On Sunday Jerry and I had dinner with 3 of our Manley friends. We have been away for a year, and so we had a lot to catch up on.
The new airport, which had been planned last year, was not funded, and so its construction has been put off. Perhaps it will be started next summer. Our friends think that it will ultimately go. The road to Nome, which the Fairbanks Daily News Minor had shown a few months ago as probably going through Manley, turning on the Tofty Road and passing right by our house, is another matter. Our friends said, basically, that’s not going to happen, at least not in our lifetimes.
In a way I’m sorry, because I would like to travel that road, but on the other hand, I dislike the little bit of mining traffic that passes along our road now. It seems that most of the mining is moving from Tofty to Livengood. Every night when we walk the dogs we see big trucks going up the road pulling empty lowboys. They come back the next morning hauling heavy mining equipment. Jerry thinks there hasn’t been much gold at Tofty for a long time.
But the big event of the past year was the death of Bob Lee which happened just before Christmas. Of course, we had heard about it, but last night we got all the details.
Bob Lee, a towering man, was a pillar of the Manley community. He came here in the early 70’s and bought the lodge. Before he came here he had been a state trooper. He had a seemingly endless supply of stories about when he was a trooper. I have heard him tell some of those stories, and they were always entertaining.
Before Bob bought the lodge it had gone through several owners who were unable to make a viable business from it. In the first few years he owned the lodge it did well. There was commercial fishing on the Yukon and a small processing plant here in Manley. There were 2 or 3 Japanese fishermen here processing roe. That was going on when Jerry came here and bought the store and the electric company.
Bob was the postmaster when Jerry got here. The post office was in the bar and there were complaints about that: some people objected to having to enter the bar to pick up their mail. Jerry ran the store for a couple of years, but shop keeping was not really to his liking. Jerry started a telephone company since at the time there were no telephones in Manley. Bob bought the store and moved the post office from the bar into the store.
Mining in Tofty brought business to Bob. The store sold groceries, liquor and a few basic necessities. Fire crews and construction crews used the lodge which include over night facilities and a restaurant.
Bob prospered with the years. He had one child, David, who grew up in Manley.
David Lee had a job on the pipeline road near a small airport and he often flew his airplane to work. One day about 3 years ago he left here in marginal weather and never arrived. Jerry saw the initial FAA accident investigation report and it appears the plane came apart in the air. This can happen in severe weather. It was a dreadful accident and, as someone said, David must have had an “Oh Shit” moment. He was the only one in the small single engine airplane, a Piper Cherokee 235.
It was a terrible blow to Bob to lose his only child. For a long time he could talk of nothing else, and his planned marriage to Lisa, his third wife, was postponed for a year.
Over the years that he owned the lodge Bob improved it. He carefully kept it in the old style, collecting articles and decorations in keeping with its tradition and he furnished it with antiques of its period. The bar was lovingly restored and improved. I am told that Bob’s son David did much of the carpentry work on the bar counter, which is really a work of art.
I have no pictures of the bar counter and the lodge is not open at this time of year. It is closed during the winter from the end of the hunting season until May. But here are some pictures of the restaurant and bar from my archives.
The wonderful old lodge makes a trip to Manley worth while.
Last year Bob was medivaced out of Manley, and when he came back he was attached to an oxygen supply. He told us that he would probably have to be on it for the rest of his life. Just before he died he and Lisa made a trip to the Mayo Clinic. He was told at the clinic that he was doing well but as almost as soon as they came back he collapsed and died.
Lisa is working hard to run the store and the lodge. There is a temporary postmaster, and the job is now being advertised. Untangling Bob’s affairs is a huge job for Lisa. First the settlement of David’s affairs must be completed, something Bob was working on before he died. David left a child, Bob’s grandchild.
Bob was generous with his employees. He did great good for this community, and his loss will be felt for a long time.
Another development that our friends told us of is the plan by one of the owners of the land around the hot springs (where there is thermal activity) to establish some commercial greenhouses. That should be a big boost to the economy of the community.
In the meantime, since we arrived a week ago, most of the snow has melted. We took our first walk in the woods. The poodles, who clearly remembered this place, were overjoyed. I know that they remembered because almost as we walked in the door Fluffy found his favorite toy, a cong and Daisy took up her perch on the back of the sofa, scanning the yard for rabbits.
As we walked up the hill in back of the house, through the birch forest Fluffy streaked back and forth through the trees sniffing all the exciting scents. Poor Daisy can’t be let off the leash. She is naughty and doesn’t come when called unless she feels like it. The forest floor is already beginning to green.
The last time I was in residence in Manley I wrote a number of posts about this small community. My husband spent his prime here, and those years I believe were his happiest. I came here with him almost 4 years ago, we were married here. Later we bought a small house here which we worked hard to fix up.
I write about things which interest me. There are many things that interest me; too many, I often think, which may be why I never really excelled at any one thing. Besides writing, I am interested in politics, rocks, painting, birds, dogs, opera, biology, gardening, microscopic things and more.
People interest me. People of all sizes, shapes, colors and ages, of all religious or political persuasions. I like most people. I liked the people here in Manley and I wrote about them. I thought many of them were smart, resourceful and funny. They struggle with a harsh climate and make a good thing of it. I tried to convey that when I wrote about them. Somehow, without meaning to, I managed to offend a number of them, and for that I am truly sorry.