Statehood: Were you here?

To mark the 50th anniversary of statehood, the Daily News is looking for people who were in Alaska before it joined the union on Jan. 3, 1959. If you have first-person memories or photographs from the time, share them here.

© Copyright 2011, The Anchorage Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  60     October 10, 2009 - 4:04am | louisvuitton2

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  59     September 8, 2009 - 11:48am | carol_ball

1947 in Alaska

Treatise for Anchorage Daily News of Alaska -
Submitted in conjunction with the 50th Anniversary of the statehood of Alaska- by Ms. Caroline A. Ball - 9/04/2009

My father, William Howard Ball was an Ornithologist as well as an Entomologist. He was employed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as an Entomologist from 1946 until his death in 1971. His duty station was the South Building which was located in downtown Washington, D.C. During his tenure as a U.S. government employee he was drafted into the Army, i.e. in June of 1947, namely the 183rd General Hospital which was stationed at Ft. Richardson (near Anchorage, Alaska). His original duty station was at the Army Air Base in Montana. This was the Great Falls Pacific Division – Air Transport Command. He left in June of 1947 for a rare and exciting opportunity to travel to the territory of Alaska. This unique deployment would last for three months. During his assignment, many in his platoon were appointed to the territory of Alaska to try to fight off the great infestation of mosquitoes that were prevalent at that time. To accomplish this eradication, he (and others) flew in planes and sprayed insecticide, and operated equipment on the ground level that would permeate the soil to help eradicate or at least decrease the presence of the pesky mosquitoes. Some of the photos that my father shot which I am submitting to the Anchorage Daily News can attest to this fact.
My father reminisced years later of two experiences that some of the residents of Alaska recounted to him. The first was the fact that in the winter time, it wasn’t unusual for the temperatures to plunge to 60 degrees below zero on a regular basis. He related that some of the residents of Alaska had to keep their cars or trucks running all night long. If they didn’t do this, they wouldn’t be able to start their vehicles up the next morning. They would then run the risk of running out of gas. I actually met an Alaskan bi-plane pilot at the Seattle Airport (on his way back to Alaska) this past May, 2009 who also stated the same facts about residents keeping their cars running all night to prevent their cars from freezing and becoming inoperable the next morning. In this day and age, as it is still done infrequently (especially in the winter) in Alaska, it can become a very expensive endeavor to carry out this ritual every night for an extended period of time.
The second experience that he talked about again occurred in the winter time. This time the residents of Alaska reported to him of the exorbitant amounts of snowfall that would descend on their houses and neighborhoods. One native Alaskan recounted that because the snow was so deep that year, they couldn’t exit out of their own front door on the first floor because it was buried in snow and completely inaccessible. They had a door on the second floor of their house that they would use in the winter. I actually saw evidence of this when I visited Alaska this past late May and early June of 2009 when I toured the Anchorage Museum of History and Art which exhibited photographs that were especially on display to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Alaska’s statehood. Because my father inspired me to visit Alaska, and when I attended a Photography Workshop in Yosemite National Park in the Fall of 2005, one of the photography students, who is also a resident of Alaska, mentioned that because of global warming, it would be better (sooner rather than later to visit Alaska to see the glaciers), that I decided myself to plan a trip to Alaska in May of 2009. This former student actually had to defend himself from being attacked by a bear by actually killing the bear himself. It wasn’t until I returned from my trip to Alaska that I learned that a very famous Japanese photographer (named Michio Hoshino) was killed by a bear while doing a photo shoot in Russia in 1996. Subsequently, I also discovered that he spent a lot of time in Alaska photographing the natural beauty and the wildlife before going to Russia. When I first decided to visit Alaska, I wasn’t aware that the year 2009 was going to be the 50th Anniversary of Alaska becoming the 49th State in the Union.
I am also submitting 31 of the many photos that my father recorded while he was stationed in Alaska to add to your newspaper’s historical database. They were taken when Alaska was still a territory, i.e., between June and August, 1947.

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  58     January 6, 2009 - 11:25am | jamico6

Eight Was Great!

After looking over all the wonderful Statehood photos submitted by readers, I noticed the year a lot of them were taken was 1958. The bonfire photo with KoKo the Kenai Clown in it had a caption that said that photo was taken in July 1958. Well, I was still eight at that time and wouldn't turn nine until Nov. of 1958. Just goes to show another example of how a person can learn something new even 50 years later. You see, I seemed to have gotten the idea that all those Statehood celebration activities took place after Alaska had become a State. I sure was wrong!!! So, it looks like I was getting to participate in all the fun activities sooner than I had thought. I sure wish I could have been in Alaska to help with the 50th Year of Statehood Celebration. It sounds like you have had lots of fun with it.

Janine Cone
South Dakota

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  57     January 4, 2009 - 5:51am | jamico6

Coming To Alaska

Since my last post was yesterday and I wrote something incorrectly, I thought I would correct it now. I had mistakenly written that the young lady putting up the 49th Star was Miss Alaska, but upon reading some of the old news articles on the Anchorage Daily News website, I saw it say that the Fur Rendezvous Queen was chosen to do the honor. My apology for not giving credit where credit was due! But my Uncle Walt really is the fireman with her. I also read a news article yesterday that told the fireman helping her was Capt. Walter S. Roddick. I think that may have been a more current reprint of the photo and updated version of the original article because I don't recall ever seeing his name mentioned before this. Okay, back to memories.
I never told how I came to be in Alaska since I wasn't born there. I am actually a native Californian. My father passed away in 1955 when I was five. My mother had two brothers and one sister living in Anchorage, so we moved to Alaska in 1956 to start a new life. It was so much fun to meet aunts, uncles, and cousins I didn't know I had. My grandmother would even come to visit from California and would take me on all kinds of adventures, which included walking along Cook Inlet to find unusual pieces of driftwood, go cranberry picking, and even pick edible mushrooms in the park strip (at least that's where it seems like we found them). They were those white button shaped ones like you buy in the store and we never got sick from eating them. :) :)
I first learned to ice skate at the ice rink in the park. I will always remember that Christmas in Alaska was the best for me as a child. Such wonderful and fun memories that will always be held close to my heart. I wish we could have stayed in Alaska longer, but in 1960, my mom's younger brother in California suddenly passed away. We went there for the funeral, but Mom decided we needed to stay and help my grandmother run her restaurant since she was shorthanded. We were back in Anchorage in 1961, probably only long enough to pack up our belongings and go back to California permanently, or at least until I got married and moved to the farmland in South Dakota where my father was born. I will definitely have to come back to Anchorage to visit my cousins who still live there and in Wasilla. Also, before growing too old, I need to do another "first in Alaska" and that is to go on a dog sled ride :) :) I absolutely love the sled dog races :) :) It won't be long before the Fur Rendezvous and Iditarod are taking place. How fun for all of you!!! Yes, Alaska, I do miss you very much!!! You are a very lovely and beautiful state!!! Janine (Miles) Cone
South Dakota

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  56     January 3, 2009 - 12:54am | jamico6

Alaska, I Miss You!

