Listen to the story.
Marco Werman: We close out the show today by taking you to a small remote town in Alaska filled with quirky characters--no, not that small town in Alaska. We’re talking about Hyder, Alaska, population 65. It’s a former silver and gold mining town on the Canadian border. In fact, it’s almost like it is Canada. The town uses the services of the mounties across the border in the Canadian town of Stewart in British Columbia. It even shares a Canadian area code 250. But Canada’s border services agency has decided that the crossing between the two towns isn’t busy enough to staff 24-hours a day. So, as of April, it will be shut overnight. Wes Loe is the owner of the Hyder General Store and president of the Hyder Community Association. Wes, what’s it going to mean to you that the border will be closed overnight?
Wes Loe: What it’s going to affect is our economy. April 1st is basically when folks from Europe start coming over here with their motorhomes. They come in through all hours of the night. Now they’re thinking of closing at midnight and opening at 8 o’clock in the morning. We have a bear viewing platform just outside of Hyder up on the Salmon River and it goes along the spawning stream. That opens at 6 o’clock in the morning and a lot of times people are up there at 5:30 waiting to get in to take some pictures.
Werman: And the services that you get from over in Canada, are we talking fire services and emergency medical services that won’t be coming over at night?
Loe: The ambulance and the fire services will stay in place. The mounties don’t have any jurisdiction here in the United States and we’re one of the few towns in Alaska where we don’t have any police here, there’s no law here--well, I shouldn’t say there isn’t any law, but we don’t have any problems and we pretty much take care of our own here.
Werman: How often do you go to Stewart in British Columbia?
Loe: Sometimes three times a day, sometimes three times a week. It’s not even 100 yards from where I’m sitting right now.
Werman: And each time you cross, you need a passport?
Loe: Yes, and because we do have a lot of guns over here, they ask us if we have any guns or anything like that.
Werman: If this border crossing closes as they plan in April, what are you going to do if you really need to get across at night? Are there places to cross other than the border crossing?
Loe: No. There are other border crossings in the United States that close at night but, no, there’s other openings like two or three miles down the road, or an hour drive down the road. But this is just one way in, one way out. They keep telling me “You’ll be able to get out if there’s an emergency.” What, do we just stand there and wait for the guy to come along to get the key to open the gate? I don’t know.
Werman: Wes, I don’t want to let you go without asking a quick question about Alaskan culture--what does it mean to be “Hyder-ized”?
Loe: It’s a drink; being hyder-ized is actually a drink.
Werman: And it consists of what?
Loe: Gosh, if I told you that, I’d have to kill you.
Werman: You’ll have to find me first, and your border is closed.
Loe: It’s a shot of everclear with a coldwater back and then they do a little ceremony, they light the glass on fire and they fill out a little card that says “You’ve been hyder-ized.” First, they go in there and they all get a shot of everclear and in about five minutes you start seeing a few people going “Phew, it’s getting warm in here.”
Werman: Wes Loe, owner of the Hyder General Store and president of the Hyder Community Association. Thanks for speaking with us.
Loe: Not a problem. You have a good day.