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Warner, Peter

by Peter Warner

I was born in Los Angeles, California, on August 15, 1921, to Russian Jewish immigrants. I was their only child. Four years later I was orphaned and was adopted by Aline and Charles Warner and was taken to live in far off Juneau, Alaska. The Warners had lost a baby boy at birth sometime before, and were then unable to have any more children of their own. They were wonderful people. As I understand it, he was in charge of the construction of the Salmon Creek dam and I know he was an outstanding machinist and engineer. They met when she was visiting her sister, Camille, who had married Alvin Goldstein, older son of the pioneer Juneau family of Charles and Laura Goldstein.

By the time of my arrival in Juneau, my father was owner of the Charles Warner Machine Shop located at 406 S. Franklin Street. They catered to the fishing fleets located in Juneau, Hoonah, Angoon and to some extent, Kake.

My earliest recollection of my life in Juneau was an automobile ride given to my mother and me by U.S. Marshall McCloskey. The rifle he kept in his car really impressed me! I remember going on a picnic with my mother and Ina Lucas and her son, Lee. We were at Mendenhall Glacier and there seemed to be ice everywhere.

In those days, South Franklin Street was dominated by the A.J. Mine, the Juneau Sawmill, the Juneau Cold Storage, whore houses and bars. As a small boy, I would go to the machine shop to walk home with my mother, who was office manager for the business. I often wondered what the ladies were doing sitting in the windows with their nightie gowns on.

The people of South Franklin were a varied bunch. Roy and Juanita Rutherford owned the Juneau Lumber Company and lived in a nice house on the premises with their daughters, Florence and Dorothy. They were very good friends of ours. Jack Dalton, machinist at the sawmill was a very likable person. For me, there was only one horse in the whole world, and that was “Old Dick” at the sawmill. Then there was Wallis George of the Juneau Cold Storage. He was very instrumental in creating the Baranof Hotel. Also connected to the Cold Storage was Elton Engstrom, fishbuyer, a very flamboyant personality and politician. There was also Tom Morgan of the Columbia Lumber Company, who promoted a plywood mill on South Franklin that burned down about the day after it opened. Marshall Erwin was one of Juneau’s leading grocers, and one of the first to relocate out by the airport.

Which reminds me of the day at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon when the dairymen showed up as a group to protest the importation of milk from the lower 48 by local grocers. None of us could foresee the results of this, but I am sure it wasn’t very long before most of them realized that there was better money to be made in real estate than getting up at the crack of dawn to milk cows.

Changing with the times has always been part of things in life and in business. Through the years, Warner’s went from doing repair work on commercial boats to selling boats and motors to weekend sport fisherman. One day Dick Garrison came into my office and said, “Pete, why don’t you retire from this rat race?” And to make a long story short, I did.

A year or so later I left Juneau with my then wife, Lorene. We went to Seattle on my 28 foot Tollycraft. By then I was 52. Since then Lorene has passed away and I am remarried and today, at age 79, I live in Florida. About every year I go to Anchorage where my first wife, the former Audrey Feero, lives with her present husband. My daughter and two sons live there and I have six grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

I have been in Juneau several times and think the town looks great. South Franklin Street is outstanding and people should appreciate their terrific tourist business.

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