Life on the Last Frontier that was Alaska in the 1920’s was rough and tough at best–as circumstances surrounding my birth will attest. My parents Jack and Pauline Hunt were living in the small village of Kodiak when I was expected. No doctor, no hospital, only a midwife to assist. My parents were delighted to hear that a doctor would be on the next boat arriving near my birth date. The following is an account, as related to me, of the doctor’s arrival and the ensuing events.
The U.S. Marshall at Kodiak received a telegram from the District Judge at Valdez to the effect that a Dr. R.E. Smith, who had been highly recommended by a prominent doctor in Seattle, would arrive on the S.S. Watson and the Judge asked the Marshall to extend to Dr. Smith the courtesies of his office and to assist him in any possible way.
Dr. Smith arrived and set up shop, and in no time at all he had all the sick and lame kicking up their heels. He brought with him, or purchased locally, a goodly supply of moonshine, and no one could get within forty feet of his office without being invited in for a shot; that produced the necessary good will. He always had a .45 automatic tucked in his belt. Everybody figured it was just one of his idiosyncrasies and maybe he thought he would have to shoot a bear or two while making his rounds. Or maybe there was just a small screw loose.
All went along smoothly until the day a few months later that I was to arrive. Everything was under control so the doctor invited the new father-to-be in for a drink to celebrate the occasion; that led to another, which ended up in a king-sized bender for both but especially “Dr.” Smith. Nothing to do now but call in the native midwife who performed in her usual flawless manner.
People had a hunch the good doctor wanted no part of a childbirth case. That was confirmed when it was discovered later that he was an escaped convict from the United States, hiding out in Alaska. “Doctor” Smith had been a chemist, but his medical knowledge was wanting.