Ode to the Cold-Storage Egg

Fresh eggs, until around the 1960s, were a bit of a luxury in Fairbanks. There were those who kept laying hens but not nearly enough to supply the needs of the residents. Prior to building the Alaska Railroad, eggs were shipped on boats to St. Michaels and further up the Yukon River. Or, eggs were brought up from Valdez by dog team and horse. The latter was known as “fresh over the ice” and eggs shipped from the Lower 48 were known as “boat eggs.”

Alaska Citizen — November 20, 1911


There is an Alaskan who thinks the eggs shipped to him by the Alaska Steamship company from Seattle to Fairbanks are not a fair shake. He has handed in a claim for reimbursement and accompanied the formal complaint with a poem which has so touched the heart of the steamship company that they are going to honor his claim at once.

The poem is entitled “An Ode to the Cold-Storage Egg.” The poem hangs on the wall of the office of the steamship company at Seattle. Here it is:

Gray wanderer from the hoary past,
Dumped on Alaska’s shore at last.
We break you with a prayer or curse;
We know you’re bad, you may be worse.

The hen that cackled at thy birth,
Long since has mingled with the earth.
The boy that gathered thee with glee,
Dandles a grandchild on his knee.

Tell us, oh; how, and where and when-
Thou relic of primeval hen,
What evil genius spoke the doom,
That laid thee in thy frozen tomb?

“In sunbaked barn in Illinois,
I was gathered by a bare-footed boy.
Five cents a dozen was the price,
That led me to a room of ice.”

“Beside me rose the great world’s fair,
Yet left me in my frozen lair.
The Klondike yielded up its gold,
Yet found me still in storage cold.”

“Seattle said ‘You’re good enough
To feed Alaskans rude and rough.’
So here at last I end my race,
Engulfed in a poor sourdough’s face.”

Note: Do not forget that these long distance eggs were sold at premium prices here in Fairbanks. This odoriferous history nugget has been proudly brought to you by Men’s Igloo No. 4 and Women’s Igloo No. 8 of the Pioneers of Alaska.

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