stuff central right out of here.

And so I can remember when I was a kid looking out the window and you’d see Mike Coonie going by with two full sleds with maybe 15 dogs heading for Diamond City. Diamond City was the turning point on the Kantishna where the mail carrier from McGrath would meet and that is where they transferred their mail.

So it was a network. In fact, when I was in the senate and we were doing the RS 2477, very, very few people knew all the mail carrier routes and when I introduced that why the federal government almost came unglued because we had trails that went back to 1912 and 1914 where they were hauling mail out of Seward over to Farewell and from Farewell to McGrath and places like that. So all of those trails in fact we have 1300 certified trails on the RS 2477. I don’t know how many they’ve got total as far as actual right-of-ways but right-of-ways I know we have around 115 that have been certified from the old mail trails.

Terence: Yeah, you’re right the trails went everywhere didn’t they?

Coghill: Oh, yeah. In fact, one time I really got the ire of the conservationists when I was making a speech one day and I says when we get all of the RS 2477 trails in Alaska it will be just like a plate of spaghetti. And man I’ll tell you they came unglued. But that’s true because wherever there was the RS 2477 said wherever there was a route where more than two people traveled that became a right-of-way. So it was interesting.

Terence: Before we get into politics one other thing I thought of. When was the first time you went Outside?

Coghill: I went Outside my dad being a Scot my brother Bill was going to turn 12 in 1935, so he says mom you got to take the three boys and take them back to England and show them their relatives. So in 1934, let’s see, I had my ninth birthday in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean going over. And that was in 19 – that would have been in 1934, yeah. So we loaded on and it took us a month and a half to get to England. And what we did we went from here to Seward. Dad went with us down.

We got on one of the old Alaska steamship boats and of course it was in the fall so it was right at salmon season and we stopped at every cannery to fill up the holes with canned salmon. I can remember going in the hall and pulling all of the stuff and putting them in the hole and we finally got a full load and off we went and it was down to Seattle. And then so we stopped there and went up to Vancouver where some of dad’s buddies when he came over from England why – that stayed in Vancouver. And so he – we went up there and that was our first stop.

Then we went from there to a place called Bingingham, New York where we had another rest stop because can you imagine mother taken three of us boys and of course we were not necessarily the most demure. I mean we were full of mischief and we all full of excitement. And you know I’d seen big cities. And we got into the port in Seattle and here was the Smith Tower you know. Gosh what a big place – thing that was. Now you can’t even find it amongst the skyscrapers.

Then we drove – we took the train across the United States – no we took the train across Canada, going over. And then we got on the Majestic, the liner Majestic, and went to South Hampton and spent that whole year traveling around in England.

Terence: Did you sail from New York or from up in Canada?

Coghill: We sailed from New York.

Terence: Well that must have been an experience just getting into New York I mean.

Coghill: Oh, yeah, it was, yeah. Coming back was even worse.

Terence: Before we get to that. You spent a whole year in just in England and Scotland?

Coghill: England and Scotland we spent New Year’s – Christmas and New Year’s in Glasgow. And I remember I had an Uncle Jack. Uncle Jack had a soap factory over in Edinburgh and he said well, how would you like to come visit that factory. He was in Glasgow and I said I am all game. Well none of my two brothers they didn’t want to go. They wanted to stay with mom. So I’ll go with you. True Scot he went up to the station and waited until the train was just getting ready to leave and he said excuse me and he got through the gate and I was right beside him and he got all the way through the gate, got into the last compartment of the car, sat down. Did you buy a ticket? No, no, don’t buy tickets on the train. We got all the way to Edinburgh and we get on the streetcar and he says and he gave the guy and he says well how about the lad. And of course I was nine years old. He’s just a babe in arms, he’s on my lap. So away we went. One of the things that you learned about that was that there was more than one way to skin a cat, huh.

And we spent that whole year we went down and my uncle – my mom’s brother was the general manager of an iron foundry and over in the Cumberlands and we went and spent some time with him. Learned how pig iron was made from – how they loaded all of the material into the top side of a blast furnace and it melted down and melted down. And they’d open up the gate and this molten iron would come out and into the sand and they’d make these tracks in the sand and that is what they called pig iron. And then they’d send it off to another factory.

And we went to Windsor Castle. And I can remember going to the Tower of London and to the Wax Works and several of the things. And then just decided that we would come back.

When we came back we went down to Liverpool and we came across to New York. And when we got to new York why I remember as a kid in this great big warehouse on the wharf. And the custom guy going through mom’s trunks that she had regular wardrobe trunks. And went through and just lifted everything. I mean it was inspected like as if we were some kind of – that was the experience that I had to authority. What are you doing all that for, that’s our stuff you know? But yeah we came across the United States by train and Seattle and Sammy Shuckling, one of dad’s friends and one of the salesmen was there and took us around and took us up to the Tower.

Oh, when we were in New York we went up to the skyscraper or the top of the Empire State Building, put our initials up on something. I’m sure that those initials are not there. It has probably been scraped off a dozen times since then.

Terence: Yeah, that’s when it just opened.

Coghill: Yeah, just opened, barely opened. And you went up so many floors and then you had to get off and go to another layer and then you went up so many more floors and then you went over to another elevator and went up and it was brand new, yeah.

Terence: So that must have been something for a kid from Nenana to spend a year over there?

Coghill: Oh, yeah.

Terence: I mean were you hesitant about this at first or excited about going? I mean what did you think, you guys think?

Coghill: Oh, yeah, no, we were really excited. I mean going over there, plus the fact is that you see when we left here of course in Alaska you didn’t wear knickers. You didn’t wear short trousers like they did over in England. So when we got over there, why here we were three foreigners from Alaska wearing long trousers you know. And people looking at us you know. A kid, until you’re out of school, why you didn’t wear – you always wore knickers or shorts you know. That was one of the things that kind of set us aside. And of course there was – they wouldn’t let us go to school over there so Grandpa Fortune was our schoolmarm, schoolteacher and we had certain lessons and mom had gotten a lesson books and stuff from the school here so that we didn’t lose a full year, but it was interesting.

Terence: But that’s pretty great too, yeah you got to go out of school for a year.

Coghill: Yeah, oh that was one part of it you know and yeah we had a good time.

Terence: Jack, I should ask you about the – what about the school here as a kid? Where was the school and what was the school like?

Coghill: Well the school was a Franklin Kaleen School and Franklin Kaleen was the Secretary of Interior for the United States when the railroad was built, when Wilson – when they built the railroad he was the Secretary of Interior and that is what they called it. The name was named after him.

It was a three-room school, had first, second, third, and fourth grades in one room. Fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth in another room. High school downstairs in another room. I think that at that time the high school, I could show you a picture, I think there are pictures of the high school. There was seven kids in high school.

I think that – you see you got to remember Terrence in those days about, only about eight percent of Alaskans were married. Most of the people in Alaska were bachelors. Most of the working force were people that didn’t have a family, hadn’t settled down. They were people that were shooting for their fortune in mining or they were up here Gandy dancers or they were you know they sent their money back home because this was the North Country. It was harsh you know. So population and school here was –

– Break –

Coghill: We had maybe 55 kids in it. Fairbanks was probably about the same way you know. You got pictures of the old Main School. Before Main was built, before the concrete building was built when it burned down and they had – they replaced it. When they replaced it they replaced it with a concrete building. In fact it is still standing. Still serves as the borough –

Terence: City Hall.

Coghill: City Hall.

Terence: So would you characterize yourself as a good student, mediocre, horrible?

Coghill: Horrible.

Terence: What’s that Jack?

Coghill: Horrible. I was a horrible student. I’d until, until it took off, until it made sense that it was my advantage to learn. Before that why -why should I learn when I was counting furs or why should I learn when I was hauling ice or why should I learn when you know it was hard. And the teachers in those days are three teachers you know. The teacher for the four grades so you’ll really didn’t have too much and I had a hard time in reading. I wasn’t dyslexic but I was almost you know. And so – but I got off of that about when I was about in the seventh grade. Then I figured well I guess I better get the Scot blood of mine going in the right direction and so then it turned – kind of turned around. I guess that’s probably true with a lot of people how that works.

Terence: Well and so here you are you come back you’re running the store. Your dad had died and you had started a family. When did you and Francine get married? What year did you guys get married?

Coghill: Frances and I got married in 1948.

Terence: ’48.

Coghill: Yeah.

Terence: So you had just been running the store.

Coghill: I was in the store and running the theater and I was one of the things that I had learned to do early on when I was a kid was develop film and I had at the store why we had where people would bring in their roll of film and three days later I’d give them their prints. Down in the basement of the family home I had a dark room and I’d do that. And dad also had at one time had selling newspapers on the train when the train would stop. And when they had to back up to get water, when the old 600 series automotives were on the railroad they couldn’t get from Healy to Fairbanks on one shot of water. So they’d stop and I could get on the train and I could sell newspaper while they backed down and got water and then they came back to the station.

Terence: Would that be the News-Miner or what would you be selling? What newspapers – Outside ones or?

