Amazingly, I hadn’t been in Craig since 1994. That’s twenty-five years without the Hill Bar. Without the Craig Inn. Without JT Brown’s. Twenty. Five. Years. I had my reasons. As John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” In my case, it was a so-called career that took me far from Alaska and its attendant obsessions. Funny how that all changes when you finally publish the book you started more than a quarter of a century ago.
Craig has changed over that span, that’s for sure. The black & white photo on the masthead (above) was taken in 1994. The house on the corner, across from the bank, is now brown instead of a dusky tan. Shaan Seet, the native corporation, has moved into new quarters on the hill above town. Ruth Ann’s, the restaurant where the Coulthurst’s had their last supper, burned down in 2016.
Where Ruth Ann’s once stood there’s nothing but burned out piers.
But, as the saying goes, “the more things change, the more things stay the same.” The Hill Bar has a few new signs, and a fancier liquor cabinet, but is largely unchanged from its time-worn incarnation. The Craig Inn is still pink on the outside, though it’s now a brighter shade that leans toward magenta. And it’s still rowdy, always teetering on out-of-control. JT Brown’s is still there in all it’s glory, selling the nitty-gritty necessities of a fisherman’s (or woman’s) life. It still closes at the ungodly hour of 3:30 pm.
An anecdote about The Craig Inn: Lorrie and I went there early one evening, because the bartender at the Hill Bar told us they had tacos. We were hungry and the closest restaurant was closed. Its two cooks had suddenly quit. Things like that are part of the wallpaper in Craig.
Seconds after taking a seat, an obviously intoxicated fisherman swept into the place, shouting “hey, motherfucker.” In short order, he rang the gong full-force and bought a round of drinks for the house. The bartender checked his tab before pouring. We declined the free shot of vodka on offer. Soon the tide swept in other fishermen, almost as loud, almost as boisterous. When we finished our tacos, Lorrie said, “let’s go.” Then she said, “you can stay. But I’m going.”
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