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Comments Off on Our Town – August 9, 2019

Our Town – August 9, 2019

| Craftsman, Neighbors, Newcomers, Our Town, Relationships | August 9, 2018

The Soupster chats with some “guys”.

Originally published June 4, 2009

Guy had worked the order counter at the lumberyard for the past 20 years, after spending an equal amount of time working out in the field. Examples of his handiwork stood all over Our Town. And stand they did – even after decades of salt-encrusted gales, Guy’s decks, fences, sheds and garages stood strong while much newer structures succumbed to rot. Guy knew how to make things shed water and not trap it. And that, as the poet said, makes all the difference.

“Hey guy!” Guy said to the new builder who had come into the store just about every other day for the better part of the last three weeks. Guy greeted everybody with “Hey guy!” — which was his personal joke.

The newcomer chuckled obediently. “Hey, Guy,” he answered. The new contractor had won a federal contract to refurbish some government structures and planned to be in Our Town for a month. With him hailing from sunnier climes, the rain had put a serious damper on his spirit. He was homesick.

“What’ll it be?” asked Guy, already feeling sorry for the newbie. He didn’t know Our Town’s unspoken rule that you had to be here at least 6 months or through a winter before people started taking you seriously.

As the new contractor reeled off his needs, Guy nodded, but didn’t write anything down. He didn’t have to. Guy had a prodigious memory – big enough to store and retrieve detailed knowledge of just about every building that went up. He remembered who did the work, who paid for the work and how the work went. He remembered what materials they’d used. He automatically remembered all of what his customer had just asked for.

Then Larry the shipwright, showed up to order ironwood and hydraulic hoses and fittings. As the new contractor waited for his order, Guy rang up Larry’s stuff. Larry’s wife, Felicity, lounged in a nearby chair.

After high school, Guy and Larry had fixed up a classic troller and hand-trolled together for two summers. Then they had that close call. Larry was the seadog and went right back out. Guy started making a living fishing for nails. The two friends grew apart. Well, not so far apart that Guy didn’t introduce Larry to Felicity, who was Guy’s cousin through his mother.

Enter the Soupster, who chatted with Larry and Felicity and went through the whole “Hey guy!” routine with Guy. Shirley, Guy’s wife, had taught beginning piano to the Soupster’s niece, who now worked as a concert accompanist. Felicity had recommended the music school at her old college to the Soupster’s niece — where the girl received a nice scholarship — even though Felicity had gone there for nursing. Guy had built the Soupster a shed that was still watertight after 33 wet winters. Larry sold him fish.

Guy’s two-way radio buzzed, signaling that the new contractor’s order was ready.

“Friendly place,” the visiting builder said. “I know how it goes from my hometown. The guy at the lumberyard there knows everybody, too.” Then, he paused and indicated the Soupster, Larry and Felicity, who were still chatting. “That’s got to be unusual, though. The fact that the customers know each other so well. That’s got to be rare.”

Guy considered his loquacious friends. Actually, the scene he surveyed happened nearly every day at the order counter at the lumberyard. Then, Guy remembered Our Town’s “Six Month Rule.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” he fibbed. “Rare, indeed.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – June 2, 2016

Our Town – June 2, 2016

| Newcomers, Our Town, Relationships | June 1, 2016

The Soupster overeats.

In all the events in Our Town’s long history, few went as unnoticed as the Soupster’s arrival in the final decades of the 20th Century.

After much research and creative shopping prior to his arrival, the Soupster had largely succeeded in his quest to resemble a bona fide inhabitant of Our Town. On Day One and Day Two he blended in like a chameleon. On Day Three, however, the Soupster made a fatal mistake: he stepped out of his apartment in blue rubber boots.

How could the Soupster have realized before he got to Our Town that nearly half the population would be wearing brown boots? Was there a brown boot cult? Were people really staring at his boots or was it his imagination?

In those early days the Soupster absorbed many new words and phrases. “Way out the road” referred to a place that was no more than five miles away. “Skookum” meant either “awesome” or “fitting” or both. “Butt cheek” might refer to a human posterior or a savory delicacy found on a flatfish’s face.

