Historical Sports: Two In A Row in 1946 & '47

The Juneau High School Crimson Bears reclaimed the Channel Series battle against Douglas High School in 1946 by defeating the Huskies in three straight games, including a final 53-23 win that gave them the Northern Division title. They also defeated Sitka high.


Next up the Bears won two-out-of three against the Petersburg Vikings (Southern Division champs over Ketchikan and Wrangell) to earn the Southeast Alaska Championship. The games were at Little Norway’s Petersburg Public School Gym and Juneau won 41-36, lost 28-27 and won 46-30. The Bears won the first night after scoring six points in the last thirty seconds to overcome a one-point Vikings lead. In game two no team scored in the last four minutes. In game three Juneau took the lead early and never lost it.

This series win returned the Silver Basketball to the local trophy shelf from which it was taken by Ketchikan back in 1942.

Team members included Denny Merritt, Jerry Moore, Herb Mead, Harry Aase, Jack O’Connor, Fred Prouty, Robert Sanford, Jim Klein, Vic Hardin, Jim Rude and Les Hogins.

A victory dance was held in the Juneau high school gymnasium a week later, the team were guests of honor and did not have to pay admission or for food. Dale Roff won a raffle for $5 in cash and Master of Ceremonies, Bill Vernon, introduced several games that everyone participated in. Sandwiches and cokes were served and the teens danced to a juke box. The dance was hosted by the Student Council under the direction of student advisor Helyn Hoskins and principal Henry Harmon. Coke was sold by Boys Club under direction of BC president Leslie Hogins; sandwiches by Girls Club under supervision of GC president Patte Davis; music supervised by Betty Lou Hared; chaperone was Pat Hogue; lights were Vic Hardin and Fred Prouty; entertainment was Dave Sperling and clean up was by the Student Council.

Players selected to an All-Southeast team were first string: Juneau’s Merritt, Mead, Hogins and Aase and Petersburg’s Grebstad and Swanson. Second string selections were Juneau’s O’Connor, Petersburg’s Kinnear, Wrangell’s Rinehart, and Ketchikan’s Ludwigsen, Graham and Leding.

The 1947 team, with many of the same characters, played in the first Gold Medal tournament. The Juneau high school team was one of the best teams in 1947, losing by one point in the Gold Medal semifinals to Ketchikan. Juneau’s Mead, who later starred at the University of Idaho, missed a tough free throw at the end of the contest. The Ketchikan Rockets went on to the championship but lost to Petersburg.

“We should have won it all,” Merritt said. “We beat just about everybody. I enjoyed it and it was a lot of fun. That is all we played in those days was basketball. That gold medal year I was a senior. Herb was MVP and I was a first team selection.”

Nearly 700 fans crowded into that JHS and Ketchikan game.

Out of town city teams for that first Gold Medal included Ketchikan, Petersburg, Wrangell, Sitka, and Douglas and Juneau town teams; 28 teams participated. Gold Medal committee members that year included Harry Sperling, Dan Human, George Schmidt, Dave Webster and Stan Grummett. The following season the Juneau team would be the only high school squad in GM and would finish second to Ketchikan.

In 1947, for the second straight year, Juneau won the Southeastern Alaska Championship by defeating Petersburg in two straight games, this time at Juneau, by the scores of 53-33 and 71-40. Referees were Ed Hildre and Delbert Hanks. This was Juneau’s sixth season championship dating back to 1928. The team also won the Gastineau Channel Championship from Douglas and once again captured the City League Tournament. The city league featured nine teams: Moose, Imperial, P.A.A.. Clippers, Signacs (A.C.S.), Darnell’s, Veterans, Mike’s Place in Douglas, Douglas H.S. and Juneau H.S. Juneau defeated Imperial 50-30 for the title.

1947 featured new coach Avrit and 27 players tried out for varsity, including Harry Aase, Gus Adams, Stanley Beadle, Earl Crass, Bill Graves, Roy Gray, Bob Larsen, Bill Logan, David Lonergan, Charles McClellan, Herbert Mead, Denny Merritt, Jack O’Connor, Terry Pegues, Willard Prouty, Bud Reid, Don Rhodes, Jim Rude, Bob Sanford, George See, Bill Schmitz, Dudley Smithberg, Harold Sonderland, Bill Sperling, Dave Sperling, Jim Vuille, and Rodney Williams. Basketball manager was Duane Hogue and assistants were Rodger Pegues and Bob Lesher. The school also had a 32-member tumbling club and principal Harmon stated he would have an act in the vaudeville.

This season featured the Anchorage Eagles claiming they were the All-Alaskan Champions, although they did not play Juneau and ignored the SE Championships. Anchorage had beaten a Sheldon Jackson team, but that SJ team did not play in the southeast tournament. However, the Crimson Bears did not claim Alaska bragging rights because they hadn’t played Anchorage. Juneau was invited to the Fur Rendezvous but could not attend as they were in the midst of playing three championships: Gold Medal, City League, and Southeast.

A news paper editorial stated that, “Interscholastic basketball in the territory of Alaska is a growing sport and it should not be given a bad name by a team that makes false claims of a championship title not yet earned.”

Events in 1946 and 1947 included the Juneau Elks Lodge becoming sponsor for Juneau’s first Sea Scout Ship, to be formed under the local Boy Scout Council. It was open to boys from age 15-17 and the unit was assigned a 38-foot Coast Guard harbor picket boat. Cash Cole was chairman of the Elks committee with C.L. Wingerson, Gene Vuille and Robert Boochever as members.

Elroy Fleek and Jake Hendricks announced on August 2 a new Juneau-Douglas bus service, utilizing a new Beck 37-passenger mainliner bus with engine in the rear. The line was called the Capital City Trailways. The company’s Juneau stand will be on South Seward street near the Teenage Club and is planned to have 13 round trips a day between the two towns, commencing at 7:15 a.m. and ending at midnight.

On July 2, Claude “Pappy” and Ida Carnegie, Juneau’s popular florist, announced the sale of their business to Bob Lajole. The Carnegies had purchased the Juneau Florist Shop from J.P. Anderson 10 year’s prior.

Henry Messerschmidt negotiated to retain his families former business the San Francisco Bakery, operating as Purity Bakery. Henry and brother George had sold the bakery a year earlier to grocery man Bert McDowell and Marshall Erwin. Henry joined with Levi Hunsaker to purchase the McDowell-Erwin interest.

On July 1, Lewis McDonald took over the management of the grocery and meat store The Harbor Market from Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Nygaard.

On July 12, the Northern Commercial Company held an open house at its newly constructed Juneau Marine Base, located just north of the small boat harbor. The base included a marine railway capable of hauling out boast to 115-feet in length. The manager of the facility was E. G. Whitehead.


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