49 Voices: Gloria Johnson of Anchorage

This week we’re hearing from Gloria Johnson in Anchorage. Johnson is the superintendent of the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River.

Listen now

JOHNSON: I’m married to a military man. He was in the Air Force, so we got an assignment up here. And when we got here, usually they rotate us out three to four years, so he had extended. And I begged him, “Please? Can you try to stay here because there are no snakes here.” We were originally from Arkansas to Texas, which have snakes. Both states have snakes. So he graciously went away to Saudi Arabia for a year without us, so we could stay here.

I met some people and they told me “Your first winter… either you’re gonna love it or you’re going to hate it.” And we came more in March. So the summer time is what we had to get used to because it would be 11:00, 12:00 at night, and I hadn’t put my children to bed yet because it was still light. The sun was still shining. Those were some of the things we learned how to adjust. Back then, we didn’t have blackout curtains, so we used aluminum foil to help reflect the light. Now we have blackout curtains. One of the things too is I have a child that the winter times affect her, so she has a happy light cause she neds the sunshine.

I can go out. I can just fish. I can just walk, pick berries, hunt, do anything. Don’t have to worry about snakes.

This sounds really weird, but my favorite Alaska memory is driving through the tunnel that goes to Whittier. It really is. That was exciting. I really thought it was going to be different, because I’ve gone through tunnels like when we were stationed up on the East Coast, those tunnels… but the Whittier tunnels look different. By the time you think maybe it’s a little nervous or scary, you’re already out on the other end, right there in the city. If you can call Whittier a city. So that’s one of my favorite things. And I like driving, going down the Seward Highway, especially when the tide’s in, and you may see a whale out there. That’s exciting, too. Wildlife.

I just mentioned to my husband on Sunday, I said, “After church, why don’t we just take a ride down the Seward Highway?” He said, “I know what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to get me to take you to the Double Musky.” I said, “No I’m really not. I just wanna driv and look at the inlet, look at the scenery.”

I really appreciate God’s beauty. I really do.

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Kirsten Swann is a producer and reporter for Alaska Public Media. She's covered everything from business to crime to arts and culture for a variety of print and broadcast publications around Alaska, and she's reported everywhere from urban Anchorage to the North Slope to the Aleutian Islands and eastern Siberia. Her reporting has appeared on KTVA CBS 11 News, in the Alaska Dispatch News, Anchorage Press, Alaska Business Monthly, Smithsonian Magazine, the Chugiak-Eagle River Star and the Mountain View Post blog. When not writing, she enjoys spending time at home in East Anchorage with her husband and dogs.