Ernie Pyle two stories Colony 13 Sep 1937
Huge Debts Pile But Matuska Is 'Home' to Work and Saving Bring Success in Alaska's ""Garden of Eden", Views of Settlers Vary . ; ; This is the second of two stor- stor- . les answering the questions you have always wanted answered . ' about Matanuska, the famous colonization experiment in Alaska. , , '. By Ernie Pyle Palmer, Ark., Sept 7. It has been two and a half years since the Matanuska colonists piled off the train up here to start life all over again. So it seems time now to ask: "How are they doing?" Well, IS of the 170 colonists are self-supporting self-supporting self-supporting today. That means they are actually making their own living, without any more borrowing from the government. And the other 1557 Well, they range all the way from farmers just about overHhe hump, down to those who don t know where the next drink of whiskey is coming from. Casta Income Small Let's sort of line the thing up, and see how the colonists stand: INCOME Consists of whatever they get for their butter, eggs, chick ens, pork, Deer, vegetables, it probably probably runs from $10 to $50 a month. ' Also whatever they make doing relief work for the Corporation. And whatever they make clearing their own land. By working like a Trojan, one man can , clear an acre in 10 days. For this he gets $50 from the government but he has to pay it back. DEBTS Every month the colonist gets a bill, telling' how much he owes the government. This bill in cludes his original stock, implements, furniture, the supplies he has got on credit It doesn't include his house, barn, or land. The colonists' bills run from $2,000 to $15,000. THE PAYOFF Recently there was a ' story about some colonist who got mad and left because he wanted to start paying up on his debt and the management was so chaotic they couldn't even figure out how much he owed. Well, that is true, but it isn't auite the way it sounds. The government knows how much the man . owed, all right But it doesn't know how mucn it s going to ask him to pay. , v See Debt-Scaling Debt-Scaling Debt-Scaling Move For the government is going to cut down all these debts: No farmer could ever scratch $25,000, plus a living, out of these 40-acre 40-acre 40-acre tracts, The government knows that It may be something like this if a farmer's total debt amounts to $12,000, he may be handed a bill for final re payment of $8,000. (That's just my guess, ana not an official figures.) Shortly, a two-year two-year two-year plan will go into effect It will give each colonist who needs it enough-work-relief enough-work-relief enough-work-relief enough-work-relief enough-work-relief to meet nis running expenses. Each col' onist will thus be definitely . suh sidized for two more veara. The government expects all colonists colonists to be on their own feet within two years. But I don't think they will: It is my offhand guess that it win oe iu years. How-Colonists How-Colonists How-Colonists Feel For two days I have driven round over ' Matanuska Valley in a borrowed borrowed car, all by myself, stopping ana talking to whomever i ran onto. I have talked with at least a dozen farmers or their wives. None of them was unwilling to talk. Most of tnem were pretty well satisfied. Al most everyone had some criticism. But most of them were optimistic, and sold on the idea that they could mane a living. The first place I stopped was the m H - xl J Ms ; ..4.. a. Wv--fT Wv--fT Wv--fT Wv--fT V I . DUW imiii-i'"" imiii-i'"" imiii-i'"" Q'c 3su uriiM in' : -Hmmt. v.x x. v -iiiiiri-nTirTnrrr-nl -iiiiiri-nTirTnrrr-nl -iiiiiri-nTirTnrrr-nl -iiiiiri-nTirTnrrr-nl -iiiiiri-nTirTnrrr-nl -iiiiiri-nTirTnrrr-nl w..Usav. X v.sw.visiss One af Matanuska's most successful farmers, Walter Plppel, left above, has made pay profits In Alaska Right three I v - - ivi'i t wKmr-''-'"t'"M'M- wKmr-''-'"t'"M'M- wKmr-''-'"t'"M'M- wKmr-''-'"t'"M'M- wKmr-''-'"t'"M'M- wKmr-''-'"t'"M'M- M Typical of Matanuska's fAms is that of Allen Fredericks. Left, Mrs. Fredericks and the children pose In the doorway of their unpalntcd, but sturdy, home of Mr. and Mrs. Allen Fredericks. Fredericks. Things are going all right with the Fredericks. They did have some pretty bad run-ins run-ins run-ins with the early managers, but things have set-tledldown set-tledldown set-tledldown nowand the Fredericks are among the most satisfied of the colonists. . "What don't tou have up here that you had in the States?" I asked Mrs. Fredericks. "What have you had to elvm un?" "Nothing," she