Today is the big day! 50 years ago I was 9 years old and was living in Anchorage. It doesn't seem like it was that long ago. Time sure flies. I lived there from 1956 until 1960. I attended Chugach Elementary School and lived in a duplex at 1558 F St. I did an on-line "bird's eye view" tour of Anchorage recently and saw how much it had changed. The duplex where I lived is still there, but the neighborhood has changed. The street is even paved, but the Spa that was down the street is gone. I took my first swimming lessons there. In fact, there are a lot of "firsts" for me in Alaska. I have so many wonderful and fond childhood memories of living there. A lot of memories have been re-lived by reading all the comments made by others. I thank all of you for sharing. Getting to see photos submitted from 50 years ago has also been fun. The big 49th Star being hung on that huge flag was very impressive. Most people remember the name of Miss Alaska, but how many could name that fireman who was up on the ladder helping her? I am very pleased to say that I can because he is my Uncle Walt Roddick. I wish he was still with us to enjoy this 50th celebration. Pictures of the parade have been great. The big bon fire is something I will never forget. It was so impressive to me as a child and I know I was one of those in that crowd somewhere that night. I really have missed Alaska and hope to come there again someday and visit some cousins who still live in Anchorage and Wasilla before I get too old. Have a great time celebrating 50 Fabulous Years, Alaska. My thoughts will be of all you lucky people who are living there and enjoying all the beauty of such a wonderful state. If anyone from the 2nd (Miss Teclaw 1956-57), 3rd (Mrs. Anderson 1957-58), 4th (Mrs. Triber1958-59), and 5th (Mr. Elliott 1959-60) grades at Chugach Elementary remember me, I'd love to hear from you. My e-mail address is jcone@dailypost.com I have lived in South Dakota the past 38 years. We have lots of snow and cold just like you in the winter :) :)

Janine (Miles) Cone
South Dakota

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  55     December 31, 2008 - 10:50am | DCinAK59

50th Birthday for Alaska

I was born January 3, 1959, at 9:34am in Sitka. My mom always told me I was the first girl born in the State, but I've never been able to find out if that is true or not! lol Alaska has been my home my entire life, I love it here, and it's fun to be able to say I was born the day we became a State. Happy Birthday Alaska ... you have matured beautifully :)

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  54     December 19, 2008 - 8:42pm | ammaw47

was there too

We moved to Alaska in 1957 from Texas. I remember we had to stay in Tacoma for 6 months while Dad went ahead. Most of the families in the area we lived were military and in the same situation. I remember when we got ready to leave we all had to get shots as Alaska was considered "overseas duty". We then went to Seattle where we boarded a large ship with all military families and headed for Alaska. We docked at Port Whittier and took the train to Anchorage. I still remember how beautiful the train trip was. I was only 10 at that time. Dad was stationed at Fort Richardson but we did not live on base. I remember walking to school in the dark, learning to ice skate (Dad flooded our back yard to make a rink), and marching in the statehood parade. I carried a large sign with balloons which kept popping at every step. we left Alaska December of 1960 just as I was turning 13. We drove the Alcan and then across Canada to Fort Dix. My memories of Alaska will alway be with me as some of the best times of my life.

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  53     October 5, 2008 - 6:50pm | jaronitzky

The Silver Ball on the Old Flag Pole in Anchorage

I was born in January of 1958 and grew up hearing that my parents were asked to weld togather the ball on the top of the flag pole. My Dad had a Machine/ Auto repair shop on Gamble. Mom put all the kids from the neighborhood names in the ball before Dad finished welding it togather. I just moved back to Anchorage with my own family and noticed the flag pole is still standing; although it has been moved.

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  52     August 4, 2008 - 3:20pm | jeet

Military life in Anchorage, Alaska

I arrived at Elmendorf A.F.B. during the winter of February 1956. When I first arrived I thought to myself what had I gotten my self into when I first saw all the snow at the air terminal at Elmendorf. I had wanted so much to be sent to Germany, and was wondering what had I done to deserve this.
After getting adjusted to military life in Anchorage, I purchased a mobile home at the Sunnyslope trailer park in Mountain View awaiting the arrival of my wife and daughter Melinda to arrive in March 1956.
After just a short time in Alaska, I soon learned to love it there, and we had some good times camping, fishing and traveling about the Keni.
My father would come up to visit us during the summer of 56, 57, & 58. We would take him fishing and camping and he just loved it.
After that first summer in Alaska, I soon to realize that I wouldn;t have traded it with anyone who went to Germany. This was some of the best times we have had.
My daughter Kim was born at the air force hospital at Elmendorf in April 1957.
The later part of 1958, my wife and I had went to our bank in Anchorage to make the final payment on our mobile home when we got the news that Alaska had been approved to be the 49th State in 1959. Everyone in Anchorage was up in arms with joy.
In December we returned to Seattle where I was discharged from the Air Force, and then went back to our home in Kansas City, Missouri.
While in Alaska, I was stationed at the 6981st Radio Group as a intercept radio operator.

Would love to come back,
George Jeter
Kansas City, Missouri

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  51     June 30, 2008 - 11:45am | koniagwarrior

June 30th, 1958

I was born in the early morning hours of June 30th, 1958 in a small village on the west side of Kodiak Island. So, I don't have any recollections of that day 50 years ago. I was told later that the news that the U.S Congress had accepted Alaska as the 49th state had been broadcast by AM radio from Anchorage that day.

During those early years of my childhood, the village was very small, and didn't resemble what it would become, in any way. There were no roads, and very few buildings. All of the houses that were there were sparsely nestled along the shoreline, the shoreline that served as the highway to each home in the area.

We got a mail plane once a week in those years, if the weather was cooperating. It was a Grumman Goose that would land in the channel amidst the salty spray, make its way to the shore, where it was greeted by every inhabitant that would have already made their way to see what and who had arrived. Everyone came.

The mail was unloaded and carried away by the strongest backs, along the plank boardwalk, to the small post office attached to the Alaska Packers Company store. It was there that the mail was sorted piece by piece, each parcel or letter relayed hand to hand out the door accompanied by the hollered name of the intended recipient waiting expectantly in the crowd outside. Everyone knew who received what in the mail in those days, there were no secrets.

Postage was $.04 a stamp, gasoline was $.24 a gallon, milk came in a can. Even then, everyone complained of the high prices of goods.

Communication in those days was face to face. There was one AM transmitter in the village, it was situated at my grandparents house, and used mainly for talking to Kodiak Airways in Kodiak to relay the weather from the area. But everyone had an AM transistor radio sitting on the windowsill attached to a makeshift aerial running outside, this was the connection to the world. All we could pick up was Anchorage in those days. It was enough.