Coghill: Outside ones, yeah, yeah. And because the News-Miner wouldn’t come down until the next day you know, come down in the mail. So it wasn’t the News-Miner, although I have sold News-Miners on the streets in Fairbanks when Bill Berry and some of the kids up in the 40’s just before I went in the service were friends of mine that I had met during 4-H Clubs or 4-H roundups, why’d we go to Fairbanks. And what’d we do is we’d get on the streets and of course they had regular delivery routes and then they had what you call temporary routes where people could go in and you’d buy 20 papers for a nickel a paper and you’d sell them for a dime. And that was the incentive that we had. And I did that and that was not like dad always said well there’s the old Coggie is out there doing — getting his start just like I had my start, selling the newspapers for Miner News at that time.

Terence: Well so Jack so here you are – why’d you go into politics and how did that start – in Nenana or in the legislature first? Which was it?

Coghill: How I got started was that after Frannie and I got married there was a lady here by the name of Mrs. McNavish and Opal McNavish. And she was married to the roadmaster and his name was Joe McNavish. In fact, I still have – I’m still quite close to their daughters. In fact she just passed away here just recently. She was over – almost 99. Anyway, when – and she was on the School Board. And so when her husband, when Joe died in 1949 they said – they came to me and Billy Monroe was the – had the section, he was the section foreman. Harry was on the School Board and he came up to me in the store and says well Mrs. McNavish is going to leave and we want you to go on the School Board. So they appointed me on the School Board. And I says I’ll go on until the next election. Well the next election nobody ran so here I was and I ran for the School Board and I stayed as a member of the School Board for 10 years until 1959, from ’49 to ’59.

And in those days why you didn’t have a restriction that you couldn’t hold a local seat like you can today. So when I was in the territorial legislature, I was still on the School Board. When I was in the Constitutional Convention they called me Schoolhouse Johnny in those days. In fact the School Board Association bill is one of my bills that I sponsored, wrote and sponsored, got put through the territorial legislature.

Terence: What does that bill do, Jack?

Coghill: What that did was that that brought together school board members into an association so that they could further their educational process. I mean it was the forerunner. It was kind of a part of the movement by the Alaska League of Cities, which was the forerunner to the Municipal League where now you have all of the local governments that can get together. Well this was the local School Boards to get together and to refine and to help define. In fact they were very helpful during the Constitutional Convention when we wrote the articles for education (inaudible).

And then during that time of course I served on the Constitutional Convention, which is a great, great thing and there is only out of the 55 delegates you know there are only six of us left, and two of them are in pretty tough shape. So it is going to be interesting to see how this whole reunion thing comes together and the new structure that they put together for looking at the constitution. I hope they just don’t run off and go over the cliff with it because we still, in my estimation, have the best constitution of the 50 states because we kept it short. In fact, the longest article in there is when the legislators put in the article onthe permanent fund. I mean you can just see what would happen if they tried to redo the constitution today.

Terence: Well, so you ran for the senate in ’53, right?

Coghill: No, no, territorial house.

Terence: Territorial house in ’53?

Coghill: Yeah.

Terence: So what was your step going from the School Board to that? How did you –

Coghill: Well that was my model and I have some place in my – when I moved from my big house in Lakoley here why I have one of the placards of my original run in the territorial legislature, which was it’s at a golden E in ’53 with my motto and one with education and economic development. And I had five E’s. I forget what all of them were down here. But the idea behind it is like I say everybody and when I got into the legislature in ’53 why of course the Republicans followed – took over because we came in the wake of Eisenhower, which only lasted that one year. I mean then the D’s came back in the next year. But the idea behind it was that so I became a chairman right off the bat.

So I was chairman of the Educational Committee. And – but you ought to remember that in those days you prayed an awful lot because you had no authority. So every time you wanted some authority you had to right a memorial. And the memorial – the end of the memorial was we the Alaska Legislature on behalf of the people of Alaska pray that you will enact this piece of legislation for our benefit because you had to ask for it you know and the only thing we had authority to do was we didn’t have authority to regulate our own fisheries. I mean the fish traps were you know – there were several reasons why statehood was becoming very imminent. And of course I was an advocate of statehood right off the bat because I felt that we needed to have our own authority.

And so then in the Constitutional Convention which was the first apportionment of people in Alaska. And I ran for a seat which represented the Yukon and Kuskokwim River. The Constitutional Convention had I believe different types of elections. They had elections of people at large, people elections from the four judicial districts and then certain amount of us from election districts representing an apportionment of the people of Alaska. And so during the Constitutional Convention why of course we argued very adamantly for an apportionment structure and of course there are lots of good tales about all of the things that happened in the Constitutional Convention. One of them was that John Hellenthal, who was from Anchorage was not in favor of giving –

Terence: Right, right, but even you ran for the house in 1953 and that is an important legislature, the two of them because they sort of set the foundation for the –

Coghill: Yeah, it was the ’49 legislature that set the statehood thing in motion to bring it to Alaskans because it was the statehood committee that was formed during the ’49. Then in the ’51 legislature cause you got to remember that we only had a legislature for 60 days every two years. And it was – so it was the momentum that Mildred Herman and Bill Smeden and Atwood. I could go on and on and on, but they were the people that really started the statehood movement going. And of course we gave them plenty of ammunition and gave them the support that they needed when we were in the legislation. Then in 1955 the legislature nominated – they established the Constitutional Convention bill which created the election of the Constitutional Convention delegates. In three different – I think we already said that, but there were three different basic structures. It was the at-large by the four judicial districts and then by a separate act that established the election districts.

Terence: And what was the purpose of that Jack?

Coghill: By population.

Terence: What was the purpose of that?

Coghill: The purpose was by population. Because the old Fourth Judicial Districts were establishing districts that were out of touch. I mean the Third Division had the same amount of members as the First Division or the Second Division or the Fourth Division. So there was no apportionment and there was no structure. When I ran for the ’53 legislature, I had my own airplane. I had been a family of traders on the Yukon River and the Kuskokwim River, so my name was known. People didn’t know me but they knew Jack Coghill was Bill Coghill’s son and so he must be all right you know. And Bob Reeve was running for the delegate to Congress against Bob Bartlett, who almost beat him. If it wasn’t for the debate in Wasilla, why he would have been.

Terence: What about that? What was the debate in Wasilla? What happened?

Coghill: It was a statehood bid, but you know Bob Bartlett was a pretty smooth talker. He was a pretty laid-back and old Bob Reeve was an entrepreneur, hard charger type thing. Well you know

– Break –

Coghill: That was quite an election.

Terence: Oh, yeah, yeah. Well let’s save that Jack until we get – because I have something I want to tell you about that election that I thought was funny.

Coghill: Those flukes up there. Those are the Hickel Coghill inaugural flukes, the glasses.

Terence: Oh, those things, right, oh yeah, yeah. That was really something when you guys won that time. Okay.

Coghill: We took them by storm.

Coghill: Dimond was secretary for years so you know he was groomed well for that job. And Bob Reeve just came on like gangbusters and of course it was the Eisenhower sweep as we used to call it when in 1952 when Eisenhower was running for president and so a lot of our people were on the bandwagon and they were getting elected. And the legislature and some of those people that were elected to that first legislature in ’53 should never have been there really, but they came in with the sweep. And Bob Reeve would have beat Bartlett if it hadn’t of been for the Wasilla debate. And it was one of those debates that Auggie Hebert and Kap Lathrop was the Fairbanks – was the Midnight Sun Broadcasting Company put on statewide. And Bartlett just creamed him because he was a hard charger and didn’t have a lot of his facts together and old Bartlett was soft spoken and just moved forward and it was one of those things that you listen to that and you learn an awful lot. I did.

Terence: Did you think that – would he have been even though he was a Democrat would he have been your choice or Reeve? I mean would you – you were backing Reeve or Bartlett?

Coghill: I was backing Reeve because he was part of our team. And of course I was young but I – Bob Bartlett and I were good friends. Good friends afterwards. And you know he understood that. He understood the whole thing, but he said I just had to set a few traps for him and he did. But I learned an awful lot from that one.

You know and because you see in the ’53 legislature a lot of us guys that were elected the swing went the other way. And I didn’t get elected to the ’55 legislature and I learned an awful lot from that too. That you have to have new and aggressive programs and you have to know your homework. You just can’t try and work off of a rhythm. So then I took that lesson to the Constitutional Convention.

Terence: Well now Jack do you think in – cause I remember Tom Stewart telling us a little bit about the ’53 and that was the one where Miscovich was –

Coghill: Well, he was the president or he was the speaker of the house and old George Miscovich and old George was a miner and the problem is that he got down with a whole bunch of his cohorts that came to Juneau when and got into lunch one time and of course in those days the territorial house why the speaker of the house set up on a kind of a small podium with a desk in front of him and of course there wasn’t that much room around him. And George happened to be downtown that one lunch and instead of drinking coffee why he had a few brandies and he went to get on the podium and he walked right off of the podium and went crashing. Oh, it was rather a funny thing, but the Democrats made real big story about that one. And you know it was one of those things that just he – they captured him you know. He didn’t go back to the legislature.

Terence: Because that was his last time, right?

Coghill: Yes.

Terence: He was in there early – was that his only time?

