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Bartness, Anton L. (Ole) and Haldis

by Karen Bartness Scriven

Our father, Anton L. Bartness, came to the United States from Norway in the early 1920’s, with his brothers, Alf and Arnie. They migrated to the West Coast, where they worked in a sawmill and lumberyard. Their sister, Margot, and her husband, Mike Hendrickson, had already settled in Juneau, where Mike worked in the Alaska-Juneau Mine. They lived on Starr Hill. We assume that Uncle Mike and Aunt Margot were instrumental in Dad’s moving to Juneau. Dad and Uncle Mike worked together in the A-J Mine.

About 1924, Dad was married to Maxine Hayes. Her father was from Illinois and her mother, from Taku Harbor. They had three children - Anton, Jr., Adelaide and Ralph. Ralph died at the age of six months. They had been married for seven years when Maxine died. Sometime between 1926 and 1933, Dad and Uncle Mike quit working at the mine. That must have been either because they were Norwegian and needed more salt air, or they had enough money saved up to buy a boat. In any event, they bought the Alma, a forty-foot troller. Arnold Hendrickson, our cousin, fished with them until he joined the Army at the beginning of World War II.

Dad knew our mother, Haldis (Molslett) Hansen, from Norway. He was born in 1895. in a small town near Trondheim. Mom was born in 1900, on a farm on the outskirts of Trondheim. She was easily recognized by her long red hair, which she wore in heavy braids around her head. She came to the United States in 1926 to be the housekeeper for a widowed uncle in Ashland, Wisconsin. In October 1934, she went to Juneau to marry Dad. We are their children - Karen Haldis (Dolly) born in 1936, and Olaf (Sonny or Ole) born in 1938.

Mom was a born gardener. Their first house at 836 West Seventh Street had beautiful flowerbeds. She was anxious to live “in the country,” so they purchased 2 ½ acres from John Berg on Lemon Creek Flats, just north of Vanderbilt Hill. Over a period of years, Dad and several of his good friends, including John Conn and Bill Kilroy, spent much of their time out there, in what Dad referred to as Happy Valley, building a home for us. Once the house was halfway livable, we spent summers there. In 1946, they sold the house in town, and we became permanent residents at “the stump ranch.” The house had two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen with a wood stove, and a sun porch. For years, we carried water from the creek. We used kerosene lamps – then Coleman lamps; eventually, these were replaced by a gas generator and a bank of batteries to provide light. Adding on to the house was a priority project, and eventually we had a bathroom, another bedroom, an entryway and water provided by a driven well. When we started riding the school bus to town, there were only two buses on the route from Eagle River to Juneau.

Needless to say, Mom had a bigger and better garden - flowers and vegetables. They also raised all manner of livestock over the years. A chicken house followed soon after the house was built; Mom was soon in the business of selling eggs. In those days, “store-bought” eggs were expensive and not as tasty as those she took to town and sold for as much as $1.25 a dozen.

Dad quit fishing after Uncle Mike’s death in the early 40s, and worked at the Juneau Cold Storage. In 1946, according to the bill of sale, Mom purchased a 36 foot troller, the Big Sam, from a Tom Miettinen “for twenty dollars and other good and valuable considerations” - which according to her, was a quart of whiskey. The Big Sam was already thirty years old, but a lot of hard work brought it “up to snuff” and looking good. Our cousin, Arnold, bought another troller, the Mira, about the same time and the two boats traveled and fished together for several years, along with the Helena, owned by Carl Weidman. Arnold married while he was in the Army and his wife, Lucille, fished with him. Sonny spent summers fishing with Dad from the time he was ten years old until he was in high school and Dad quit fishing. That first summer on the Big Sam, the whole family lived on the boat. It was a memorable summer, leaving memories of porpoise playing around the boat in the evening when we were in the harbor, and our visiting back and forth among the fishing boats.

Our closest neighbors were Harry and Wilma Jenkins, their sons, Henry Allen (Hank) and Gary Lyn, and their nephew, Tommy Horn. They had cows and goats which grazed in the field across the highway from where Grant’s Plaza is now located. They, too, sold eggs, but they also sold cow’s and goat’s milk. Other neighbors were June and Bill Kilroy and Mr. And Mrs. Anton Nelson. Bill Kilroy was a maintenance man for the Alaska Road Commission. The Nelsons were a sweet, elderly couple. The closest “girl neighbor” in the area was Malin Babcock; she lived on Vanderbilt Point, where the Juneau Pioneers’ Home is now located, and she and Karen were close friends. About this time, Adelaide was going to school in Sitka and Anton, Jr. was still in the Navy, which he had joined as soon as he was old enough.

