Part VII is about the Milottes time in Ketchikan, Alaska and an introduction to their work on the International Highway.
It’s my hope that this blog is tweaking your interest in finding out more about Alfred & Elma Milotte. It’s certainly giving us reason to think that their story needs to be told in much more detail than we’re providing here. Let us know what you think, should we consider tackling the writing of the Alfred & Elma Milotte story?
We started this blog to provide information on our upcoming Milotte Wildlife Film Festival (MWLFF) slated for Saturday, October 20th, 2012 between 11:00 AM and 4:00 PM. The MWLFF will be held in the Bonney Lake Justice Center located at 9002 Main Street in Bonney Lake. Cost for the festival is $0.00 – that’s right it’s absolutely FREE; however, we will gladly accept donations and are diligently looking for sponsors to help us defray the expense of the festival and to help preserve the Alfred & Elma Milotte collection acquired earlier this year.
The festival will be showing three Academy Award winning wildlife films shot by the team of Alfred and Elma Milotte: Seal Island, Bear Country, and Beaver Valley.
The following has been provided by GBLHS member and author of “Bonney Lake’s Plateau”, Winona Jacobsen:
“An agreement was reached to purchase the Fisher photography studio in Ketchikan, and Alfred proceeded by steamship to the city. Elma followed as soon as the school year was finished and her teaching duties were fulfilled. Upon arrival, she and Alfred Milotte became husband and wife on June 15, 1934, in Ketchikan.
The newlyweds immersed themselves in the life and culture of the small fishing town. They quickly became known for their quality portraits, fishing industry images, photo engraving, and line cuts for commercial, newspaper, and book work. Before the arrival of the Milotte’s, this type of work would have to be outsourced to Seattle, losing thousands of dollars in Alaskan revenue. The Milotte Studio was the only one of its kind in Alaska, providing up to the minute news pictures referred to as spot news.
Although Alfred taught a class in photography at the local YWCA, not all of his pursuits were of the photographic kind. He became active in the Rotary Club and participated on the local sports teams. Known as a very speedy forward on the basketball team, his skill was probably at its height when he hit two quick baskets in the final minute of a contest, winning the game for his team. Daylight hours in Alaska were active hours, so summer time would find Alfred on the Rotary softball team challenging the Chamber of Commerce team. Elma was also busy, and her love of theater found an outlet with the Ketchikan Repertory Players. She directed plays and even convinced Alfred to act in some.
Although the photo studio was doing well, Alfred and Elma’s love of the outdoors made them seek other adventures. Just a short walk away from their home in Ketchikan, they could follow the trail of a wolf, a bear, or a moose and snap photos of the animals in their natural habitat. Alaska was so vast and so full of amazing scenery and an abundance of wildlife. The couple talked of exploring the interior and following the proposed route of a highway that could connect the United States to the Territory of Alaska. They embarked on a journey that would mark another change in their career path. Over a period of fifteen months, they traveled by horseback filming the little known and rarely seen views of the Alaskan interior and capturing the animals of the north in their wild environment.
Two movie cameras and two Leica cameras and thousands of feet of film were their primary tools. A rifle was taken for protection, but was only shot once into the air when a bull moose was threatening to charge. Not all photos turned out well. When a grizzly came a bit too close for comfort, Elma became a little flustered and forgot to focus the camera, wasting precious color film. Weather was also a factor that they had to contend with. At one point they made their way from camp on the Stikine River through a snowstorm that developed into a blizzard. At times they shared the journey with others. Two men spent a week with them on the trail riding motorcycles. Al filmed them as they rode over downed trees and other obstructions in the trail. Sometimes the two would have to lift and carry their bikes over the obstacle before being able to continue.
The Milottes journeyed north to Fairbanks, and in 1940 they opened another photo studio. They were going to be developing their thousands of feet of film taken on the trek along the proposed route of the International Highway. They were thinking about the possibility of turning their edited movie into a tool for a lecture series. They could tour the United States and show people the beauty of Alaska and provide the public a little window from which to observe its wildlife. In addition they would also do portrait and other photographic work in their studio to pay their expenses.
Having a new base of operations in Fairbanks afforded Alfred and Elma greater access to the sights of the interior of Alaska. From the jeweled colors of the Aurora Borealis as it danced across the heavens to the heights of Mt. McKinley Park, the Milottes recorded thousands of images that would also offer later inspiration for Alfred’s oil paintings.”
In closing this morning I’d like to remind everyone that the Greater Bonney Lake Historical Society (GBLHS) is a non profit 501 (c) 3 and our next meeting is tomorrow night, Monday, August 20th at 7:00 PM in the meeting room at the Bonney Lake Library. We are always open to the public and welcome new members.
If you’d like to find out more about the Milotte Wildlife Film Festival go to www.MWLFF.org. While on our site you’ll be able to read about some of the work that’s going on, you’ll find questions that if you can answer, you’ll win a 2013 GBLHS Milotte Calendar which has just come off the press. There is also the opportunity for you to sponsor our festival at one of our levels ranging from Actor @ $50 to Executive Producer @ $1000. We’ve now linked our website with Paypal for any of you would be donor’s out there. Believe me when I say we’d really love to hear from you.
Thanks for your time and thanks for reading the blog. Your comments are always appreciated.