Coghill: No, no, he’d been in there. He was elected. He was elected I think in ’49 and then again in ’50 or I mean ’49 and ’51 and ’53, yeah. Of course you got to remember that a lot of people don’t remember that back in 1940 census, I took the census here in 1940 and I had the sheets and everything, but there was only 130 some thousand people, the whole state, in ’40. Well you take and the legislature was always figured on the census prior to that so the 1940 census you know – the 1930 census controlled everything up until the ’40 census was published. So you know there wasn’t too much – there was not too much change in the population base until after the war. And then after the war we went in ’53 I think we were up to around 185,000 and then it was escalated since then and you know every year we figure that we’re gaining about 12,000 people.

Terence: Well now how did you take the census in 1940? What district – what was your district that you covered? What would you –

Coghill: My district was the United States Commissioner’s district and that included the Bonnifield and included McKinley Park, Healy, and I just had this big tablet and what I would do is I would interview people. I’d go and get all of the information. It was just blocks that I had to fill in and a lot of them like your people that lived out in Diamond City, Kantishna, I would do a lot of that by reference. Who’s out there? Well there’s this guy and there is his brother and there is the Herman brothers and there’s the Hanson brothers and there are these people. And so you’d mark them all down and then you’d go – one of them would come into town by dog team and you’d say well do you know Bill Herman? Oh yeah I know Bill Herman. Well how old is he? Oh he’s about this old. Okay, so we put that down. What’s he do? Well he’s a trapper and he’s a miner. And so you didn’t even go to the people themselves. You just figured out who was there. And old C. C. Hyde, the commissioner that was here, she was the one that got me appointed as the census taker in 1940. It was a lot of fun.

Terence: Cause you were only 15 then?

Coghill: Yeah, yeah. Did a lot of things when I was 15 you know. I had to witness when old Bill Mosher died, Ms. Hyde had to have witnesses and of course I’d already been the undertaker two times when Bill Mosher died. And we went up to his house and took an inventory and I was writing down the inventory for Ms. Hyde.

And she says now I understand there’s a still downstairs. Silence. So there was a trap door. One of the old trap doors opened up like this. Went downstairs and sure enough here was a great big vat and a still right next to it. About a 500-gallon wooden vat and it had foam and ucky stuff on top and besides this – boys, destroy it. So they went down to the fire hall and they got a couple of the old fire axes with the pick nose on it and stuff like that and started hammering away on this wooden vat. And finally it broke and (pish) – and of course everybody was kind of halfway in tears because they had been drinking out of that for a long time. And down in the bottom of the vat was old shoes and a couple of skeletons of a couple old cats and just all kinds of garbage that had fallen into this vat over the years while it was cooking because all of that stuff didn’t make any difference cause it just went through the still you know and once they got it going. But those guys would come out of there and throwing up and saying, God, to think we’ve been drinking out of that damn thing for five years you know. All of that stuff was just terrible.

So that was one of the experiences of making sure that when you got that good stuff but they told us later on well you guys don’t have to pay too much attention to that because it has got to go through the still. And when it goes through the still why it’s the vapors that is boiled off and the vapors settle that give you the good alcohol, so, we didn’t – but we learned our lessons you know.

I remember one time talking about that dad used to right after prohibition was over in 1937, ’38 when we had moved into the new store where we’re at now or not into that new store but in that location. And dad used to get three casks. He’d get a cask of apple cider. A cask of port wine and a cask of Muscatel wine. And a cask was 557 gallons, a cask. And what they would do is they would take the front end of the liquor store completely out and they’d roll these things in and put them on bunkers and then put the shelving back in and all the rest of it. Well when all this was done you see you got to remember two years after prohibition and so there was not too much. You could buy Seagram’s Five Crown and a couple of the other whiskeys that they had at that time, so you’d this thing.

Well we noticed that when they put these casks in and put them on these bunkers that there was a bung on the other end and the other end was in dad’s warehouse where he kept all of the cigarettes and what we called it a kind of a security room, where he kept shoes and (inaudible) and stuff like that because in those days there was no self-service. Everything was across the counter. You sit there and you’d take their order and you’d say well I want 10 pounds of sugar. Well you’d go to the bin and you’d scoop up 10 pounds and weigh it out and that was how you – there was no packaging in those days. If they wanted three pounds of Jersey cream crackers or pilot bread, why you went to the bin and you got – then you weighed it out you know.

The same way with the – so in the back of the liquor store we noticed that there was the same amount of bungs in the back end as there was in the front end. So being ingenious red blooded American boys we noticed how they pounded those bungs out with a great big mallet and then they’d take and put the bung or the wooden bung right next to the – and drive it in and in would go the plug and the wooden bung would catch and sniff a drop. Boy that was pretty good.

So we would have to go down to the store and in those days it was all wood fire stoves. So during the wintertime why we’d go down and fire up the stove, get it good and warm and then bank it and that would last for five or six hours when it was 30 below or so. Of course we had winters in those days you don’t have them like that any more. I mean it went down to 30 below in October and didn’t come back up until March you know. But so we’d have to go down there and the colder it got why the more you would have to do that. So as we would go down there we’d move the cigarette cases out and we’d get our hammer and we’d bang, bang, bang away at the bung and we’d get it a little bit further and a little bit further and a little bit further. And well two of the three local boys would help us. I would say help us, I was the only one in the Coghill family that was involved in this. The other ones their halos were way too high for – to do anything like that. So when we got that to the point where we figured it was sweating pretty good. So I went back in the back of the store in the warehouse and got a number three washtub, stuck it underneath the cask and we hammered away at it and we got it finally started and of course it got enough pressure that once you got that bung a little bit while it started (swish) like this so you had to really work. So you had your hand over it and you pounded away and we got it in. We got – we have an old spigot that had been used before. Well they use new spigots each time because you know we have got that thing. We had three gallons of wine in this number three tub. So we bottled it all up and got it all squared around. Got it all cleaned up and we had to take a couple of buckets of water and of course no plumbing in the store. So we had to go get water and so that was no stench of wine or anything. Got the cigarettes back up there and had our spigot in there.

So we took this wine and we had it – in those days why people would bring their gallon jugs to the store and you’d get your vinegar or you’d get your wine you’d get it in the gallon jugs. Seventy-five cents for a gallon jug of wine. And so we had several of those. Well, old Louie Hammel, who had his store right up the street here had a liquor store. And they swore up and down that Louie Hammel was selling us kids wine. Just swore up and down he was selling us wine. Old Louie Hammel was – I don’t know, I don’t know and of course in those days that is when the CCC – the conservation crew people were first starting to come in to Alaska. And so they were accusing these guys of buying this wine from Louie Hammel and feeding it to us kids. And that went on all that winter.

Well about the end of March dad’s port wine cask ran empty. It shouldn’t have. He couldn’t figure it out so he went a looking and he moved those cigarette cases away from the back end there and there was a spigot. Guess who was on restriction for six weeks? Cause I was the one that went down to the store and I was the one that banked the store and stuff like that. Well anyway that’s what you call learning how to be an entrepreneur.

Terence: I bet the R’s were rolling.

Coghill: Oh, they were rolling real good you know. I had my butt kicked a couple times on that one. Got restricted. Nobody would talk to me. They put this silent treatment on me cause as if I was Peck’s bad boy or something. But it was just one of those little mischief things.

Terence: But you know Jack it is interesting because I guess modern – there are no packaging, right, so pilot bread it wouldn’t be in a box like you’d buy pilot bread today, you’d buy a jug of pilot bread, I mean a cask?

Coghill: No.

Terence: You would come in –

Coghill: Pilot bread would come in a wooden barrel. It would be probably 200 pounds of pilot bread and you’d just open it up and you’d take – cookies were the same way. You’d get cookies – you’d get Nabisco cookies would come in a 30-pound box and there would be rows of Jersey Creams, rows of different kinds of the different types of cookies there were. And people would – dad would take and put a glass – piece of glass over them and you could buy them – the glass has hinges that would just hook onto those. Different merchandising altogether different than it is today.

Terence: Well let met just say one thing cause you mentioned this off camera we should get this about the undertakers, how you became that? How you became the undertaker?

Coghill: Well, because I was raised in the store, up above the store, I was always helping dad, always downstairs you know and of course that was where the action was because dad would have you store open until ten or nine o’clock at night. And of course a lot of people working on the railroad and stuff like that would come in there and old French John was the local undertaker at the time. And of course he wasn’t a mortician or anything like that, it was just an undertaker. Come in the store one day and he says Coggie, they called my dad Coggie. Coggie, old John Lunds passed away and I need somebody to help me. He’ll help you. Well when dad says you do, you say – when he says jump, you don’t say how high, you just jump as high as you can. Cause that’s the way we were trained. So off I went with John Lund – my mom wasn’t very happy about that, but I helped old French John – his name was John Orlette. I helped him two or three times and then he moved away. And when he moved away why the next thing I know old C. C. Hyde came to the store one day. C. C. Hyde was the commissioner. She was the niece of Judge Hyde from the First Division and then she had her little office right here in town. Come in and said to my dad where’s Jackie? Dad thought that kid is in trouble again. Got to be in trouble. And – Jack Devaral has just passed away Jack and you’ve got to go take care of him. Cause I’m the one that had been the student of John Orlette. And so I went and I got old Al Linder, who was the president of the Pioneer’s at the time. Came up and he was in the store at the time and said I’ll help you. So we went up to his cabin and we took him out and dressed him up and shaved him and called Hose Ross in Fairbanks. Hose Ross sent down a casket, got the casket and put him in it, took him down to the Pioneer Hall and had a service. All gals got up and sang two or three hymns and we buried him out on the – and that was the start of my career as the local undertaker and 37 graves later why I ended my career when they passed enough laws that you couldn’t do that any more. You had to be a mortician.

