Working and Living Conditions

The mosquito was a common theme of Alaska Highway humor.

Credit: Yukon Archives, Charles M. Lorence Fonds, 84/73, #55.

In general, the working conditions during the construction of the Alaska Highway were demanding for everyone involved. Some men arrived in the North after living their entire lives in the southern states. Now they faced temperatures that ranged between 50 below zero to 30 above; relentless mosquitoes; mud that could swallow a bulldozer whole; and choking dust. They were expected to work long hours with little rest, using complicated and dangerous machinery. When the midnight sun offered up 20 hours of daylight, the men worked in double shifts. This pace continued every day, seven days a week.

While many men complained about the isolation, climate, limited recreational opportunities, and the food, the occasional delivery of beer or a rare visit to the liquor store provided the much-needed break in routine. Many men also turned to hunting and fishing during their off hours, but the best distractions came with the rare visits from USO entertainers. Humor also afforded a well-needed break from the monotony of camp life.

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Alaska Highway Construction 1942