South Alabama heat better than quakes

Published 1:36 am Saturday, April 22, 2017

Back in 1954, I almost went to live in Whittier, Alaska, where my husband was stationed. He had filed a request for family housing so our infant son and I could join him. He withdrew the request when a minor earthquake occurred. It roused him from his Army barracks bunk in a building that was the hub of practically everything that went on. Several friends, who lived in an apartment complex with their families, said the quake had separated nails from the walls of their quarters. He found them outside in their nightclothes, shivering in the snow. It convinced him right then that he had rather spend a short tour of duty there unaccompanied than serve an extended one in the company of his family. He finished out his year’s tour and returned to the states.

Income tax time reminds me of Alaska. I remember something I saw on television several years ago. In 1976, at a time when the state of Alaska was making so much money from oil revenues it didn’t know what to do with it, a Permanent Fund was created by a constitutional amendment. The idea behind the fund was to save much of this money for future generations, in case the oil money ever dried up. I read one account that since 1982, the state has sent part of those earnings to every man, woman, and child in Alaska. Between 1982 and 2010, the amount of that check — called the Permanent Fund Dividend—averaged about $1,100 a year. With that news, some people might engage in some wishful thinking about moving to Alaska. However, in an Associated Press story, one man said he considered his payment an endurance award, considering the temperature in Alaska.

I never regretted my husband’s decision to cancel plans for our son and me to join him there. It would have involved a 15-month stay for us and two years for him. I had visions of being stranded there with a tiny baby and no way to get out.

Alaskans have the advantage of growing giant plants. I hear the carrots get so big they would make Bugs Bunny’s eyes pop on a stem. In Whittier, roads were covered with so much snow that most of the time access was gained only by plane or rail. Rail travel was constantly hampered by snow. Sometimes a moose or two got on the rails, refused to move, and delayed travel. On the other hand, there’s the view of the beautiful midnight sun, something that must be a sight to behold. My husband’s snapshots from his post showed terrain looking like it might be out of the movie, “The Call of the Wild.”

I don’t know whether Alaskans still receive those annual windfalls. Or if no income tax is still in effect. As for me, I prefer to sweat out uncomfortable income tax pangs, endure the heat and occasional snowflakes here in south Alabama, and avoid earthquakes.



Nina Keenam is retired from the newspaper business. Her column appears on Saturdays.