Terence: And so could you bury guys in the winter up here, I mean?

Coghill: Oh, yeah. I buried one guy – yeah I could tell you – we could go on all day on that, but old Henry Knight passed away on the road between Knight’s Roadhouse out on the Toklat River and Nenana. And Al Wright went up and there was no smoke coming out of his cabin and been gone and when Al came back Al was doing a lot of flying in that area at the time. And come back and so he followed and found where he had camped between here and there and his dogs – had to shoot two of his dogs in order to get close enough to him. He was frozen in his sack.

And so I went out with Al and we climbed him into a – I had learned to fly. I learned to fly when I was in the Army. Of course that was the thing to do in those days and everybody flew. But I found out early in life that was not – that was lots of work, not much pleasure. So, but anyway I went out with him and we got old Henry Knight stuck in the back end of my Super Cub. And the problem was that he was curled up in a fetal position and I had him sitting in the back seat and every time I would go over a bump, why Henry Knight’s whiskers would come up against my neck. And I said come on Henry back, get back. So we got him into town and here he was on the back of the pickup, all wrapped up in this sheepskin robe that he had and he was frozen and he was frozen in this fetal position. So we got a piece of barbwire or a piece of chicken wire and we made a hammock and we put it over the top of the old wood stove in the fire department, in the fire hall. And we cooked Henry and every day I’d go in there and he thawed a little more and I’d stretch him out until – because we had to keep stretching him out because rigor mortis would set in. And once rigor mortis set in why then you couldn’t – you’d have to wait until rigor mortis had gone through its cycle. So I’d stretch him out and finally we got enough that we could – we were able to get him in a box and we got him a casket. We took all the stuffing out and I can go on, but I could tell you several stories.

Terence: Well maybe we’ll do that one for another time.

Coghill: Stop that one for another one. I can tell you about the time that we – one of our old-timers died – well they were on a drunk and there was about five or six of them and they were staying in a cabin just about two blocks up here. And he stumbled and it was about 60 below and the stumbled and he set down on a red-hot Yukon stove. And he burned himself from his buttocks and down to his knees. And they were all in a stupor and so he just fell over onto the bed and went into shock and stayed there.

And it was a real mess and we finally, somebody came by and said you know those guys – those four or five guys are all drunk. They got one guy that is really in touch shape and he smells horrible. So I went up there and sure enough, the only medical treatment you had in town was the mission nurse. So took the mission nurse up there and she says we’ve got to get him to Fairbanks. Well the next day six o’clock or seven o’clock in the morning why the train was coming through. So five o’clock why we all went over to Bill Hare’s house and got him and go him on a stretcher and oh, he was in horrible shape and groaning. And you know he was in real tough shape. Got him down to the depot and that turning him shock and everything, he died before the train came.

So what do we do? Well better take him over. So we took him over to the parish hall, St. Mark’s Mission parish hall. Set up a couple of the Sunday school tables and got a stretcher and set him on it. And one of the things that you do with a cadaver is that you always make sure that their head is high because the fluids, body fluids and stuff. So I stuck a couple of his coats and stuff underneath, but I should have gone back and taken those out before he froze in position because it was 60 below out and we didn’t put any heat in there. Well I went back that afternoon and it was still too late, he had frozen into position. So when we got the casket the next day coming down from Fairbanks, took all of the stuffing out of the bottom of the casket. Doing all right yet?

Terence: Let’s finish this story that you were saying about the guy – cause he froze after you had the stuff –

Coghill: Yeah, he froze and of course he was frozen to the point where that I couldn’t get his shoulders and his head back down. So when we got the casket why we took all the stuffing out of the bottom of the casket and when his head was down, his toes were up. And we thought well, we’ll build a fire. Nah, we don’t build a fire. We’ll just go ahead so what we did is we secured – he was a World War I veteran and we secured the casket by squishing him down and taking a pair of pliers and there is a little clip on the lids of the casket and you could take a side cutter and you could just clip it. And it won’t come open. So we got it and clipped it.

Father Stratmon was the Episcopal Priest here. So we veterans we all got together and we had a good VFW Club and we got him over to the little church and got the flat set and all of the congregation was there. The town was plumb full. We were just going at it and in the middle of the service why the American Flag were bong – and everybody went (noise) you know. And the clip had come loose and old Father Stratmon just kept on a going with the service. He went around (clip) and just kept on a going and that’s how we planted Bill Hare.

Terence: Well that’s a great story. Well Jack so let’s go back to politics. You didn’t get elected in ’55. You lost in the ’55 and the ’55 legislature was when they set up the terms for the constitution. So what made you decide to run in ’55, cause you really wanted to get another taste of it I mean?

Coghill: Well because the ’53 you got to remember that when you got elected for two years you only served for 60 days. And there were other things that we wanted to get done. So I had run for the ’55 legislature but the swing was so great and anti-Eisenhower swing that everybody that was a Republican or a Conservative had lost in that election. So when the constitutional – when the 1955 legislature put together the Constitutional Convention they selected three methods. The at-large statehood at large, state people at large, a certain amount of the delegates came from one of the four judicial districts and the rest of us came from election districts that were established within the judicial districts according to population. Well I served and I ran for the Yukon Kuskokwim Tanana River District and I won. And I went – and I served in the Constitutional Convention.

Terence: Did you campaign at all and do you remember if you – did you spend anything on campaigning?

Coghill: Oh, yeah, I had my own airplane. So I went from village to village, went all the way around and made every village and told them I was running. I ran against a guy that was from Bethel and he was at the other end of the district and I beat him.

Terence: Do you remember how much you paid, you spent on it?

Coghill: Probably not very much because probably most of my expenses were cause I didn’t run out of Fairbanks. I didn’t have any big newspaper expenses or any radio, of course didn’t have TV in those days. It was credible you know and we and I just made the rounds and of course all of the people that I talked to were traders and people that – in the different villages that I had known and it was – I had won all of that in the ’55 election. I won that area big time. It was the Fairbanks area that I defeated. Then I won that and then I went on from that. And of course –

Terence: Let’s talk a little bit about the convention itself Jack what was that like?

Coghill: Well it was great. And see I was not the youngest, I was second to the youngest and I was 36 years old and Bill Egan in the committee on committees said well we need to have one Conservative so one Conservative they picked me as the Chairman of the Administration Committee. Well that was kind of like the old legislative structure where they had the minority group always took care of the administration of the territorial days and the different things that we had to do and see we did all of our own style and drafting. We did all of those things. We did the certifying the bills between the two houses and all that. You didn’t have staff people like you have today. I mean in the Constitutional Convention we had only five staff people and they were all consultants, basically consultants from different organizations.

Terence: And you were – he made you chairman – Bill Egan made you Chairman of the Administration Committee.

Coghill: Yeah. Well you see it was quite a fight between Bill Egan – it was a fight within the brotherhood of the Democrat Party. I mean it was Ralph Rivers, the River boys, several of the attorneys like from Fairbanks were all kind of interested in who gets what and so I kind of figured well gee whiz I’m out mastered here, but Bill came to me and he says that would you like to serve on the Administration Committee? And I says well I’d sure like to get on Reapportionment because that was my thing. I wanted to make sure that we had a new system of house districting because in the territorial days you had to run for the whole district – Fourth District and so that was basically my interest was apportionment, reapportionment and the election on the suffrage type thing. And he says I’d like to recommend you to be Chairman of the Administration Committee and it’s kind of a work all type committee.

Well we had $350,000 to run the Constitutional Convention. We were mandated to have the 55 delegates would work for 90 days to put the constitution together and we had $350,000 which was a lot of money in those days to do the whole thing. And so what we did was we set it up where that they got $20 a day for their subsistence and that was about the size of it. And there were a lot of them – Herb Hilshire was one of them I can remember always wanted to have new promotional things within the constitution.

Got to remember that the only reason why we got through the constitution and we made the constitution as brief as we possibly could, that was part of the – Bill Egan’s thrust with his committee chairmen was keep everything simple. Don’t get legislative intent into the middle of the constitutional structure. And of course that followed through and so we actually in my estimation and a lot of other people that this is out still the best state constitution in the 50 states.

Terence: Now when you say Hillshire wanted to put promotional stuff, what do you mean Jack? What do you mean by that? What kind of stuff – economic development stuff you mean?