said. "We didn't have anything in the States." William Hynig can't see how things are going to turn out. It looks mighty blue to him. " - But in spite of all the dark clouds, Hynig says he's crazy about Alaska, and would sure hate to leave. , a , ; "Push.' Brought Success i- i- Walter Pippel is often spoken of as Matanuska's prize colonist the colony's No. 1 farmer.' There really are others just as good, but he is unquestionably one of the best Pippel is. a truck gardener Be used, to' raise vegetables' around Minneapolis, and as soon as he landed landed here, he started right in on vegetables vegetables exclusively. He knows the game and he works hard, and his wife and three children all help. Pippel has a lot of get-up-and-go get-up-and-go get-up-and-go get-up-and-go get-up-and-go get-up-and-go get-up-and-go about him. He has worked up his own market in Anchorage, 55 miles away, and makes a couple of trips a week delivering vegetables. ' Four Months and Hope ' Elmer and Bernice Heroux are new residents. They paid their own way up from Minnesota, . and have been here only about four months. . . "Do you think you can make it go?" I asked them. And I've never Up a giant rhubard stalk to tip, one truck gardening colonists display i heard such yearning In the voice of a man as was in his answer. "Oh, I hope so," Heroux said. "I've really got my heart set on this place. It's the only real home of our own we've ever had." Matanuska farmers don't, of course, look any different from other-farmers. other-farmers. other-farmers. And yet thereb a difference, a difference in spirit.1 It has been created in them, I believe, sinra their arrival here. . The government has furnished them everything (even though they do have to pay it back); the government government has advised them, sheltered them, lent its shoulder for them to weep on. And all this has developed in them what you might call a "baby psychology". . 1 The colonists lean on the government. government. Little of the farmer's notorious independence is gone at Matanuska. v. Crop Limitations Farming itself is different in Matanuska Matanuska -from -from what it was back where the colonists came from. Up here you don't stand and look across vast fields of growing grain. And you never will, either. For big crops, grown directly for the market can't be raised up here. Corn doesn't grow at all. And only a little wheat And fruit trees don't thrive. After vegetables, the main crop is vats and beans, mixed. They say it makes wonderful feed, even- even- for hogs. Any kind of a legume crop does well here. Potatoes flourish. So does hay. The Matanuska colonists have often often been referred to as "cream puff pioneers". I guess that's a fair title in a way, for they do have every modern comfort that a farmer in i. '. . i Profits Ebb Pioneers leaf, 84 inches wide, 54 inches from of the biggest products of the valley. comfortable home, and right, Farmer Fredericks proudly surveys his barn and chicken coop. The Fredericks are specialising In raising chickens. the States has. plus a few more. And yet. nice as it sounds, getting established in Matanuska is no cream miff business. It isn't that life is so hard it's that getting your head financially above water is hard, no matter how much the government helps. Costs are so high in Alaska, that is the point. And income, at the start so small. And today's pioneers don't mold tallow candles, and weave cloth, and build their own plows, and make their own shoes. That day has passed. Today's Pioneers buy all these things and in a year or two lust these little things can run up into thousands of dollars of debt. There is one thing about Mata nuska Colon v that I had never real ized before, and that is that It's to become a coooeratlve community. From now on, every colonist must sell, and buy,' through the association. association. It seems to -me -me a good thing. For otherwise the colonists would soon be cutting each other's throats dumping their products on the Anchorage Anchorage market. And with living costs the way they are in Alaska, the minute you cut your neighbor's throat you cut your own. There can be, and is, success In Matanuska Colony. But the colonists of this generation, it seems to me, are never going to do much more than live. The government men themselves say that this generation won't reao the benefits from Mata nuska. It will be the grandchildren of today's colonists, they say, who will garner the full benefits from this new land. . r THE END.- END.- .