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Juneau-Douglas City Museum


Burford

by oral interview with Donald Burford by Dee Williams
UID=767


I am going to start with Lottie and John T. Spickett. There were no children from that marriage. As best I can pin down, they came some where around 1897-98. Now Lottie had two other sisters, Laura and Lillie Bee. Lottie and John were involved with various things, but he was the postmaster in this community from about 1913 to 1917. They were also into entertainment -vaudeville. The old Coliseum Theater was part of what they did. Lottie passed on about 1944. She also worked for the postal system for a time and for the old Hayes Jewelry Curio Shop where Shattuck and Grummett is opposite the old B. M. Behrends grocery store. Lottie and John were probably more flamboyant than other members of the family. They did various things and were in and out of a lot of things. I don’t remember John as he had passed on in 1932, before my time, but the big thing I can remember the family talking about the Spicketts was that Lottie was a collector of jewelry; and there was a robbery and she lost a lot of her jewels. They were looked at as service people, as they invested in the community and owned properties around town. When they were here, they wrote down to Laura and Lillie B. and told them they should come up as this was “the land of milk and honey.” Laura came up and married a man, J. B. Caro, who had a dry goods store, J. B. Caro and Associates. Where they were located is roughly where the Sealaska building is now. Between the Orpheum Apartments and what was R. W. Cowling, was a big old building that was their dry goods business. Laura only stayed here six or seven years, and then she went back down to California and married again down there.

Lillie B. came up in about 1899, as a young girl of about 17. She had an interesting trip up. In those days, she took the train up to Portland and then the overnight boat into Seattle and on to Alaska on Alaska Steam. She met another girl about her age on the train and they ended up being bunk mates on the boat. Every time they hit a town on the way up, grandmother would suggest that they take a walk, but this girl never seemed to have time to do that. She always had to do something. After they arrived in Juneau, grandmother found out that this girl was a “working girl.” She made the comment that she was not a coarse person; and on her days off she would come up and have tea with her.

Laura left and J. B. Caro stayed on and became part of another organization. He had a son named Bert. Bert bought out a coal transfer company which changed over the years and eventually became Alaska Transfer with Dave Femmer. He died in about 1960-62. He was married to a lady named Pete, who worked as a legal secretary for Bert Faulkner. He was married to a lady name Pete, who worked as a legal secretary for Bert. There were no children from that marriage.

Lillie married a man name Jack Burford, who was my father’s father; and from that marriage there were two children, Jack and Ben. Ben was here for a period of time, and then he went off to work with the Federal Fish and Game operating one of their boats out of Seattle. There were no children from that marriage either. Ben was in physical aspects short like my father, but more rotund. Jack Burford had a brother named Wilbur, and they had a child, young Wilbur. They had a place where McDonald’s downtown is now, called Burford’s Corner. It wasn’t a bar, but a card and pool table place that probably served beer. Wilbur had a very checkered life. He was one of the original owners of the Triangle Club. Wilbur, Jr. and Belle had a female child, Norma, who married a man named Fournie that worked in maintenance for Pan American down in Metlakatla. They later separated and Norma went down to the Chico area of California where the family was from originally.

Somewhere along the line, one part of the family became one of the owners of the Alaskan Hotel with the McCloskys. After Mr. McClosky passed away, Nell became partners with my grandmother and then my father until they decided to sell out around 1960. Nell McClosky later married Curly Canoles who was superintendent for a construction company that did a lot of work in this country.

Getting back to Lillie B. and her marriage to Jack Burford. They lived in Valdez for a while in the 1920’s; and it was after their return to Juneau, that dissolution of that marriage occurred. Lillie B. met Charles Hooker, who was a very interesting gentleman. He was by profession a pharmacist and was up in Skagway at the time of Soapy Smith. When he got through with that, he came on down here where he met and married Lillie B. There were no children from that marriage. Charlie did interesting things. For a period of time he was a druggist for Harry Race Drugs; then he started a cab company, Royal Blue (which became Holloway’s Cab). This was somewhere around 1937 or 1938.

Jack Burford, my father, graduated from high school here and bought a business at 16. He continued with his education and even did a year of college. He went to work for a man whom he later bought out with the help of the family. This was J. B. Burford and Co. which was probably the first office equipment company in the state. He had a band with people like Earle Hunter and a couple of other people. This band was typical of that time as they traveled all over, up to Valdez and other places. Dad had two children, myself and my older brother, Jack, who is retired and living in Anacortes.

Lillie B. would go in and out of the work force spasmodically. Actually the three ladies, Lottie, Lillie and Pearl Burford (Wilbur’s wife), all worked for Mrs. Hayes in the curio shop. Laura died of cancer at 93, and Lottie died in 1950, after an unsuccessful appendicitis operation.

