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Title: Henry Miyatake Interview III
Narrator: Henry Miyatake
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: September 21, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-mhenry-03-0001

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TI: Let's see, today is September 21, 1999, and this is the third interview with Henry Miyatake. We did two last year, and the place we ended up last time, Henry, was, it was after the war, and you had met your brother, and the two of you were on your way to Alaska. You had just got a job with the CAA, the Civil Aeronautics Administration, which is a precursor to the FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration. But why don't we start there, and why don't we start with the trip up to Alaska? What that was like.

HM: Okay. My brother had started employment with the CAA one year previous and so, anyway he was down on his vacation time. And as it happened, this recruiter for the eighth region, from Alaska, was down in Seattle at the same time, and so my brother arranged a civil service test with this guy Hammersley. And, I took the test and Hammersley was desperate for hiring people at that time. And so, consequently he looked over my Civil Service Exam status and he offered me a job if I was to hire on immediately for service starting in June of '48.

TI: And this was when you were about eighteen years old?

HM: Yeah, I was eighteen at that time. There was a problem because they didn't want to hire anybody in that category until they were age nineteen. So my brother decided well, he'll come back on another trip and we'll drive up to Alaska, because he wanted the vehicle. So anyway, at that time the Alcan Highway was not, not starting from the Seattle area. You had to go all the way back to Missoula, Montana to pick up the northern approach to going up to Alberta, Edmonton, White Horse, up through that route. And the Canadian section, British Columbia, Canadian section was not completed at that time. And this was the wartime Alcan Highway. So consequently we drove from Seattle to Montana to Glacier National Park. And here it was in June and it started snowing like crazy. We must've had about six inches of snow.

TI: As you were going through the Rockies?

HM: Yeah. Through the Glacier National Park. Anyway, we get through that area and we get to Lethridge, Alberta, and then we drive through Calgary, Edmonton, and then through White Horse, Northwest Territories and then Fort Nelson, and then up through Tok Junction. But that was about 2600 miles of gravel road. And if you had a fairly decent car when you started, when you ended up in Anchorage it was pretty well beat up. It, it was a really rough road. And a lot of people were discouraged from going up this Alcan Highway because it was too rough on the vehicles. The other problem was the spacing between the gas stations. Some of the spacings were like a hundred and fifty miles, and they would have signs up: "Last gas station for a hundred fifty miles, you better fill up or you gonna run out of gas." And because of that they were charging -- this is the first time [Laughs] my brother and I were charged more that $2 a gallon for gasoline. And this is an era when gas was selling for about 23 or 26 cents a gallon in Seattle. So it was a kind of a different approach to pursuing long distance automobile ride.

TI: Now, why did you decide to drive up rather than just sail up to Alaska?

HM: Well, the problem in, in Anchorage is that if you buy a vehicle there at that time there was $1,100 premium on the vehicle. And vehicles during that time period were selling for about $1,600 to about $2,000, somewhere in that range. So when you get up, got it up to Anchorage, you're talking about another $1,100. So we decided well, we're gonna drive it up there and have a vehicle in Anchorage. Because my broth -- brother wanted to do a number of things. And he was still on flight status at that time. So he was traveling outbound from Anchorage to all the fifty-eight field stations that the FAA had. And he wanted to build a house in Anchorage, and so consequently he had to have a vehicle of some sort. We selected a passenger car, which was the wrong decision to make. We should've had a pickup, but nonetheless that was the, the passenger cars were cheaper than the pickups and so we decided to go on with a passenger car. When we got up there, they said, "Well, we're gonna put you in the aero navigational facilities group." So I had to learn the teletype systems, the high speed Bohme Keying System. And this is the international method of sending weather data. And Anchorage used to collect all the weather information from the fifty-eight field stations. And then we also had a Russian intercept and we collected all the Siberian weather. And the weather starts from Siberia, and it comes through the Aleutian Chain area, comes down through Alaska, goes down to Canada, and goes down to United States, depending upon which way the jet stream was running. So all the data was based on, the predictions were based on the Russian weather. So the Russian weather was first, the Alaskan collection was next, the Canadian weather was subsequent to that, and then the U.S. weather. So, the collection was dependent on the weather information from Russia. So we used to have intercept stations down the Aleutian Chain and also northern part of Alaska, that would intercept the Russian weather on a sequential basis. And they would run updates like every two hours or somewhere in that vicinity. And this became a problem later on, but -- anyway, that was the sequence of events. And the Russians were sending data at about 200 words a minute on Morse code.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.