Reading Don Abel's My Turn Tuesday morning brought back some exciting memories of the early '70s for me. This was the time when I first arrived in Juneau with my wife and children. Abel's lumber and hardware business was then downtown on Willoughby Avenue, located either in or very close to where the Salvation Army store is now. Don used to wait on customers himself plus doing the ordering and stocking, I imagine. One evening we supped out with the Abels at some sort of local benefit and it was all quite delightful. I cannot now say what our conversation was about that evening, but my spouse, Connie, likely would remember. We were excited because we had just exchanged our living in an urban subdivision for life in a small, isolated northern coastal town located well within the fabled Last Frontier. That is precisely my point in reminiscing this, as I felt we had come to a true frontier town heaven, of sorts, a place well away from the humidity and heat and endless concrete interstates, overpasses, traffic circles, noisy Mack trucks, tractor-trailers and rivers of portable Quonset-hut type RVs. However, there were a few of those things in Juneau even then. Then, I would guess, we were only a population of around 12,000.
I think, and I am sure Don Abel would agree with me, that the meaning of "progress" depends on who is trying to define it. For me and a whole lot of others, living in Juneau means setting aside wild places as nature's own sanctuaries. Places that will, in effect, nurture a healthy mind and feed the happy spirit, especially so when one can no longer easily make it climbing to the top of a wild mountain ridge. There is tremendous comfort knowing young folks can and will make it and will get out there by kayak, boat, ferry and floatplane. There is comfort in knowing wild places will not be overrun with miles of poured concrete and tar. However, we do know similar sanctuaries have been overrun in the Lower 48, via a pernicious and intentional creeping of industrialization and other development. To build a road out of Juneau would surely be a grave misjudgment, one that would ultimately allow transport into Juneau of an increasing army of road-borne vehicles further transgressing into one of nature's purest coastal sanctuaries.
Alan R. Munro