Alaska Adventures: Getting Wheels

There are many little adventures that I barely remember about my ham radio and other activities in Alaska.  Here are a few of them.

C-47 Skytrain (Wikipedia)

Charlie Bellman, whose call I think was W9KMH, was in charge of the motor pool. He and I had one good adventure.  Now understand that no one had a private vehicle at all.  If you wanted to go to Ft Richardson or Anchorage, some 20 miles away, you had to hitch a ride on a military truck — a very chancy thing!

Charlie wanted WHEELS!!!

One day he came back from Ft Richardson with a pair of big, fat, overstuffed wheels.  These were the tailwheels of C-47 aircraft.  I never found out just what he traded for them with some Air Force mechanics.

Charlie and I welded them together into a frame.  Now we needed an engine.  I managed to find a PE-75 portable generator that was declared “Unrepairable”.  After all, how could it ever work since it was missing its nice, Briggs and Stratton 5 horsepower engine! Funny how that engine turned up later right under Charlie’s hand as he welded up the frame.

Matanuska-Susitna Valley, shaded in red, north of Anchorage, Alaska (Wikipedia)

The transmission was a pair of cone wheels with a belt between them, little end to big end and vice versa.  I have no idea where they came from.  No army vehicle used that type transmission.  But it worked swell in our scooter.

Charlie and I drove up to the Matanuska Valley for the inaugural launch. Charlie in front steered and worked the gas pedal and I, clinging on behind him, worked the brakes (my shoes on the dirt road.).  During the short growing season the Matanuska Valley was our main supply of fresh vegetables.  With the fertile valley earth and the 24 hour sunshine, everything grew twice as fast.

The farmers who worked the fields had to obey the rules of the Homestead Act.  They had to build a house on their 160 acres and live in it.  But in 1948 all they would build was enough house to get them thru the winter.  This consisted of an entrance door and steps leading down to a fully furnished basement. Downstairs was a living room/kitchen and a bedroom, but there was no sign of a house above ground.  Only the stovepipe from the ubiquitous oil stove running on JP-1 jet fuel was visible in the winter.


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