June 12, 2011

Adrian Bricker and the Smith clan in Skagway, 1998

(Click image to enlarge)

Ever since joining Facebook on a regular basis and creating a Soapy Smith profile good things have been happening. No, I haven't been playing Farm Wars,  and their other games, but I have been meeting some very interesting people. Adrian Bricker is no exception.

In 1998 when my family had a reunion in Skagway, Alaska Adrian happen to be driving his tour bus. He no longer lives in Skagway, or drives people around on tours, but his memories of meeting my family and I are among his favorite. How can myself and my family not be humbled by that? In the last few days I have been corresponding with Adrian who has helped bring back great Skagway memories of my own. Following is some of our conversations. Adrian writes that,

... someone who has made a living telling the stories of 'your' [he's talking to my Soapy Smith profile] adventures, and had the pleasure of driving your family on tour, (honoring the 100 year anniversary of the shootout with Mr. Reid), I told every guest I ever had, that, "if you want to tell a good story, you have to have a good guy, and a bad guy...And, while 'You' may have been occasionally bad, 'ol Frank Reid was NO BETTER...and had he not died as well, from the gun battle, we'd prolly be telling stories about HIS lawless ways, and HIS illegal tactics." Hope all the family is doing well!! :)

Perhaps, in your research, you have found some corroborating (or not), of the 'telegraph' office, that was supposedly run by 'You'...whether or not it WAS true, it was one of my favorite stories to tell...

I really enjoy hearing and talking to fans of Soapy Smith. In regards to the fake telegraph office I wrote Adrian and told him that,

(Click image to enlarge)

Skagway, in its infancy, lacked a government, a newspaper, and record keeping. I believe the telegraph office swindle was there for just a very short time. The only corroborating evidence is from early stampeders writing about Skagway. None of the victims were willing to admit their gullibility at being taken in such a simple fashion. There is no provenance that it actually took place, however, no where in history have I read of a similar swindle. It's just so Soapy for anyone to have invented the story...


[The following is from Alias Soapy Smith]

One of the more brazen scams Jeff worked on stampeders was the Telegraph Office. Travel between Skaguay and Seattle took about a week, and after that long at sea, the weary traveler was eager to be in touch with loved ones and associates at home. Seeing an opportunity, Jeff opened a telegraph service that would send a message anywhere in the US for only $5. More could be made than just this fee, however. Upon entering the “office,” a victim learned the key operator had stepped out for a moment but would soon return. Encouraged to wait, he would be surrounded by newfound “friends” who chatted with him and offered the usual pastime games of chance. When the key operator appeared, if the victim still had the $5 fee, he could send his message. If believed to still have funds enough, he would be followed and after a short time informed that a reply telegram had arrived and awaited him back at the office—for an additional $5. Then the friendly games of chance might be employed again to obtain even more, if not all, of the victim’s money.

In 1897-1898 no telegraph line ran to Skaguay, but the line from the Telegraph Office that disappeared into Lynn Canal made it appear there was. A line did not reach Skaguay from Juneau until 1901.

The Soapy Smith telegraph swindle is one of the very few  moments in his life span of adventures that there is currently no provenance for. I am positive that one day something will show up, perhaps in the form of  a miners diary or letters from early residents.

Adrian also wrote that he was also hoping
someone from your family, has photos from the visit, in 1998, including the sign in the lobby of the Golden North Hotel, which read 'Reid and Smith Families please check your weapons at the front desk'...was a great visit, but was to busy talking, and driving, to get any pics.

I was your driver, and guide that day, you and the Reids were there...it was one of my favorite days as a guide, and remember most of the tour...love to hear your 'sign' story...and, of course, to see it posted here, for all to see!! :)

(Click image to enlarge)

Adrian, it is such a pleasure to meet you once again. You are helping me relive that wonderful trip. The story of the Smith/Reid family warning placed at the registration desk of the Golden North Hotel by owner, Dennis Corrington is a funny one, and now I learn that you were impartially involved.

Dennis likes his practical jokes. He and my father were similar in that regard. My father had what he called, the "sting board." Anytime he was able to win a bet by setting up his friends with a joke he placed the funds on the board as a place of honor. For many years my father and his friends went to great lengths to con one another. Dennis and I often talked about ways to fool people and that sense of humor backfired once when Dennis pretended to find gold and a gun within the walls of the Golden North during restoration. Many in Skagway did not appreciate the joke. I did, but I knew where Dennis was coming from. Dennis "stung" me for $5 when I was in Skagway in 1998 and I still laugh thinking about it.

Dennis, being the prankster, had made the little framed sign (see photo above) and put it behind the hotel desk for all to see, especially the Smith and Reid family members. Naturally I noticed it, however, there was a problem. He had spelled Reid as Reed. Being the polite guest I said nothing to him.  Adrian noticed the sign and its misspelling of Reid and let Dennis know. Late one night, near the end of the trip, members of my family, Dennis, and his daughter were gathered in his hotel saloon talking and drinking. It was a great time and I hated to know that soon I'd be going back home. Dennis skillfully brought up the sign so that I would mention the misspelling of Reid. I bit, and hard. I told him that Reid was spelled wrong and he adamantly denied that he had made any mistake. We went back and forth, setting me up for the kill by introducing a small friendly wager of $5. I thought I had a "sure-thing" and took his bet. He had me go get the sign, still hanging on the wall until that's when I found out that the sneak had recently changed the sign to the correct spelling. That little episode had me thinking of my father and his sense of humor and brought back fond memories of him.

Adrian says he,
... prolly drove 2500 trips, in 8 years of guiding, so they do kinda run together, but there are a few trips that were 'standouts', and your family was one! :)

Skagway Telegraph Office: page 480.

Jeff Smith


No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for leaving your comment and/or question on my blog. I always read, and will answer all questions left here. Please know that they are greatly appreciated. -Jeff Smith