Swap, Clifford and Edna
by Ralph Swap
Clifford L. Swap was born on March 3, 1911, in the small prairie town of Strome, Alberta. His father, George Swap, had migrated to Canada from Minnesota in 1908. His future wife, Jenny Peterson, arrived in Edmonton, Alberta, as a small child in 1895, from Norway. The harsh climate, and frankly poverty, caused our grandparents to move to Edmonds, Washington, about 1923. Clifford was the oldest of seven children. He graduated from Roosevelt High School in Seattle in 1931. Our mother, Edna Hastings, was raised on a farm near Mt. Vernon, Washington. After graduating from high school in 1929 at age 16, she moved to Seattle to attend business college and to work. Clifford was clerking in a grocery store, and it was there where he met our mother.
As in most cities, jobs were scarce in Seattle during the Depression, and what jobs existed paid very low wages. Edna’s and Cliff’s wages were cut repeatedly, and hopes for a decent life were eroding. Cliff’s uncle, Charlie Peterson, had moved to Juneau in the 1920’s and said he had a job lined up for Cliff. Dad took the McKinley up to Juneau, but by the time he arrived the job had already been filled. Despite the promise of better jobs in the territory, Dad was ready to go back to Seattle, partly because of the outrageous grocery prices—imagine paying 50 cents for a hamburger! His plans to return were blocked, however, by the simple fact that he lacked the money for the return trip. Fortunately, he landed a grocery job working for Gunnar Blomgren. Our father was to be associated with the grocery business for most of his life.
Edna arrived in Juneau on June 13, 1936. She and Cliff were married that same day by the Reverend John Glasse at the Northern Light Presbyterian Church. They were to enjoy a life-long commitment to that church. Dad sang in the choir for over 50 years and a music room in the current building bears his name. Both were memorialized in the Northern Light Church after their deaths.
Edna was offered a temporary job at the B.M. Behrends Bank. The hiring officer asked if she’d be willing to work for $125 a month. Since this was about twice what she had been earning in Seattle, she had no trouble accepting the offer. She later worked for R.E. Robertson, a Juneau attorney (and grandfather of Judge Robert Eastaugh); Faulkner, Banfield & Boochever, attorneys; the Alaska Development Board; and for many years was executive secretary and office manager for Foss, Olsen & Sands, architects. She worked evenings as bookkeeper for Alaskan pioneer, Shelly Graves, in his clothing store on Franklin Street. Mother quit her job with Robertson when Ralph was born in 1938, recommending his sister, Mary, to succeed her.
During World War II, mom, dad and Ralph returned to Seattle where dad worked in the shipyards. Our home on 11th Street was rented out. Walter was born in Seattle in 1943, so he missed out on being Alaska born.
Mother worked and studied all her life. She took many courses at what was then the Juneau Community College, and completed her associate degree at the age of 66. She instilled in us the importance of higher education, and there was never any question that we would go to college—an opportunity denied her. Ralph graduated from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and Walter graduated from Harvard and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. Mother wanted to be the best at her job. She completed a series of rigorous exams and became Alaska’s first Certified Professional Secretary in 1960. In 1967, she was named Alaska Secretary of the Year, the same year then-Governor Walter Hickel was named Boss of the Year.
Dad loved the outdoors. He enjoyed hiking, especially with his younger brother, Vernon (Bo) Swap, and his Aunt Alice Eliason. He hiked most of the mountains around Juneau, long before it became common to do so. He was very good with a rifle, but was content to go after small game, such as ptarmigan. Once he was given a hunting slingshot and a bag of marbles as a joke, but he used it to bag a number of ptarmigan on Douglas Island. He was also good at shooting photos, and the family treasures his movies and slides of scenes around Juneau. He particularly loved Mendenhall Glacier, and we have a wonderful collection of “the glacier” over the years, at all seasons of the year. One of our favorite photos is one he took inside a large ice cave, looking out.
Mom and dad really enjoyed fishing. When we were small, dad would sometimes rent a rowboat at Tee Harbor, and we would troll around Inspiration Point. Later, they were to buy a succession of small fishing boats. We loved the smell of salmon being smoked in our garage. Eventually, they bought a very nice log cabin located near Tee Harbor at Mile 18. This would be the staging area for fishing trips and cookouts.
Mom and dad were very active in local organizations, including Masons, Eastern Star, Soroptimists, and Pioneers of Alaska. Dad was once president of the Juneau Pioneers Igloo. They never regretted their decision to move to Juneau, and resisted the suggestions of friends to move to a warmer climate. They never tired of going for drives to see the wonderful scenery. But they also enjoyed traveling and mom traveled to Boston two years before she died to attend Walter’s wedding.
Dad passed away in 1992 and Mom in 1999. They are buried in the Masonic Plot in Evergreen Cemetery, about two blocks from where they spent most of their very happy and fulfilling lives.
(L to R sitting): Ralph, Edna and Walter, (standing): Clifford Swap.