It all started with Sarah Palin's speech in Calgary:
“My first five years of life we spent in Skagway, Alaska, right there by Whitehorse. Believe it or not – this was in the ’60s – we used to hustle on over the border for health care that we would receive in Whitehorse. I remember my brother, he burned his ankle in some little kid accident thing and my parents had to put him on a train and rush him over to Whitehorse and I think, isn’t that kind of ironic now. Zooming over the border, getting health care from Canada.”
Then a different story emerged:
In a 2007 report in the Skagway News, Palin said her family travelled south from the town by ferry to Juneau, Alaska, so that her brother could get treatment after burning his foot when jumping through a fire.
From the Skagway News:
Her brother burned his foot badly jumping through a fire, and her mother had to take him down to Juneau on the ferry to the hospital. “All these years later, that’s still what people have to rely on here in some instances,” she said.
Enter Chuck Heath:
"There was no road out of there at that time," said retired teacher Chuck Heath, reached by phone in Wasilla. "The ferry schedule was very erratic. We had no doctor in Skagway. The plane schedule was very erratic. The winds dictated whether the planes could come in or not."
Palin's father said his family probably boarded the train for the Whitehorse hospital only twice — once when a daughter had rheumatic fever, and once when his son, also named Chuck, severely burned his leg and an infection set in.
"We much preferred to use our facilities because my insurance didn't cover anything in Whitehorse. And even though they have socialized medicine, I still had to pay the bill, being an American citizen," Heath said.
Heath worked part-time for the White Pass & Yukon Railroad and had a pass allowing him and his family to ride for free.
I thought Chuck Heath had moved the family to Alaska to work as a teacher because the pay was so much better than in the Lower 48. Why did he need a part-time job with the railroad?
Sarah tells us in Going Rogue:
"The State of Alaska was paying a premium, $6,000 a year (more than twice what he was paid in Idaho), to attract more teachers."
Chuck Jr was twenty-eight months old when they moved to Skagway. Five years later, they packed their belongings and moved to Eagle River, 15 miles outside Anchorage. Little Chuckie's severe burn happened when he was between two and seven years old.
We're used to finding more than one version of Sarah Palin's little stories. But we have noticed that Chuck Heath never fails to make them a lot more interesting...