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MacKinnon, "Skip" & Jane (Nelson)

by Jane and Neil MacKinnon

Jane was born in Seattle, Washington, in 1924 to Harry and Olive Nelson. Jane’s father had gone to Nome, in the winter of 1933, to start a bush airlines in partnership with Tom Roust of Candle. Harry was an aircraft and engine mechanic who began the flight service with a six-seat Travel Air that needed a fire pot under the engine to get it started during the winter months. Jane arrived in Nome, Alaska, in July 1934, as a 10-year old, traveling 13 days on board the SS Aleutian. Upon arrival, she saw a town where all the wooden buildings seemed to be leaning against each other. Six weeks later, Jane was called home from school to help stuff her family’s belongings into a truck as September winds whipped a fire through the permafrost-skewed buildings, destroying the town and her family’s business as well as their apartment.

After the fire, Jane’s father ordered a “knock down” house from Seattle. A forerunner of the prefab homes of today, it arrived on the last boat to reach Nome. The family moved in just before Christmas. Sixty years later, when Jane visited Nome with four high school friends, the house was still there.

During the summer, Jane would bike out to the field and help pump gas into the plane. After a plane crash in which no one was hurt, Jane’s mother, Olive, convinced her husband, Harry, to go into gold mining instead. Too young to stay in Nome with her older brother and sister, Jane was “banished to the mines.” For a young girl, it wasn’t all that exciting to be around a bunch of old miners at an open-pit placer mine that used water pressure to push gravel through a sluice box. She enjoyed cleaning out the ripples left in the sluice box where the gold was. Her dad sent the gold back to Nome in a moose-hide poke about the size of a bottle. Jane and her mother cooked at the mine.

Jane graduated from Nome High School in 1942, and a year later enrolled at the U. of Alaska at College, but now Fairbanks. She graduated in 1948, with a degree in Business Administration. She met Skip MacKinnon at college and they were married there in June 1947. Skip was from a pioneer Juneau family that still owns Alaska Laundry and Dry Cleaners. After the marriage, they moved to Juneau and had three children: E. Neil (1949), Kathleen “DeeDee” (1950) and John (1952) and now there are eight grandchildren. Skip went into the family business in Juneau and Jane also worked as office manager and accountant in the business, retiring a few years after Skip passed away.

Jane’s two sons, Neil and John, remain in Juneau and Neil manages the laundry business and John is a building contractor and Juneau Assembly member while daughter DeeDee Sund is an accountant living in Seattle.

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