Coghill: No, no, no. He wanted to promote the constitution. He wanted to have more things of what we were doing up at the University. He wanted to have PR going and of course we didn’t want to do that. In fact if you’ll see in the constitution itself we have – there is none of the intent is in the constitution and in the document and I wish I had it here. My son John has got my volumes of the Constitutional Convention proceedings that I had put together. It was to not have speeches or not just have the yea’s and nay’s and who voted for, who spoke for, who spoke against, that type of thing, but not any of the rhetoric that was put into it, except for some of the amendments and the amendments were put in. But that was to keep people from getting up and talking for hours and hours on things. So once they knew that it was not going to be recorded, it didn’t happen.

Plus the fact is that the media, they didn’t have – they didn’t have the what do I want to say – they didn’t have any negative or positive side to what was going on in the Constitutional Convention preliminary sessions. I mean it was straightforward type. And I think the reason for that is because Bill Snedden from the News-Miner and Bob Atwood from the Anchorage paper were supporters and so you didn’t have organized groups. You didn’t pressure groups coming out there to the University and sitting. And a lot of times a lot of school groups were out. I had school people from Nenana come up and we had one of the gals that was a senior that gave a talk to the Constitutional Convention. We had a lot of visiting firemen that spoke to us and one thing or another, but pretty much left us alone to do the things that we had to do.

Terence: Now does that include the no lobbyists? Did any lobbyists come and –

Coghill: Very, very few. In fact the ordinance that we put in abolishing fish traps. We didn’t get the fishing industry out of Seattle or the pressure groups from the fishing industry that were Nick (inaudible) and all of those that were the big fishmongers. They didn’t show up because nobody thought we were serious. Thought we were just a group of people going through an exercise.

In fact the thing that really promoted our constitution and promoted the statehood was the other articles that were put in in the transition when we endorsed and put into the program the Tennessee Plan where we elected a house member and two senators and we sent them back. And the reason why it was called the Tennessee Plan is because back in 1832 I believe it was Tennessee cut away from Virginia and became a state and when they became a state they went down to or up to Washington, DC and moved onto the floor and said we’re here, we want to be admitted. And they were admitted. So we thought well we got Ernie Gruening and Egan were our Tennessee senators and Ralph Rivers was our Tennessee representative. We sent them back to Washington with the explicit instructions to go demand a seat on the floor. Well they got themselves bounced pretty fast. So what happened in 1830, didn’t happen in 1950. So we set up offices for them and they went around and they lobbied and they took material to every legislator, every senator and every staff person, every house member –

Coghill: – The statehood thing. Well it was coming that Hawaii was doing the same thing because Hawaii had had their Constitutional Convention and they were getting ready and they wanted to have statehood. Well the thing was that the reason why we’re the 49th state and they are the 50th state is that in those days Hawaii was very Republican. It was the Dole Company and the big farmers and stuff like that. And we were a very strong Democrat state at the time. So we became the 49th state. That’s how and the next year why Hawaii became – was elected and they became the 50th state.

Terence: Would you think that the – let me back up and put it this way. During the convention what any sort of specific incident stands out about personality of the different people you know because it must have been unusual, very cold winter, you guys are all stuff there in Fairbanks you know?

Coghill: Well yeah and there was – I’m trying to think of several you know – Marsten, Mukluk Marsten was a great orator and he’d get up and tell us all of the fineries of World War II and he was the commander of the Alaska Native Troops. We’d have stories on that and we’d have stories where people would relate – I know that the big turning point as far as I was concerned was that when we did the election districts and we set out all of the election districts we made them social economically combined and we call them geographically, socially, economically combined. And so we used watersheds because that’s the way economics were by the watershed. And Bob, the guy that was from Fairbanks, he was an aviator –

Terence: Or Barr, Frank Barr.

Coghill: Frank Barr. He wanted to have Livengood into the Fairbanks District because he says I fly in there all the time and it is an economic structure of Fairbanks and I argued it wasn’t. It might have had an economic structure in Fairbanks but it was economically it was part of the watershed of the Tanana Valley and I won. And that stopped all of the – and that was the beginning and when we did that why then everybody that was trying to get their own little piece of neighborhood in stopped because you know it was just not socially economically geographically possible. And so we beat them on that. And old Barr he came over and he says boy he says you’re – he says I understand why they call you the silver tongued orator from the north and Buckalew hung that one on me.

Terence: Now why did he say that? What was Buckalew – what was the –

Coghill: Well because of the – I was always tooting or touting the other social economic structure. I was always in favor of independence structure economically not held to any one working group or to a trade group or to Anchorage or to Seattle or a philosophy like that and so Buckalew was always – he and I are good friends, but he’d say well, you’re still a silver tongued oratory aren’t you from the north country? And I says well I consider that a compliment.

But we had good debate, but see when the constitution when we had a lot of votes that were split but when we finished the document and the Style and Drafting Committee, which was headed by George Sonberg, when they got done putting it all together everybody, all 55 of us, signed the document. Now one fellow got a little bit upset. He was from southeastern Alaska.

Terence: Robertson?

Coghill: Robertson. And he went home, but he did sign the document afterwards when they got down to Juneau why they got – Tom Stewart and the guys got him to relent and to sign the document – the constitution. So different than the United States constitution, which had 55 delegates, only 30 what – 38 of them signed the United States constitution. So there was a lot of dissenters and so we used that. Well as Chairman of the Administration Committee, my target was to make sure that we didn’t spend over $300,000, that we had $50,000 left, that we could give then to the Statehood Committee and the Statehood Committee then created the lobbying group or the group that went out and told everybody about the constitution. In fact, I remember putting together the packet for the delegates so that we could get them out.

Terence: Jack, do you think that the – because you’re so concerned about the suffrage aspect of it, that the tariff oil legislature the way it was set up was quite weak and not very representative was it of the people of Alaska?

Coghill: No, it wasn’t and the territorial legislature you got to remember we didn’t have any authority. About the only authority we had around trails and so we had what we called the Alaska Highway Commission, but we had in territorial days we had about five different commissions and the commissions had authority, but the legislature didn’t have any of that authority. The governor didn’t have any of that authority. And so what the legislature could create was that they had to be able to also pay for and that they also had to give the authority or because the territorial governor was pretty much established by the Organic Act, which was passed in – well the first one was in 1886 and the second one was in 1912. So it was – that was the Organic Act that really established in 1912 was basically taken from the Oregon law.

Terence: So, but do you think that the – because it was so unrepresentative of – I mean Nenana your case is an excellent one – that you basically had to win in Fairbanks in order to represent the Fourth Division, right, isn’t that?

Coghill: Oh yeah, yeah and in the territorial days what I did was that I’d have to spend – I spent six weeks – I’d go out eight weeks ahead of the election and I’d spend six weeks flying around in the old Fourth Division and then the last two weeks I’d spend just rent a hotel room in the Nordale Hotel and I’d just spend it all right there at KFAR and KFQD were the two radio stations at the time. And I’d go in and talk to the publisher of the News-Miner all the time. Cap Lathrop was a good friend of our family, but he didn’t run the paper. It was run by –

Terence: Well Snedden had taken over by then in the 50’s. I think Bill took it over it over in 1950 maybe or ’51, yeah. But the idea that – let me – another sort of topic that we broach with a lot of people, the idea – the outside interests controlling Alaska. How was that sort of addressed in the constitution?

Coghill: Well basically it was addressed head on with the repeal of the fish traps. And economically the big structure in Alaska was the Guggenheims, which had the mining interests and the FE Company and all of the rest of them. And it was – the only reason why we became a state to be real frank with you was because of World War II and because there was enough people that were coming in from Washington and Oregon and California and Ohio and all of the Lower 48 that saw the great opportunities in the north country that finally we got enough that we had more people in Alaska from those states that were not beholden to the special interests of the fishing industry or the mining industry. And it was out of that you know because the people in Nome, a lot of the people in Fairbanks that were part of the institution of the FE Company. And it was tough. It was tough. And you just had to and finally that measure of percentages started creeping away from them and by the mid-50’s, by the end of the 50’s when we had our first vote on statehood why it was two to one.

Terence: And the fish traps particularly that was the most passionate – weren’t people mostly –

Coghill: Yeah, because the fishermen I mean that – the fish trap issue in my estimation was the thing that created the biggest push for statehood, push for ratifying our constitution. See our constitution was ratified in ’58 before we were a state. It had to be ratified by the people of Alaska and then we took it and we sent it to Washington and when we sent it to Washington of course we also sent three delegates to the congress and of course that is what they were doing.

Terence: With the Tennessee Plan? That’s right, yeah. But now do you think if – so there is not many lobbyists there?

Coghill: No, there was no lobbyists.

Terence: So then having it out at the University was a lot better wasn’t it than having it in Juneau, I mean was it?

