A Symbol of Religious Harmony: St Mary’s Church & Sri Bhagavathy Temple of Manarcaudu

During the first week of September 2017, I visited our ancestral home at Kottayam in Kerala State of India.  The last time I was at our ancestral home in the month of September was in 1971, prior to my joining the Sainik (Military) School at the age of nine.

St Mary’s Church in Manarcaudu village, the village adjacent to ours, celebrates the feast of the Nativity of Virgin Mary on September 8. The first eight days of September   are observed as Eight Day Lent by the devotees. This occasion attracts thousands of pilgrims from all religions, Hindus, Muslims and Christians.

On the sixth day of the Lent, a historic procession called Raaza is taken out.  The Raaza is accompanied by traditional drums of Kerala – Chendamelam and caparisoned elephants.  Thousands of devotees from far and wide participate in the celebrations, carrying Muthukkuda (Royal Umbrellas), lavishly decorated umbrellas with silk parasols and silver crosses.

On the seventh day of the Lent, the ceremony of Nada Thurakkal (opening of the sanctum sanctorum) is held.  This enables the devotees to have Darshan (Holy Viewing) and venerate the Holy portrait of holy Mother Mary with child Jesus in her hand.  Such ‘darshan’ of the portrait is then closed after a week.

On the eight day of the Lent, Pachor (a sweet dish made from rice, milk and jaggery), prepared by the church, is offered to all devotees.  In the evening of the eight- day lent, the culmination of the festival is marked  by a spectacular display of fireworks. After the fireworks, parish members perform traditional art forms like Margam Kali –  a group dance  by women – and Parichamuttu Kali –  a martial dance by men – with songs  tracing their origins to the evangelistic activity of St Thomas.

A granite cross known as Kalkurisu (Stone Cross) is located at the rear side of the church.  Lighting candles around this stone cross is an important ritual in this church.  Many  of the devotees who come to the church to take part in the Eight Day Lent, after taking a ritual bath, roll themselves on the ground around the cross and light candles there.  It is believed to have a miraculous cure.

There are two ponds next to the church, one on the northern side for women and on the western side for men.  Taking bath in these ponds is believed to have miraculous healing powers.

In the centre of the hall of the Church burns the Kedavilakku (the eternal lamp or lamp that is never put out).

The rituals, the structural architecture, traditions and customs, all point to the natural amalgamation Indian Hindu culture with the Christian belief that the Syrian Christians of Kerala follow.  Christianity in Kerala is believed to have been established by St Thomas, a disciple of Christ, in the first century.

Rev. Joseph Pit, an Anglican Missionary who visited the church in 1836 was surprised to find a large crowd of pilgrims in the church and its premises.  He chronicled that “I heard that some Christians observed a special lent for a week in the name of St. Mary in Manarcaudu. They observed it in the church by avoiding certain items of food, taking daily bath and by attempting to make themselves holy….. More than 2000 pilgrims had assembled in the church and its premises.”

 

 

About 400 meters from the St Mary’s Church is the Sri Bhagavathy (Goddess) Temple.  According to local folklore, St Mary and the Bhagavathy are sisters.  At the temple’s annual festival, the priests carry the Goddess around the village on top of an elephant to receive offerings from the people. The Goddess on this journey stops at the Church to meet her sister Mother Mary.  When the Goddess arrives at the church to meet her sister, the congregation of the church receive the Goddess and makes a donation to the temple – money and a tin of oil for the temple lamps.

The devotees coming to Manarcaudu, the Hindus pray at the church and the Christians at the Temple for the blessings of Mother Mary and the Bhagavathy.  They believe that the pilgrimage is incomplete without a visit to both the sisters.

 

Bermuda : So Much More Than the ∆


Map Courtesy Bermuda Tourism (Not to Scale)

During the third week of September 2017, we travelled to Bermuda for a week’s vacation. Bermuda is Britain’s oldest and smallest British Overseas self-governing (except for external affairs and defense) overseas territory. It lies 1000 km East of USA in the North-West Atlantic Ocean. Bermuda is about 56 square km in total land area, a cluster of six main islands and 120 small islands.


