“Anyone who thinks that history is dry, dead and boring should give this work a try and they’ll be quite pleasantly surprised. ‘Aunt Phil’s Trunk Volume One: Bringing Alaska’s History Alive’ is an enthralling adventure and is highly recommended.”
Aunt Phil’s Trunk: Volume Three of Bringing Alaska’s History Alive is part of the continuing historical nonfiction series co-written by Phyllis Downing Carlson and her niece, Laurel Downing Bill. Both authors grew up in Alaska and the result is a series of living history texts based on their own experiences and Carlson’s lifelong interest in, and historical research on, the state’s history and cultural development. Much of the third volume is concerned with the latter part of the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries and how previously inaccessible and remote areas of the state were brought together through the pioneering efforts of dog sledders, early automobile enthusiasts and aviators. Downing grew up in Cordova, Alaska, one of the last towns in the state to be reached by airplane. The descriptions of that town’s planned celebrations and later disappointments as each planned visit was cancelled due to extreme climate conditions is especially poignant.
Volume Three of Phyllis Downing Carlson and Laurel Downing Bill’s history series, Aunt Phil’s Trunk: Bringing Alaska’s History Alive is filled with tales of adventurers and explorers who loom larger than life. There’s the story of Dr. J.B. Beeson who traveled over 1,000 miles via a relay series of dog sleds from Anchorage to Iditarod to attend a gravely ill patient, and the follow-up account of how heroic mushers and their dogs averted a diphtheria outbreak by relaying serum through arctic conditions to Nome, Alaska. We also learn how the first cars were brought north and of the efforts of the first tour bus operator to recruit Mae West as an assistant. Then there are accounts of the visit of Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian explorer, and the story behind the first blimp to touch Alaskan soil, and the first Arctic crossings. And that’s just a very small portion of the marvelous trip through history you’ll experience within the pages of Aunt Phil’s Trunk: Volume Three of Bringing Alaska’s History Alive. I’ve had a grand time reading this series, and the armchair adventurer in me especially enjoyed this volume. It’s highly recommended.