Parks and Recreation Image

Juneau-Douglas City Museum


by Jewell Burrows Beach

Roland Burrows and I can hardly be considered pioneers; we arrived in Juneau, November 1945, after the Second World War. Roland was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1916, and came to Seattle to work in Boeing’s huge plane plant. I was born in Monroe, Washington, in 1916, met Roland in 1945, after six years of teaching. We made plans to go to Alaska in the small boat he had built. But the boat caught fire, sending Roland to the hospital, turning the boat to a charred shell, which emphatically ended our honeymoon trip of taking the boat to Homer, Alaska, where we planned to open a business. Instead, two months after the fire, Roland went to Juneau and found a job as movie projectionist in the theater over the drug store on South Franklin Street. He sent for me, and when I arrived we settled in a dressing room back stage at the theater which was just large enough for a double bed, with a one-burner hot plate on a shelf in a closet. We hung our clothes on nails on the wall, used the restrooms down in the theater lobby, and imposed on friends in an upstairs apartment for our baths. Being newlyweds we were content, but that changed when the apartment house caught fire one Sunday morning in January. We rushed down the hill from church to salvage all we could of our belongings from smoke and water damage. Mr. Gross, who owned the theater, had given us an apartment in his building further down South Franklin Street.

So there we were, with an apartment, but no job in Juneau. Mr. Gross offered us a theater job in Skagway, so off we went to find an apartment in Skagway. The war rent freezes were still in effect, and after plodding through 18" of snow in a snow storm and finding no place to live, we returned to Juneau. Roland went to work in Metcalf ’s Plumbing Shop, and I did whatever jobs came my way. Once I worked as a housekeeper/babysitter for Dr. Albrecht while his wife was in the hospital. Although I had no experience in banking, I found a job at Behrends Bank, which was interesting trying to decipher the signatures on the checks.

That filled up the spring, along with all the hiking we did around the area, getting acquainted with our town and the many trails and fascinating relics of the mining activities.

In June 1946, we accepted the job of Captain for Roland, and hostess, deckhand, cook, purchasing agent, etc. for me on the Presbyterian mission boat, the Princeton Hall. That year is a book in itself, too long to relate here, but getting acquainted with folks in all the villages in Southeast Alaska was an experience I’ve treasured ever since. We worked on the Princeton Hall for a year, leaving in 1947, to settle in Juneau where Roland opened his own business, Burrows Welding Company.

Our two sons were born in Juneau; Stanley in January 1948, and Douglas, in August 1949. Both of the boys graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School. Stan went on to Western Washington University and teaching. He is now a supervisor in the Alaska Department of Labor. Douglas went on to Skagit Valley College then into the Army, then to Western Washington University where he finished his schooling. He was in the Army water transportation unit, learning more to supplement his Dad’s training, and is now a Captain in the Columbia River Pilots Organization. Doug lives in Vancouver, Washington. Both boys have families of a girl and boy each.

It was during the mid-1950’s, that Roland intrigued the City of Juneau with the “thing” he was building in the front yard of the welding company—but when he launched it into the water down at the subport, the allsteel catamaran floated at the exact waterline painted on the sides. I spent many hours working with Roland on the boat, which he christened the Blue Star. I regretted I was not a good sailor, because I got so seasick every time the waves rose a foot high. Roland used the Blue Star for hunting, fishing, and sight-seeing charters. I brag a little when I think it was a forerunner of the catamarans now plying Alaskan waters.

I did some substitute teaching, took care of the book work for the shop, and finally started working in the Department of Education, first as a home-schooler teacher, then as the Supervisor of Certification during those years.

A high honor for me was to sing “Alaska’s Flag” at the Statehood ceremony held in the big Gross Theater on Front Street, an important day for all Alaskans.

We sold the Welding Company in 1964. Roland took the Blue Star and moved on south. I left to get married again in 1967. Even though I’ve been back to Juneau only once since then, in my heart I’m still an Alaskan!

My second husband died in October 1984. Roland was killed in an automobile accident in June 1993. I now live in Panorama City in Lacey, Washington, in a lovely continuing care retirement complex.