Local history, one family at a time

Posted: Thursday, July 01, 2004

Wings of Alaska co-owner John Lucas and his sister, Kathi Goddard, began piecing together their family tree two years ago for all their relatives on the Lucas side of the family.

The research began in the family's trunks and boxes, before turning to old newspaper accounts.

In some ways, it was not that difficult. Harry Lucas and his wife, Ina - John's grandparents - were one of Juneau's well-known pioneer couples in the first half of the 20th century. They moved to town in 1913, at which point Harry took a job with B.M. Behrends' bank and Ina taught at a one-room schoolhouse in Thane.

In the late 1920s, Harry started a Chevrolet dealership in Juneau. He served as mayor from 1939 to 1945. One of his most notable accomplishments was a trip to New York to christen the U.S.S. Juneau in 1941.

"This was the first time I've ever done a family tree," John Lucas said. "It's one of those things you're always interested in, but you never find the time.

Lucas and Goddard completed the 50- to 60-page project in four or five months. And Lucas recently reassembled the first few pages for Volume II of Gastineau Channel Memories, a 422-page book of local family stories published by Juneau's Pioneer Book Committee.

Copies of Vol. II are now available for those who have pre-ordered. Call 586-3637 for more information. Additional copies will be sold after the Fourth of July. Volume I of the book is still available at Hearthside Books.

"I had read the first book, and I found it very interesting," Lucas said. "I thought my grandparents belonged in it. A lot of people knew them and remembered them. They were one of the early couples in town, and they had some history."

Ina was born in 1892 and died in 1971. Harry was born in 1890 and died in 1949.

John Lucas and Goddard were able to piece Harry's story back to Wisconsin, but could only find a few obituaries and some old pictures about his family's early days in France.

"I thought this would be the only opportunity to put together a history and do a current family tree with pictures on all the living relatives," Lucas said, "It's a good way to document things that are actually getting lost as the older generations continue to grow old and die off. It's a way to pass the history down."

Juneau resident Mary Jo Hobbs arrived in Juneau with her husband, Burnie, in 1946, moved to Pelican in 1949 and returned to town in 1957. She wrote down their story for the second volume.

When the Hobbses first arrived in Juneau, Burnie worked with Brownie the barber in an old building at the present-day site of Pocket Park. Burnie went back to work with Brownie when they came back. They homesteaded in the Valley on what is now Riverside Drive and Melvin Park. At the time, it had no electricity or running water.

Pelican in the early 1950s was busy, with at least 2,000 people in town each day during the summer. In the winter, the town was lucky to have 200 people.

"It was the biggest place in Southeast for fishermen," Hobbs said. "There was a cold storage and a fish house and a cannery. If we had fish we wanted canned, we could get the cans from the cannery and can our fish ourselves. And then we'd take it to the cannery, have them put our names and labels on the lids."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.

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