When one needed to talk to someone. they simply walked to their house if the tide was low enough. In later years, CB radios would make communication easier, they were the pinnacle of technology. Then everyone could sit at their kitchen table and listen to the village gossip on the not so secret "Secret channel." Everyone had one.

The village had no television, but we still had entertainment. There was a bingo game each week, and if the plane had brought in a movie that week, everyone would migrate to the old empty building that sported assorted benches, a table for the projector, and a wood stove made from a 55 gallon drum, and sit through the new release. Everyone complained of the $.25 that it cost to attend. But sat through it anyway, sometimes twice.

Work was only seasonal, and the ocean was the workplace. Everything we needed came from the shoreline and the sea. The men and older boys worked on company boats during the Salmon run and everyone put up subsistence fish during the summer months, as well as managed gardens for the staples such as potatoes, carrots and whatever else would grow. Flour and sugar only came in 50 pound sacks. Not much else was needed. All the men hunted and trapped during the colder months. And with that, we lived like kings and queens.

During the years of growing up in that village by the sea, I always wondered why I was born in such an out of the way spot. I always felt that I was missing out on something. I felt shortchanged. It wasn't until later, when i was much older, that I ventured beyond the boundaries of our state, to see what was there.

After a short sojourn, I was back. I realized that I wasn't missing much after all. I still travel a little, everywhere I go is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. God in all his wisdom knew exactly where I would fit in, and he put me there.

The years have gone by, and I am 50 years older, and like our state, have seen good times and bad times. But, the good has always outnumbered the not so good.

Today, I am surrounded by computers, television, and all sorts of electronics, and have two vehicles in the driveway. All my children have grown and have begun their own lives, they all have chosen to stay in the state. The hustle and bustle of life in Alaska is all around me. It doesn't resemble the past very much at all, just as I don't resemble my earlier years. But, Alaska is still a beautiful place to be and it is my home.

I think alot about those earlier years, and it always brings a smile to my face. I love to tell stories of my life in Alaska to those around me, and watch their smiles as they listen. Alaska has given me many.

And so,Happy Birthday Alaska! Me and mine give you our best wishes, and hope you have many more. You have given me and so many others such fond memories and oh so many adventures, and I know they will not be the last.

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  50     June 27, 2008 - 12:27pm | deborahsjones

50th Anniversary of Statehood

I was 6 years old when we entered into statehood. I watched the huge bonfire that was at the park strip. I sat on top of my Dads shoulders to watch. It got so hot that it melted paint off the cars that were parked too close. I also remember watching the Fur Rendevous Queen pinning the star on the flag. I didn't understand the significance of it at the time. We just got to go downtown in Anchorage and watch all the cool things that were going on.

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  49     June 19, 2008 - 12:24pm | gpolsky

Moose Gooser

Yes, Wilma Stingle, I too road the Moose Gooser. It was put up during a Fur Rondy cold cold winter and ran from D Street "My Dad had the Record Shop on D" down "5Th" Avenue, not 4th. to L Street and never beyond. It just ran back and forth and tooted its whistle. I remember the narrow gauge track and how Cold the ride was.
We arrived in October 1945 on the US Yukon, that ill fated ship, its next trip up it hit the rocks.

Lots of wonderful memories. My husband and I celebrate "50 years of marriage on June 22. Married in 1958 in the Territory of Alaska.

Gayle "Polsky" Liston

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  48     June 10, 2008 - 8:35pm | sandie3

Where I was in 1959

I was 13 when Alaska became a state, I remember all the arguing among the adults about if we really wanted to be a state or not. My dad, Claude Carroll, told me that once the US legislature had voted to accept Alaska as a state it would be extremely insulting to reject it in front of the world and we had to vote for it. For many people there seemed to be little advantage to being a state other than we would have 3 votes in the legislature and we would vote for our own governor. Before we were a state our governor was appointed, and our representatives were non-voting members. All the "cities" in Alaska planned big celebrations and it is funny how they didn't quite come off as planned. I know in Fairbanks when it was first announced the civil defense sirens kept blowing and it made all the dogs howl. Then there was to be "a big star rising in the north". They planned on setting off a big star from the top of the Polaris building hooked to a helium balloon, and the river would run gold. Well it took more than one balloon to raise the star as it was so heavy and it delayed the star for several hours. The dye they put into the river to make it "run gold" changed to a metallic green with the minerals already in the water. Elsewhere in Alaska there were similar problems, I can't remember which city had planned for a huge bonfire for the celebration and someone started it burning the night before, and other "small problems" however a good celebration was had by all cities. Almost everyone purchased a 49 star flag and flew them proudly from our homes. I wonder where they all are now? It was just a couple of months before Hawaii became a state and the US flag became a 50 star flag as it is now. I know our family still has one 49 star flag which is currently residing at my oldest sisters house in Homer.
It is ironic that one of the biggest advantages to becoming a state was that there would be property released by the Federal government to be available to the new state. Well it is 50 years later and there still is less than 5% of the land of the state in private hands. We have gained very little if any in this area. I'm sure most of current Alaskans would be astonished to learn that many residents in 1959 didn't want statehood for Alaska. Most of the generation that were young parents and leaders then have passed from this earth now, but there are still a lot of us with fun memories of 1959, and more fun memories of 1967 when we celebrated the 25th anniversary of statehood. However that is another story. Sandra Carroll Parrish

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  47     June 10, 2008 - 3:45pm | kulalani

Statehood

My husband Bruce and I had just welcomed our first child on May 26, 1958. We had just gone up to Lake Sustitna for a long weekend, my mother was taking care of the baby, and we were at Ralph and Eileen Marshall's lodge on the Little Susitna River where we had just stopped for a cocktail, dinner treat, and to hear what the news was as they had a short wave radio and we had been out of contact for several days. We heard over the Short wave radio about statehood for Alaska out there 50+ miles over lakes and rivers from any road. My parents lived on the park strip at N St. across from Lorene Harrison so they had first hand views of the beautiful bonfire. What excitement when we returned back to town the next day after catching our fill of beautiful whitefish, lake trout and rainbows. Incredible weekend with totally perfect weather.

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  46     May 24, 2008 - 6:17pm | makataimeh

Alaska Statehood Celebration

I came to Anchorage from Seward in 1957 to take a teaching job at Anchorage Community College and to work as assistant manager for Greater Anchorage, Inc., under the direction of Clyde A. Rowan. I was twenty-nine at the time and for me, Anchorage was the BIG town. I spent most of the winter working in the GAI office in what is now the Tourist Information Log Cabin on the corner of 4th and F street. My job wasd to put together the Fur Rendezvous Annual and to design the button for that year. I did. The design was that of an Eskimo boy standing on a 49th star in blue and yellow.

