SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


The frozen eagle
By June Allen


March 13, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - I had to smile when I saw the picture of the beautifully painted eagle on the KPU truck! That eagle no doubt has different significance to different people. Up until maybe 25 to 30 years or so ago, Ketchikan admittedly suffered from an awful lot of power outages! I know that when I moved back to Ketchikan in 1987, after an absence of almost 20 years, I made sure I packed a nice oil lamp and a hefty supply of candles. There are a lot of folks who still have stories about holiday turkeys and dinners left half-cooked in the dark because of a power outage. It's bound to happen once in awhile in any town visited by wind and rain of the super-sized kinds experienced in Ketchikan! The response to the temporary inconvenience of a blackout ranged from amused to downright angry ­ it just happened too often back then.

jpg eagle

American Bald Eagle
Photograph By Carl Thompson

So people used to say, tongue-in-cheek, when the lights went out, "Yep, an eagle just flew into the lines somewhere, again." The joke went around town that KPU kept a frozen eagle or two on hand to haul out for PR occasions!
Eagles really DID fly into the lines now and then, and trees also fell across lines. Sometimes the whole darn pole crashed. The truth of the matter was that KPU's very old, very decrepit utility poles and lines, equipment, etc. sorely needed to be replaced and upgraded for the whole utility. It took money, and KPU back then had such a bad word-of-mouth reputation that a city councilman would have been hard pressed to be brave enough to ask for funds to correct the problems. But a series of determined KPU management types weren't shy - Southworth, Magyar and Tom Stevenson to name just a few, finally pushed through the upgrades. And then power outages became a thing of the past. At least most of the time.
We don't hear much about Evil KPU these days. History dies hard in Ketchikan -- the KPU-bashing was for a long time based on opposition to the city's 1935 decision to buy and operate the utility in the first place -ancient history and purely political. And added to that the management by a series of revolving and ever-changing councils. And sometimes people would bash KPU even for city traffic or parking tickets or other purely city-general-government charges! Oh well, we're only human.
I may not have said this back then, but power outages were marvelous times to sit back and take a deep breath. We could light the candles and know a whole lot wasn't going to happen until the power was back on. Without radio or TV we had to talk to one another! And then there was the half-disappointment when the lights did flick back on. There was the loss of that soft and cozy atmosphere.
Viva La KPU, to all its dedicated workers.


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June Allen has been a reporter and a writer for many years.
After retiring, she moved from Ketchikan and is now living in Palmer, Alaska.

Contact June Allen at june(at)

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