Cordova Chronicles: Wise money indeed

In 1932, a dapper Don Shellhorn displays the latest styles in men’s apparel outside Brown and Hawkins store in Seward, Alaska. Shellhorn family collection

Deep in the recesses of the Cordova Museum, volunteer archivist Ira Grindle spends hours poring through old files and newspapers, converting them to digital format.

It’s a labor of love, and Grindle, who was born and raised in Cordova, finds the project highly entertaining.

He finds great satisfaction in discovering fascinating tidbits through his research, and often shares them with me, as we try to sort out forgotten local history.

Often, he simply sends me an e-mail; and much to my chagrin, one that had been lost in files popped up the other day while doing some much needed cleanup of missives that dated back to 2015.

It was a brief clipping from the October 10, 1937 Cordova Daily Times. Back then, any and all news was fair game for publication under free-wheeling owner/editor Everett H. Pettijohn.

One of his popular columns contained summaries of juicy tidbits about town, and under a heading titled “WISE MONEY”, there was this:

“Don Shellhorn, close follower of the diamond game, picked a winner the other day when he backed the Yankees to win, thereby getting him a brand new shotgun from Paul Herring. However, yesterday Paul did quite well, taking the clothing merchant for a new tailor-made suit on the Giants comeback win.”

Pettijohn was referring to the 1937 World Series, in which the New York Yankees topped the New York Giants, 4 games to 1.

More importantly, what’s this betting on the Yankees?

As I mentioned in last week’s column, when Dad and I listened to the 1955 World Series on shortwave radio, we were both partisan Dodger fans, as they struggled to finally top the powerhouse in pinstripes.

Evidently Dad, who arrived in Cordova via Seward in the early ’30s to manage the clothing side of the Cordova Commercial Company, stuck with the favorites, when money, or in this case, shotguns and clothing, was on the line.

Dad, who learned how to dress in the latest style while working at the legendary Brown and Hawkins store Seward, knew a bit about baseball, and played a mean third base for one of the local Cordova teams.

As a consequence, he made more than one trip to Chitina and Kennicott with local all-star squads to face their baseball counterparts during the copper mining era. Chugging up the 196 mile railway at 20 mph lent many opportunities to mimic their major league counterparts by playing cards and rousting about in the club car, and one particular trip, Dad, using a clothing metaphor, confessed that “he lost his shirt”, on the return journey.

Hence the wager between Herring and Dad made sense, since he was experienced in losing clothing, of which a large inventory was close at hand.

What I never realized was the classic Model 12 16-gage that I inherited when Dad passed away in 1995 had such a rich history, although I always remember his wing-shooting advice to “swing through the bird” when typically shooting behind fast moving ducks.

Then again, it was he that would holler “Shoot, the air’s full of widgeons!” when a massive flock would attack our decoys, only to fly away unscathed after we both emptied our guns.

Dad would get out his pipe, stoke it up with Half and Half tobacco, and after a proper period of silence, mutter, “Pick a bird, son, pick a bird.”

Wise money, indeed.