That summer, the log cabin was our office / workplace and often our 'home' when we slept overnight to meet a deadline. Tickets for all theatrical and sporting events were sold out of the log cabin "box office" by my aunt, Opal Everett. On the day of the statehood celebration, Opal was organizing the tickets for a Frank Brink production in the West High Auditorium. Clyde and I were at work sorting out photographs for next years annual.

All day long people kept popping in and out of the log cabin, not to buy tickets, but to comment on the statehood of Alaska. At noon, Opal went down to the Rexall Drug store on the corner of 4th and D to purchase a maroon colored scrapbook with manila paper pages. She announced that "anyone who comes in here for the rest of the day has to sign this book, so we will remember this day ." It was my 'job' to make sure everyone signed. I think that almost everyone did sign that scrapbook that Opal now referred to as "The Statehood Book"

Around two O'clock, the sirens on the fire station next door to the Lousac Library started blowing. Car horns started honking and suddenly the celebration started in earnest. People started shouting and took to the streets. 4th avenue was soon clogged with people and stopped cars from G Street to C Street. Crowds started forming on City Hall lawn, in front of the Federal Building (post office then) and near the library and fire station.

People came out of the bars, drinks in hand, and nobdy seemed to mind.TV and radio people set up in locations near the 4th Avenue theatre. I wanted to remain outside with the crowds, but my Aunt Opal said I was to stay near the door of the cabin and make sure everyone who came in signed in.

Among the visitors were Col. Muktuk Marsten and Oliver Riggs who came in earlier and bragged about the 'tons' of firewood they had gathered for the bonfire on the Park Strip. Col. Marsten was really fired up and it was difficult to get him to take time out to sign in, but he did.

Many national news sources were covering the celebration and they all stopped by the log cabin. representatives for LOOK, TIME, US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, HOLIDAY, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC and THE WALL STREET JOURNAL came in. Only two signed: Richard Atcheson from HOLIDAY and Harry Groom, representing TIME.

That statehood scrapbook was kept by Opal Everett for many, many years . I do not know what happened to the book after Opal passed away. However, she did allow me to copy out the names for my own record around 1959. I still have that list. Here is a partial list of those who signed the book on the day of the statehood celebration. They are not listed in the order of signing but in the order I copied them from the original book:

Laura Hendricks, Kay Anderson, Bea Culver, Earl Cooper, Hewitt Lounsberry, Orville and Doris Lake, Al Bramstedt, Wendy Jones, Nellie Brown, Ellen Hanson, Muktuk Marsten, Oliver Riggs, David Green (Sr.), Lori Jenkins, Gail Peck, Natalie Hewlitt, Rita Martin, Mike Gravel, Mrs. A.J. Wendler, Myrtle Stalnecker,Ross Wood, Margaret Marlatt, Cot Hayes, Scotty Marshall-Pryde, Ward Wells, Clyde Rowan, Bill Strandberg, Olga Doheny, Dick Beaulieu, Bill Schaefer (SAS), Frank Freeman, Farrel Renfrew Ingham, Grant Ingham, Betty Todd, Danny Plotnick,Beverly and Jim Power, Frank and Maxine Reed, Jerry Riley, Jacques Condor, Wally Wallenstein, Ed Wolden, Earl Cooper (he signed twice), Herb Rhodes,Auggie Hiebert,Ruth and Dale Briggs,Leo Gagne, Bill Kimura, Peter Bading, Opal Everett,Ira Stewart, George Sharrock, Ken Sheppard, Eleanor Sullivan,Jim Balog, Dutch Bandy (and his moose from the parade)Sheryl Marquette, Lorene Harrison, Bonnie Rust.

That evening, we all went over to the 9th Avenue Park Strip for the bonfire. I remember the 49 gun salute from some kind of small canon. The smell of gun powder and smoke frrom the bonfire filled the air, along with the smell of firecrackers and rockets people were firing off. There was a groujp of mounted men who rode their horses around in circles shouting and whooping it up.
There were lots of speeches and lots of cheering and shouting. I remember that Col. Marsten proclaimed that the bonfire was the funeral pyre of Territorial Alaska and the shouts that followed were deafening.

There were many more speeches followed by music and dancing and celebrating in the dusk of that midsummer. The party last all night.

Jacques L. Condor
Retired Alaskan aged 80
Sun City, Arizona

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  June 10, 2008 - 4:33am | marnice

Thanks!

What a wonderful walk down memory lane. So many names - amazing that I remember so many of them. Thanks -

Marnice (Mielke) Foote

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  May 30, 2008 - 6:02am | jtwitchell

Tourist Information Cabin

I remember that little cabin! And the Z.J. Loussac Library was my home-away-from-home when I was attending Central Jr. High in the old building downtown.

Thank you for listing those who signed the "Statehood Book": Dale Briggs worked for Chugiak Electric and was our pastor. His wife, Ruth, had her own talk show on a local radio station, and I think for a while on television as well. She taught me to play the organ at church (piano lessons from Maxine Wight) and to sing parts in choir when I was only twelve. She was my mentor, such a dear woman.

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  45     April 20, 2008 - 11:18am | billstott

Moose gooser

No one but me seems to remember the Moose Gooser. It was a small gauge track that was instaslled down forth avenue and toward boot leggers cove during the Fur Rondy. My memory tells me it went to the place called the International Airport, but my mental pictures end on west 4th avenue.Must have ended with Statehood.

Anyone??

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  May 16, 2008 - 7:21pm | jstwhsl

Moose Gooser

I certainly remember the original Moose Gooser and it did run on a narrow-gauge track. I came to Alaska in early 1940 and those small gauge engines and tracks were never in service during my lifetime but that small engine was kept for posterity and through the years showed up in several different locations throughout Anchorage.

The Moose Gooser was completely restored in 1997 and now sits on a raised pedestal in front of the Alaska Railroad Building on 1st Avenue down in the railroad yards.

I can't ever recall any narrow-gauge tracks being laid from 4th Avenue to Bootlegger's Cove or that the narrow-gauge engine was ever used after narrow tracks went out of favor. I do, however, wonder if the much larger engine that sat for many years on the Park Strip (corner of 9th & "E" Streets) might have been used for a special "Rondy" event and was run on the existing tracks that still run along Cook Inlet. I definitely remember that a lot of people called that engine "The Moose Gooser" also.

I have a picture of that original small engine and will do my best to post it somewhere on this website. That picture also includes my youngest son who is a welder and did the welding on the restoration project. If I can't manage to post it here, look for it on the photo page. Enjoy!! Wilma "Stingel" Lewis

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  May 15, 2008 - 7:06am | a62rosebud

Moose Gooser

Yes, I remember the Moose Gooser but don't remember details. I do remember riding on it but can't remember if it went to the airport or not. My parents always referred to all railroads from then on as Moose Goosers, especially the one we used to ride to Lake Nancy for weekend visits to our family cabin. - Trena (Hage) Hewitt

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  44     March 21, 2008 - 10:56am | mayc

Memories of Statehood

I was an 8 year old girl growing up in Klawock (near Ketchikan). I remember people waving flags and ringing the town bell, but it didn't really occur to me what was happening or why. I vividly remember the celebrating and everyone was happy!