“That there is a new one on me,” the Soupster frequently thought.

On one of those days, the Soupster noticed a banner outside a waterfront hotel beckoning in the breeze. “Sumptuous Buffet Lunch Brunch” it promised. The price was stiff, but the Soupster calculated that he could get several meals down on one sitting and come out well in the end. (ed. note: T.M.I.?)

Once inside, the Soupster saw that “sumptuous” had not been an exaggeration.

Crab legs, king salmon, prime rib, Eggs Benedict, abalone – and that was only the protein! The richness of the Alaska food chain was more than represented on the L-shaped table covered completely with silver food warmers.

The Soupster paid the stiff price and found a seat. He wanted to collect his thoughts. To get three meals out of one sitting required a strategy to succeed. You couldn’t just fill up on mashed potatoes and water and hope to escape hunger pangs 36 hours later!

The Soupster joined two people already filling their plates and starting doing the same. His mouth watered and his stomach growled. With his plate, he returned to his seat. But he chanced a glance back and noticed a sign that he read as: “One at a Time Only.”

This was strange. Buffets are designed to accommodate numerous people grazing at once. Why the limit? But there had been a lot of strange things the Soupster had seen and heard on his first few days in Our Town.

So the Soupster waited until the buffet line was empty and then he went up and filled a plate again. A waitress looked at him quizzically. Three more times the Soupster waited until the line was empty and then hurried up before anyone showed. Three times the waitress glared at him.

As he sat down with his fourth refill, the waitress walked up to his table.

“Nice boots, unusual color,” she remarked. “Get enough to eat?”

The Soupster nodded, his mouth already full.

“You read the sign that says `One Time Only,’ right?” she said.

“One Time Only?” said the Soupster, sputtering out baked red snapper. “I thought it said, `One At a Time Only.’”

“Well, I thought I’d heard it all,” said the waitress, ‘but that’s a totally new one on me.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – August 27, 2015

Our Town – August 27, 2015

| Crazy Theories, Newcomers, Our Town, Relationships, Travel | August 27, 2015

The Soupster hears confessions from a lover of Our Town.

Originally published Oct. 24, 2006

“Because it feels so good when I stop,” Grant — sitting with the Soupster at the sushi bar — tried to say while cramming his mouth with Alaska roll.

“Feels so good when you stop what?” said the Soupster, who had been distracted by the sushi chef’s artful chopping of a huge geoduck clam.

“Well – a long time ago – I used to mean living in Our Town,” said Grant, signaling to the chef to prepare some geoduck for them.

“Really?” asked a skeptical Soupster. “You hated it here that much?”

“When I first moved here the smallness of Our Town got to me,” said Grant. “Having just a few choices for everything – I became bored with that pronto. I came here in the Coast Guard – from Governor’s Island in New York harbor. With all due respect — Lincoln Street ain’t Times Square.”

“Seems like we have everything we need here,” said the Soupster defensively.

Grant ignored him. “And the rain,” the former Coastie said. “The constant rain drove me insane. All the time. The summer I transferred here was like this summer. I came to Our Town in May and waited until early November for more than a single dry day in a row. And actual sunny days? I have a one-armed buddy who could count them for you.”

“Kept my sense of humor, though,” Grant continued. “I remembered the old joke about the man hitting himself in the face. You heard it?”

The Soupster shook his head.

“A man is hitting himself repeatedly in the face,” said Grant. “His friend is horrified. `Why ever would you do that?’ asked the friend. Says the first man, `Because it feels so good when I stop!’

“That’s the way I felt. I loved Our Town, for those first few years.” said Grant. “Cause it felt so good when I went back to civilization. To the United Contiguous Lower 48 states.”

“I never felt that way,” said the Soupster, who had lived in Our Town longer than most professional baseball players had walked the earth. “Those first few years, I wanted to drag everyone I knew up here to live. I got over that, though.”

The sushi arrived. Both men loved the delicate taste of geoduck neck meat – like butter melting in their mouths – and neither spoke while they attacked the plate. Our Town was one of the few places this side of China and Japan where the giant clams made it to the menu.

