A Hot Time in Town

Since its origins, Fairbanks has had tourists visit during the summer months. The following story is how one tourist spent his brief stay in the Golden Heart City over 100 years ago:

Fairbanks Evening News- August 23, 1906


Algernon Van Renslaer is a baffling name for use in the little story; it is too suggestive of monocle and Prince Albert, with a knickerbocker lineage, to carry with it the swaggering Cockney air of its bearing. Maybe it is well to mention that his fellows know Algie only as “Stub” or “Liverpool Shorty.” With the usual fitness of such nomenclature these names describe the Van Renslaer person’s two most prominent characteristics, brevity in stature, and a lingo that suggests Bow-Bells before the second word is spoken.

But all this has little to do with an incident of yesterday in which Algernon and a carefully cultivated jag played the chief parts. The effect in mug browns, Cyrus Noble, Hermitage, Old Crow 116, and square-faced gin had reached that stage where its wearer has only the consciousness of enlarged and distorted mental capacities, a feeling of ripe affection for all humankind, and the idea that to go in any direction is to be on the right course.

So it was with Van. In some way he got tacked off toward the bridge, while beating from bar to bar along the First avenue shoals. Getting a good seaway on the bridge, he flung out all sail and drove across at a clipping pace. Reaching the objective side of the river, it suddenly dawned on A. Van R. that the sun was beating down on his bared pate most unmercifully — that the thing to do was to find cool shade and relax his weary frame in slumber.

In his mood, to think was to act. Glancing up from the bowed position he had maintained to encourage stability, he found his eyes on the level of a furnace door in one of the big B.H.K. (Brumbaugh, Hamilton & Kellogg) boilers that line the island shore of the river. The inviting shades of darkness within were an invitation not to be resisted by the imaginative mind of the Van Renslaers’ descendant. He clambered in, slipped and fell through an opening left by the removal of a section of grating and landed in the ash box.

The fun just commenced then. A workman in passing, slammed the door to the furnace and it latched from the outside, of course. Later there was a shout, then another. Passersby were mystified by noises like a human being in trouble, the origin of which was decidedly vague.

Finally someone opened the door and peeking in, they saw Algernon’s huddled form. The truth dawned on him instantly, when Algie plaintively inquired: “Oi say, me lad, where am I? Are they goin’ to roast me bloomin’ hide?”

“You know where you are all right,” returned the stranger, who saw a chance for some fun, “you’ll be here a long time, too. Don’t you remember when we pinched you for hitting that fellow with an axe last night? This is steel tank No. 23, and you’ve got it rented for six months.”

“Oh No! So help me by all the Gods! I never ‘it nobody; I swear I didn’t! I just slipped away from the riverboat Oil City this morning, and got me booze; I ain’t no quarrelsome fellow, chappie,” came up in an argumentative strain through the grating. “We know you, and here you stay,” in tones of finality from the man outside, accompanied by the slamming of the door.

Printed words will not express the desperation of Algie’s reception of this ultimatum. He begged and pleaded, offering to do anything from giving his liberator a month’s wages to jumping off the dock if he could get freedom. Of course the prisoner was finally extricated from the big boiler. After he got a good compression of the whole affair he threw back his shoulders and delivered himself of a line of profanity that would make a seasoned dog musher shamed of his puny vocabulary.

It’s Algernon back to the ship, and down-river now, doubtless to give Fairbanks a hard name.

Note: The name Algernon Van Renslaer was not the true name of the unfortunate tourist. That name comes from a theatrical production that was popular at that time. The name was changed to protect the identity of the visitor and at the time of this story, there were several important visitors in town. The boiler was on display along the Chena riverbank by where Samson Hardware was once located. This amusing little story of having too much fun in downtown Fairbanks, was brought to you by Men’s Igloo No. 4 and Women’s Igloo No. 8 of the Pioneers of Alaska. 

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