A nightmarish cost of living

Letter to the editor

Posted: Wednesday, December 29, 2004

I can relate to the sentiments of the Morrows and the cost of living in Juneau (Empire, Dec. 26).

My life's dream (starting from the time I saw a documentary on Juneau while I was still in high school) was to move to Alaska and be a part of the Last Frontier. My husband shared this dream with me and when I was offered a federal job (clerical) in Juneau, I couldn't leave the Lower 48 fast enough.

We had a huge yard sale, selling everything but what we could transport in two vehicles, sold our home, packed our cars and hit the road. We realized that the cost of living would be higher than what we were used to, but thinking that Juneau was a growing town (and that my spouse wouldn't have any problem locating a decent-paying job), we didn't think that there would be any problems making ends meet.

How wrong we were.

It was very, very difficult for my husband to find a job, even though he had years of experience in construction. It seemed that if he wasn't born in Juneau or didn't know the right person, he'd never be able to find a decent job. I was very surprised at the lack of blue collar jobs in Juneau. He settled for a job cleaning carpets (and for this job we were both very thankful), paying much less than what he made in construction in the South.

With his decrease in income and the increased (by many times) cost of living and our bills, it became necessary for me to find an additional job to supplement our income. I worked 88 hours a week, 7 days a week (and he usually worked at least 40 hours per week, oftentimes more) for the last six months we lived in Juneau, still barely scraping by. Our rent in Juneau (for a one-bedroom apartment) was more than four times our house payment in the South.

I was perplexed that I lived in a place that was surrounded by all the things I'd dreamed of (glaciers, bears, eagles, sea otters, sea lions, camping) and incomprehensible amounts of natural beauty and I couldn't enjoy any of it because I worked all the time. It was all we could do to pinch the necessary pennies together and get out while we could.

Before moving to Juneau, there was nothing more in my life that I wanted than to live in Alaska. Now that we've "been there and done that," I guess I should be thankful that we didn't have to file bankruptcy while we were there. Juneau is a beautiful place - in fact, the most beautiful place that I've ever seen - but now it is only a place that's in my dreams, and nightmares.

Susan Johnson

Arab, Ala.

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