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Pioneers project collects Juneau reminiscences

Committee extends deadline for submissions of local family stories

Posted: Monday, November 27, 2000

Mary Joeann Monagle Mielke, 70, remembers the days when ice cream cones were five cents a scoop at Kendler's Dairy. "My favorite flavor was butterscotch," she writes.

Karleen Alstead Grummet retells a favorite family tale from Prohibition. Grandma was brewing beer in a crock when the house filled with smoke. As firefighters inspected the house, she stood in front of the fermentation crock, hiding the illegal brew with her skirts. The ruse worked.

Patricia Hussey Berg, 81, was born in Vancouver, lived as an infant in Kodiak, and traveled with her family to Anchorage, Seward, Latouche Island, Cordova and Douglas. This pattern of residence was typical of early families whose breadwinner followed jobs and government projects from place to place. Her father, Patrick Hussey, worked at Latouche for Kennecott Copper Corp. as a diesel engineer; at Cordova for Kennecott when Latouche closed; and founded a garage and a sawmill in Douglas after the family moved to Juneau in 1932. Hussey also prospected claims on Montana Creek and at Berners Bay.

Optometrist Earle L. Hunter, 71, now a resident of Webster Groves, Mo., recalls "growing up at 428 W. 12th St., in a small house my parents had built in 1936 by Jimmy Larsen, a local contractor. There were no sidewalks, and the street was a typical dirt road. I was able to watch as the streets were paved, and out the highway to the airport and even beyond. I remember the first Juneau-Douglas Bridge being built and opened ... and a ceremony at the airport commemorating the inauguration of the first air mail flights (a Pan American DC-3) and the first air mail stamp (6 cents). It was slow, steady progress."

Helen Miller Vacura, 76, recalls the racism against a Japanese classmate when she was a high school senior: "Juneau was a true melting pot of nationalities, including Slavs, Scandinavians, Finnish, Filipinos, etc. The valedictorian of my high school graduating class was John Tanaka, who was interned shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Everyone now realizes this was a terrible injustice; our class knew this in May 1942, and an empty chair sat in the midst of our rows of graduates."

Around the turn of the century, garments cleaned by Alaska Steam Laundry were delivered in wheel barrows in summer and by Yukon sled in winter.

These and hundreds of other details will appear in "Gastineau Channel Memories 1880-1959," a history project forthcoming from the Pioneer Book Committee of the Pioneers of Alaska. The book is an effort to record the history of pioneer families from Juneau and Douglas, said committee member Marie Darlin.

Some tales are first-hand. Others were handed down by parents and grandparents. Juneau's "good old days" include fatal cases of pulmonary tuberculosis, logging camps, grubstakes that may have been obtained illegally, boating accidents in Tracy Arm, love at first sight, large families and landslides.

Each story will be edited to about 1,000 words and illustrated with period photos for the limited-edition history. However, to preserve the longer versions submitted, "all the originals will be donated to the Alaska Historical Library," Darlin said. "People should know that everything they submit, even if it does not get into the book, will be there."

As of July 1, its original deadline, the committee had received only 121 stories. As of this week, it has over 200, but there are some stories the committee would like to have to make the volume complete, Darlin said. For that reason, the deadline has been extended to Dec. 31.

"We hope we can jog the memories of a few people who have not yet submitted," she added.

"Gastineau Channel Memories" is the book committee's second history project. Its first, a book about mining and Gold Rush pioneers in the area, has sold out. Because the committee is now receiving orders from libraries in the Lower 48, it is printing another 50 or so copies.

"Memories" will go to the printer by May 1. Current plans are to print 1,000 copies. The book will be available from the Juneau-Douglas City Museum.

Submissions can be made to Marie Darlin by fax at 907 463-3580 or Janet Ruotsala by e-mail (jruotsala@aol.com). Financial donations to the all-volunteer committee can be made to the Pioneers of Alaska. Interviewers, typists and editors are needed for concentrated work early in 2001.



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