ALASKA: The Fertile Valley

The train scraped and groaned to a stop, and out climbed the vanguard of 900 solemn men, women and children, arms laden with bundles, eyes filled with bewilderment and doubt. What they saw gave them no cause for rejoicing: a bleak wilderness surrounded by stern, snowcapped mountains, and in the wilderness a dismal tent city sprawling in the mud under a dour sky. This was the Matanuska Valley, 50 miles northeast of Anchorage, in south-central Alaska. This was the promised land—promised by the wide-eyed Federal Emergency Relief Administration to depression-ridden, red-blooded American...

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