Grant stopped chewing, spoke first.

“I don’t feel that way anymore,” he said. “Over the years, each time I returned to Our Town from a trip Outside I grew happier and happier to be home. Our Town came to be normal for me, just the right size. Now, there’s only one good reason I ever like to be in the Contiguous United States.”

“You mean…?” asked the Soupster.

Grant nodded. “Because it feels so darned good when I stop!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – April 23, 2015

Our Town – April 23, 2015

| Newcomers, Our Town, Relationships, Small Town Stuff | April 23, 2015

17 Things A Tourist Should Know About Our Town.

Originally published April 8, 2004

  1. It does not “rain all the time.” Even during our rainiest month (October) there are whole minutes where rain is not actually falling. In Our Town, we concentrate on those dry periods when judging the quality of the day. This is why, when asked, “Does it rain here all the time?” members of Our Town say “No.”
  2. However, do not dangle your airline ticket in front of a member of Our Town during the entire month of October, unless you want to lose it.
  3. Everywhere else, the road “never ends”. Here the road “always ends.” Some local residents feel the need to check this fact and will periodically drive to the end of the road to do so. It’s also a good way for them to test their radio reception.
  4. Do not be offended if someone enters your conversation without introducing themselves. Some members of Our Town know so many residents, they assume all conversations involve them.
  5. If you use an umbrella, we will consider you eccentric, from England or here to sell hot dogs.
  6. If it is cloudy in Sitka during your entire visit — be advised: there really is a volcano out there. We’re not just making it up.
  7. A backhoe parked in a yard is a sign of wealth.
  8. Drivers here are very polite. One exception: if someone pulls out quickly in front of you causing you to slow down, that person is required to drive no more than 3 blocks without turning again.
  9. The amount of business a restaurant gets in its first month of operation will in no way predict whether that restaurant will succeed or fail.
  10. Don’t run out of milk on Monday.
  11. Problem Corner is not a therapy talk show – actually, it kind of is.
  12. Do not leave groceries in the back of pickup trucks unless you have checked for ravens.
  13. Don’t ask a boater how their skiff, cruiser, yacht or dinghy is doing, unless you have 20 minutes to spare.
  14. The big fish tote boxes at the airport usually contain more than one fish, despite what the fisherman says.
  15. A car with 60,000 Arizona highway miles is a “new” car.
  16. Even though there aren’t that many places to go, you will never go to them all.
  17. Do not try to calculate the number of people who would live here on a sunny day because it will be raining again before you finish writing all the zeros

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Comments Off on Our Town – September 12, 2013

Our Town – September 12, 2013

| Newcomers, Our Town, Parody, Relationships | September 12, 2013

OurTown_Sep12_2013_QuestionnaireSmall

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Comments Off on Our Town – October 18, 2012

Our Town – October 18, 2012

| Guest Written, Lois Verbaan, Newcomers, Our Town, Relationships, Storms, Weather | October 18, 2012

“Emery!” the Soupster called, glancing up from the outboard he was hunched over.

The cyclist screeched to a halt. “Hey, Soupster! How’s it going?” she asked cheerfully.

“Havin’ trouble with my starter,” the Soupster said, standing up with one hand on the engine and the other supporting his lower back. ”And this drizzle ain’t helping my mood none,” he complained. “Where are you off to in such a hurry?”

“An inspiring, scenic location to write in the rain,” Emery announced.

“Write in the rain?” the Soupster echoed.

“That’s right, I’ve got a new notebook and pen that you can use in the rain,” Emery said.

“Yeah, I know the ones,” the Soupster nodded. “Official types of people use them.”

“And that’s why today I officially declare myself to be a local,” Emery replied.

“Why today?” the Soupster asked. “You’ve clocked up at least 5 years in Our Town, haven’t you?”

“Yeah, but as you know, becoming a local is a process,” she said. “It doesn’t happen overnight. First you’re a tourist, wandering down the main drag, wearing your new fur boots and hat.

Hang around a few more days and you realize you’re gonna need some rain gear. So, you get the cheapest you can find.