We landed at LF Wade International Airport, the sole airport connecting Bermuda only to Canada, USA and UK. It is named in honour of Leonard Frederick Wade, Leader of the Opposition, who passed away in 1996. Bermuda is home to registered corporate offices of many multinational business entities, particularly for investment, insurance, reinsurance and real estate companies. Tourism is the other major industry.

We drove to the Hotel in a Taxi. Being a British territory, all vehicles are Right-Hand drive unlike the Left-Hand drive ones in Canada and USA. The electric power supply is 110 Volts and not 220 Volts. Please click here to read more about it.


As we drove through, the pastel coloured houses with slanting white roofs caught my attention. The roofs are designed to harvest rain. The steps slow down heavy rainfall helping the gutters to collect the water and store it in a tank under the house. The tanks get topped up regularly with every rainfall and every home is self-sufficient for water. There is no governmental or municipal water supply system in Bermuda.

Bermuda is not blessed with any fresh water source like lakes, rivers or ponds. The lakes and waterholes hold brackish water, hence unfit for human consumption. As Bermuda gets abundant rainfall, well distributed all through the year, the early settlers were forced to harvest rain.

The design of the slanting white roof has multiple benefits. It is mostly made of limestone and hence is heavy and not easily shifted by hurricanes or heavy winds. The white paint help reflect ultra-violet sunrays, thus keeping the homes cool.


Image Courtesy http://www.bermuda-online.org/shorts

Bermuda is the only country where the national dress for men is known by the country’s name. It is worn by male Bermudians and visitors from all walks of life for business and  parties. It is a colourful shorts, worn three inches above the knee. Bermuda Shorts are not uniquely Bermudian, but were originally worn by British military forces. It was designed as a light attire for the British Military while deployed at British garrisons in tropical and sub-tropical colonies of the erstwhile British Empire.


We spent five days in Bermuda, swimming and relaxing on its beaches. The beaches are characterised by its pink textured sand and turquoise blue water. We also enjoyed Kayaking in the serene quiet waters.


We visited the Crystal Caves on a guided tour- a journey of amazing natural beauty – on pathways of floating pontoons spanning a crystal clear underground lake, about 50 feet below ground level.

Mark Twain, one of the first visitor to this wonder of Mother Nature wrote in a letter “The most beautiful cave in the world, I suppose. We descended 150 steps and stood in a splendid place 250 feet long and 30 or 40 wide, with a brilliant lake of clear water under our feet and all the roof overhead splendid with shining stalactites, thousands and thousands of them as white as sugar, and thousands and thousands brown and pink and other tints.”


Crystal cave was discovered in 1907 when two young boys were attempting to retrieve a lost cricket ball. They saw the ball dropping into a large hole. As one of them went deeper and deeper into the hole to fetch the ball, he realised that it wasn’t an ordinary hole. It was leading to some wondrous cave.

The owner of the property Mr Wilkinson was immediately informed. He then used a rope and lowered his 14-year old son through the hole. At a depth of about 120-ft and using a bicycle lamp, his son for the first time saw the wonder of the caves. The hole through which the boys entered is still visible.


The dramatic formations of stalactites and stalagmites which are crystal-like pointed structures naturally formed out of limestone rocks, offer an awesome view. A stalactite is an icicle-shaped formation, with a pointed tip, that hangs from the ceiling of a cave. It is produced by precipitation of minerals and lime from water dripping through the cave ceiling. They grow at a yearly rate of about 3 mm.


A stalagmite is an upward-growing mound of mineral deposits that have precipitated from water dripping onto the floor of a cave. Most stalagmites have rounded or flattened tips.


When a stalactite touches a stalagmite it forms a column as seen on the Right side of the image, which will surely take thousands of years.


Different chemical elements along with the limestone give different colours to the stalactites and stalagmites. Iron and other minerals, as well as acids from surface vegetation, combine with calcite crystals to add shades of red, orange and black.