Coghill: Well yeah and you know there was the thing is that Juneau and of course there was big push by a lot of the heavies in Anchorage to move the legislature to move the capitol and all of that was a part of it so Juneau and southeastern Alaska didn’t want anything to do with Anchorage. And so Fairbanks, we became the neutral ground. And so the Fairbanks delegation, the Nome delegation, and the Southeastern Delegation ganged up on them and said we’re going to have the Constitutional Convention in Fairbanks. They had just finished the Student Union Building and the president of the University Patty and he was a mining engineer and had a mining up there on the Yukon River. And he was a big supporter and he turned over the first part of the Constitutional Convention we still ate in the cafeteria in the old dorm one downstairs in the basement and then when we came back from our break we went – I think we went from November until the 20th of December or something like that and then we took a three week break and we came back in January and we finished up in February, but during that time why then they changed and they had the cafeteria in the second floor, I guess it would be the first floor – first floor cafeteria. I don’t know what is in there now. But we were down in the basement and then the third floor was where we had all our offices.

Terence: And so where did you live –

– Break –

Terence: What were you saying Jack, it seems like yesterday, what were you going to say?

Coghill: I think the Constitutional Convention and all the things that went on in the Constitutional Convention, just seems like yesterday. Time flies so fast.

Terence: If you had one memory of it overall, what would that be? You know –

Coghill: I think the one memory that I would have of the Constitutional Convention was that everybody wanted a good document for the state of Alaska and when we got done arguing there was no minority reports, no majority reports, except what was done by the committees. But when the document was finally finished, even old Bill Law, who voted against just about every proposition that went in, see because the only way we could keep these people like Herb Hillshire and some of the other orators from expounding and expounding is that if you had a proposition and you put it up and it failed, you couldn’t put it up again. There was no parliamentary procedure. We blocked all of that so that there was no delaying, no delaying action.

Terence: No reconsideration?

Coghill: No reconsideration at all. So that was one of the reasons that we were all pushing for 18-year-old voting.

Terence: Now why was that, explain that, Jack? I don’t understand.

Coghill: Well, because we were a (inaudible) territory the federal government law was that you had to be 21. Well we were a young vibrant state. Well our argument was hey if you were old enough to go into the Army at 18, by golly you were old enough to vote. And so we pushed for 18 and we lost, couldn’t bring it back up again. They said well let’s go for 19. I said no, no, let’s go for 20. We went for 20 and lost. So there was only one way we could go, was either go to 19 or back to 21. We went to 19 and we won.

Terence: What was the argument against – I mean what was the –

Coghill: Maturity. A lot of old geezers you know. I was young and still had that drive – I was still the insurrectionist what they called me you know and in the territorial legislature they called me Coghill:, the insurrectionist. Cause I didn’t believe in all of this government and I wanted to keep it as simple as possible. I was from the old school, the old prospectors. What they found, they kept you know and that sort of an attitude about it.

But the thing that I remember the most about the Constitutional Convention was the camaraderie that happened after we decided that the document was the best we could do. And so when we signed those documents we had a hundred of them. The first five copies of the constitution went to government, went to the United States Government. And then the next 60 went to the Constitutional Convention delegates and then the others were distributed to the different archives. And – if you go into the Signers Hall at the University of Alaska in the hallway that goes from Signers Hall into the next building you will see a whole series of pictures and those are my pictures that I have collected of different delegates and all of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention. I think I had a copy of the constitution and the whole bit there.

Terence: Did you take any pictures yourself during the convention or you didn’t – I mean you were busy obviously?

Coghill: No.

Terence: So where were you living at Jack or who did you stay with?

Coghill: I stayed with Bob Hubbridge. Bob Hubbridge, who was the school buddy of mine born and raised here in Nenana and he was working for Alaska Freightlines at the time. And he had an extra room and I rented from him. And I would catch Paul Grinman’s bus and in those days why of course all you had to say was I’m living on College Road, I forget the number of it right now, when you come by just toot the horn and I’ll come climb on. I’d climb on the bus. Nowadays you can’t do that. Right where the overpass is, is where their building was.

Terence: And so you rode that bus back and forth everyday?

Coghill: Back and forth.

Terence: Was there any kind of social things at night or after hours or getting together with the other guys or…

Coghill: Well most of the guys – most of the people lived either in the Nordale Hotel or in the Northward Building and there was a lot of camaraderie that went on in the Northward Building and a lot of the guys, but I was not a part of that. And of course at that time in 1955 we already had the Tote Road between here and Fairbanks and it would take us five hours to drive from here to Fairbanks. And you had to take a chain saw with you because it was only a Tote Road was just the width of a D8 cat. And as you well know the root system of your Arctic trees is only about six inches deep so every time there was a wind why you’d have a couple more. So we had one of the normal things that we took with us when we traveled to Fairbanks was a chain saw. And the idea if you didn’t have a chain saw you took a bucksaw because you would have to saw a tree out in order to keep going. In those days if you see as you travel between here and there you’ll see the different cuts on the hill.

Well when we first got the survey and of course that’s another story where a fellow by the name of Allen Brown was the engineer for the Public Works for the Federal Highway Administration. And I got $85,000 appropriated to build a Tote Road between Fairbanks and Nenana. And Allen came to me and he says well what was your intention was it to follow the old railroad or was it to follow the Wood Road. And I said it was to follow the Wood Road. So it was the Saulich Wood Road that went up over Ester Hill and went around and that is where you see the old – where you travel and it says Old Nenana Highway. Was that was the old Saulich Wood structure and that was the original road that we had to Nenana.

And he ran out of money 16 miles up so there’s a turn off 16 miles up the road and that is where we had a turn out and so he ran out of money why a bunch of us guys got together and we bought five barrels of diesel oil and that was in the winter of ’53, ’54.

We bought and the Olson brothers who had just come out of the Bonnifield country with their D6 cat. So we took it across the river with a barge and we followed the Old Mail Trail until we were across from Berg and then we cut across to the railroad and we followed the railroad telegraph line down and we followed – we just made a road in between the tripods of the – got to a Little Goldstream and then we followed Little Goldstream and we went up on the hill and hooked into the survey line. So that’s how we ran the road until 1950 – and the first appropriation was in 1957 when we finally got more money to put into the – and then when we became a state why it was one of the first things that we got.

And by that time Clear had sprung and 1959 was when they started Clear. Well what we did in the meantime in order to get the railroad or to get the road put together. There was a general by the name of George Jones, who was the head of the Alaska Command at Ladd Field. And he was a good friend of mine and I said why don’t you put together your winter and your summer exercises down at Clear because Clear is going to be a part of the – we need to put the road in to Clear.

And so for three years why George Jones had the D8 cats and tanks and all kinds of equipment coming and going and we build the Tote Road so the Tote Road was actually a refined Tote Road for about three years before we finally got some federal money to it.

Terence: And that’s from Nenana to Fairbanks or Fairbanks –

Coghill: Nenana to Fairbanks to Clear.

Terence: I see, yeah, yeah. Well so when you know thinking about that, the military was a vital part of the economy, wasn’t it?

Coghill: Oh yeah, yeah.

Terence: I mean –

Coghill: That was it.

Terence: I mean even for Nenana, right?

Coghill: Yeah. Well Nenana’s basic economy was the river. Our basic economy even today is basically what goes on and around the docks at Nenana, because we are the port of entry for the Interior and although bypass mail where people now you can you know ship a case of – when I was in the fuel business, why I could ship a case of motor oil from here to Holy Cross and it cost me on the barge it cost me around $9 to ship that. I could ship it by parcel post for $1.20. The same thing goes on in Fairbanks today.

You take a lot of the Bush planes that go out of Fairbanks they don’t have passengers on them. All they’ve got is bypass mail. And when Ted Stevens gets out of office that may very well go away cause he has been able to have a hammer lock on that. There is a lot of things that Alaska is getting from old Ted that might just disappear once he disappears.

Terence: Yeah, what did Ted Stevens sort of mean to – you know I know he was an attorney during back in the Interior Department and stuff, but what he has sort of meant to Alaska? I mean do you know anything about his role during statehood or anything like that?

Coghill: No, he was not involved in that at the time. He was involved because he was the solicitor for Fred Seaton. He was high up in the Interior Department and how – and then after he – actually he comes from the East Coast. I think he was from one of the smaller states there in the Lower 48. And when he became a solicitor and he became a part of Fred Seaton’s program and everything that’s what introduced him into Alaska. And so after that all disappeared well he came up here and practiced. In fact he run for the state senate a couple of times before he was appointed you know. He was never elected for the first time. He was appointed when Bob Bartlett passed away and he has been there ever since that. He has done a good job for all for Alaska.

He and I have had a couple two or three scrabbles. When he got hardheaded, people – I’m not going to agree with everything that you do and you’re not going to agree with everything that I do. And that has been one of the things. Oh, he’s a hardheaded Scot he says. Well, I’m not a hardheaded Scot, I’m a hardheaded Alaskan. Believe what’s good for Alaska is what really counts. And I think that’s true of a lot of the old-timers. And yet if you are pushing for something and it gets accomplished then you only got two-thirds of a loaf. It is better to take that then to go forward with it then it is to try and defeat the whole thing.

Terence: Then to go hungry.

Coghill: Then to go hungry.

Terence: Well what about Gruening, what was your sort of impressions of him?

Coghill: Well Gruening was a good friend of mine. He always told me he says I don’t know where you came from but it must have been that hardheaded Scot father of yours that put you where you’re at. And I says well I think that was part of it. I think part of it was the training that I got. Ernie and I we could argue and whenever it came down for something good, I could go to him and he’d say have you thought this out son? That was his – have you thought this out? And he’d ask me again. Okay, I’ll back you, but he always said have you thought it out you know?

