The Senior Citizens of Kodiak hosted their annual Veterans Day luncheon Thursday at the Senior Center. Seventy four people attended the meal, where local vets ate a hearty plate of roast beef, baked potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, with chocolate cake for dessert. Also in attendance was a Scandinavian band, composed of a fiddler and an accordionist, who provided some light ditties for those eating.
In attendance was Floyd Anderson, a veteran of the Air Force, who’s been living in Kodiak since 1966.
“I was in Anchorage at the time, and everyone was talking about the crab fishing in Kodiak, and I thought, ‘What the hell,’” said Anderson. “And I’ve never seemed to be able to leave since.”
The half century that 86-year-old Anderson has spent settled in Kodiak does not reflect his earlier life, which saw him jumping from job to job in numerous states around the country.
“I’m a pretty short-time guy,” Anderson said, with a smile. “I don’t know if it’s the work I choose or just my wanderlust.”
Anderson was born April 28, 1931, in Colville, Washington. He left his hometown at the age of 18 and went to work on a sawmill in Montana.
“Then, well ... the snow got pretty deep,” Anderson said, so he went to work with a friend at a Boeing plant in Seattle, where he was involved in building the first two experimental models of the B-52 bombers. He spent eight months working there, for a relatively small wage – “Maybe a dollar and a nickel” – but started to suspect he was going to be drafted into the military. Rather than face the draft, he decided to enlist.
Anderson signed up to join the U.S. Air Force in 1951.
He traveled to Texas for boot camp and then spent time in various schools while attending flight training. In the fall of 1952, he was sent over to an air base in Yokota, Japan, to serve a 30-mission tour of duty, flying B-29 bombers over North Korea.
“We were flying pretty long missions – like 18 hours,” Anderson said. “We were dropping bombs on North Korea ... didn’t drop enough of them, it seems.”
After six months, Anderson went back to Texas, then spent time in New Mexico, Florida and finished up his enlistment in Springfield, Massachusetts. He briefly considered re-enlisting, but finally thought “to hell with it,” and left the military for good.
After deciding he didn’t care for the East Coast – “Too many people” – he spent the next few years working back in Washington, then down in an oil field in New Mexico. An injury to his hand – “Mashed it up between a couple pieces of heavy iron” – then saw him head to Montana to recover at his father’s house. Once healed, he went back to working oil fields, a job he said he enjoyed thoroughly.
“A bunch of tramps in those oil fields; there today, gone tomorrow,” he said. “So I knew I’d fit in.”
After reading a book on Alaska, Anderson was inspired to head north, so he bought a pick up truck and traveled to the Kenai Peninsula where he landed a drilling job.
Coastal drilling, he explained, was tough work and “strictly primitive,” so when his then-wife, June, found work in Anchorage, he accompanied her there in 1963.
Anderson ended up driving gravel trucks during the construction of parts of the George Parks Highway.
A few years later, he settled down in Kodiak.
Anderson spent decades both as a fisherman and working in construction. He met his second wife, Nancy, who has since passed away, and bought a gillnet site on the Westside.
“I fished on some of those salmon boats, but that’s pretty close quartered,” he said. “I liked gill-netting and living in a cabin on the beach better.”
At 75 years old, Anderson decided he had had enough and finally retired, selling his site in 2006. He now spends most of his time reading.
“I’m a ferocious reader; I’m compelled to read,” he said. “The fact is, I can forget the whole world when I’m lost in a book.”
Reflecting on his time serving in the Air Force, Anderson said he doesn’t regret the years he spent on various air bases. On the contrary, he recalled all the people from different walks of life he met during his enlistment.
“People are all raised different,” he said. “I learned that in the Air Force.”