My Turn: Wealth of memories of Mike's Place keep it alive

Posted: Tuesday, October 28, 2003

The letter of Oct. 17 by Pat Pusich regarding Mike's Place restaurant stirred memories for me. I don't know Pat Pusich, but I do know Rudy and Mary, and several members of the Pusich family very well.

When I arrived in Juneau in 1960, Mike's Place and the Baranof dining room were the nicest places in town for dining. There were several other places to eat such as the City Cafe, the PaMarRay, the Northlander Hotel, Percy's and Glover's Spruce Delicatessen, but only two really classy places. If you wanted a special occasion out, or if you had company from out of town, you went to Mike's or the Baranof.

I was just then starting as the new doctor, the "medical officer in charge," at the Alaska Native Clinic in Juneau. My boss, Dr. Ben McBrayer from Mt. Edgecumbe, and I had dinner in July 1960, to discuss work at the clinic (I might add I was the only medical officer at the clinic, in contrast to the present day). Dr. Bill Whitehead and his family were our hosts there several times for dinner.

It was a very glamorous, rather elegant place to meet and socialize. I met some interesting people those first months, also, at Mike's Place - both Senator Earnest Gruening and Senator Bartlett, and Gov. Bill Egan.

There were several signature items on the menu that just evoked Alaska and spelled Mike's Place. I remember a plate of spaghetti came with every meal and Italian breadsticks. Petersburg shrimp - either breaded and deep fried, or sauteed - were very impressive, especially to those from the South or Midwest.

There was the "captain's plate," which had halibut, salmon, shrimp, scallops and oysters, and there was a "Ladies' Steak" - a not-too-small sirloin, always perfectly cooked and "not only for the ladies" - a lot of us guys ordered it, too.

There was a tank of live Maine lobsters in the early days. And live music, either organ music or a musical group. One of my favorites in the 70s was the John Carswell Trio (his kids were some favorite patients of mine and that linked us, too). I ran across John in the Seattle airport this last July - a little grayer in the beard now, but still with the ready smile. We exchanged some fond memories about Mike's Place.

Indeed, there were weddings and dinners and parties to be remembered over there. I especially remember the reception after the wedding of Will Whitehead and Dorothy Sturrock; descendants of two old Juneau families. What a great time! Only problem was there were so many there that one couldn't possibly say hello to all you wanted to - you could just have a great time enjoying the celebration!

Over the years, Mike's Place changed a bit and revised somewhat to reflect changing times. Yet, it always had cachet' and class. It remained a very favorite place to dine for us, right up until the time of my retirement in 1999.

There were also many personal ties. Rudy and Mary, and their presence, for many years. Mary Kay Pusich was a classmate of my daughter Retha (and you always remembered my favorite cocktail, exactly, Mary Kay). The grandchildren, Shannon and Shane Rear, were patients. Doreen and Louis Pusich's kids were patients. Ann Marie Good, who worked there for many years, was a personal friend when she was secretary to the administrator at Bartlett Hospital.

Mike's Place, we remember you, and as long as we remember you, you shall never die!

• Kenneth W. Moss is a retired Juneau doctor who now lives in Great Falls, Mont.

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