Merrell, Ted & Doreen
by Doreen Merrell
We came to Juneau with our three young children in 1956, following seven years in Oregon. A fisheries research biologist, my husband had been offered a position in Juneau with the U.S. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries. Three families we knew from Oregon had come up a few months earlier and made us feel welcome from the very beginning.
We rented the upstairs of a small house perched on a bluff overlooking Auke Bay. Vick Johnson, a halibut fisherman with a Swedish accent, lived downstairs, and was very kind to us. Our good neighbors on both sides were Erv and Pat Hagerup and their two children and Dick and Bev Keithahn and their first baby. Our family was a bit crowded in these cramped quarters; our water pipes were frozen for over three months that winter; but the view of the Chilkats across Auke Bay was magnificent. Toward the end of April, six humpback whales followed the herring into the bay and stayed around for three weeks.
Friends told us that the Davis brothers, Trevor and Cedric, owned an interesting old house on Sixth Street built by their parents in 1892. Usually occupied by the Coast Guard Commanders and their families, for some reason it wasn’t needed by them at this time. Spacious, with plenty of room for us and our belongings, it was located above the old Fifth Street School and the rent was only $90 a month. After fourteen months on Auke Bay, we moved into town.
The location was perfect for us, with the children close to school and Ted near his office below the A-J Mine. A couple of our children took piano lessons from Carol Beery Davis, Trevor’s wife. The Davises and other good neighbors were all great fun to visit with. I loved shopping for groceries at Erwin’s on South Franklin and having them delivered to my kitchen (up all those stairs!), browsing in Inez Gregg’s book store, and shopping at Behrends Department Store. When the Statehood Celebration took place in front of what was then the Juneau Library (now the City Museum) in 1959, we walked a couple of blocks from where we lived to be there.
For over three years we enjoyed the Davis House. Then a friend told us of a place on Fritz Cove Road which would soon be for sale. Originally it was a homesteader’s cabin, each family building on and changing it. We moved in the day school ended in May 1961. Near the far end of Fritz Cove, it seemed like a dream house to me, with a fireplace, four bedrooms, two bathrooms, attic storage, and plenty of room for our fourth child who came along later. For over twelve years we enjoyed living there. The new Auke Bay Fisheries Lab had been built; new schools and shopping were moving out the road.
Our fourth, and present home in Juneau (which we helped plan) was built by Paul Crock, again on Fritz Cove Road, in 1973. Another bit of Juneau history: we bought the property from Bill Winn and his two sisters, Barbara and Susie. Their father was Grover Winn, a Juneau attorney. Their old summer cabin on the beach, built around the turn of the century, is below our house. It has been a great place for picnics and salmon bbq’s.
Ted retired in 1986, after a 30-year career in fisheries and environmental research with the National Marine Fisheries Service. His work took him to many places in Alaska and other parts of the world. Three of our children live in Alaska: son Ted a commercial fisherman in Juneau; son Bruce working at the Loussac Library in Anchorage; Susan moved to California; and Mindy is in the Anchorage area. Our children have given us seven fine grandchildren.
During our years in Juneau, we have known many wonderful people. They are primarily why we are still here. Other good things like fishing, hunting, magnificent scenery, and wondrous adventures, people down south can hardly believe, make us feel very fortunate to be living here.