Our scout troop consisted of about 35 Eskimo and Indian orphans and 10 whites. The orphanage was run by a religious group which sponsored the troop and mom and dad preferred for us to belong to a troop with a religious framework - which was a good idea. Dad was the Scout Committee Chairman and during plans for attendance at the brand-spanking new Scout Camp -named Camp Gorsuch east of Anchorage, the committee hunted for something to do to distinguish our bunch from the other bunches at the camp when we were there. I suppose it was as much because most of the kids were Amerindian, the committee agreed that it would be a great idea to make half a dozen TeePees that would contrast with the standard tents that other troops would have.
Dad was elected to design the teepees, and mom agreed that she would construct them. This was a major undertaking because all she had was a standard, run of the mill home Singer sewing machine. The left photo shows 2 teepees set up in a field half a mile north of the house that mom and dad built 10 years earlier. Dick is the kid coming out of the left teepee, and I am the kid on the left end of the line. In the other photo, DIck and I are on the right side of the image which shows 4 of the 5 teepees. In the next image, you can see all of the teepes set up in a semi-circle that day:
They were made out of heavy duck, which is sort of a light canvas. When you consider that mom doubled or tripled some of the seams, you can see just how demanding the job was of her and her machine. I don’t know how many needles she broke but it was several. I don’t know what the dimensions are of these teepees when they are laid out flat. They are 3/4 of a circle and must have been about 14 feet high. I don’t knoww how to figure how many square yards of fabric is involved in one teepee, but it is a lot.
Mom normally had her sewing machine closed up lite a small cabinet sitting at the end of the hide-a-bed that they slept in every night (There was only 1bedroom in the house which is where us boys slept.) To sew she obviousl set the machine up and arranged it in a position that would allow her to manipulate the entire mass of fabric while she was sewing. Just imagine that a teepee was completed and she needed to finish off the bottom edge by sewing several rows of stitches completely around the teepee. That meant that she would be able to sew a few feet, then she had to stop, shift the rest of the fabric to give her slack to sew a few more feet and so on. The fabric sat in a huge pile all over the small floor of the front room which was probably not much more than 15 feet across itself. Really.
She didn’t complain, just did the job. She made five teepees like this and they were beautiful. I doubt that many people, men or women, would have undertaken such an enormous task with a little singer machine. But to her, it was a challenge, a creative challenge. Plus, it was somethin “her Jim” wanted. That meant she would make it so. That was her motto I think, give Jim what Jim wanted.
That creed served Alvin well in the paleontology world. All he had to do was say that he needed such and such or he wanted such and such, and if it was in her power to make it, do it, steal it, or or buy it, she did it. These teepees were obviously the hit of the camp that summer. They were so uniform in size and constrution that they looked like they had been purchased from a commercial factory.
The next time she build a tent for him, was when she built the Crab Tent for his 3 months in Antarctica around 1970, another time where skill and creativity enabled her to create a thing that “Her Jim” wanted. Al he had to do was ‘want it’, and she would move heaven and earth to get it somehow.
You think I am exaggerating? If you do, you simply don’t know the facts.