In 1980, Gretchen & Heidi Shellhorn, pictured left to right, with Barbie Doll suitcases in hand, are ready to board the plane on their first trip “Outside” for many adventures. Sue Shellhorn photo

With the recent ongoing egg shortage seemingly resolved, how about a family egg tale from 42 years ago?

Back then eggs arrived in Cordova by plane or boat and were known as air eggs or boat eggs. Air eggs were considerably fresher and, not surprisingly, considerably more expensive.

Boat eggs were cheaper. They took several weeks to arrive by barge, and after a cruise across the Gulf of Alaska, you got what you paid for.

No, the boat variety weren’t straight out of Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham, but when plopped in the frying pan, they were flat as a pancake and required a knife to cut.

Eggs are considered to have a shelf life of about a month, and one did not need a degree in math to figure out that by the time boat eggs made it here and were available to consumers they were already likely half passed that.

Our daughters Heidi and Gretchen came to savor them. A weekend breakfast favorite in the Shellhorn household was canned Dinty Moore corn beef hash topped with an egg sunny side up, and of course the obligatory Heinz catchup for garnish.

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Back in 1980, we decided it was time for our kids to see the “Outside” as the “Lower 48” was then called, and what better way than to fly to Seattle, rent a car and make a pilgrimage to Disneyland.

Heidi was 6, Gretchen was 4, and the excitement level on a scale of one to 10 was 100. For Mom and Dad too. Sue had never been to The Magic Kingdom. I had been once while traveling to Pasadena from Corvallis on a bus load of Oregon State University fans to watch the Beavers get clobbered by Michigan in the 1965 Rose Bowl.

We headed to the airport; the kids wore matching jackets sewn by Gramma Shellhorn and were totting little cardboard suitcases loaded with Barbie Dolls to keep them entertained on the plane.

Despite the pouring rain, they were fascinated by the bright lights of the city as we made our final approach and were amazed at the traffic as we took a cab to our hotel. It happened to be the very ritzy five-star members only Washington Athletic Club located right in downtown Seattle, courtesy of friends who just happened to be members.

The kids were in awe when a door man wearing an elaborate red uniform greeted us and a similarly clad bellhop took our luggage, which somehow magically was in our room when we got there.

Next question was dinner. I happened to notice a Seattle newspaper on the desk top, and lo and behold, the Mariners were in town for a series with the White Sox. Hey kids — how about a hot dog and major league baseball for dinner?

So, we grabbed a cab and headed to the King Dome.  Would you believe it — it was Bat Night, and every kid got a free bat of size to fit their height. Heidi took her bat as she pushed through the turnstile, Sue helped Gretchen through to get hers.

The now demolished King Dome had gradual cement ramps to access seating.  We could hear the roar of the crowd. While Heidi and I were speeding up the ramp, I noticed Gretchen and Sue were still by the turnstile.  I went back to see what was going on and Gretchen, in tears, sobbed, “I don’t want to play this game.”

Oh my gosh.  She thought she was going to take the field in front of 30,000 fans and play T-ball.  Once that was sorted out, we enjoyed peanuts, popcorn and Mariner Dogs alongside a crowd numbering 10 times the population of Cordova.

After all the excitement the kids slept soundly, so we decided to treat them to another surprise — room service breakfast.  Gretchen opted for her favorite, hash with an egg, sunny side up. It arrived on a cart replete with juice, toast and ketchup and was pushed into our room by another bellhop clad in red, who lifted the silver tray covering the special order with a flourish.  The kids giggled, we tipped the bellman, and it was time to dig in.

But Gretchen peered at her plate hesitantly.  Sue asked her why. “Mommy, there’s something wrong with this egg. It’s too puffy.”

Indeed, it was almost majestic and jiggled atop the hash. Undoubtedly the freshest egg she had seen in all her life, it definitely had not taken a cruise across the Gulf of Alaska before arriving on her plate at the Washington Athletic Club.

Gretchen did not order eggs and hash again on our trip, and only when we were back in Cordova would she have the “boat egg Special.”

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Dick Shellhorn
Dick Shellhorn is a lifelong Cordovan. He has been writing sports stories for the Cordova Times for over 50 years. In his Cordova Chronicles features, he writes about the history and characters of this Alaska town. Alaska Press Club awarded Shellhorn first place for Best Humor column in 2016 and 2020, and third place in 2017 and 2019. He also received second place for Best Editorial Commentary in 2019. Shellhorn has written two books about Alaska adventures: Time and Tide and Balls and Stripes. Reach him at [email protected].