Fleek, Robert D.
by Patricia (Fleek) Varness, Robert Fleek & Ann Fleek
Although born in Arizona and presently living in Arizona, Robert has close ties with Alaska. His mother, Elizabeth Berg, was born at Unga in 1892. His grandmother, Sarah Cashel, the daughter of Edward and Maria Ol’gin Cashel, was born at Katmai in 1848 where her father was a station agent for the Alaska Commercial Company.
Elizabeth Berg and George Fleek were married February 10, 1909 in Juneau, Alaska. George worked for the Treadwell Mines and the Chichagof Gold Mining Company at Chichagof. Three children were born in Douglas: Leona, Sonny and Marjorie.
In 1917, because of the Treadwell Mine cave-in the family moved to Inspiration, Arizona where George worked for the Inspiration Copper Mine. It was at Inspiration where Robert and Patricia were born. In 1934, when the Inspiration Mine closed, the family moved back to Douglas.
Robert and Patricia went to the Douglas School until it burned in 1937, then to temporary school buildings until the new school was built. The favorite teacher of Robert and Patricia, as well as many others, was Grace Naghel.
Robert was a member of the Douglas Boy Scouts and the high point in his scouting experience was going to Young Lake via a Lockheed Vega. It took six trips for the Vega to transport all the scouts and equipment to the lake. After the camp-out the scouts walked to the beach where the Mary Ann was waiting to take them back to Douglas.
Robert enjoyed all school activities as well as hunting, fishing and climbing Mount Jumbo. He made one trip with the Douglas basketball team to Haines and Skagway. The trip to Haines was by the SS Baranof in steerage, then to Skagway in a smaller boat. The return trip to Juneau was by a Ford Tri-motor airplane. On the flight, Glen Kronquist got sick and “threw up” on the back of Coach and Principal Martin Peterson. Glen did not make any points that day.
Robert worked at the Douglas Cannery during summer vacations. His first job was making cardboard boxes for 40 cents an hour. Later he operated the “iron chink” and the “header” getting slightly more per hour.
Robert graduated from the Douglas High School in 1941. Members of the graduating class were Robert Fleek, Glen Kronquist, Gordon Wahto, Francis Doogan and Dan Krsul. Frank and Dan are now deceased. Following graduation Robert attended the Frank Wiggins Trade School in Los Angeles, studying radio.
Returning to Juneau, Robert worked on the Juneau Highway installing culverts, making one dollar per hour, but he first went to Fred Henning’s Clothing Store to buy work clothes: wool work socks, $0.85 per pair; work trousers, $3.00; work shirt, $2.25; shoe pacs, $5.50; “tin pants,” $4.50; suspenders, $0.85; work gloves, $0.50.
Robert finished up the culvert job in October, 1942, and started working for the Civil Aeronautics Administration in November, 1942, driving a dump truck hauling gravel for the building of a 300- foot tower near the Auke Bay and Glacier Road “Y.”
Robert received his 1A classification in January, 1943, so resigned from the CAA job and volunteered for induction. He was inducted February 6, 1943, and after spending seven days in processing at Duck Creek, he was sent to Montana Creek for basic training. On February 12, 1943, he was transferred to the Detachment, 399th Base HQ and Air Base Squadron with station at the Juneau Airport where he remained for 18 months, then transferred to the Naknek Airbase.
On April 1, 1945, he left Naknek headed for the States and ended up at Williams Air Corps Base at Chandler, Arizona, 60 miles from Inspiration, Arizona. A mistake was made as to his home of record. While stationed at WAFB Robert went to Phoenix to attend dances held at the Odd Fellows Hall. Those dances reminded him so much of the Eagles Hall dances in Douglas. There he met Georgia Lee Wilky.
Robert was discharged from the US Army Air Corps on November 22, 1945, Thanksgiving Day. He returned to Juneau to work at the post office and then returned to Phoenix where he married Georgia Wilky in September, 1946. Their children are Ann, David, Sharon and Janet.
George Elroy Fleek, Douglas, Alaska.