June 1972 your then 17 year old happytwinsfan set out to hitchhike with his best friend Mark from Michigan to Fairbanks, Alaska where I would reunite with my older brother. I stayed there until 1978 when I entered the University of Minnesota. I left too early. In 1981 the North Pole Nicks joined the Alaska League.
North Pole, Alaska is a small town about 20 miles south of Fairbanks. Eielson Air Force base is about 20 miles south of that and that’s where 2,000 mile Gary (as opposed to 1,100 mile Sam who took us across the Canadian border) was headed in his Volkswagen bus (of course) when he picked Mark and I up. Gary was an unhappy Vietnam era Air Force Sargent on the way to his new posting at Eielson. We were good friends until he left the area in I forget what year.
He was assigned a room in the “Black Barracks” where I was allowed to sometimes hang out and get stoned with him. Gary was assigned to the “Black Barracks” because loud soul music was permitted to blast off the walls 24 -7 and the funny little white guy who liked to play Scarlatti on his harpsichord at 2 in the morning while smoking pot and drinking room temperature straight Scotch out of a coffee cup wasn’t a bother to anybody. Of course the Air Force wasn’t much concerned with whatever transpired during off duty hours in the “Black Barracks”.
Have you ever smoked a joint through an Air Force mask? It’s really fun. I highly recommend it.
About those Nicks
Nick refers to St. Nicholas so yes they were a team of Santa’s. if you need further proof of that the town of North Pole includes Santa’s house. Trot on up there and they’ll be happy to give you a tour.
They were good to. They played from 1981 through 1987 and over twenty of them made it to the bigs. Including Mark Grace. And they played against fellow Alaska Leaguers Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Bret Boone and John Olerud.
We’re talking high level baseball under the midnight sun. No stadium lights needed for those July night games. If the ball game ever did continue into the brief dark of the summer night you might see this which I first saw when I was working late shoveling horse shit for the Alaska State fair for $2.50 / hour, September 1972
North Pole Law Enforcement
My brother owned a lot of the Richardson Highway about half the way between Fairbanks and North Pole. He had a trailer sitting on it, no water, no electricity. No outhouse either but no problem if you needed to piss you just walked out the door and picked out whatever spot looked good. Some of the bushes for some reason annoyed me so I routinely pissed on them. When it came to pooping our neighbor, a North Pole cop, shared his outhouse with us. Paul also shared his weed. You could get high just by sitting in his cabin and breathing the air. His attitude was if you steal or hurt somebody you’re going down. But what people choose to eat, drink or smoke is non of the law’s business. He even once sold me a pound of grass (for zero profit). As you might guess my brother and I did not sell one speck of it. It was duly consumed. BTW during my last few years there pot was legal as the Alaska State Supreme Court ruled that the state could not demonstrate a compelling interest to justify its banishment, so, always trying to be frugal, I grew it in my bathtub under fluorescent lights.
Paul was a big guy who was way into the Robert Service thing. He lived with his wife and small child in a log cabin which he hand built. He had a sled dog team staked out in front of his house.
I had met a couple, Fred and Tina who were driving out to meet Paul and party with us. Fred was in his mid twenties and Tina was a local girl in her early teens. It was some sort of Lolita thing with James Mason replaced by a slovenly Berkley hippie in exile. I found the whole thing fascinating and perturbing. Jeesh, what is this? Fucking Fred and Goddamn Tina, which is how I described things to Paul. He loved it and could hardly wait to meet them. What fantastic names. When they arrived he ran out of his house, jumped over his front fence with hand outstretched. “Fucking Fred and Goddamn Tina – pleased to meet cha!” Fred was a little taken aback, but that only lasted a few seconds and we had a good time.
I’ll stop boring you now. May I present you with your North Pole Nicks
Merry Christmas everyone.