Terence: Well about Egan, what’s your cause you had a lot of contact with him over the years?

Coghill: Oh yeah lots of contact. And we had good times and there were a lot of times that he disagreed with me. And you could always tell when Bill Egan disagreed with he because he would frown. Whenever he frowned, you’d say oh Christ I’m in trouble now. I’m in trouble now you know, but – and two or three times. One of them was during the article on education that went into the constitution. I was the one that see I was at that time I was Chairman of the School Board Association. And public education was very, very strong with me. Well also there was a tremendous amount of parochial schools going on in the state. And Monroe had just started, but most of them were mission schools. And I was not opposed to them but I was opposed to domination of sectorial attitude and I was a real firm believer in free public education. I have arguments with my son right now John, who is a teacher in his Baptist Church School, and there was a teacher over there and he always questioned me as to that because that’s a part of our American way. And it was one of the arguments that we had at the Constitutional Convention.

Terence: And what was Egan’s? He differed – you guys were on the opposite sides on that one?

Coghill: Yeah and he’d frown at me, frown at me and of course I was in the front row. Right here was the podium and my – the three of us we didn’t have chairs or anything or desks or anything like that. We had just folding tables.

Terence: And whose the three? You mean Jack who do you mean?

Coghill: Three of us delegates were sitting there. I was sitting way over in the corner. And the two that were sitting with me was – he was president of the senate, the second president of the senate – Native from –

Terence: Peratrovich.

Coghill: Peratrovich sat next to me and then next to him sat the fellow from Anchorage or from Juneau, the…

Terence: Robertson?

Coghill: No, no.

Terence: Stewart?

Coghill: No, the one that had the hotel down there – I’ll think of his name. But anyway, then we’d all if you see the picture of the plenary session of the constitution was just tapes. Three of us were sitting at each table.

Terence: You said you had folding tables, right?

Coghill: Yeah, it was folding tables. It was not a table. It was just a folding table and you had folding chairs. And Patty put that thing together. I mean you know it was – I get a kick out of seeing the University. There was an article where the University was patting their selves on the back of being of the founders of the constitution. It was – the reason why it was there is because Fairbanks delegation in the territorial legislature teamed up with the southeastern delegation to make sure that it was not in Anchorage. And the delegation from Nome came right in and helped us. That is how is came and we had – when we signed the constitution in Signers Hall it was not the elaborate structure it is now. We had to kick the basketballs out of the way in order to put the seats in for the general public to come and watch us sign the document. I have a picture of my signing the document.

Terence: Because it was the gym I mean it was the gym?

Coghill: It was the gym. It was the University gym.

Terence: And most of the campus was pretty ratty looking, wasn’t it I mean at that time? I don’t know how the – of course you were in the newest building.

Coghill: Well it wasn’t ratty. I mean it was typical I mean the old – the dormitories. The two dormitory one and dormitory two and we ate in the basement of dormitory one. I mean it was part of the old School of Mines. And the old central building was the Bunnell Building was still there.

Terence: Oh, the main building?

Coghill: Yeah. And the only concrete structure was the museum. I think they called it the Eielson Building.

Terence: Eielson was there and then it was the museum and Signers Hall.

Coghill: Eielson Building and then the gym and the gymnasium. It is the only structure that is still standing.

Terence: Well Brooks was there too. The Mines Building. They built that in ’52 I think so.

Coghill: Yeah.

Terence: So, but I think if – so Egan you were telling a story about Egan you were sitting at the folding table he’s up there on the podium.

Coghill: And I’d get up and he’d look at me and I’d okay, okay. I’d just say it is okay I wasn’t going to be – I would just wave at him and say you know I’m going to be constructive. This is not going to be destructive. I’m not going to get into your chain – I’m going to you know. Then he’d look at me and cause I was his Chairman of the Administration Committee and had to make sure that these guys were wanting to spend all of that money on publicity and stuff like that, that they weren’t going to get away from it. He always said well the only reason why the Constitutional Convention got through the way it was is because they couldn’t get through that hardheaded Scot Coghill:. And it was a lot of fun. It was fun.

Terence: Do you think that you know sort of looking back, how does that rank in your life experience I mean cause all these years in the legislature. You’re the longest serving mayor in Alaskan history, right? How long were you Mayor?

Coghill: Twenty-two years. Served from 1962 until 1985.

Terence: So you had all those years as Mayor and how many years total in the legislature, probably 15?

Coghill: Well I had six, 12, 13 and then of course the Constitutional Convention.

Terence: And four years –

Coghill: Yeah I had 20 and four years. I have 22 years of public- of state service and I have 20 – I have 22 years as Mayor and 10 years as School Board. So I’ve served my public.

Terence: But I mean with all that how does being on the constitution rank in your life –

Coghill: Number one.

Terence: – looking back?

Coghill: Number one, because territorial law, state law, and the things that you got done or amended are molded or twisted to accommodate contemporary time. Constitutional law is something that should be short, sweet, and direct. And that’s the reason why the people that put the amendment in for the Permanent Fund Dividend and the Permanent Fund Account really got out of their element when they started getting too wordy. They could have put that document together with 10 or 12 paragraphs or sentences, not 10 or 12 paragraphs.

But that was probably and I think that probably the most satisfying time was my tenure as Mayor because it was local, because you were affecting people on a local basis and I think that my most frustrating time was being Lieutenant Governor.

Terence: Why was that Jack? What – just cause of the wheels of bureaucracy?

Coghill: You couldn’t get anything done. I mean bureaucracy had gotten to the point where it was – if, you know, I had dot charts put together. The first year I was in there when I was still in favor you know we put these dot charts together to reorganize state government. The problem is that you’ve got a level of government and you still have it and you’ll always have it unless you’ve got people at the top end that want to do something about it. But if you take a look at your government about 12% at the top is your administrative directive heads. Down at the bottom you’ve got about 30% that is your work-a-bees, your working people. From 30% or 40% you got about a 40% in the middle there that is pass-thrus. They are passing through their paper. They are doing this. They are doing that, but there is really – they’re not policy makers. They are not work-a-bees. What are they? They are the bureaucracy that keeps that wheel turning. And that is what we tried to get at. And I had these dot charts made. And I – and the charts were color-coded so that it showed the different categories of people and how you could cut through all of that and where you could take. And I figured that we could take 25% of government structure tomorrow and I still believe it in today’s structure. You could take 25% of government and do away with it if you had the will.

Terence: We should stop for just a second. I just basically have two more questions for you and then we’re done on the tape.

Man: About three minutes.

Terence: Okay, Jack, I wanted to ask you because you were in that first state legislature, right? Weren’t you in ’59?

Coghill: Yes.

Terence: Was it in the senate or the house, I forget?

Coghill: Senate.

Terence: Senate.

Coghill: Jack Wise and I were the only two Republicans. And in the first session why Bow Smith from Ketchikan and Tom Stewart from Fairbanks or from Juneau and the people they organized state government and they’d kick us out of the assembly and they had their caucuses in the senate chambers. And it just shows you that that’s a good lesson for people in this democracy. The next year they split nine/nine. Guess who had balance of power? Neither one of their sides could do anything unless they had Jack Wise, who was a Republican from Bethel and myself. And we kind of worked that to our advantage.

Terence: I bet. Well what was the financial picture in 1959? Statehood is achieved. What –

Coghill: In 1959 I have a picture and I’ll show it to you. We had during statehood because we were working off of grants and we didn’t have much money and we had to keep it down. We spent $87M and we called it the $87M Committee, cause it was unheard of that we spent that much money.

And I think it was the third session of the legislature or something like that. I’ve got a picture of it. Frank Chapados was the Chairman – the Co-Chairman and he was from the house side and Bill Noland, yeah Bill Noland from – was the Chairman from the senate side. But it was interesting and what we’d do is every time somebody increased the budget they had to put a dollar into the pot. And we had a big jar in the middle of the table and at the end of the session we took that money and we had a party for just the Finance Committee. It usually was pretty (inaudible) because at that time why there was a lot of drive to increase that and increase that.

I remember one time Bill Egan got so mad at me cause when we put together the local government they had an office called Local Affairs Agency and it was in the governor’s office and I cut it completely out. And I’ll remember that guy going up and Bill Egan and Bill Egan called me into his office and he was shaking and he was shaking and he says and you know that we have it in the constitution. We had a provision where that we had to take care of local government. I said you got local government. You got the local government agencies and you got – you don’t need to have somebody in your office telling the mayors what to do. The mayors know what they can do. We argued and argued, went back in and he had enough votes that he turned it around, but that was kind of the things that we did. We kind of tried to keep a break on moving. And of course then what really happened –

– Break –

Coghill: Discovered and that is when government just (pish).

Terence: Took off, yeah. Well, let’s just talk about that a little bit and then I think we’re done in here. Maybe we can go outside because we wanted to get a shot of you maybe walking into the store.

Man: Well I have a couple of thoughts on that if we can get it before it gets too dark.