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  43     March 20, 2008 - 9:51am | banditlady

Statehood

I can't believe it has been 50 years since Alaska became a state. I was to turn 10 that march so I do remember the sirens going off in town. People were yelling and dancing in the street. I had no idea what it was going to mean to me. I just knew the adults were happy. I grew up, actually lived on Annette Island, just south of Ketchikan until I was 10. My whole family moved to Seattle in Aug of '59.

I am so glad to have had the opportunity to live where the air was so clean, you could drink the mountain water, eat the best of seafoods and berries. and have a sense of community.

Even though I don't remember much about that day I will cherish what I do remember.

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  42     March 19, 2008 - 5:49am | jayb

Dangit

I was born Jan 15 1959 in Palmer.. missed it by 12 days.....

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  41     March 17, 2008 - 12:07pm | karen10

Growing up in Alaska

My family moved to Alaska early in 1959...Dad was the superintendent at the Eklutna Power Plant then. It was a great place for kids to live! We'd take off in the morning and play in the woods and sometimes not get home till evening and no one worried about what we were doing. We moved to Anchorage a few years later - my parents built the Surf Laundry in Mt. View. The '64 earthquake was a big memory for me, and what strikes me now is that there was no looting...everyone helped their neighbors! My brother and I attended Orah Dee Clark and graduated from East and both of us still live in this great place!

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  March 20, 2008 - 1:06pm | hey_georgie_girl_98

Viva Alaska - land of the free! A great place to grow up!

Alaska became a state on Jan. 3, 1959 - at the time, I was attending first grade, in Chugiak, and who can forget their 1st grade teacher? Mrs. Emmert! I recall going into the school room for the first time. Kids were crying, mothers were leaving! The best thing about attending elementary school was the school cafeteria, the wonderful smells as lunchtime approached because in that era, kids ate real hot meals at school and lunch was something to get excited about! My experience with Alaska statehood is tied to my recollections of attending first grade; my favorite song on the radio was by The Kingston Trio, "Hang down your head Tom Dooley."

Growing up in Alaska, I share karen10's fond memories of going outdoors and playing in the woods exploring sometimes all day into the evening until suppertime. As kids, we use to find U.S. Army rations stashed everywhere and in those rations were round chocolate treats, cigarettes too! Of course we tried them!

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  June 10, 2008 - 3:39pm | jtwitchell

school cafeteria

How funny that our memories of the school lunch would differ so! I remember in early grade school the horrible stench eminating from the "kitchen" (before we had a gym or real kitchen where lunch could be prepared) which was usually what they called "tomato soup". We rarely ate lunch at school (I was grateful) because we couldn't afford it. That tomato soup was awful. And so were the stewed tomatoes and bread. My goodness, what a ghastly dish! The soggy white bread was like snot (so sorry for such a crass analogy, but that's what I thought then!) -- ugh. And I never figured out what that slimy green stuff was until years after I had left grade school and was at someone's house who opened a can of SPINACH! Gag-choke -- we always had fresh greens at home that weren't cooked to slime, so I had no way of making the comparison!

Well, to be honest, when I was in grade school, and my mom was making my lunches to take to school, it wasn't always the greatest, either. I finally got the nerve when I was in about 5th grade to tell her to PLEASE quit sending canned pineapple-and-mayonnaise sandwiches! GAGGGGG -- talk about slimy white bread....

When I accompanied my first child to his first day of kindergarten, I was quite surprised at the SMELL of the school building when I entered and walked down the hall: It was such a pleasant mix of erasor, pencil lead, chalk, I-don't-know-what-all, but what a flood of happy, happy memories that smell evoked! I had grown accustomed to it again by the time subsequent children entered school, so I haven't had that sweet knock in the heart again, but it was fun that time. I even smelled that awful "tomato soup" smell a few times at his school!

Memories . . . . this has been such a wonderful blog site. THANK YOU TO THE ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS FOR LETTING US DO THIS!!!! :-)

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  March 18, 2008 - 6:20am | jtwitchell

earthqake looting

There was some looting, but nothing like what goes on today in such circumstances. I remember a policeman friend telling me about two of his co-workers who were fired for looting while they were supposed to be guarding during the martial law period after the '64 earthquake.

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  40     March 14, 2008 - 6:26am | sweetana3

My parents brought me up to

My parents brought me up to Anchorage when I was 6 months old in 1953 and the rest of my brothers and sister were born there. What an extraordinary place to grow up. Lived there until 78 when my husband and I moved to Indiana.

I remember being out from 7am to midnight in the summer, fishing, biking, climbing into the abandoned military facility (until it was torn down), picking wild blueberries a few blocks from our house and cranberries behind the Junior High School. Trying to see the drivein that started at almost midnight and trying to stay warm with the heaters for the cars in the winter :-).

My brother still lives on the family lot and will never leave Alaska. We only left for job advancement.

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  39     March 13, 2008 - 10:24am | bcstewart

Memories of 1958

Fifty years ago we were living in Kenai. I was working at Wildwood Station, which was an Army base long before it became a Correctional Center. My husband was working for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. We had just moved into our unfinished log home on what is now Walker Lane, after spending two winters in a 16-foot camp trailer. (We obtained a permit for 90 logs from Soldotna Hill.)

We wanted to learn to fly, so we organized a flying club, bought a Cessna 140 for $1800, and rented it back to ourselves for $2.50 an hour. We paid $4.00 an hour for an instructor. I soloed in March of 1958 and my husband became a private pilot in April. We would fly to Merrill Field and walk to either the Fourth Avenue Theater or the Empress Theater, with a stop on the way at the Lucky Wishbone for our dinner, then walk back to Merrill Field and fly home to Kenai in the all night light.

We moved to Anchorage in July, having lived in our finished home for only 3 weeks. I worked for the Federal Housing Administration, which was located on the present site of the Westmark Hotel. Part of my job was handling the mail and the bank deposits. I would walk to the First National Bank each morning, then on to the old Federal Building where the main Post Office was located. (At that time, there were only three banks in Anchorage – First National Bank of Anchorage, City National Bank and National Bank of Alaska) On the way, I would go past The Bootery and pick out which shoes I would purchase during their annual “Two for One” sale. Usually I brown bagged for lunch, but occasionally I would join friends and go the Oyster Loaf (later on the site of Woolworth’s) or the Ritz-Venice (corner of 5th and G). My husband was still with the USFWS – he was assigned to the Matanuska Valley that fall and was living in a trailer on Wasilla Lake. I would drive there to visit on weekends, having to go through Palmer to reach Wasilla. At that time, Wasilla was just a crossroads with Teeland’s store and little else.

