Oral History Interview:
Alf Skaflestad was born in Norway in 1908. He came to Alaska in 1928 and settled in the small Southeast village of Hoonah. Like most other men of that era, Alf faced hard times during the Great Depression. Jobs were nearly non-existent. The few jobs that were available often paid only room and board. Prices paid for commercial fishing were very low. Skaflestad managed to scratch out a living based on fishing, logging, hunting and trapping.
Alf remembers a time before motor-powered boats were readily available in Southeast Alaska. He roamed the area in a small rowboat, often traveling more then twenty miles per day on the strength of his own muscle. He scoffs at any hint that this method of transportation was a hardship, suggesting that young men are more than capable of such labor.
The local deer population has risen and fallen several times during Skaflestad's life. He attributes the fluctuations to the effects of harsh winter weather. Alf and his brother-in-law Albert Greenwald teamed up to provided winter feed for deer by chopping down large hemlock trees near the beaches. Alf credits Albert with teaching him many of the skills necessary for a successful outdoor lifestyle.
Skaflestad trapped mink and otter to supply crucial cash income for his family. He recalls furbuyer Henry Moses as being fair, but always trying to purchase furs at the lowest price possible. Marten were not indigenous to Chichagof Island, where Hoonah is located. They were introduced after Skaflestad arrived. Alf speculates regarding the impact of marten predation on resident game birds, and still questions the wisdom of introducing this new furbearer species.
Alf believes that Southeast Alaska is the best place in the world to reside. His family thrived on the abundant deer and seafood in the area. Living through the Great Depression gave this man a strong opinion of the value of hard work. Skaflestad can criticize those who do not measure up to his standards, but he also freely gives credit to those who helped improve his community and his adopted State.