Cheechako - The Pilot
Nurse Paula Porter should be happy. Good husband. Her son is soon to graduating. At 35, that’s it? She wants an adventure and discovers finds the new state of Alaska is offering free land to homesteaders. She and events around her husband are about to disrupt their acceptable lives.logline
It’s the Fall of 1958. The Alaskan territory is about to become a state. It is long on potential and short on people to develop it. Key politicians and Anchorage business leaders have plan to attract people, promote the state, and maybe make a little money along the way: Promote Alaska as the “Last Frontier” to the folks in the lower 48. All they have to do is come to Alaska and the government will give you a land grant. All you got to do is farm it for twenty years and it’s yours.
Paula Porter is a nurse in Mt. Clemens outside of Detroit. Her husband Stan has recently started a new job in a company town. An independent foundry that employs the town predominantly black population and tied directly to the fortunes of the auto manufacturers. Paula and Stan’s pride and joy is their 18 year old son Nick, nine months away from graduating high school.
Paula is coming to the realization that at 35, this could be it. Married and working for another 20 years. For Stan, this is success. A good life. Children of the Depression. Neither one really had a childhood. These events and a war have a large imprint of their psyches. Their different perspectives begin to be revealed as incidents begin to impact their plans, and disrupt their search for the final house for them.
Paula is under added stress at work due to another nurse who continues to make advances towards her and won’t take no for answer. Her friend Cindy is aware of the situation. In 1958 it is not discussed at your work place and no wants to be shamed in public. Paula is self-tranquilizing from the hospital inventory of meds. She confesses to Cindy at the end of their work day that see knows she’s “blue” but doesn’t know why. They kid each other about going home to their second job in preparing dinner for their working husband and families. It’s not really that funny anymore to Paula.
Thomas Rawlins from the Alaskan group arrives in Detroit to begin to publicize the homestead campaign in the press, and plan for a sales session at a local hotel the following week.
Stan is reserve and has a strong sense of right and wrong. He’s observant that the bruise on a waitress’s arm is no accident. The local town cop is a little too nosy. When Paula and he attend his son’s Friday night football game, he discovers one of his new company’s negro mechanics has a nephew who is the reason his son sits more than plays. Stan doesn’t care about his race or his son’s lack of playing time. Stan does care when he joins Paula in the bleachers when another white football dad tells Stan that he shouldn’t be socializing with niggers. Stan invites the football dad to meet him behind the bleachers immediately.
The following morning Paula discovers the article on free land in Alaska. She wants to learn more. So do a few other characters with good and bad intentions. It all leads to Paula making a life changing decision.