Mom was an excellent cook and a very nurturing person. Sunday afternoons were special for her, because friends from town would invariably show up just to visit or drop in on their way back to town from a ride “out the road.” She always had baked goods – cinnamon rolls, pies, cake - and lots of coffee ready. And if they could stay for dinner, she always managed to have more than enough for everybody.

Sonny’s good friends - Sam, David and Stephen McPhetres, Ralph McMillan, Bob Whistler, Roger Polley and Ed Bolton - were all regulars over the years. The latter two tended to do their duck hunting within walking distance of our house!

About 1949, through the auspices of the Extension Service, Mrs. Joe Kendler started the first 4-H Club in Juneau for boys. Sonny, Henry Allen and Gary Lyn Jenkins, the Hurlock boys, Dick and Bob Gaines, Jack and Don Weisgerber were among the members. Soon after that, Lillian (Mrs. Doug) Babcock became the leader of a 4-H Club for girls. Malin Babcock, Kay Tracy, Page Wood and Karen were the first members of that club. The saying, “It takes a village to raise a child” seems appropriate when thinking of those times, when Karen could not participate in evening events in town because of a lack of transportation. Especially in the wintertime, when Mom would not drive to own, (Dad could, but wouldn’t drive.) Karen spent many overnights at the Tuckers’ on West 12th Street with her best friend, Alberta. Sonny hitchhiked freely, but we also drove many, many miles with our neighbor, Wilma Jenkins.

In the early 1950’s, a couple of bad fishing seasons in a row persuaded Dad to take a shore job. He returned to a job at the Cold Storage for awhile, then went to work for the Territory of Alaska and, after statehood, for the State. The Big Sam was sold and was promptly put on the rocks when the new owner tried to cross the Gastineau Channel bar, before the channel was properly marked. It was not salvaged and slowly disappeared.

In high school, both of us worked part time at the old Juneau-Young Hardware Co. at the corner of Front and Seward. Karen worked with Mrs. Warner one summer in the office of Warner Marine Co. and, the summer after high school, at Alaska Coastal Airlines, which was located where Merchants’ Wharf is now. She attended Howard Payne College in Texas on a full scholarship for a year, then returned to work at Alaska Coastal Airlines as a revenue auditor until 1959. Anton, Jr. served several hitches in the Navy and in the Marines; then, he was a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne. While in Germany, he had married a German girl, Helga, who had a young daughter, Dagmar. He died in 1960 of a brain tumor in Kentucky. Adelaide remained in Sitka, where she married Mark Jacobs, Jr. They had five children and recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

In 1955, Karen met Marc Coleman Scriven, who accompanied Father Hubbard, “the Glacier Priest” and a group of Explorer Scouts from California, to Taku Harbor for the summer. They were married in 1959, and had two children, Kirsten Haldis and Keith Anton. Marc received his PhD in Economics from Berkeley and taught at the university level, lastly in Huntsville, Alabama. Marc and Keith died in 1985. Karen still lives in Huntsville, where she has worked for the U. of Alabama for almost 20 years.

Sonny met Sandra (Sandy) Johnson in 1959, when her parents moved to Juneau. They married in 1962,
while Sonny was in the U. S. Coast Guard. Sandy graduated from Gonzaga in 1964, while he was overseas. They moved back to Juneau in 1965 after his discharge. After Dad passed away, they purchased the “stump ranch” and put a trailer next door to the house for Mom to live in. In the early 1970s, they had two girls - Kari and Kami. Sonny and Sandy live in the Mendenhall Valley, as do Kami, her husband, Brian and their son Erik. Kari lives in West Juneau with her daughter, Taylor.

Dad retired when he was about 65. He and Mom went back to Norway for visits in 1962 and 1966. On
that last trip, Dad suffered a fatal heart attack. He was buried in the churchyard at his birthplace. In 1981, Mom moved to the Pioneers’ Home in Sitka. She passed away in October 1992, and her ashes are interred with Dad’s in Norway.

The “stump ranch” was sold to a friend of ours a few years ago.

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