Trucano, Joe and Alma
by Alma Trucano
Joe Trucano was born January 2, 1915, in Tower, Minnesota. He was raised on a farm. Joe’s father came from Italy and married his mother in Minnesota. She was born in America and her parents both came from Italy. Joe was fourth in line of twelve children. At the age of 17, Joe enlisted in the Army; he served his three years in Fort Mead, South Dakota. From South Dakota, Joe and his Army friend left for San Francisco, where Joe attended a trade school until his money ran out. Both Joe and his friend started up the West Coast looking for work. No jobs to be had. Next choice was to re-enlist in the Army, but requested they would like to go to Alaska. Their request was fulfilled and were sent to Port Chilkoot in Haines arriving there in March 1937.
Alma Werner was born January 6, 1916, in Herreid, South Dakota, and also raised on a farm. Both of my parents were born in America; grandparents came from Germany. After high school, Alma went to nurses school for one year. But with the Depression and dust storms in South Dakota, the grain did not grow. Therefore, no money for a further education, plus there were no jobs. Alma and her brother left South Dakota for the West Coast. Ellensburg, Washington, was our destination. We left South Dakota in a old Model T Ford, plans for two stops in Montana to spend the night with relatives as no extra money for motels. Alma’s brother had gone to Ellensburg the previous summer where he worked on a farm and knew that the farms there would be eager to hire us. We both found jobs the first day there. My brother did fieldwork and I cooked for the working crew. Pay was small but room and board went with the job.
While I was in Ellensburg, my aunt from Montana stopped to see me on her way to Alaska where she was to meet her husband Erik Larson, who was a carpenter and working for Jimmy Larson. My aunt begged me to go with her as she did not like making the trip alone with her two young sons. It sounded adventuresome to me so I met my aunt in Seattle and we sailed on the SS Yukon for Juneau. Good thing the fare was only $35.00 as all the money I had was $70.00 and my aunt had less. It was a wonderful trip, we arrived in Juneau the last part of June 1937. My uncle was at the dock to meet us and was delighted to see us.
The Fourth of July was a few days after our arrival in Juneau. The soldiers from Port Chilkoot were in Juneau to march in the parade. July 3rd was an open house for the Douglas Inn, which Jimmy Larson built and he insisted my uncle bring his family to the open house, since my uncle helped build it. Some of the soldiers from Port Chilkoot were also there, and fate brought Joe and Alma together at this event.
When Joe left the service, he came to Juneau to seek work. Jobs were not too plentiful at that time, but he found a job working in the Federal Building as a janitor. Since Joe’s working hours were from 5:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m., this gave him days to build a log house at Auke Bay. Alma had a job working for the Purity Bakery, and in September of 1939, they were married. They moved into the log house in 1940.
We were blessed with three children, Carolyn, Douglas and James, who all live in Juneau. In 1947, we moved from our log house in Auke Bay to a home on Highland Drive which Joe built while working for Triplette and Dalziel. When Dalziel retired, Joe became Triplette’s partner. The shop was located where the state building is now located.
In 1965, Joe and Alma bought the beach property on North Douglas and started a building supply business. Alma, seeing the need for a bookkeeper, took accounting and did the books for the business for the next 30 years. Joe also did building contracting but when the boys took part in the business, it grew into heavy equipment contracting to what it is now.
We had our 60th anniversary in September 1999. Juneau was good to us and we watched it grow from 3,500 in 1937, to what it is now. Alaska had much to offer our family; we all enjoyed hiking, fishing and hunting. Our family has grown from three children to one grandson, five granddaughters and one great grandson. We can’t think of a better place to live, plus a beautiful country.
Since this story was written, Joe Trucano passed
away, in Juneau, on March 15, 2001.