Crystal Cave, just like other caves in Bermuda, formed, when sea level was considerably lower than now. When the Ice age ended and glaciers melted, sea level rose and inundated the beautiful cave formations.


We Visited HMD Bermuda (Her Majesty’s Dockyard, Bermuda) after a 30 minute ferry ride. This base was the principal base of the Royal Navy in the Western Atlantic between American independence and the Cold War. After the closure of most of the base as an active Royal Navy’s dockyard in 1957, the base fell into a state of disrepair. Storms and lack of maintenance caused damage to many buildings. Beginning in the 1980s increased tourism to Bermuda stimulated interest in renovating the dockyard and turning it into a tourist attraction. The Naval Air Station located here was called HMS Malabar by the Royal Navy, after the Indian princely state, now forming part of Kerala State.

Bermuda Triangle, for sure everyone must have heard about it; it did not engulf any of us. It is surely a myth. Even if it is not, I have no place there. I would better stay in Bermuda.

Musings in the Mist – A Journey of an Indian Army Brat – from Childhood to an Army Officer


This book is authored by Major Shona George, Regiment of Artillery, Indian Army, a personal friend.  Rather, his father Late Colonel Raju George, again from Artillery and I shared many hours  discussing various subjects ranging from military, history, religion, faith, parenting, philosophy, etc.

The book is fast paced and gripping.  It is a about 160 pages –  short enough hold your interest and cover the essentials, but long enough to get into your mind with a detailed account of what an Indian Army Officer – Sam Kapoor goes through.

The language used is simple, with adequate explanations about other language words and also military terminologies.  The book is as expected, divided into three sections.

The first dealing with Sam’s childhood of growing up in the Military Cantonments – a gypsy life – natured in Assam and nurtured in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Bengal, Rajasthan, Delhi, Nagaland – rather most Provinces of India Union.  The life of a kid maturing to an adult through his teens is well etched. The language and narration keeps up with the innocence of a kid, with all the pranks, comical situations and activities the youngsters indulge in.  This chapter depicts the growth of Sam into a leader, through his various childhood activities.    Turning into adolescence –  a university student in Delhi  – and the hiccups everyone faces, interaction with friends, crushes, infatuations and ultimate love for a girl has been essayed out with its essence intact.  Ultimate dilemma of Sam to choose between his dream of becoming an Army officer like his dad and his love gives a cinematic twist to the narration.

Sam as a newly commissioned Lieutenant serving in Siachen Glacier – the highest and coldest battlefield in the world – forms the second part.  It is real fast paced, fascinating and will surely touch your inner cord.  What goes through Sam’s mind, without any dilution has been well explained, especially what Sam goes through losing the soldiers under his command.  The irony every Army Officer faces while breaking the news of loss of a soldier to his parent, carrying out the last rites  of an officer whom he met briefly, digging out a soldier trapped under an avalanche  – could not have been explained better.  At least I can vouch for it having been through similar situations.

Third part of the book deals with the operations in Kashmir Valley, dealing with terrorists.  Here again the author has done justice bringing out what goes through Sam’s mind as a military leader.  This I am sure is an experience most Officers of the Indian Army in the last three decades would have been through.

This book is a must read for all those who follow the Indian Army, its Officers and Soldiers.  The reader will surely end up with a feeling of patriotism and leave you with a hair-raising and spine-chilling sensation.

A prescription for sure of all those self-claimed Desh-Bhakths.

The book is available on Amazon.in, eBay and Flipkart. The ebook version is available on readwhere.com and the international edition is available on Amazon.com.

Special Aircraft for the Indian Cricket Team

During our recent trip to Alaska, we flew from Toronto to Vancouver.  We boarded the early morning Air Canada flight from Toronto.  The flight duration was of about five hours, but the clock only moved by two hours because the clock had to be set back by three hours as the time zone of Vancouver is three hours behind Toronto.

The five hours flight was made more comfortable than the regular one as the aircraft, an Airbus 319 variant deployed was the special charter plane used to fly various teams of the National Hockey League (NHL).  The aircraft had only 58 seats, that too all First Class, with all the accessories like comforters, extra legroom, LCD screens, and a private jet-like experience.  Thank you Air Canada.  They neither charge us any premium nor extra for the additional comfort and services rendered on our Economy Class ticket.

