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Wright, E.D. and Primrose

by Primrose Wright

Ervin David Wright, known as Ed, was born in 1914, in Saskatchewan, Canada. His family, who were wheat framers, left the prairies when he was a small boy. Going first to the gold fields in California, then back to Canada, they settled in British Columbia. The Depression hit Canada hard and there were no jobs. After high school, Ed and a couple of friends took off on bicycles and rode through the interior of British Columbia, as far north as Prince Rupert, eating and sleeping with hobos along the way. They had hoped to find jobs, but didn’t, so they rode back to Vancouver.

Ed had a cousin in Juneau who worked in the A.J. Mine and whose wife had a beauty shop called Florence’s. Knowing he would have a place to stay, Ed decided to go to Juneau. In 1940, he boarded the Princess Louise steamship, traveling steerage for $15. He ate and slept with the crew, but was allowed on deck if he was neatly dressed.

His first job in Juneau was wheeling concrete for what is now the Marine Highways building on Glacier Avenue next to the high school. His next job was helping the electrician Jerry McKinley, of McKinley Electric, which led him into his profession as an electrical contractor.

In 1943, during World War II, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force since he was still a Canadian citizen, and spent three years in eastern Canada and Labrador. At the end of the war, Ed married a Nova Scotia farm girl, Mary Primrose “Prim” Jackson. After a honeymoon in Boston, Ed and Prim crossed Canada by rail, boarded the Princess Louise and headed back to Juneau. When they arrived in 1946, Juneau was a small town with a population of only 4500 people. The mine had closed, but the lights were still on in the mill on the side of Mt. Roberts. It was a beautiful sight when they sailed into the harbor on a cold December night. Snow was piled high everywhere.

Housing was very scarce but they found a small apartment in the McKinley building, where Marine Park is now located. Rent was $45 per month and the take home pay for an electrician was $100 a week.

Ed owned and operated Wright and Hills Electrical Contractors from 1954 until his retirement in 1982. He worked on many large commercial electrical jobs throughout Alaska. Juneau projects included Harborview, Gastineau, Glacier Valley and Auke Bay schools; Foodland supermarket, the state Department of Transportation building, Aurora Basin boat harbor, and most of the FAA navigational systems on the Juneau Airport approach, as well as the original airport terminal.

Ed and Primrose have four children. The boys came back to Juneau after college, but the girls chose to live in the Lower 48. Bob, an auditor with the Department of Health and Social Services and wife Kristin have two daughters, Jessica and Megan. Bill and wife Lisa own and operate Gourmet Alaska, a kitchenware store in the Nugget Mall. Partricia and husband Gary Klockenteger live in Seattle and have a daughter Kelsey. Donna and husband Ken Gemperline live in Denver and have four children, Kate, Scott, Tim, and Libby.

Prim was a stay-at-home mom and was always involved in many school, church and scouting activities. She feels Alaska has been very good to her and a wonderful place to raise a family. Ed Wright died in 1993, and is buried in the Pioneer’s plot at Evergreen Cemetery in Juneau.

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