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Thorsteinson, Fred and Jean (Reynoldson)

by Jean Reynoldson Thorsteinson

Fred and Jean Thorsteinson and three young sons arrived in Juneau during the 1957 Salmon Derby.
Nearly every business in the city of 8,000 people at that time was closed, with a “gone fishing” sign on the door. It was a “dead” town. After the derby ended they were able to find the last available rental in the area, a Harborview Apartment in Douglas, and so escaped the small room they had been cooped up in at the Baranof Hotel. It was quite an introduction to their future home, but for Jean it was a welcome return to Alaska, the land of her birth.

Jean’s grandfather, Edward Reynoldson, was a U.S. Marshall in Eagle, Alaska, around 1900, at the time of Judge Wickersham. Her father, Lyman, was 14 years old at the time. He often entertained his children with stories of life in Eagle as a boy – a favorite was one of a corpse which thawed out in the jail! Grandmother Lizzie enjoyed telling of parties with the Army wives of Fort Egbert. Jean’s grandfather bought a house in Seattle, sight-unseen, from someone in Eagle and after two years the family returned there. He paid $400.00 for the house, in which her grandparents lived for the rest of their lives.

The call of the north always beckoned to Jean’s father and when a job was offered him with the White Pass and Yukon Railroad, he signed up for two years. He and his bride, Hazel, arrived in Skagway in 1916, where they resided for over thirty years. Their three children, John, Jean and Lyman were raised during the days of prohibition, the Depression and when Alaska was still a territory. It was a wonderful time to grow up. During World War II, both sons served in the armed forces after which they returned and raised their families in Alaska.

Jean moved to Seattle after World War II where she met and married Fredrik Thorsteinson in 1948. Fred had just completed college under the GI Bill, having had his education interrupted for four years by the war. At this time, he was employed by the University of Washington, Fisheries Research Institute. This job took him to Alaska for long periods. In 1957, he was offered a job with the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries in Juneau. The family decided he would be home more if they lived in Alaska so he accepted the job - they have never regretted the move. Daughter Carol was born in Juneau just two months after their arrival. She was welcomed by her brothers Fred, Don and Lyman. For the first eight years, the family lived in Douglas, then moved to the Auke Bay area. During this time, Alaska became the 49th state, oil was discovered on the North Slope, Juneau grew to a city of over 30,000 people and the children married and nine grandchildren were added to the family tree.

Jean at 11 or 12, worked as conductress on Skagway Street Car. Duties consisted of collecting fares and keeping kids from hitching rides. Lost job when got to tall for bus.

Lyman and Hazel Thorsteinson.

Thorsteinson family reunion celebrating 50th wedding anniversary, 1998.

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