Former India cricket captain Kapil Dev has suggested the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to buy an airplane for the Indian cricket team in order to reduce travel time and resulting fatigue in an already busy schedule. He had made a similar suggestion to the BCCI a few years ago too.  With the T20 Indian Premier League (IPL) also going great guns, BCCI is surely making good money.  By owning a plane, could be in partnership with any of the leading carriers, it is sure to save a lot of time and make life easier for Team India and also for various IPL teams.

In the middle of the aircraft were four seats on either side with a large table.  Surely, it must be for the team management, the captain, the coach, the physio to hold any meetings in flight to work out strategy for the next game or to evaluate the team’s performance in their previous game.

With a busy schedule ahead, both at home and at international locations, Team India is in for spending a lot of time in air.  The effect of jetlag travelling across the globe takes a fair share of energy that too sitting in a cramped position, especially after playing a physically and mentally tiring match.  Why, even the practice sessions of today takes the toll.

It could also be feasible for various IPL teams to own their own aircrafts in collaboration with various domestic carriers.  The aircraft could be used on the domestic circuit when the IPL is not in session.  It will surely be a great draw with the cricket crazy Indian public, to be sitting on a seat usually occupied by their cricketing hero.  Obviously, such seats will go at a premium.  The aircraft can also be chartered for corporate events, tourism packages, pilgrimage and also for weddings.

It would not only generate extra mullah for the airline, but would also help in with their publicity.

Kapil Dev’s suggestion must be taken up by BCCI  and all the IPL franchisees, at least to make  the players enjoy a better and comfortable flight in future.

The Indian Digital Revolution

During my visit to our village in Kerala in August-September 2017, I observed an  increased use of cellphones and lack of verbal communication among family members and also among friends.  A family on a dinner at a posh restaurant, all the family members were glued to their mobile devices.  If it was the aim of the outing, it would have been better at home.  The relatives at homes I visited, the scene was no different – each one busy with their devices – smiling at times – may be enjoying the very same joke or watching the very same video clip, with hardly any verbal communication.  Wouldn’t it be better in case the same was shared by all?

Another notable aspect was the absence of laptop or desktop computers at home.  Obviously the modern cellphone does have much more capabilities than the computer, but it reduces the possibilities of parental monitoring.  Fast and cheap data connectivity, at a fraction of a cost as compared to Canada, appears to be the major factor driving children to over-use their cellphone.  The Indian parents care too much for their children – they pay for both the cellphone and the monthly bills of their children.  Some parents take ‘pride’ in the digital abilities of their young kids and flaunt their kid’s latest cellphone.  Could be that some parent is today looking out to be first proud parent of the school to provide iPhone X.

Everyone, at home, travelling or at places of leisure, were all too busy swiping continuously on their mobile devices.  They were obviously not reading, but only glancing which is given out by the frequency of their swipes.

The next causality of this ‘digital revolution’ is reading.  No one seemed interested in paperback books, newspapers or periodicals.  They appear more interested in sharing or forwarding what they received.  The comments posted on social media are mostly solitary words.  If someone does not read, how can you expect him/her to write?

The ‘sharing and forwarding’ syndrome has nipped creativity in the children and in the youth.  The most appreciated video clips are of those children mimicking the movie superstars.  Mimicry seems to have become accepted as an art form in Kerala and is the most sternly competed event in the Youth Festivals organised by the schools and also at the district and state level competitions.  Most TV Channels air at least a couple of mimcry shows with children as young as Kindergarten kids to grandparents as participants.  There are hardly any show to explore the creative talent of the kids and the youth.

Kerala homes about two decades ago had a gravel spread  courtyard with a little garden.  Every morning the courtyard was swept clean of the fallen leaves.  Today there is neither the gravel spread courtyard nor the garden.  The courtyards have all been tiled or concreted and the gardens have been replaced by potted plants – some even the artificial ones.  No one appears to have time and energy to get up early morning to sweep away the fallen leaves.  Further, most fruit trees that adorned the area in front of the homes have been felled.  Where are the leaves to fall now?

