Be it ever so humble …

Published 9:00 pm Wednesday, December 3, 2014

By Frank Roberts

Nome sweet Nome. I lived in my Nome home from ’47 to ’50. Buffalo snow? Pshaw! If you like the white stuff, you will really like that Alaskan community where the weather is cold and the people are warm.

Recently, I trekked down memory lane by looking at some pictures of Nome, 2014. Modernity has struck. The town is gussied up and, while still somewhat maintaining its uniqueness, the accent seems to be on tourism.

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Uncle Sam brought me in. I was part of the 9527th Technical Service Unit — Signal Corps — U.S. Army. At that time, Alaska was a territory. Our job was the same job Western Union did in the lower 48: sending, receiving and delivering telegrams. Grueling!

Once every two weeks I drove a very old Army bus from downtown to the long-since-closed air base. My night job was with the Armed Forces Radio Service, broadcasting from WXLN, The Voice of the Arctic. Also, I was writing for the Nome Nugget, Alaska’s oldest newspaper.

Army life was tough. There was no federal housing, so we had to find our own little abode, which I shared with Doug Scott of Seattle, his Siberian Husky and my mixed breed Pupp-o.

I was only 17 when I arrived, and the Hay family took me in as if I were one of their own. I was there for Christmas dinners, family gatherings, and hanging around three to five days a week.

A lot of my time there was spent with Betty Blakely, a tall, lovely dark-haired teen, daughter of a bartender. We would have been hitched, but momma felt I was too young and wrote to Lt. Morgan, my commanding officer. The two conspirators put the kibosh on that romance.

Walking downtown was like traipsing around an old western town — wooden sidewalks along the main drag, Front Street, and all-dirt streets. The only paved street was in front of the Federal Building, where our offices were located.

One of the week’s highlights was the big bathtub in the old Wallace Hotel. For half a buck, I could soak for an hour. Lunch? My favorite was a Wednesday special of reindeer tongue and horseradish.

The weather, of course, was wicked at times — lots of snow, lots of cold wind, temperatures averaging in the 20s, usually ranging between about 11 and the 40s, but you get used to all that.

A few Nome-ish facts:

  • For whatever reason, Wyatt Earp lived there for a spell.
  • Lucy and Desi offered one of their episodes about the town.
  • There are two or three stories about the name, but this one seems to be the favorite: It came about through an error when a British cartographer was creating a nautical chart. There was a place for a “name” and he put in — yep! — Nome.

Today’s Nome looks interesting enough, but I would opt for the Nome of the ’40s. Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like Nome.

During a 60-year career spanning newspapers, radio and television, Frank Roberts has been there and done that. Today, he’s doing it in retirement from North Carolina, but he continues to keep an eye set on Suffolk and an ear cocked on country music. Email him at