by Jack Thompson
I was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in July 1926, but got restless at an early age and moved to Tacoma, Washngton, in 1928, when I was two years old. Actually, my father died when I was one year old, and my mother, sister, and I joined some of my uncles that had already moved there.
My mother married Frank Stine, in 1935, when I was nine years old. This was during the height of the Depression, and he couldn’t make a living there; so he moved to Juneau in 1937, and my mother and I joined him in 1938, when I was in the 7th grade. We came up on the M/V Northland. It was quite small. I think it only carried about 50 or 60 passengers.
My stepfather worked for Graves Clothing Store until early spring 1941, when we moved to Sitka where he worked on the military base as a sheetmetal worker. We moved back to Juneau in 1943, where I attended the 12th grade, and graduated in 1944. I really liked both places. I enjoyed the hiking, boating, and skiing. I thought that it was a great place to grow up.
After graduation, I immediately went into the Army Transport Service where I spent almost two years. After the war, my stepfather and I started S&T clothing store. Although I was in the store almost six years, I really didn’t like it or the close confinement. I closed it out in December 1951. On February 9, 1952, I married Beverly Atwood, and we left Juneau the next day bound for Seattle. No, we weren’t run out of town, but it was time for a change. We took a honeymoon to Utah to visit her family; then to southern California where we bought a 28-foot trailer, then headed north to Anchorage. That was a real trial towing a trailer over the highway in early spring of 1952. We lived in Anchorage for nine years where I worked as an electrician, and also did some house building. In 1961, I got restless so we moved to Kenai, where I started a building supply yard, as well as doing some construction of houses, four plexes and small commercial buildings. We really liked Kenai and I liked my business, but in 1969, I sold the business and the following year we moved to Ashland, Oregon, where we currently reside. At this time, I partially retired and have been content to stay in one place. Actually I think my wife said something like “if you move again, you can go by yourself.” She has had a lot of patience over the years.
One of my memorable experiences while living in Juneau was a gold mining adventure by Dezdeash, Yukon Territory, where I spent three months in the summer of 1951. We didn’t make any money, but I greatly enjoyed the work and being in the outdoors. We had wolves, bear, and fox around our camp and sheep in the surrounding mountains.
Some of the things that I remember about Juneau was swimming at the “dredge” out by the glacier—brr—cold! The snow cascading off of Mt. Juneau in the spring. You could see it and hear it. I thought it was awesome. Sometimes we could see mountain goats, and could hear the grouse drumming their wings. I remember all the great hiking trails. Juneau is probably the best place a person could ever live for hiking and skiing. I remember one time on the Montana Creek trail when I encountered a big brown bear about 30 feet away standing on his hind feet looking down at us over the tops of some willow bushes. Luckily, he was as startled as we were, and he went the other way. I remember running into a pack of wolves during late winter while skiing in the bowl at the old Perseverance Mine. They were fairly close, and were carrying on quite a conversation with my dog. I lived in Alaska about 31 years and wouldn’t take anything for the experience.