In our growing days, it was the duty of all the children at home to ensure that the courtyard was kept clean and the garden tended to.  As both our parents were school teachers, we had to do the hard work to keep the home beautiful.  Nowadays the parents want their children to study all the time and do not want them dirtying their hands.  Obviously there is some disconnect.

Two days after I landed in Kerala, the morning newspaper carried the frontline news about the Blue Whale Game, an Internet game that claimed the life of college student.  The game allegedly consists of a series of tasks assigned to players by administrators during a 50-day period, ending with the challenge requiring the player to commit suicide like the beached whales.

The parents of the victim claimed that before ending his life, their son did not behave normal and also carved some initials on his body.  The victim’s mother said that there were signs that he was taking up the life-risking challenges that Blue Whale administrators ask its users to perform.  The victim is believed to have jumped into a river though he did not know how to swim and had to be rescued.  In April, once the victim is said to have  asked his mother, “What if I die? Will you be upset?”. Two weeks later he committed suicide and before ending his life, he had  watched a number of horror movies.

The administrators or curators of the game are in the lookout for kids who visit sites carrying suicidal content or the kids ‘googling’ issues like suicide, self inflicted injuries, etc.  The administrator now sends in an invite to join.    Once a kid gets in touch with the administrator, he is given a new challenge each day. Then children are supposed to take a photo or video to prove that the challenge is completed.

When kids accept the game, the administrator gets some personal information from them or they extract images and video clips from their device. In case children want to leave or terminate the game, the administrator threatens with exposure or harm to their family. On the fiftieth day, the administrator instructs the participant on how to commit a suicide.

When I discussed this subject with the parents, everyone seem to carry a misconception that “Our children are God fearing and respectful to their parents. They will never visit such sites.”  No one appeared concerned about it and the news channels carried the news accompanied by verbose discussions by the so called ‘experts’ for a day.  Barring a few, most participants in the channel discussions brushed it off as a onetime phenomenon.  The clerics blamed it on lack of prayers and fear of God among youth.

The need for parent-child communication needs no further elaboration.  Please read my earlier Blogpost on the subject by clicking here.  The parents need to set an example by curtailing the use of their mobile devices at homes, especially when children are present.

The parents got to talk to their kid about the game.  The aim being to find out as to whether it has already taken root in the child’ school.  In case of any indication, it is best to inform the school about it.  The parents need to be aware of mood and behavioural changes of their children and got to go for professional advice to deal with the situation.  The quacks and clergy are obviously not the answer to your child’s problems.

The Last Lap

We steamed off from Ketchikan by 5 PM on 03 August and we had to sail for about 40 hours to our final destination – Vancouver. The ship cruised through the Inside Passage, crossing from the US to Canada. On either sides were the coastal mountains cut off by glaciers millions of years ago. It provided a spectacular view of coastal rainforests, beaches, waterfalls and mountains. The passage has been the route since the first passenger steamers of the Yukon gold rush in the 1890’s. The Inside Passage provides safe transit as a sheltered West Coast waterway.  The journey offered a view of many fishing trawlers laden with their catch heading to harbour, historic lighthouses on rocky isolated shores, coastal First Nations houses fronted with proud totem poles and bald eagles.

In the evening the crew of the ship (882 crew members from 44 countries) put up an absorbing and entertaining cultural programme to bid goodbye to their guests.

Next morning, Fabrizio Fazzini, the Executive Chef of the ship held a culinary demonstration, showcasing few of his signature dishes. Jean Paul Misiu, the Maître d’Hôtel was the host. In large organizations such as hotels, or cruise ships with multiple restaurants, the Maître d’Hôtel is responsible for the overall dining experience including room service and buffet services, while head waiters or supervisors are responsible for the specific restaurant or dining room they work in.

