by Karl Voiles
I’m sort of the family historian, since I’ve done quite a bit of genealogical research, and I would like to give information I have about our family’s coming to Alaska and our lives here.
Our mother and father were born in Portland, Oregon: Lucile Margaret Saunders, b. December 10, 1911, d. March 4, 1991 in Anchorage; William Bachelor Glafke, b. 1909, d. December 6, 1963 in Fairbanks.
Our mother’s side of the family goes back in America to Mayflower traveler William Brewster. The family lines on her side are English, Welsh and Scots and contain men who fought in the Revolutionary, French and Indian and Civil Wars. Her grandfather, Alonzo Carner, was a riverboat captain on the Ohio River.
Our father came from an Irish and Prussian background. His mother was Susan Fanning, whose family came from the South and dates back in America to the 1700s. His father’s family emigrated from Prussia in the 1800s and first settled in New York.
I gave the above information to illustrate the spirit of pioneering from which my family comes.
My father worked in Oregon in various jobs including those of logger and construction worker. In the 1930’s the country was still in the throes of the Depression, and as work was quite scarce, William headed to Alaska in about 1935, as a matter of survival. In Juneau, he went to work at the Alaska-Juneau mine as a powder monkey. My mother followed, and on April 4, 1936, my brother, William Bachelor Glafke, Jr. was born at St. Ann’s hospital. On August 24, 1937, my sister, Marian Katherine Glafke, was born at the same hospital.
Our family had very little. They lived first in a small house on Gastineau; my mother lived in fear the entire time because of the avalanche danger in that area. A short while after they moved to another location, an avalanche took out the house next to the one in which they had lived. The family eventually settled into a house on 6th Street that was owned by Trevor Davis. There were three of these houses, which are still standing today at the top of Franklin Street (although the one on the left that Trevor lived in has been extensively modified).
In 1941, the war broke out for the U.S. My sister Marian recalls: “I was about five when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Everyone was very upset by this, but all I could think of was ‘how could a harbor be made out of pearls?’ When Attu was invaded, the military announced that all families should depart Alaska for safer ground. Our mother booked passage to Seattle in 1942, while our father elected to stay and work. The boats were incredibly overbooked and most people did not have rooms. Outraged by this, our mother gave away all the bedding in our room to those without and then complained to the ship’s staff that the room did not have any bedding. She did this until they wised up to what she was doing.”
My father moved up the channel to Haines, where he went to work for Foley Construction on the Haines Highway and on the CANOL cutoff. In 1943, our family traveled from Portland to visit him there, but when they stopped in Juneau, he was waiting for them. They all moved back into the same house on 6th Street. The house was always gray. Trevor Davis managed to buy a huge supply of Navy gray paint during the war. My brother and sister tell me how every other year they would wait excitedly to see if the house was going to be painted maybe blue or green, but it was always the same battleship gray. Incredibly, there is still no concrete sidewalk going to the houses today, just the same wooden planks. On May 13, 1947, Karl Carner Glafke was born in the same hospital as my siblings.
All three of us attended the 6th Street Elementary School, and my brother and sister graduated from Juneau High School. When I attended the 3rd grade, Mrs. Berlin (my teacher) called me “Billy” the entire year, because I looked so much like my brother who she had taught eleven years earlier. I guess he must have made quite an impression!
In about 1949, after working for several companies in Juneau including Lloyd Reed, Berg Construction and Hildre Brothers, my father drifted off to the Aleutians and other parts to work and finally just never returned. My mother, with three children to support, had to start working. She was able to plead with an acquaintance to give her a job in the Employment Services Division with the territorial government, but it wasn’t enough. She had to take on a second job as a cashier at the Baranof Hotel. She would work at her day job from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., then work her night job from 7:00 p.m. until 3:00 a.m. She would then go home, do laundry, look in on her children and sleep for a few hours.
It was at the Baranof that she met Sidney Loop Voiles (b. April 13, 1910 in Sheridan, WY, d. September 22, 1987 in Anchorage), who was a bartender in the Bubble Room. Sid had been in the Army at Fort Richardson in Anchorage and moved to Juneau after the war. They eventually married, and with the extra income we were able to move into the Mendenhall Apartments.
My brother Bill had joined the Army and was posted in Anchorage. He married his high school sweetheart, Joan Yarnell, whose family had also lived in Juneau for quite some time. My sister was about to embark on her short-lived college career in Montana.
In 1957, Sid got a job as a bartender with Northwest Airlines in Anchorage, and my mother was able to get a transfer to the employment office in Anchorage, as well, a job from which she eventually retired. When we arrived in Anchorage, we moved into a log house at the corner of 6th Avenue and L Street which was owned by Tony Schwamm, who later became the Postmaster General of Alaska. L Street was a dirt road at that time, as were most of the streets.
Marian met Harry Odden in college, got married and moved to Anchorage, where they and their three children still live. Harry worked for the Northern Commercial Company and Goodyear for many years and retired. Marian has recently retired from her job at the Egan Center in Anchorage. Bill and Joan had three children as well, two of whom live in Alaska. Bill retired as a foreman from the Fort Richardson power plant and now lives in Eagle River with his wife, Judy. Joan passed away several years ago.
As I recall, life in Juneau was fairly entertaining. I mainly remember it as a series of blueberry picking excursions, walks out Basin Road, picnics at Evergreen Bowl, trips to Auk Lake in the summer, swimming at Treadwell, and some childhood friends: Anne Hillsinger, Ron Baxter, David Winter, Butch Cope, Doug Mole. After leaving there in 1957, I never returned until 1998. It’s changed a lot, but most of the old landmarks are still there and a lot of the old houses. The house on 6th Street with peeling gray paint now sits there with peeling white paint.
My brother Bill recalls: “It drizzled for 364 days out of the year. On the one day the sun came out, everyone would leave work and go for picnics at Treadwell. We used to walk to the A-J Mine every day to meet our dad coming off shift. We would walk to where the railroad car would come flying down from the mill full of workers. The miners used to give me their badges. I remember when our father managed to buy a tiny boat and we went out in the channel for the annual salmon derby. Our mother caught a halibut and Dad got so excited that he swung the gaff and hooked Mother in the arm.”
My parents were friends with many longtime Alaskans and pioneers, including Jerry Doogan, Irene Ryan, Trevor Davis and Bob Reeve. My father eventually worked all over the state, including the Aleutians, Southeast and the Interior, mostly in the construction business. At one time, he and another man were going to buy the Triangle Bar in Juneau, but my mother put halt to that. By all accounts, William Glafke, Sr. was a hard- working, fun-loving man who played the piano and sang in the bars around Juneau. Our mother was equally hard working, and had a tremendous sense of doing what was fair and right. She was fiercely loyal to her family and friends and a formidable foe to those who would attack either.
William B. Glafke and Lucile (Saunders) Glafke, holding William B. Glafke, Jr., June 1936.
At Treadwell, c. 1944, William Glafke, Jr., cousin John Roberts and Marian Glafke.