Then you start doing the wilderness thing. Before long, you discover you need gear that’s breathable, waterproof and indestructible, so you go back for more — more expensive this time.

You learn that cotton kills and start stocking up on wool and polypropylene. The variety of gloves, mittens and liners seems overwhelming at first, but you focus on your size and get a pair of everything. Wool, fleece, leather, Gor-Tex and neoprene all have a use.

Before you know it, you have your very own Alaska Sporting Goods Emporium. Then, just when you think you have everything you need for life in rainforest Alaska, your Xtra-Tuffs start leaking.”

The Soupster took over. “So you patch them with duct tape, till you realize that even duct tape has its limits. Time for new boots. The old faithfuls are converted to slip-ons, used for taking out the trash, quick trips to the grocery store and camping.”

Emery laughed. “So, just when I thought my emporium was fully stocked, I discovered a line of ‘Outdoor Writing Products for Outdoor Writing People’ that can all be used in the rain.

There are even these pens that’ll write under water, upside down and in temperatures ranging from -30 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. They’ve actually been used on a manned space flight.

So, I’m now the proud owner of a new notebook and pen. My adventure barometer tells me that ice climbing is going to pale in significance compared with things to come,” Emery predicted.

“Let the adventure begin!” said the Soupster. “And congratulations on becoming a local,” he added, extending an oil-stained hand to shake her neoprene glove.

“But before you go, a quick question: do the words ‘cheechako’ or ‘sourdough’ mean anything to you?” he asked, a twinkle in his eye.

– Submitted by Lois Verbaan Denherder

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Comments Off on Our Town – November 4, 2010

Our Town – November 4, 2010

| Darkness, Marriage, Neighbors, Newcomers, Our Town, Relationships, Seasons | November 4, 2010

(Originally published Nov. 17, 2005)

The knock on the Soupster’s door turned out to be Bob, the Soupster’s new neighbor, who wanted to borrow a flashlight. Bob needed to do some outdoor plumbing and, new to Our Town, he still felt uncomfortable about running electrical cords outside in the rain.

“Cleve,” the Soupster told Bob. “Cleve is your man.”

Cleve was another of the Soupster’s neighbors and known for his lights. Cleve had gasoline-powered pedestal klieg lights as well as key chain lights whose bulbs were guaranteed beyond eternity. Cleve had lights he could strap to his head, his shoulder, the crook of his arm and his shoes. He had old diving lights that ran on massive lantern batteries, one than ran on a fuel cell the size of a dime and one that you could crank to operate.

The passage between the Soupster’s house and Cleve’s ran through some thick brush, and the Soupster could see Bob cringing from the even deeper dark that cloaked the path.

“Light,” said the Soupster. “Can you even remember the middle of the summer, when it never got dark? We’re paying for that now.”

The light-starved Bob took up the conversation – after all isn’t food — or the opposite of it — the favorite subjects of famished people? “The desert is dark, notably dark,” he said. “A winter I spent outside Shiprock, Arizona taught me that. But wet dark is somehow worse.”

“Wet dark is like double dark,” the Soupster agreed.

“On a tour of Alcatraz prison, I volunteered to be locked in solitary confinement,” said Bob. “When they closed the door, that was the darkest I could imagine.”

“Cleve’s yard is equipped with motion-sensor lights all over the place,” said the Soupster. “Don’t be startled. I can show you where you can just wave your hand a little out in front of you and set off the whole array.”

On the edge of Cleve’s lawn, the Soupster waved his arm a little out in front of him and the whole area blazed into daytime. Awash now, the two men staggered blinking up the walk. Cleve was already at his front door, tipped off by the lights.

“Can Bob check out one of your flashlights to do some plumbing?” the Soupster asked, indicating the new neighbor.

“Sure,” said Cleve, who disappeared briefly. He came back with a three lights — a carabiner micro-light, a waterproof million-candlepower portable searchlight and about six feet of luminescent piping. “Use the piping for brightening up the area where you are working,” he explained.

As Bob stood examining the lights, the Soupster turned to Cleve. “Poor guy,” whispered the Soupster. “This is his first November.”