The culinary show was followed by a tour of the kitchen. The kitchen was spread over two decks, connected by two sets of escalators. It was a well laid out kitchen with adequate space for the staff to work and was all spick and span. Every section had separate storage lockers, maintained at specified temperature as dictated by the items stored.

Pasta and Spaghetti Section

Pastry Shop where 7000 assorted pastries are produced each day. All baking needs like bread, cakes, and pastries are made here.

Soup Section

Sauce Section

Vegetable Section where 4 tonnes of vegetables are used.

Butchers Shop where 700 kg of fish and seafood and 1600 kg of meat is prepared and served each day.

Garde Manger (French for ‘keeper of the food’) is a cool, well-ventilated area where cold dishes (such as salads and appetizers) are prepared and other foods are stored under refrigeration. The person in charge of this area is known as the Chef Garde Manger or Pantry Chef.

At the end of the tour Marina purchased a cookbook authored by Fabrizio Fazzini, the Executive Chef. The book was autographed by the Executive Chef and Jean Paul Misiu, the Maître d’Hôtel.

Our ship docked at the Vancouver’s Fraser Port on 05 August morning. The port resembled a modern airport with all the facilities like aerobridge, customs and immigration offices, car parking etc. This port has been is consistently ranked as one of the most passenger friendly ports in the world and so is no surprise over 800,000 cruise passengers come through this port each year,

On coming out of the cabin balcony, I realised that the visibility was pretty poor with smoke hanging in the air. It was all due to wildfires in British Columbia (BC), about 150 of them burning that day. Since April, there have been 928 fires due to a combination of lightning and tinder-dry conditions. Of these over 500 of them have been confirmed to be naturally caused while another 364 were human caused. These numbers are consistent with previous years where roughly 60 per cent of fires are natural and 40 per cent are caused by people.

Bans on campfires as well as the use of off-road vehicles on public lands had been in effect for most of BC. People were warned about the heavy smoke causing poor visibility on roads and drivers should have their headlights on and watch out for any wildlife. The smoke also posed a health risk for infants, the elderly and people with chronic health conditions.

The BC Province and Canadian government have left no stone unturned to fight these wildfires. They have moved in firefighters with their equipment from all other Canadian provinces and also requisitioned water-bomber aircrafts. The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) through Operation LENTUS is in the forefront by providing aircrafts for transportation of the firefighting crew and equipment from all over Canada. The CAF aircrafts are also employed in evacuating locals who are affected by the wildfires, transporting first responders (Ambulance with Paramedics, Police and Firefighters), delivering essential aid to isolated communities and in assisting the local police in providing information to the public and conducting observation and reporting tasks at assigned points along access roads in affected areas.

We disembarked from the Coral Princess and bid goodbye to the crew and boarded a coach to the Vancouver Airport to catch out flight to Toronto,

All good voyages and travels must come to an end, but surely the next experience is awaiting.

Ketchikan – City of Totem Poles and Salmon

Over 80 Native American Totem Poles dot Ketchikan and a traveler  cannot go a few blocks without seeing one.  These Totem Poles serve as important illustrations of family lineage and the cultural heritage of Native American people.

The Totem Pole shown above tells the story of a Raven, who desired the sun, the moon and the stars believed to have been owned by a powerful Chief.  The Raven is depicted on the top of the pole.  Below the Raven is the Sun.  In order to procure the heavenly bodies, the Raven changed form to appear as the Chief’s daughter’s son.  The Chief’s daughter is depicted below the Sun.  The Raven cried to his grandfather until the Chief gave him the boxes containing the heavenly bodies.  The Raven opened the box, bringing the sun, moon and the stars to the earth.

This is the Chief Johnson Totem Pole.  The figures symbolise a single story about Raven.  On top is the mythological Kajun Bird.  The un-decorated long blank space symbolises the high regard in which the Kajun Bird is placed.  Below the blank space are the Raven’s slaves with the Raven below it.  The bottom figure is that of the Fog Woman.  She is identified with the summer salmon run. It was believed that the Fog Woman produced all salmon and caused them to return to the creeks of their birth.

