Kinky Character

Renowned master mariner and historian left an invaluable legacy

Posted: Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Without collectors like Lloyd "Kinky" Bayers, the history of Juneau would be sadly lacking. Bayers' outstanding information file and photograph collection, now entrusted to the Alaska State Library, was years in the developing. He also collected books, which were donated by his mother to local libraries after his death.

The information file originally took the form of 3x5 cards, typed on a manual typewriter and arranged alphabetically. There were two categories: people and events/subjects.

Under events, one can find topics such as Estebeth, the mail boat that ran between Juneau and Sitka; evacuation (a total evacuation of Juneau scheduled for an A-bomb test); the "still living" headless rooster; flying saucers (in Feb. 1916); and smallpox. Entries were arranged chronologically. Under "Juneau Fourth of July," the entries cover 75 years - from July 1892 through July 1967 - gleaned from newspapers and magazines.

People entries include the Perpetual Motion Kid, Capt. Tom Hill, August Aalto (a Douglas Pioneer) and S. Zynda (brewmaster and hotel manager). Occasionally, the opinionated and outspoken Bayers would write "B.S." next to an entry.

These 3x5 cards were eventually photocopied in groups to form 8x11-inch pages, which have been sorted into three-ring binders. Leafing through these pages helps the researcher avoid reading entire years on microfiche, because one can zero in on particular dates. His work has become an invaluable aid to modern historians interested in Pacific Northwest marine history, Alaska history and Juneau history to 1968.

PCA 127, a collection of photos he took and photos he collected, backs up the typed digests. Among his 400 scrapbooks are postcard albums and ship albums, available upon request.

In the days before computers and Web sites, some experts considered his library - files, pictures, 42 boxes of clippings and documentary materials - the most complete records in the entire state. The books he collected ranged from dime novels to late 19th-century paperbacks such as "Two Years Before the Mast" and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "A Study in Scarlet."

Local resident, historian and author Jim Ruotsala had the pleasure of meeting Bayers at Juneau's wharf one day.

"I told him I was a stamp collector, and he took me home with him and gave me some old stamps. That was 60 years ago. His house was where Bullwinkle's is now. He had magazines piled from the floor to the ceiling - old Saturday Evening Posts, Life, Look. He did a lot of research," Ruotsala recalls.

Ships were a particular emphasis in Bayers' research.

"He was quite a seaman," Ruotsala says. "During World War II, he worked with tugs at the seaport. I think he got his nickname, Kinky, from that. Working with or splicing wire on ships is called 'kinking' them. But that's a guess."

Historian Bob DeArmond believed his contentious character led to the nickname. Mike Zamora said that Kinky enjoyed playing cards and hypothesized that the name came from kinking the card edges.

Lloyd H. Bayers was born July 6, 1911, in Juneau. His mother, Vera Ivanova Soboleff Bayers (1887-1975), was the daughter of Father John Soboleff and grew up in Killisnoo. His father, Harry "Tay" Bayers, a boatman, came to Killisnoo from Maine with his two brothers to work for the Alaska Oil and Guano Co., which manufactured oil and fertilizer from herring.

Lloyd had five sisters. All six siblings attended school in Kake and Juneau. In Juneau, he lived on vessels moored for the winter. In 1930, Lloyd was a member of the Juneau High School basketball team and served as an official and judge for the Gold Medal Tournament.

While growing up, he worked summers with his father on boats - towing logs, tending fish traps and carrying freight. He completed his study of navigation and received his licenses to operate vessels of various tonnage in coastal waters while comparatively young.

In January 1931, he was a deckhand on the Estebeth. When "Tay" Bayers died in April 1932, "Kinky" became the sole support of his mother and sisters.

He worked at various jobs for the Alaska Juneau Gold Mining Co. In 1939, he purchased the M.V. Forester, a former cannery tender, and took on towing, freighting and charter work. After selling the Forester, he became captain of the fish packer Pelican, owned by Kalle Raatikainen.

During World War II, he served with the U.S. Army Transport Service, mostly in Southeast Alaskan waters.

After the War, Captain Bayers went to work for the Water Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey as master of a vessel that transported survey personnel around Southeast. He retired in 1967 because of poor health. He died of a heart attack in Juneau on March 5, 1968.

As he had requested, his ashes were sprinkled on Gastineau Channel near his home port of Juneau, so that "I shall have made harbor for the last time."

Bayers was an activist on many issues. He was outspoken and frequently wrote letters to the editor. He opposed water meters, urban renewal and the organization of borough government. He often held forth on these and other topics at the City Cafe.

A local newspaper reported January 21, 1968, that Bayers had "starred on TV the Sunday night before the election when he became Juneau anti-urban-renewal types' Horatius at the Bridge.

Kinky stood off the infidels quite well but his chore is obviously not completed what with proponents girding for yet another try at the ballot box."

Soon after his TV appearance, the newspaper went on, Bayers received a telephone call from someone masquerading as his friend Grant Ritter, who also happened to be City Street foreman, saying, "Kinky, old buddy, I sure hate to do this...but orders just came down to shut off your water and sewer."

Bayers commented that such news was not good for his heart.

In 1969, the Deparment of the Interior gave the Honor Award for Commendable Service to Bayers in recognition of his service to the Geological Survey as Master of the vessel Watres.

His sister, Lillian Turner, accepted the medal. The award said that "During long and irregular working hours, in all kinds of weather, Capt. Bayers was always dependable and available when needed."

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