“He’ll do okay,” Cleve said. “It’ll soon be Thanksgiving and the city lights will go up on the utility poles and the people in the stores and houses will start decorating.”

“Can I borrow all three lights?” asked Bob.

“Better than cursing the darkness,” said Cleve. “For sure.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – June 4, 2009

Our Town – June 4, 2009

| Craftsman, Neighbors, Newcomers, Our Town, Relationships | June 4, 2009

Guy had worked the order counter at the lumberyard for the past 20 years, after spending an equal amount of time working out in the field. Examples of his handiwork stood all over Our Town. And stand they did – even after decades of salt-encrusted gales, Guy’s decks, fences, sheds and garages stood strong while much newer structures succumbed to rot. Guy knew how to make things shed water and not trap it. And that, as the poet said, makes all the difference.

“Hey guy!” Guy said to the new builder who had come into the store just about every other day for the better part of the last three weeks. Guy greeted everybody with “Hey guy!” — which was his personal joke.

The newcomer chuckled obediently. “Hey, Guy,” he answered. The new contractor had won a federal contract to refurbish some government structures and planned to be in Our Town for a month. With him hailing from sunnier climes, the rain had put a serious damper on his spirit. He was homesick.

“What’ll it be?” asked Guy, already feeling sorry for the newbie. He didn’t know Our Town’s unspoken rule that you had to be here at least 6 months or through a winter before people started taking you seriously.

As the new contractor reeled off his needs, Guy nodded, but didn’t write anything down. He didn’t have to. Guy had a prodigious memory – big enough to store and retrieve detailed knowledge of just about every building that went up. He remembered who did the work, who paid for the work and how the work went. He remembered what materials they’d used. He automatically remembered all of what his customer had just asked for.

Then Larry the shipwright, showed up to order ironwood and hydraulic hoses and fittings. As the new contractor waited for his order, Guy rang up Larry’s stuff. Larry’s wife, Felicity, lounged in a nearby chair.

After high school, Guy and Larry had fixed up a classic troller and hand-trolled together for two summers. Then they had that close call. Larry was the seadog and went right back out. Guy started making a living fishing for nails. The two friends grew apart. Well, not so far apart that Guy didn’t introduce Larry to Felicity, who was Guy’s cousin through his mother.

Enter the Soupster, who chatted with Larry and Felicity and went through the whole “Hey guy!” routine with Guy. Shirley, Guy’s wife, had taught beginning piano to the Soupster’s niece, who now worked as a concert accompanist. Felicity had recommended the music school at her old college to the Soupster’s niece — where the girl received a nice scholarship — even though Felicity had gone there for nursing. Guy had built the Soupster a shed that was still watertight after 33 wet winters. Larry sold him fish.

Guy’s two-way radio buzzed, signaling that the new contractor’s order was ready.

“Friendly place,” the visiting builder said. “I know how it goes from my hometown. The guy at the lumberyard there knows everybody, too.” Then, he paused and indicated the Soupster, Larry and Felicity, who were still chatting. “That’s got to be unusual, though. The fact that the customers know each other so well. That’s got to be rare.”

Guy considered his loquacious friends. Actually, the scene he surveyed happened nearly every day at the order counter at the lumberyard. Then, Guy remembered Our Town’s “Six Month Rule.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” he fibbed. “Rare, indeed.”

1328 total views, 0 today

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    Whole Soup is a PDF version of every page of the Soup, just as it appears in the printed edition.

What is Our Town?

Our Town is a bi-weekly column that tracks the life of the Soupster and his friends and neighbors.

The Soupster is a long-time resident of Our Town who seems to have all the time in the world to traipse around, visit friends and neighbors and get into minor scrapes.

The first Our Town was published December 22, 1999.

Read Our Towns published before February 2009 HERE.

Who is the Soupster?

The Soupster is a long-time resident of Our Town who seems to have all the time in the world to traipse around, visit friends and neighbors and get into minor scrapes.

Want to submit a piece for Our Town?

Contact us with your idea or completed piece. Our Town’s must be 450-500 words long, take place in or near Sitka and the Soupster must make an appearance, however brief.

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