49 Voices: Altharia Fields-Roberts of Anchorage

This week we’re hearing from Altharia Fields-Roberts an unemployed cook from Anchorage. Altharia moved to Anchorage from Detroit 31 years ago and found that the less busy Anchorage was more to her liking.

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Altharia Fields-Roberts sitting at the Dimond Center Transit Center
Altharia Fields-Roberts (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media)

FIELDS-ROBERTS: It took me three weeks to unpack. I wasn’t going to unpack. I thought, “It’s so hick! What have I done? What have I done?” And I thought, “Well… Gotta give it a year. You know? And if it wasn’t going to work out in a year’s time, Washington… here I come. Washington State.”

They found jazz for me. I said if there’s no jazz here, I have to go. And my friends found jazz for me then I felt like this is home. It was a group called Chromosome. They were so good. And the restaurant was called Escavation, or Escalation, Elevation 92 or something. When I found the jazz I was like, (breath of relief) I’ve got somewhere to go in the summer and the winter now (chuckles)

That was 31 years ago. It was time for a change from Michigan. Just a drastic change. It was slower than Detroit. Much, much…much slower than Detroit (laughs), not so intense, you know?

Well we actually do live in brick and mortar houses and buildings. Cause people think igloo and they think, “Oh you live in those little ice houses.” No, we live in houses. There are tall buildings here with all kinds of businesses like anywhere else.  It’s not always dark in the winter. The sun does come up above the horizon. The weather gets warm in the summer. It’s got crime, you know, it’s like any other big city; it’s a growing city. But I think people are basically friendly here.

I like outdoors. When my children were younger, I used to really like sledding. Now I’m not liking going up those hills so much with the grandchildren. I just stay at the bottom and cheer them on. I say “Come on! You can do it!”… So I like outdoors. I like the snow.

And then I watched the city grow. It was a little baby, little hick town. And I watched it grow into a big city. Gosh, I used to write down notes from people. I would ask them about their Alaskan tales. I’ve been here 31 years. I must have plenty. The first time I ever stayed in a tent was in Alaska. It was in, I get those K’s mixed up, Kenai, where you go fishing, and I actually stayed in a tent.  Overnight in a tent. That was my Alaskan tale. Never stayed in a tent ever before in my whole life until then.

There’s a lot to do here, more than just the winter sports and the winter activities. I would tell people to come. Give it a vacation time, and try vacationing in the winter, not just the summer.

Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

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