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After 47 Years on Ice, Money Is Flowing Their Way

May 07, 1987|DEBORAH CHRISTENSEN

--Waiting for the ice to break up on the Tanana River is sort of the Alaskan equivalent of watching the grass grow. For the last 71 years, Alaskans have been plunking down $2 for the chance to guess the exact day and time, down to the minute, when the ice begins to flow--a sure sign that spring has arrived in interior Alaska. Two of this year's 19 winners have been guessing unsuccessfully for nearly five decades. "At last--after 47 years," said Mel Beconovich, a Fairbanks resident in his 70s who said he has bought 20 tickets every year since arriving in Alaska. "I've bought 10 tickets every year since 1940," said Edith Trambitas, 69, who lives in Auke Bay, near Juneau. "I was two minutes off in 1944." More than 300 people lined the river bank near the town of Nenana, where a giant tripod was rigged to set off a siren and stop a huge clock when the ice began to flow. Those who guessed 3:11 p.m. on May 5 will share a $155,000 jackpot. "It's been on the verge of going out for three days," said Bob Coghill, manager of the Nenana Ice Classic. Coghill said April 30 was the most-guessed day and that 46 people even picked non-existent April 31.

--These are tough times for millionaires, it seems. According to Fortune magazine, a million big ones will get you a Learjet--used--or a house in Palm Beach, Fla.--but not on the beach. Time was, a million bucks could get you a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. But a seat went for a record $1.1 million last month. For budget-conscious shoppers, however, there still are some bargains. Fortune says $1 million can buy a Picasso oil painting from his surrealist period or a yearling sired by Kentucky Derby winner Northern Dancer. But if you want a home in Palm Beach, you can get five bedrooms and a nice pool--but no beach. As for the Learjet, you'll have to settle for a 1978 10-seat model that has already flown 5,000 hours.

--Passengers on Beijing's crowded buses were accustomed to rude service. So it was no wonder that Wang Guirong, who greeted each of her passengers with a smile, developed a devoted following. A statue has been erected in honor of the friendly bus conductor, who died of throat cancer at age 24 in 1985. The statue was unveiled along the route of the No. 103 trolley bus on which Wang worked at a ceremony attended by many of her customers. The New China News Agency said that the statue, showing Wang selling a ticket, is believed to be the first in the capital to honor an ordinary citizen.

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