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White, William Charles

by Norma Strickland, great granddaughter

In 1907, William C. and his two buddies, being footloose and fancy free, left San Francisco on a tramp steamer intending to travel around the world at the lowest cost possible. However, when they reached Nome it was late into the season, and the boat froze into the harbor. They were stuck there until the spring thaw.

In the meantime, they found work at a local restaurant and rented a cabin outside of town. In those days, the wood was kept in a shed a slight distance from the cabin. When snow blizzards came, the one designated to go get the wood had to tie a rope around his waist with the other end tied to the door handle so he could find his way back. One of the buddies went out for wood during such a storm and tied the rope to his waist, but the rope that was connected to the door handle slipped off and he froze to death twenty feet from the cabin. He couldn’t see his way back.

The remaining buddy saw this as a bad omen, and returned home on the first boat out. William C. remained in Deering and worked as a cook, sled dog operator, and trail chief. Soon he acquired a team of horses he was quite proud of. He spent seven years in the Kotzebue Sound area before heading south to Skagway. On his way, back he thought of his trip he had made with his mother over the Chilkoot Trail in 1897. It was in Skagway that William C. met Inez May Parker. They married in Douglas, on September 2, 1916. This was the first year that the Parker family was homesteading in Gustavus.

William C. and Inez May had nine children. Most of them were born in Juneau. Gustavus was good living, but very little money was coming in to the White house. William C. took jobs in Juneau working as a superintendent of Alaska Juneau owerhouse at Thane, three years as keeper of the State jail in Juneau, helped build the Juneau-Douglas Bridge and left to work on the Great Hoover Dam project in Nevada.

It was during the Depression of 1930, that William C. started his own mail delivery service in Juneau by packing a sack on his back and hand delivering the mail for the next ten years. He braved the snow, the rain, the heat and the gloom of night to swiftly complete his appointed rounds and when the first mail order catalogues arrived, he hired a small boy and his wagon to carry them.

William C. got his pay from subscribers who got tired of going to the Juneau Post Office to claim their mail. The merchants also paid him to deliver their bills to the people on his route. It didn’t take long for him to be nicknamed “Bill, the Bill Collector.” He was the first mailman in the Territory of Alaska, well known and loved for his ready wit and smile.

It wasn’t long before William C. was appointed as the territory’s first special delivery man and delivered one of the first letters to Postmaster General James Farley when he came to visit Alaska.

William C. and Inez May are buried next to the Parkers in the Evergreen Cemetery at the foot of beautiful Mt. Juneau.

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