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Juneau Teacher Tales

An educational glimpse into Juneau history

Posted: August 7, 2014 - 12:03am
Juneau Teacher Tales 1930s-1950s will be on sale Saturday at the Nugget Mall. The book collected first-person accounts of being an educator in territorial Alaska.  CHARLES L. WESTMORELAND | JUNEAU EMPIRE
CHARLES L. WESTMORELAND | JUNEAU EMPIRE
Juneau Teacher Tales 1930s-1950s will be on sale Saturday at the Nugget Mall. The book collected first-person accounts of being an educator in territorial Alaska.

A special, undiscovered part of Juneau’s history will be available for the public once more with the revised release of Juneau Teacher Tales, a compilation of stories and interviews of and about teachers in territorial Alaska from the 1930s to ‘50s.

Juneau Teacher Tales is an updated version of a publication called “Alaska Experiences by Juneau Teachers,” originally released in 1993.

According to an article by the Juneau Empire on the release of the original book, those who helped compile it described it as a “simple spiral-bound book (about the) teaching experiences in Juneau before statehood. It was written by those who taught in Juneau from the 1930s through the 1950s, and its pages detail the history of territorial Alaska from the perspective of those who lived it.”

The idea behind creating and reviving the project are much the same; it contains a vital piece of Juneau history that most would normally overlook.

“As with all history, the people of the time go, too,” said Patricia Berryhill, a participant who helped initiate the original project, in a 1993 interview. “The book provides an opportunity to read about an important time in Juneau history — schools before statehood — but also provides people a chance to meet the people who are in the history books.”

As 20 years have passed, members of the Juneau Retired Teachers Association still feel the same way.

“Since (the original book), some of us have kept track of obituaries of those that have passed away,” said Marie Darlin, a member of the Retired Teachers Association and participant in revamping the book. “And when we looked at it again, there’s a lot of history in Juneau in there, so we thought it was an idea to reprint and we had a recommendation from Alaska Retired Educators Association of doing a ‘Teacher Tales’ from all over the state and (Juneau) has never done one before.”

Obituaries, newly discovered photos of the schools and history of the schools later established in Juneau were added to update the book.

You don’t have to be a teacher to enjoy or relate to the tales told from these first-person perspective encounters. From the city-wide celebration following the opening of the Juneau-Douglas bridge, to the eternally impossible task of finding housing downtown (a common problem throughout the book), to reading about common names most only know from the names on buildings — such as Mr. Dryden being called “Mr. Dragon” by his students.

Both the original book and the new one were funded with the help of a historical grant from the Juneau-Douglas City Museum.

The first sale of the book will be available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Nugget Mall in honor of Back-to-School Day. All proceeds go to scholarships through the Retired Teachers Association. Additional sales for the book will be held in the future, and will eventually be available at local bookstores.

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