My brother, Jack, was born in September 1929, and I was born in October 1932. My mother belonged to the Foster family that came to Alaska when the Kennicott Mine was progressing on up in Cordova. So my mother was a Cordova girl, not actually born there, but came up with the family when she was about a year old. My grandfather was a lawyer and was a house lawyer for the Kennicott as well as freelancing. He was a very strong Republican and married a woman named Claire. There were two boys, Frank and Don, and three daughters. Both of the boys worked in the mine. Frank was killed in 1939, in a hunting accident. They bought property out in Almalga Harbor. The girls were Peggy, Betty and Marian. Peggy married a man by the name of Ernie Schrader, who had the first cannery up in Cordova and then went up to Fairbanks and was in the meat business. Later, they went back down to Olympia. They had three girls and a boy, Butch who is up in Anchorage.

Marian married a man by the name of Ed Richey who was a commander in the Coast Guard at the time of World War II. At that time, he was the only Coast Guard up here and he was responsible for getting the convoys into Excursion Inlet which was an advanced supply depot for submarines and later a prison camp for German and Italian prisoners of war. Being a career officer they served all over with his last duty station being in California. They had three girls.

Father was always interested in boats and like everyone else he started out small and got bigger. His best known boat around here was the Donjack, which was a double ender work boat hull being used for comfort rather than as a work boat. She was a double ender with a big beam. She was about 48 feet overall length with a 13.6 beam and drew about 6 feet of water - a very seaworthy boat. At that time, I was about 6 or 7 and remember doing a lot of plugging. You used brass screws and a little cork plug which you dipped in marine glue and pounded it in over the screw and then shaved it off.

My brother and I started in the school system here and somewhere about 1943, my mother and father had a trial separation, and we went to school down in Victoria, B. C., for about two years. In about 1945, they parted and went their separate ways. My mother went down to where her family, the Fosters, were in the Olympia area, and she learned how to fly. I don’t really know why that came about, but she was a very competent woman and she did. She met and married a man named Loren Schuster. He was an instructor of aircraft mechanics at a college in Yakima. Loren had been married before and had two children from that marriage. So they married; he quit teaching and worked with General Electric in engine rebuild plants for various airlines, and they lived all over the world. Because of this, I graduated in Moses Lake, Washington. My brother, Jack, talked my father into letting him graduate in Juneau. He started college, but the Korean War came along, and he did his time as a forward observation officer in Korea. When he got out, he came back and finished school at the University of
Washington with a degree in Industrial Management. He worked with various large firms and got involved in the manufacture of cement and ended up running a large organization in Hawaii and is now retired. Jack had three children - two boys and a girl, but none of them lived in Alaska.

I didn’t like the States, so I stuck around here. I also served in the military with the heavy construction engineers. We put in some of the NIKE sites and did the first floating ice island up north of Nome. After I got out, I went back to school and graduated from the University of Alaska in 1958, with a degree in Business Management and two years of engineering. My background has been basically resource development. I worked for Green Construction for quite a spell until there was a big strike, and I had a chance to go to work for Kiel and Peterman, a local contracting firm owned by Ray Peterman, C. H. Kiel and Ed Hildre, who was the primary junior stock holder. I was ultimately able to buy into the company, and we expanded into Isco, Inc. that basically built roads for the timber industry. We were seventeen years on Prince of Wales Island building roads, and then came back to Juneau where I have been owner of Burford Concrete.

I met a girl from Ireland who had come here as a nurse, Elizabeth. There were three of them who had come over from Great Britain - my wife and Jennie, who married Ted Smith, were from Ireland; and the third girl, Doreen, was from England and married Jack Jones. Only Doreen is still living and is in Fairbanks. My wife and I got married in January of 1960, and had our son, Ian, who was the oldest. Then we were fortunate enough to adopt a daughter, Heather, and like so often happens she then got pregnant, and we had Sharon. During her pregnancy with Sharon, we found out that Beth had cancer. She had worked in the hospital here and had a lot of faith in the doctors here. They sent her south to the University of Washington for an evaluation as whether or not to terminate the pregnancy. She made the decision not to do that and returned to Juneau for surgery. Everything went well; and we ended up having Sharon. After we had Sharon, we were lucky enough to adopt a son, Robert. My wife passed on as the result of a tragic accident on November 18, 1986.

Out of the four children two of them are still in Alaska. Sharon married a Carson from Ketchikan and they live there with their two children; and she teaches down there. Heather, our oldest daughter, graduated and joined the service as a dispatcher in the Army where she met a helicopter pilot whom she married. They live in Texas with their two children. Ian graduated and went to school in Oregon where he got a degree in engineering and works for Boeing. He married and they just had their first child who is the first with the Burford name. My youngest son works with me and is unencumbered at the present time.

Father remarried a lady by the name of Mabel Munson, who was a school teacher. She was one heck of a lady - a good woman and a “stayer.” Father died when he was 86, and Mabel out-lasted him to 93, almost 94. She was a very talented lady and an excellent teacher. They were very active in the Lutheran Church. Somewhere around 1962 or 1963, Father decided to sell the business. They then divided their time between Arizona and Alaska. In 1985, they returned to Juneau permanently to a condo in Auke Bay.