Every day, like clockwork, Greg Parrish walks the trails at Davis Park.
He walks two loops fast, with his head down and his shoulders hunched; swinging a walking stick and wearing a wide-brimmed hat pulled low over his eyes. His vision has deteriorated over the years, which makes it harder to cross Mountain View Drive to get to the park, but he said the daily walks help keep his arthritis at bay.
He’s lived in Mountain View for about 40 years now — he’ll tell you he’s the only Parrish on North Pine Street.
When he first arrived in Anchorage, he said he earned $11,000 a year and moved from slum to slum, struggling to save money for a down payment on a house. For a while, he lived in a tiny, dilapidated apartment near the intersection of North Bragaw Street and Thompson Avenue. The landlord was a plumber by trade and a drunk by nature: Parrish said the ramshackle dwelling was plagued with broken pipes and bottles of Jim Beam hidden throughout the laundry room.
“You had to, very carefully, check the washer and dryer before you turned them on,” he recalled. “Drinking was the state sport when I moved here.”
Parrish still considers himself lucky.
A physicist, he came north after graduate school to take a teaching job at the Alaska Community College, then the University of Alaska Anchorage. It was a time when men with PhDs were driving cabs to make a living, and Parrish said he was happy to get a job in his chosen profession. Many of his former classmates did not.
Mountain View Post: Did you always have an interest in physics?
Greg Parrish: “Truth is, I wanted to be an archaeologist. But when I was looking around for something, it didn’t pay. I came from a poor family. First and foremost, it had to be job-oriented. Physics, I could do easy enough, and in those days it was a good market. Now, by the time I graduated, you understand, it was collapsing. A few years later, archaeology would have been better, probably.”
Post: You moved around a lot when you first came to Anchorage — what made you settle down here in Mountain View?
GP: “Basically just trying to find a house I could buy. I was a young single male, white, I had no affirmative action whatever. There was money for women, there was money for minorities buying houses, but if you were a male who was not a veteran, God help you. Unless you made a large amount of money.”
Post: In your opinion, has Mountain View changed since you first came here?
GP: “Oh yeah, it’s changed a lot. When I first moved to Mountain View, it was like Cicero used to be in Chicago. It was a place where the working poor lived, very proud of what they did, virtually no crime. Didn’t have a liquor store. And then it turned over…you started having gangs. And crime went up. I’ve been burgled many times. There are shots fired all the time.”
Post: So you believe the neighborhood was better off when you first moved here? Things have gotten worse?
GP: “It depends what you mean by better and worse. Economically, it’s far better now. The prices, in real terms, used to be awful. Moving in extra people and moving in the big chains lowered prices tremendously. Housing, what you bought — in those days, you couldn’t buy cheap things.”