Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Borough helps tow Aunt Ruth's van away to junk car heaven


October 5, 2017

Nostalgia is sentimentality for the past. That’s what I felt watching my great Aunt Ruth’s van go down the alley behind my house on a tow rope headed for vehicle heaven on a recent Monday afternoon in Haines. 

The Haines Borough has implemented a program to get rid of junk vehicles and is hauling them out of people’s yards now.

     Back in 1996, my Aunt Ruth, a smart, hard-working and God-fearing nurse, gave me the beige 1972 Ford Econoline van with a high roof saying, “you are a person that would appreciate this van, Joe,” because I traveled a lot. Aunt Ruth and her husband drove it all over North America during their retirement. They had hundreds of stickers naming all the places they’d been on one of the cabinets. I drove it from her house in Florida to Haines in February to have a place to live whilst I started my life and small business, Pizza Joe’s. 

The driver’s seat sat close against the front of the van. As I drove across western Canada, the cold air coming through at 50 mph in minus 30 temperatures overwhelmed the heater and had me fearful that some of my main body parts might freeze. I put thick blankets on as best I could as I drove onward to pizza gold in Haines.

The van and I landed in Mr. and Mrs. Becker’s yard. She liked helping people and he was tolerant.  No heat, no bathroom, I made it work. I was happy because I wasn’t in my home state of Ohio.  One night the temperature sank to 0 and I broke.  I could sleep in the van at 5 degrees but wasn’t tough enough for zero.

When it got too cold I would go over to Tom Morphet’s cabin nearby, which wasn’t great because it was barely bigger than the van. But he had heat. After you live in a van, a cabin seems to have a ton of space.

I loaned the van to some peace lovers because I thought they would appreciate it. I would see it at Carr’s Cove from time to time, which signaled there was a cool beach party there. Sometimes the van would be there for weeks on end. But usually I went on by. Waterfront is overrated. It’s always windy. 

I got the van back, no worse for wear and put it in storage under a tree out the road (less snow load) for 10 years. The van spent its golden years in a storage unit on my driveway in town for a while. It looked like, well, a 45-year-old van. That’s 110 in people years.  

I got a new van this past winter and what a big difference it is from the old one. The new van has a camera in the back and you can watch the small video of where you’re going when you back up. I bet Aunt Ruth would have never seen that coming.

In the end, the old van that was a part of my aunt’s, my friends’ and my life got what every creature gets at the end; a goodbye.

Its funeral cost $50. Will Hickman, our public works superintendent/undertaker will come with helpers and take your junker away to a holding place (purgatory). Then it goes on an AML chariot to vehicle heaven. This program is paid for by a $25 fee imposed when you register your car at DMV every two years. The borough has budgeted $36,500 a year for the program. Twenty-five passes were available and 26 people signed up this time. You can still get on the standby list.

Did I just invent car obituaries?


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