There has been much written about the Alaska Highway, during its building and after its completion. The construction of the highway was photographed and filmed from one end to the other. It was a very well documented feat of engineering.
Part of this documentation includes the poetry written by Sgt. Troy L. Hise, who was stationed at the Summit Lake Relay Station in April 1943. Most of this poetry tells of the hardships encountered during its construction.
In 1967, I was pumping gas at Mile 143. It was a Royalite Gas Station in those days along with the Pink Mountain Post Office. It was also the 25th anniversary of the Alaska Highway, and we had all the commemorative memorabilia for sale. One item was a poem that was printed on a slabs of wood, buttons, mugs, etc. There were variations of the poem, but I had my favourite version which is:
Winding in and winding out
leaves my mind in serious doubt
as to whether the guy that built this route
was going to hell or coming out.
My friends and I knew this by heart and every time we drove up the highway it was recited by at least one of us. As teenagers we gave it no thought to where it came from or who had written it.
Years later, I received a call from the North Peace Museum asking me if I could come over and meet with a gentleman about the Alaska Highway. Imagine my surprise when he introduced himself as the author of the aforementioned poem!
He had the entire poem from which the following one had been taken. After much discussion, he left leaving me with the complete poem signed by him. He also signed the poem I had kept in my possession for many years.
We are stationed at Summit Lake,
The Aleutian Islands are at stake.
The Alcan Highway is the supply road,
To get the supplies, it's the only mode.
Over the snow and icy hills we go,
To where, we don't know.
They say they are going to Alaska,
I don't know, could be Athabaska.
To Fort Nelson and Muncho Lake,
The only trips we are allowed to make.
A hundred miles north, a hundred miles south.
Our only news is by word of mouth.
We are lost somewhere between
No city lights can be seen.
Sun is up from nine-thirty to three,
Come on Northern Lights so we can see.
Digging wood from under the snow,
“Cold” isn't it? Of course, you wouldn't know.
My men and I do, we are here to reveal
Being cold at 30 below is definitely real.
The trucks are coming, we must take them on.
In a couple hours, I'll be gone.
Driving this road you must beware,
You miss sliding off by the width of a hair.
Around the curves, around the bends
You wonder where the hell it ends.
Come on destination, come into view.
I need some coffee, my feet are cold too.
Winding in and Winding out,
Fills my mind with serious doubt
If the man who built this road
Was going to hell or coming out.
Larry Evans is a former fire chief, city councillor, and lifelong historian living in Fort St. John.