We lived in a mobile home in the Rangeview Trailer Park on Muldoon Road. When I drove to work on Debarr, I had to cross Gambell Street, which had no signal at that time. I often stopped at the Chevron Station at Airport Heights and Debarr – one of the few businesses that are still just the same as 50 years ago.

We now live about 10 miles north of Willow. Fifty years ago, Willow was only accessible by railroad or by the road over Hatcher Pass during the summer. The Willow Trading Post has been there as long as we can remember.

Buck and Charlene Stewart

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  March 17, 2008 - 5:05am | jtwitchell

great memories!

I enjoyed strolling through the past with your recollections. :-)

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  38     March 11, 2008 - 4:05pm | pushplay

Calling the states

There were no phones in Mt. Village, but there was a ham radio at Shepherd's store. One day I came home and Mom excitedly told me that she had just talked with her mother in Houston, Tex. Mr. Shepherd had connected with a ham radio operator in Houston, who called up Grandma and, holding the phone to the radio speaker, made it possible for Mom and Grandma to talk. It was pretty disappointing to think I missed that call.

I saw in the paper that the women's amateur radio club organized events during Fur Rondy where Anchorage folks could line up and try to speak to their friends and relatives outside. Must be great to live in the big, modern city, I thought.

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  37     February 23, 2008 - 3:11pm | sugarbabe

St. George Island, AK

My Parents, Benjamin Merculief, Jr. born on Aug. 19th 1931 and my mom Feona Swetzof Merculief born on May 2, 1938. Both were raised on St. George Island. They were married on June 3, 1956 on St. George. Their marriage certificate had Territory written on it. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2006 in Anchorage, Ak. They reside now in Rapid City, SD. Both of their parents,grandparents, brothers and sisters were born and raised on St. George. They also had aunts, uncles and cousins born and raised there. Two of the six children they had were born before Alaska became a State. Telephones, TVs and newspapers did not exist in the homes on St. George. Radios did and also CB radio to contact each other. They don't remember anything re: Alaska becoming a State.

My dad Benjamin was in the Army from 6/1953 to May 1955 at Ft. Rich in Anchorage, AK. He was a truck driver during that time. He took part in the road project that was being built from Ft. Rich/Elmendorf AFB to the airport. My mom Feona worked for the Gov't as a preschool teacher and then a waitress for the builders that were building the brick homes on St. George.

There were talks about bon fires, movies, dancing and bingo. Also fishing for halibut, bird hunting and sealing. Residents of St. George get their mail at that time was by boat or coast guard which would drop bags of mail from air and the men would find and pick up the mail. Kids go to school up to 6th grade there.

They have fond memories of St. George Island. They had good times with their families and friends.

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  36     February 20, 2008 - 10:16pm | fredov

6981ST, Bonfire ,PNA

Wow, I don't know where to start...Landed at EAFB in March, '57, was at the bonfire on the park strip for the statehood celebration. Worked for PNA and Western Airlines in Annette Island, Homer and Juneau and have been back in Anchorage since '76.

Would love to hear from anyone I've known through the years. fred_overstreet@hotmail.com

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  35     February 12, 2008 - 11:57am | blackster

Juneau in July 1958

I was an 18 year old deck hand on a purse seiner heading to Juneau for "Sunday Law"(the period closed to fishing at that time Fri 6pm until Mon.6am)When we rounded the corner into the Gastineau Channel I recall seeing a spectacular fireworks display that totally lit up the area by the sub port and Douglas bridge. To me it was spectacular. In my advancing years and failing memory the show gets bigger but heck it might only have been a person holding a sparkler. D Black

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  34     February 6, 2008 - 9:35am | dasplund

Bonfire

I was born in Anchorage at the old Providence Hospital in 1949. The thing I most remember about statehood was the huge bonfire at the parkstrip. People brought all kinds and types of wood from all around Anchorage and the fire was the largest I'd ever seen. There was definitely a sense of community and pride when we all stood around this enormous fire in celebration of becoming the 49th. David R. Asplund

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  33     January 29, 2008 - 12:47pm | stademc

Voting for Statehood

Memories of pre-Statehood
By Catherine Stocks Stadem

When I arrived via Pacific Northern Airlines in Anchorage in February 1957 as an adventurous 18-year-old, the last thing I expected was to spend nearly the rest of my life here. But I fell in love — head-over-heels — with Alaska the minute my foot hit the tarmac. I was a southern California girl, just out of high school, longing to see the world.

Within a week of arriving, I landed a dream job as the ground hostess for Scandinavian Airlines System, which was the first international carrier to fly over the pole from Europe to Asia. The SAS DC-7 service — Copenhagen-Tokyo — was inaugurated the week I was hired. Anchorage was the route’s single fuel stop, where crews were switched and passengers got to stretch their legs. I paid the incoming crew their per diem, made sure they got to the Anchorage hotel for their seven-day layover, took care of passenger questions, arranged overnights and local tours when we had mechanicals, and generally kept the office running. Kurt Elg, a Swede, was station manager. Johannes Berge, a Norwegian, oversaw aircraft maintenance. We were the total SAS staff. Northwest Orient Airlines ground crew did the cleaning, refueling and general maintenance.

The SAS crews taught me to ski during my first winter. Johannes Berge had been on the Norwegian Olympic alpine team. I learned from the best up at Arctic Valley, where we paid 25 cents to use the tow on the military side during the week … and a nickel for a cup of coffee.

The possibility of statehood was on everyone’s lips during those years. We all (at least my acquaintances) took pride in writing big RED letters on our federal income tax forms: “TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION!” As Territorial residents, we griped about having to go through Customs and Immigration whenever we flew Outside, which meant cueing up and showing our Alaska driver’s license to officials in Seattle before being allowed into the main part of Sea-Tac for connecting flights.

We were all so proud of being Alaskans. It was a real distinction in those days. We all felt very special and I don’t mean that in a facetious way.

When the day finally arrived to vote for statehood, I was eligible to vote having just turned 19, which was the Territorial law in those days. I believe we voted in summer of 1958, but I cannot remember the exact date. I remember walking from my Spenard apartment up a neighborhood street — perhaps it was Wyoming Drive — to the polling place and proudly casting my first vote, for statehood, as an adult. I felt then that I was part of history, and I still feel that way.

Of course I’ve seen many changes in the city and the state in the last 51 years, some good, some not so good. What I miss most about the old days, however, is that strong sense of belonging to a very special group of people. I didn’t qualify as a real pioneer, but I sure rubbed elbows with many of the genuine article.

I also miss standing and singing the Alaska Flag Song at every concert, at every public event. We all did it, and we did it with joy. I feel blessed to have discovered my destiny at such a young age.

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  June 19, 2008 - 4:42pm | traeger56

God love you. Ys, we did it

God love you.