The life story of the Alaskan Salmon is another interesting tale.  The story that takes the Salmon  from the rivers and streams of Alaska’s wild frontier to the Pacific Ocean and back again.  How they find their way back from the Pacific Ocean is intriguing.

Starting out as small eggs in a stream bed, they hatch and begin their journey downstream towards the ocean. They spend a couple of years in the streams and rivers growing up. During this time, their bodies change to adapt to seawater. The young adult salmon then head out to sea and spend several years swimming in the Pacific Ocean.

Adult salmon spend one to four years swimming and feeding in the Pacific Ocean. They grow to their adult size and develop unique adult markings . Their ocean journey is long and hazardous as they are constantly hunted by seals, whales and fishermen. After swimming more than 2000 miles throughout the Pacific Ocean they swim back to their original stream or river where they re-adapt to the fresh water and swim back up the stream to reach their spawning grounds, the place of their birth. To ‘spawn’ means to release or deposit eggs.  Sometimes this involves swimming up rugged rivers with rapids and even waterfalls to leap.  Upon reaching their spawning ground, the female adult clears a spot in the stream-bed by sweeping her tail back and forth creating a gravel nest and lays her eggs.  The male adult salmon now fertilizes the egg with his sperm and protects them until both die within a couple of weeks and leave the embryos to fend for themselves.  Their carcasses decompose in the stream creating a nutrient-rich environment for the new infant salmon that are about to hatch.

It is obvious that Alaska salmon have interesting lives. One has to admit that a salmon that has returned to its birth stream after years at sea is an admirable fish to say the least. Due to the excellent salmon management practices that now exist in Alaska, salmon populations are well protected.

If the salmons could come up the Ketchikan’s  streams  to spawn, the men of Ketchikan were not far behind.  By the turn of the Twentieth Century, the population of male workers in the city was almost double that of the females.  This encouraged prostitution and thrived until banished in 1954. In 1903, the City Council ordered all the bawdy houses to be moved to the Creek Street.  At the time in Alaska, prostitution was tolerated but only if it did not occur on land.  This gave birth to Creek Street, where the houses were built on stilts above a creek.  The women who worked in Creek Street called themselves as ‘sporting women.’

As per the then Alaskan laws, more than two ‘female boarders’ constituted a prostitution house.  Hence, most Creek Street ladies lived in pairs or alone.  The only exception was Star Dance Hall, (the building with the salmon), a two storey building with 21 rooms, with live music and dance partners.

Single men frequented the Creek Street openly, whereas the married men used the more discreet Married Man’s Trail through the woods.  The girls could easily identify them by the mud on their shoes

At the other end of the Creek Street lived Dolly who bought this house in 1919 and lived here till her death in 1975.  Dolly lived all alone as she preferred to work alone. In those days when the average Ketchikan male worker earned $1 a day, Dolly charged each man $3.  She purchased her house for $800 and paid it off in two weeks.

Dolly neither smoked nor drank, but her house was the most sought after ‘watering hole’ as prohibition was in place.  Dolly earned more money selling small amounts of liquor for large sums to her clients than she did through prostitution.  She kept one or two bottles in the house at a time and hid the rest under the dock. It was easier for her to discard them in case of a raid.   Many of the Creek Street houses had trapdoors where they could receive alcohol deliveries under the dock in the darkness of night.

Dolly was an industrious lady.  As soon as people realised the ineffectiveness of French Silk Condoms in vogue then, with the dead stock Dolly had, she made flowers out of them to decorate her bath curtain.

Dolly’s bedroom was done up very tastefully, obviously it was here she conducted her business.  It appears she loved pink, red and green colours.  The furniture in the room was a gift from a client a from Petersburg.

When Dolly died on July 1975 at the age of 87, all the major newspapers in Alaska carried her obituary, paying tribute to a woman with an indomitable spirit exemplified the tough, roistering years of Ketchikan’s early history.

By evening, It was time for us to bid adieu to the colourful historic city of Ketchikan.  We embarked on our ship for the last leg of our sailing to Vancouver, Canada.

Next : The Last Lap