Coghill: I was going to buy you guys lunch too, but you’re talking too much.

Terence: We’ll save you a few bucks.

Terence: But that’s right at statehood you know some people said, even Gruening said if oil hadn’t have come along the state might have gone bankrupt. Do you think that would have been possible?

Coghill: Oh, we were struggling. We were struggling I mean and with all of the requirements and you see during statehood we had $400,000, no $4M was given in what they called transitional grants from the statehood and that went on for six years. Well that got us from until 1964, ’65, ’66 you know. And then boom here comes you know and of course that whole thing changed and government just grew by leaps and bounds.

Terence: But there was the transitional grants and I think then there was the earthquake though too.

Coghill: Yeah.

Terence: That was a big, wasn’t that?

Coghill: Yeah.

Terence: I mean the earthquake had a big –

Coghill: Well sure because we got a lot of federal money from that too, but it was you know and of course you didn’t have – the federal government was pretty stingy, but it was you know taking over the Johnson O’Malley Schools. Johnson O’Malley was the act that took Bureau of Indian Affairs schools and put them into the public school system you know. And you had that and so you used all of those transition type funds to keep things rolling, keep things going you know. And it was tough, it was tough. I was on the Finance Committee and I could show you where you know we really had some knockdowns and drag outs, but we had a joint committee between the house and the senate, which after I got out of the senate why they broke away from that because they didn’t want the unicameral type system. But we had to do that in order to keep things going because we had it down where I think the first session of the legislature we adjourned it in 87 days or something like that. And then it just kept creeping up and creeping up and it got to the point where they had to put a trigger on it because it was going way beyond 120 days.

But the more you had to have a drive by the leadership of the legislature and of course then after statehood and then after the oil and then after all of that stuff then came along the Permanent Fund.

And then came along the savings account that we’ve got you know and then when the oil started dropping from the Slope and you started getting into a compressed area. Now they’re looking at redoing the formula for the Permanent Fund and taking a certain amount of that and putting in. But people don’t remember that the oil revenue from the North Slope that three-quarters of it already goes to government and nobody talks about that. The only thing that really fuels our state government and now they want to get into that other quarter. And they’re changing that. And I keep telling my son who is in the legislature gee John you got to remember that you’re already getting three-quarters of that money you know. What do they want the whole thing?

Terence: Well what would you say – I know you had your differences over the years with Wally – Wally Hickel, but what would you say about him as sort of as you know a guy to work with or what it was like, cause that was a big thing in 1990 when you guys got elected you know?

Coghill: Yeah. Well I think that Wally means well. I think he is too much of a socialist. And I don’t say that in the sense of socialism from the standpoint of the Soviet’s socialist. I’m talking about that he is a strong advocate of this owner state business. Well when we became an owner state we didn’t become an owner state for state government to become the king of the road. We just didn’t want the entrepreneurs from the Lower 48 to be controlling us. And so his philosophy is a sound philosophy if you want to follow that, but I’m not a member of that school of thought. I’m more of the school of thought that people that are entrepreneurs – I mean how did he make his money? You know how did he become where he is at? It is because he had the forethought and the foresight to put the hotels in. But do you think he could have done that under the owner state system? When the state was going to be a part of the hotel business, no. So opportunity still has to knock for the next generation that is coming along and that is where my basic difference in the philosophy is. And he’s a good friend of mine and we can holler at each other all we want to, but I’ll never buy the owner state system.

Terence: The two old wolves, right. No, what do they say? Two old dog – what is it?

Coghill: Yeah.

Terence: Two old dogs, what was the thing they said about you guys?

Coghill: Oh, yeah, yeah.

Terence: I forget what it was, was it dogs or wolves?

Coghill:Yah, no, two old dogs howling at the moon. In fact I’ve got a picture of it – dog howling at the moon – two dogs, Wally and I. That was some cartoonist in Anchorage put that together and called us two old dogs.

Terence: No, Kelly – Jim Kelly, remember. Yeah you’re right.

Coghill: Jim Kelly that hung that one on us, but you know and the thing that is nice about all of this is that for a country that is one-third the size of the rest of the United States, we still have a population where that I can go into any village and know people. You can’t do that in the Lower 48. You walk down the street in Seattle and people you say hello to somebody and they think you were strange. Huh. Here I can go down in Anchorage and I’ll bet you that the third person that I meet or in Fairbanks the third person that I see I’ll know. I’ll know who they are. I know them enough to say hi. That’s what is so nice about being an Alaskan.

Terence: That’s perfect. Robert, do you think of something we should?

Robert: No. There is one thing you mentioned earlier. We’re kind of thinking about future programs on this breaking out social, political, and economic and you talked a little bit earlier about how the watersheds acted as a social economic concern, would you finally kind of reflect a little bit how regions and play in the political and economic equation. You know we talk a lot about –

Coghill: Because there’s social economically tied.

Robert: But what does that mean for – I mean like for example in rural communities that don’t have the infrastructure and what – how does all of that play when you get into the legislature and you know you have this urban rural split that has developed?

Coghill:: Yeah, well, the Supreme Court you’re talking about that. The reapportionment article that we put together in the constitution made the senate districts permanent. Like the United States government had in saying that every state had two senators. We took that philosophy. Supreme Court of the United States said that they didn’t like because the one man, one vote rule that apparently was for the – but we set the structure together so that the people in the Copper River area for example are socially and economically together. And we didn’t want you know and the reapportionment committees have failed to look at this totally. Because now you got reapportionment where they got districts cutting down the middle of a road you know and that’s wrong you know. They should move out of that neighborhood and bunch it together because that neighborhood or that settlement or that village has got, although they might fight like dogs and cats, they still have an economic social function that they like to put together, that they hold together. And that was the reason why we had the way we had the reapportionment put together and the reason why I’d be – Frank Barr when he tried to put Livengood into the Fairbanks District because it was socially, economically, geographically not located. And it had to take all three of those units to put the thing together because what we did is we followed hilltops and that is how we you know you had because when you or I were walking in the Tolovana Valley we knew that on the top of that ridge another district was over on the other side but on this side wherever that water fell and that’s the reason why you call it watersheds was in your district. And that was tough because when you got down into the Anchorage and you got down to Bristol Bay and in that area there why you had to follow that fundamental structure. And the same in southeastern Alaska.

Terence: Well maybe to follow-up on Robert’s question for you, Jack, ask it this way. You know obviously a lot about rural Alaska, right, and your family made its living for now almost a century, this trading.

Coghill: We still do.

Terence: But, right, you still do, but isn’t there a big problem in Alaska today with the people, particularly Anchorage I suppose, but also I guess Fairbanks not understanding the rural areas, what about that issue that people talk about all the time? What do you – cause you have far more knowledge about it than most people do so?

Coghill: Well and I think that is a real problem that we have in Alaska because so many people and take a look at the population center. I don’t call it Anchorage. I call it the Cook Inlet. You take the Cook Inlet’s section of Alaska, which includes Homer, includes Palmer, Wasilla, that whole area cause out of the 650,000 people we have in the state you can say that probably 450 or 500 of it comes from that area. The rest of us are scattered throughout the rest of the state.

A lot of those people that live in Fairbanks or live in Anchorage and in that area have never been into the Interior. There is no reason for them to come to the Interior, just like southeastern Alaska. They go south, they go to Seattle. No reason for them to come to Fairbanks. So they don’t know how you and I live you know.

And the problem that we have and all stems from that – the problem we have is that the state administration does not follow through on getting economic development out into the woods and it is not welfare, it is not handouts, it open the bloody country up. Get the timber sales going. Get the mining going you know, instead of having so much about not being able to turn a shovel of dirt or to sink a mineshaft or to – and it takes money, money. And you know it is not the entrepreneur any more. It’s the big companies that are outside of Fairbanks that can take a whole mountain and move it is where your economic development is and you’re going to see that. Pogo Mine down there next to Delta is going to be one of the same things. It is going to be a big mine. They have a mine and I don’t know how they are going to do it, but it is going to eventually happen down at behind Aniak in the Flat area where this big – one of the biggest mines in the world is going to be established. And how are they going to get electricity there. Are they going to take it in? They can’t barge in enough diesel to do that. They are talking about a power line from the coal mine at Healy and go down to Rex and then from Rex down over into the Innoko and from the Innoko over into that district. That is going to happen. I don’t know when it will happen, but it is going to happen because people have got to have the desire to have economic development and one of the things that we’re missing in Alaska is that we have the best photosenticity (?) of any of the Lower 48 states. We don’t have the temmate clim or the climate change and stuff like that, but during the summer time our sun comes up and it doesn’t go down until in September and that photosensitivity is twice as much as what the normal states in the Lower 48 get and we’ve got to get our farming program going. We’ve got to get that attitude but you can’t do it by subsidizing people. We got to open up the land. You go out into the clear area right now and there are homesteads all in the back there and those people are scratching a living back there. Some of them have to work on the slope or some of them have got jobs at Fort Wainwright or some place like that, but they are out there because they believe in developing their piece of land. And I think that’s what made America great was that people could own something. They could be a part of it. That is what we got to create.

Terence: Well thanks very much Jack. I think is that okay.