Ys, we did it with joy. After all these years, this is what's running though my mind right now:

Eight stars of gold on a field of blue. Alaska's flag may it mean to you: the blue of the sea, the evening sky, the mountain lakes and the flowers nearby....the gold of the early sourdoughs' dreams, the precious gold of the hills and streams, the great north star in the evening sky.........the bear............the dipper.........and, shining high......the great North Star with its steady light...... o'er land and sea, a beacon bright. Alaska's flag to Alaskans dear, the simple flag of a last frontier.
I remember that from 4th grade at Denali. I can't even remember how many years ago that was! At least 45-50. Did the world even exist that long ago? Some nights I fall asleep with those refrains echoing in my mind. It could be much, much worse! I don't even know the state song where I live now. Do we even have one? And I've lived here way too many years! Alaska, you've got it made, so just enjoy and be thankful!!!

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  32     January 27, 2008 - 4:48pm | a62rosebud

Great Memories of Statehood

My mother (Valla Hage) and my aunt (Ernestine Timbes), my sister (Toni Hage) and myself (Trena (Hage) Hewitt), drove up the Alaska Highway in the summer of 1952 to join my father (Clifford "Slim" Hage), already working with his brother (Agner "Whitey" Hage). What a trip. We lived initially in Thompson Subdivision and years later moved to Fireweed Lane. I attended grade school at North Star Elementary, with its annual Ice Worm Skating Festival; and middle school was near downtown Anchorage. High School was in the only school at the time in Spenard...later West Anchorage High School. I remember all the excitement of Statehood, and had special feelings for it because my birthday is June 30. I thought that bonfire was a great way to celebrate my birthday, fireworks and all! We watched all the excitement building around the town for Statehood celebrations, from downtown where mother worked at B&G Drugs and at the bank across from the post office, as well as the park strip where we had drill team practice for Rainbow Girls Drill Team. It gave us proud feelings to be part of the rest of the United States, even though we continued in our family to refer to the lower 48 as "stateside"....old habits are hard to break. I left Alaska in Dec 1962, after graduating from West AHS and starting at Alaska Methodist University, and giving a shot at winning Fur Rondezvous Queen. My high school friend Mary Dee Fox won that year....well deserved....God Rest her Soul. I have only been able to return to Anchorage one time since then, for my 40th reunion. I saw our old house in Thompson Subdivision, now a dark brown wood, with the big corner picture window that we used to enjoy with the view of The Sleeping Lady and the basement where Mom's tap dancing studio was. One of our houses up on Fireweed Lane, that was next door to what used to be The Little Cuties Shop, is now an office for a political party; the other house right next door was lost during the big earthquake. We walked through The Park Strip and I was able to tell my husband about the huge bonfire--like it was just yesterday. Oh how I miss Anchorage....

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  January 28, 2008 - 9:00am | pixieteeth

"oh, how I miss Anchorage..."

So do I! And, I'm still here...:)

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  June 10, 2008 - 1:25pm | michelle80

stateside :)

My family has always called the lower 48 "stateside" aswhile :)

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  31     January 27, 2008 - 2:56pm | northsun

1958

I first arrived by plane in Anchorage on Oct.18,1958.I was a new graduate nurse,age 21, coming to start my new career and join my family,then in Talkeetna village since March 1958. It was such a thrill and new adventure.My dad had come to start up the first Hardwood sawmill(Birch)in AK. It ran one summer,but went broke for extreme shipping charges for lumber.I joined the family in Talkeetna,by railroad trip as there was no road then and train twice a week.We were friends with all the old pioneers then in Talkeetna.Don Sheldon was a good friend.

I had to take State Board exams for my RN,but up until this time,nurses had to travel back to Seattle to take them and then transfer back to AK. I had no job or money for this,so wrote to Juneau and asked why we couldn't be taking State Board exams in this NEW STATE? They actually agreed and set up my exams for Anchorage in Nov.1958.A nurse examiner was sent up here.I bunked out in a small room at the Westward Hotel for 3 days of exams.My room then was $5/night.

I was the first RN to have taken all State Board exams in this state..just before it became official. As it turned out,I passed in top 10%of the nation and started my very first professional job in Old Providence Hospital as a surgical OR nurse on the day that Alaska became a state,Jan.3,1959.

I worked there for almost 2years and had a great time.I decided to join the AirForce in late 1960. It turned out that I was the first nurse to be commissioned into the AirForce from the State of Alaska. I hadn't known this.

My parents lived here until they died.My dad worked for the FAA for the next 20yrs.He died in 2003 at age 91. My sister and family now live in Keni. I'm still here and after some travels,raised a big family in Anchorage.It's a wonderful place and long time home of my heart. I still remember the days when no one locked their doors,even in town. I dealt with many episodes of the old "Spenard Divorce" scene,as a nurse. Old timers will know what that was. Many tales can be told "Under the Midnight Sun"!!
Janet Smith-Ingersoll

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  February 3, 2008 - 1:16pm | likesdogs

spenard

My dad told my grandmother about Alaska and she was a r n from St. Louis who got a cival service job at ANS hospital. She lived on Sand Lake dr. in Spenard.I got to spend a summer there in 1959 and got to go all over the area and I believed I would someday live there. I didn't ever get to do that and my dad who swore he'd get back to his adopted home never made it back either. I've been to a lot of places but nothing has ever had the impact on my life that going to Alaska did. It will allways be like home to me. The beauty was not all I saw one night my grandmother had to get a bunch of towels because a native had shot himself in the head and she made a housecall to tend to him. I was told that problems like that were common up there. It was like getting to see in to a crystal ball because now in Memphis Tn I'm seeing a lot of the same stuff and the time I spent there goes way further than being in the prospectors club or the coins I collected that were issued to celebrate statehood wich I'm not sure is anything to celebrate. I used to find jade in the quarry across from my grandmothers house in Spenard. Alaska is allways on my mind. I'll be back in my mind I never left. I learned it wasn't all peaches and cream up there but I'll allways think of myself as an Alaskan. In my mind anyway. To those who live in gods country I hope you are thankfull. I am. I was just a kid when I was up there and it changed my whole life. I played the blues for 30 years here in Memphis and now that I'm retired I'm comming back. someday. The sour dough boy will be back if he lives

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  30     January 22, 2008 - 3:19pm | karlsie

Building the Years

At the time my parents settled in Chugiak, there were five other families. Chugiak didn't even have a name then. The only point of orientation was Moose Horn, which recently burned to the ground. At the time, Moose Horn was a small collection of cabins. Most of them were rental except the one that belonged to Clovis Parks. There was a creek running by what is now a gravel pit and the scattered families drew their water from it. There was a sort of makeshift laundrymat where the women washed their clothes in big tubs and a dangerous washing machine that used a hand wringer.

