Sunday, October 9, 2011

Stories from the life of Walt Lorig, part 2

Clara, Walt, a friend, and Harry Lorig, ca 1917

Here is another story from Walt Lorig. Once again, I used a tape recorder so we are able to hear Walt’s own words. I knew he had gone to Alaska a couple of times to work either fishing, in a cannery or tending fish traps. Walt told this funny story about the time he grew a beard.

The Beard

“I went up to Alaska with another fellow from Ballard and after we’d got up there, why he made the suggestion that we try to raise a beard. Neither one of us had tried before. We had it on for 3 or 4 months, I guess. It was just terrible. I spent more time trying to keep clean than I was anything else. Then they sent us to Juneau for coal. And I told him when I get to Juneau I’m going to get this thing cut off. And he said he was going to cut his off too, which he did.

"But the barber I went to, he said, ‘What the heck you want to cut that off?’

"And I said, 'Yes, it’s the first one I’ve had and I am just sick of it.’

‘Well,’ he said, ‘that’s because you haven’t taken care of it, that is you haven’t had it trimmed. Tell you what I’ll do, I’ll trim it like Abraham Lincoln. Long and parted and shorter up this way.’

"So I decided I’d wear it for a little while longer.

“Then, it was pretty near that time we were ready to come on home. So I wanted it cut off before I come home. We were to come down on a steamer that time from Juneau. He [his friend] said

‘I’ll bet you $10 you are afraid to wear it home.’

"I said, ‘I never made $10 any easier than that.’

"I took it. So we got on the boat and on this boat happened to be a whole bunch of school teachers on a tour, you know. And every one of these boats stopped at every cannery and loaded the salmon there. Carried more freight than they did passengers. And when we’d get to one of these little canneries they’d have a dance up in the loft. So we thought the first night we’d go up there and watch them dance. So we were watching there for a while and a fellow came up to me and said

‘Will you do me a favor?’

"And I said, ‘It depends on what it is.’

"He says, ‘My girlfriend would like to dance with you.’

"So I said, ‘All right.’

"And I went over there and he introduced me to her. She was a good dancer, a teacher of some kind. She was kind of giggling and everything and I asked what was funny.

"She said, ‘I was just wondering if you’d let me introduce you to the rest of my girlfriends as my cave man.’

"I said, ‘Sure, that’s all right with me.’ I had more dances than I wanted then.

Walt's mother, Maggie Landaas Lorig, ca 1920

“They had little parties on the boat coming down. The rest of the fellows never got in on any of that. When I got home I had to show my mother, that was part of the bet and then I wanted to shave it off but my mother said,

‘Not until you’ve been down to your grandmother’s house. Let your grandmother [Karen Landaas]* see that.’

"So I said, ‘All right.’

"About that time [junk men] would come along. They had a one horse wagon and buying gunny sacks mostly. But they would buy bottles or anything else you had. They’d go down the streets hollering,

‘Any junk, any bottles . . .’ what was that?, well, anyways, it was junk.

"When I just got to my grandmother’s house one of these guys come singing down the street, so I rapped on the back door. You know, she was pretty crippled at about that time and I could hear her coming, plunk, plunk, with this cane. She opened the door and looked at me and said,

‘No junk today.’ And she closed the door! [Walt chuckled]

"She didn’t recognize me. And that was the end of it. I had it cut off and that was the last one I ever had."

Karen Landaas and her daughter, Maggie Landaas Lorig, early 1910s


* Karen Landaas was known to be stern and the driving force behind the large Landaas family. Where her husband was very kind and softhearted with his children, Karen was not so much so. She never really learned to speak English and some of her grandchildren were a bit afraid of her. So all things considered I think Walt probably earned his $10 bet by having to show the beard off to his grandmother.

Karen Olsen Landaas, ca 1890s

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