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Perry, Stan & Gail

by Christy Perry Blair

Stan and Gail Perry arrived in Juneau the summer of 1946. Stan had just returned from the war and they decided they wanted to live in Alaska and leave Los Angeles behind.

Stan Perry was born in New Mexico and Gail was born in California. They attended rival schools. My father was a star football player and caused my mother’s school to lose a championship. They finally met prior to the war in a factory and one thing led to another and they became engaged. They used their gas rations and eloped in November, 1941. Two weeks after getting married Stan was sent to boot camp in Texas and Gail joined
him. After boot camp he shipped out and they did not see each other for three years.

When the war was over there were no jobs, so in 1946, they decided to drive to Alaska. When they arrived in Seattle, they had just enough money to get to Juneau. Upon arriving in Juneau, Stan drove cab and worked construction. He had become certified as a master welder and mechanic prior to the war. They lived across from the old post office on Seward Street.

One day, after being in Juneau less than a year, Stan told Gail that he had bought the lease to the Mendenhall Glacier. She, being of sound mind, did not believe him. But it was true. They rolled up their sleeves and began delivering ice to all of the restaurants and bars in town. Stan was known as the “Ice Man.” Since it was 1947, and women were still treated unequally, Gail was called “Stan’s wife.” Rarely mentioned, she worked just as hard and long as Stan.

They bought a flatbed truck and a large tarp to cover the ice because all of the roads in Juneau were dirt. At times, Stan would climb up on the glacier and set dynamite to break large icebergs off, or they would use a crow bar to break smaller bergs off the face of the glacier. When they had an iceberg ready, they would lasso it and drag it behind their skiff to shore. Gail sat in the back of the skiff and held onto the iceberg while Stan rowed the skiff towing the iceberg to shore. After a while they were able to buy an outboard motor. At the shoreline, Stan would drag and lift portions of the iceberg onto the flatbed truck. He was an extremely strong man. Then off to town they’d go. He literally lifted the chunks of ice off the truck and carried them into the establishment on his shoulder. He was also called “Stan the Man.”

They had many exciting experiences on the ice. They had three trucks and a jeep and would drive the trucks out onto the frozen lake to get the ice. One day they drove their GMC truck onto ice that wasn’t even safe to skate on and the truck went down. Except it didn’t fall all the way through the ice so the people in town placed bets on the time and day it would actually go underwater. It teetered on an iceberg for three days before going under. There were also some dangerous experiences and many close calls. One day, Stan was at the face of the glacier using an 8-foot crow bar that was sharp on both ends, trying to break the ice free. The berg started to roll and he was almost killed by the iceberg pushing him down and onto the crow bar. The icebergs would often roll and they had to be very watchful that they didn’t roll on top of them or pull them under with the rope that was tied to the skiff.

Juneau was a small town at that time and Stan and Gail were well known. People used to help them load ice just for the fun of it. Ice was gathered three times a week and sold to every bar and restaurant in town. They sold ice to the President of the United States, and shipped it, via Pan Am, to Hawaii and Seattle. Pan Am had a contest in Seattle to see which would last longer, glacier or man-made ice. Glacier ice won by over nine hours.

In 1948, their daughter Christina was born. When she was old enough to walk, her parents would tie her with a rope to the axle of the truck with enough rope to just reach the edge of the lake. They would row out in their skiff and lasso icebergs as she sat at the edge of the lake eating ice. Their dog “Wimpy” chased animals away that in Wimpy’s opinion came too close. He was a scrawny medium sized dog but he must have been a great guard dog as she grew up to marry Patrick Blair and they had three children, Carrie, Ryan and Perry “Jay” lair. All three children and two grandchildren, Kelsey and Kyndra Blacks, live in Juneau. Stan and Gail’s roots continue to grow deeper in Juneau.

Gail had always been a Girl Scout. After looking around, she realized there wasn’t a Brownie or Girl Scout program in Juneau so she gathered some women and children together, called the Girl Scout headquarters and started the program that is still thriving in Juneau today. Her office was upstairs in City Hall. Christy was the mascot and her mother let her join in with the senior scouts. They went on a road trip to Fairbanks in 1956, over the Alcan, which had more potholes than road, held winter camps at the Boy Scout Camp, hiking through three feet of snow down the long trail to the main cabin, melted snow for water, chopped wood for heat and cooking and watched the incredible northern lights. There were also day camps, Brownie camps, weekend camps, two-week camps, fundraisers, fashion shows, clothing bazaars, and bake sales and the whole town supported this endeavor. Juneau has always been very generous in supporting their young people.

In 1958, Stan and Gail’s second daughter, Deborah, was born. By that time, Stan and Gail wanted to own a restaurant as Stan was a self-made chef and had the Irish knack for spinning a tale. They sold the glacier ice business and bought the Spudnut Shop, which was located downtown between Bill Ray’s Liquor Store and the Pamaray Club. Spudnuts are made from potato flour. They had a booming business and it became a great place for the locals to drink coffee, laugh, tell stories and jokes and expound their pearls of wisdom.

Later, Stan went back into construction and Gail and Debbie moved to California. Debbie married Phil Lodge and they have three children, Tania, Glen and Gregory. Stan lives in Ogden, Utah. His wife, Mona Perry, passed away in August, 2000. He lives alone with his dog and cat and is very active cooking for widows, gardening, traveling and of course telling stories.

Gail lives in Santa Cruz, California, and shares a house with Debbie and her family. She is very active, playing with her grandchildren, going to numerous sports events to watch her grandchildren participate, sewing, and reading books about Alaska.

In 1946, Juneau was the quintessential small town with adventurous people helping it grow and prosper. The citizens of Juneau were quick to laugh and they valued friendships. They worked together, took care of and cared about each other and explored the frontier life. Because of people like Stan and Gail, Juneau was a wonderful place to grow up and raise children. The adventurous people of Juneau formed strong and lasting
friendships that have trickled down through the generations. Because of their sense of humor and strength of character it is with gratitude and pride that the daughters of Gail and Stan Perry salute the “Old Timers.”

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