There was only a dirt road between Chugiak and Anchorage, with a bridge at the bottom of a horrendous hill crossing Eagle River, and another horrendous hill to climb in order to reach Fort Richardson. It was often unpassable in the winter. On our drives to Anchorage, my siblings and I would sit in the back seat of the car with our eyes squeezed shut as we sped down Eagle River hill, industriously preparing ourselves to climb the next one, saying, "cross our fingers and hope to die". I don't know how much was real fear and how much was exhileration.

I'm not sure when electric poles were put in, but I distinctly remember that the early homes were powered by generators. They were loud, obnoxious affairs but when they went suddenly silent, we'd all look at each other and say, "oh, oh." Keeping the generator fed was a man chore. If the generator went out while there were no men around, we'd just have to wait until one arrived.

There were no telephones. After the addition of a few more families, Chugiak began thinking as a community and wanted a life line to each other's homes. Somebody; I'm not sure who; managed to obtain some hand cranked telephones which were passed around to the families in case of an emergency.

When the first children born in Chugiak reached an age where children are normally placed in schools, our postmaster, Paul Swanson, opened up his home for students. I'd have to check my father's records for the date our community hall was built, but it was within that time period that a name was decided and a resolution passed to build a school. By the time I was old enough to attend, we had a small, brick building that conducted classes for first to eighth grade (no kindergarten or pre-school back then), with the older children bussed to Ora Dee Clark.

I do remember the bon fire, but I was just a child and it really meant nothing to me except an incredibly large party. The next day, the teacher tried very seriously to explain to us the importance of being US citizens, but it all went over my head. I understood one thing. I was an Alaskan. The United States was as remote a fantasy as Timbuctoo. It wasn't until after the 1964 earthquake brought us International attention that I began to see that there was a world out there beyond the reality of Alaska.

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  29     January 21, 2008 - 9:28pm | cbruns

I was born in Anchorage in

I was born in Anchorage in 1952, attended some of my grade school years there. We lived out on Tudor Road & close to Campbell Creek. It was pretty nice from what I remember. We'd swim in the creek in the summer & also hauled water out of it in the winter. There were gravel roads & I remember walking to school at Lake Otis Elementary. If I would have graduated from Alaska it would have been in 1971. Anyone out there from that class? I remember a few names but we left Alaska when I was 10 years old. I remember walking down the road to the Market Basket grocery story & then there was a laundromat in between. My neighbors were the Kerkoves, the Renners, the Peldos & the Greenwoods. Does anyone have any or remember the old days? There
was a gas station I remember & also what we called the church hill where we would go sledding sometimes.

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  April 19, 2008 - 1:21pm | brdjnntt

Church hill & sleding in Anchorage????

I lived on 10th street just between Gamble & Denali Grade School, all the neighborhood kids sledded on a hill behind a white church where the Baptist people used to yell and "get down". I was born in '47 in Providence Hospital, went to Denali Grade/Central Jr. Hi/W. High School, left in '69 to USA to Oregon, been here ever since. Those sledding days were awesome, best part of our lives, skating at the "rink" on 9th street. I lived in the 400 block on 10th street. "Romers"

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  28     January 21, 2008 - 7:54am | slankford

Childhood Memories

I was born in the old Providence Hospital at 9th and L in 1948 and returned there a few years later to have my tonsils removed. I'll never forget the sickly green colors of its walls nor the ether mask used in those days.

Our family lived near the corner of Fireweed Lane and the Sterling Highway (what is now the Old Seward Highway). My father, Lloyd Lankford, built the first Chevron service station on the corner, Sterling Service. Our house was on the neighboring lot. We'd walk through the woods to visit my grandparents, Clifton and Mabel Nichols who lived for many years in a little house eventually used for storage when my great uncle, Fred Munger, built Western Sheet Metal (with the metal "robot" on top). Of course, both the Sterling Highway and Fireweed Lane were gravel roads.

My grandmother, Mabel Nichols, used to bake the pies that Peggy, at Peggy's Airport Cafe, used to be famous for. Grandma often confided, with a wink, that "Peggy couldn't make a pie that was fit to eat if her life depended on it."

In the early 50's my grandparents opened their new business, the North Star Motel, on the corner of 15th and Gambell (now the Black Angus). (Late in his life, Grandpa admitted that he wished he'd followed Wally Hickel's advice and build his motel downtown, instead of so far out of town.) KENI Radio was on-site for the grand opening and I still have the original recording and interview made by (as I recall) Al Bramstead with my grandparents. Brothers Don and Bill Chinn included Don's Green Apple, a Chinese-American restaurant in one wing of the motel. That's where my brother and I learned our "table manners" and acquired our love of Chinese food.

I do remember Earl Norris' dog lot where the University Center now is, and we made frequent trips to the Kiddieland amusement park, located near there on the Sterline Highway. For special dinners out, we'd go to the Wagon Wheel or the Rabbit Inn. My favorite place was the 4th Avenue Theater. It seemed truly magical, with it's elegant mirrors, crystal, glass, wood detailing, velvet, metal "story boards", and twinkling stars above. I saw both "Fantasia" and "Old Yeller" there. We walked to North Star School along an unimproved trail through the woods bordering Fireweed Lane.

My uncle, Claude Maglaughlin, considered homesteading on what is now considered the "Hillside", but it was just too far away from Anchorage and took all day to get there.

My parents homesteaded at Montana Creek in 1957, so we were up there following the statehood-related activities. Just as he did for the 4th of July "celebration", my dad went out and "shot the gun" in the air to celebrate statehood.

There was no road that far north, so we'd get dropped off the train and walk home. To catch the train, we'd signal the engineer with a flashlight in winter and a white cloth in summer, so they'd stop and pick us up. The baggageman and conductor enjoyed seeing us kids go down to watch the train come through and would often throw out a roll of newspapers, comic books, or apples and oranges. Of course, the engineer would always "toot-toot" to say hello and wave.

Well, I could go on all day...my mother, now 82, used to watch people skiing off the jump on 3rd Avenue and used to ice skate at the bottom of the hill. As a teenager, she used to run from her mother's (Evelyn Mitchell) cafe, Mom's Lucky Shot Diner, on 4th to Spenard Lake, where she'd swim during her lunch break, and then run back to work in the afternoon. She describes the route to Spenard Lake as "more of a lane than a road".

Sheila Lankford

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  May 22, 2008 - 11:05am | broadpath

WW2 Photo of Lucky Shot?

Hello Sheila,

My father was in Alaska during WW2. He kept a photo album and there is a photo taken from inside "Lucky Shot Eats". You can see the photo at this address:

http://picasaweb.google.com/broadpath/BillGreen/photo#5124023450189454082

Is this your Grandmother's diner?

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  May 19, 2008 - 1:42pm | Willowbilly

Best Post of them all

Thanx Sheila

Petersville Road Guy

PS You were looking cute at Mrs Nichols funeral !

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