March 2, 2009

My Anchorage trip - Saturday

Saturday: I awoke early to snow!

I had to walk a few blocks to meet Steve Stripling of the Big Alaska Show (radio show) as the streets were blocked off for Rondy events and a big parade. Steve has a great personality and was fun to talk with on the drive over to the station. I met his first guest and regular station website maintainer, Karl LeRay. Together, both men had me laughing and at ease. I was interviewed for a fun and fast half an hour (good times always go by too quickly). After the show Steve dropped me off as close as he could get to my hotel and wouldn't you know it, I walked in the wrong direction, lol. I had traveled 3 blocks before I realized it.

In front of my hotel the second day of dog sled races was just beginning, and I had my first Reindeer sausage sandwich. While waiting for the meat to be cooked I got to talking to a few people as I was dressed up in my Soapy Smith clothing. I suddenly slipped and came close to falling down. A young couple behind me piped in with, "from out of town?" We all starting laughing and I added, "What was your first clue?"

The snow increased but the weather was actually a few degrees warmer than the previous day that had no snow. Many were happy with the snow, calling it the perfect Rondy weather. I walked the block to the theater on D street and met cast members out in the streets having a grand time playing with the crowds. I met Jason of Alaska Outlaw Cards. He was fun to talk with, and gave me two more decks of his latest edition of the cards. I had met his mother at breakfast in the hotel the previous day and she told me Jason normally travels the country in the winter but the sales of the cards are doing so well that all his plans for vacation this year had to be scrapped. On this day, besides selling his cards he was operating a "poker run" for a $250 cash prize! Players just had to visit various shops and displays through-out the day and collect sealed envelopes that contained a "playing card" value. I grabbed up a few for my collection of Soapy Smith memorabilia.

Upon arriving I opened up my tripe and keister under a special awning set up for the day and went to work hustling the crowd with the shell game and three-card Monte. I had a blast! The snow was continuous which was perfect as I have always wondered how Soapy's men operated their short cons along the White Pass trail as so detailed in the newspapers of 1897-98. There were two reenactments of the Soapy Smith/Frank Reid gunfight and inbetween shows I hopped up on stage and performed the Prize Package Soap Racket. The only hinderance was the snow. At one point I had a few children come up real close to the stage just as the snow uptop the stage tent cover slid off. That caused a great roar of laughter from the crowd, but three of the kids were so engrossed in what I was doing that they hardly noticed! That made me feel real good I have to admit.

The theater held a private pizza dinner for the cast and it was at this time I had the pleasure of showing those interested some original letters and hand out a gift pack of Soapy Smith souvenirs, including authentic reproductions of the 101 & 317 handbills, the business card ad for Jeff Smith's Parlor and one sheet of the original soap wrapper paper my father made in the 1970s, which has the story of the soap racket and a facsimile of Soapy's signature in which he signed "Alias Soapy," hence the title of my book. I hope they all know to save these items as some day they will be worth absolutly nothing ...

Before I knew it the audience for Saturday nights show began to show up. On the night previous I ran my shell game and three-card Monte in the lobby as the crowd waited to enter but on this night I had several special people show up that I became caught up in conversation. I ended up bringing my tripe and keister directly into the theater and performed for the sitting crowd. I was on top of my game and everyone had a ball!

I mentioned several special people I talked with in the lobby. Before my trip to Alaska I had recieved a post on my Old West Rogues discussion forum from 'S' (alias Shellie) about a Soapy Smith photograph someone was selling on "Craig's List." I also received an email from my connection at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park about the photograph. As it turns out the photograph was not of Soapy, but rather of "Arizona Charlie" Meadows taken in the Monte Carlo in White Horse, YT. I decided to contact the seller, whose name was Sam. He immediately took the photograph off Craig's List and we continued to email one another about Alaska and my coming trip to Anchorage. He mentioned that he wanted to come over and meet with me and sure enough he and his wife did just that. He promised that when I returned to Anchorage he wanted to take me over to Hope and Sunrise, where Soapy had landed in 1896. These two locations were a hoped for destination but time was just to limited this time around. Soon afterwards a woman came up and introduced herself as the president of the Hope Historical Society. We had conversed briefly via email and she was very helpful in educating me about the area. She came to town to meet with me and unfortunately I forgot to show her the original letter I had with me in which Soapy wrote to his wife from aboard ship near Hope. Next, I had the pleasure of meeting a gentleman who was born in Skagway, whose mother as young girl of 10 had witnessed Soapy ride by on his horse as grand-marshal of the July 4, 1898 parade. This gentleman played and went to school with the children of Skagway's most known residents, including Si Tanner and Harriet Pullen. His father was a good friend of Martin Itjen's. I pray he will contact me so we can talk more! I have so many questions for him.

I enjoyed the show a second time and caught a second wind at 10 p.m. when the show ended and I was invited to speak with the crowd. At about 11:15 p.m. I made my way back to the hotel and packed for an early flight. With only 3 hours sleep that night and flying back to California where a heat spell in the 80s caught me off guard, it is little wonder I am on the verge of feeling a little ill (damned Reindeer sausage ... lol).

I am hopeful one day I can return to Anchorage, summer or winter.

Coming up...
  • Photograph slide show of my trip
  • Great stories I forgot to include

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