Parks and Recreation Image

Juneau-Douglas City Museum

Gusjaas, Ludvik (Louie) & Loraine

by Loraine (Gusjaas) McGregory

The year 1918 was a momentous time in that World War I was over, the flu epidemic was world wide and Loraine Virginia Hall was born, joining a brother and two sisters in East Orange, New Jersey.

I became an orphan at the age of ten and went to live with my married sister. I graduated from Orange High School in 1936, and went to work in Central School office. These were depression times and I was fortunate to be working. My yearly salary was $900 but at that time people did not pay income tax.

I later met and married Ludvik Edward Gusjaas (Gusjos) who had escaped from Kristiansund North, Norway, with nine other men when his town was occupied by the Nazis in World War II.

We headed for Alaska because it was similar to Norway, stopping in Spokane, Wash. the day World War II was over and everyone was celebrating. In August, 1945, we arrived in Juneau as we were advised that Juneau had less drinking than other places in Alaska.

We rented an empty house at Duck Creek and tried to start a fire in the wood stove but were smoked out as the chimney was plugged with soot. The water supply was rainwater gathered in a large tierce. There was a bathroom but no water except what was brought inside in pails from the creek. Water put in the basin to wash hands had a film of ice each morning that winter. Wood for the stoves was gotten from the sawmill on Franklin Street and was put in the oven to dry it enough to burn.

The old shed in back of the house was used to raise some chicks which we transferred to Sunny Point where we purchased a house from Howard Hayes. This house had been in Thane and was barged to Sunny Point. There is a book written about it called “Four Fares to Juneau” by Marie Small.

Our neighbor Old Charlie Switzer would stand by the side of Glacier Highway each Saturday morning waiting for a ride to town for his groceries. He lived in a small wooden house by the creek, had no amenities and at one time operated a small dairy where Switzer Village now stands.

By then, the Army had moved out of the camp at Montana Creek and our bid for 21 tent bases was accepted. These had to be knocked down, and I had the unenviable job of removing all the nails from the wood. With this lumber a chicken house and another shed were built, and occupied by 30 pullets, 1 pig and 11 milk goats plus a pair of foxes and 3 mink.

A white face calf from the local dairy was raised and called “Blinky.” The leftover stale bread from the bakery and the goat milk was fed to the goats and calf. He got quite large and rambunctious and ended up as baby beef on the table.

The house at Sunny Point had a bathroom with no hot water and the toilet did not work, so we used some of the salvaged lumber to build an outhouse. When sitting in contemplation and the wind would blow, the whole edifice would rock slightly in a comforting manner.

Louie and I were gillnetters for years in Taku and Snettisham. I would hang the leadline and corkline on the nets, shivering from the cold wind in the open Quonset hut that was used as a boat shed on the beach.

Royal O’Reilly from Taku Lodge needed a home for his pair of St. Bernard dogs, Chief and Queenie. So we took them. Queenie was hit by a car and Chief died up on the mountainside later.

The highway was still a dirt road and full of chuckholes from the rain. B. M. Behrends had a small summer cottage at Duck Creek which we bought, put on skids and brought to the new location. We had already put in footing, concrete basement walls with steel frame windows and this house was cribbed onto the new basement foundation. We put on a lifetime roof of 1/2" Johns Mannville plates of asbestos/cement. We poured loose vermiculite insulation into the walls.

In 1951, I had earned enough while fishing my little skiff and net that a trip was decided upon. We had to find a lock for our door and then took an Alaska Steamship boat to Seattle. At this time we had to go through customs inspection as we were a territory and not a state. We went across the U.S. by bus and visited my family on the East Coast.

One of Louie’s jobs at home was to tend the four kerosene navigational lights in Gastineau Channel for which he was paid $15 a month by the Coast Guard for four trips per month. Louie was going to be out of town working so I had to learn to trim the lamps and fill the tanks. Being so short it was difficult having to climb to the platform with no ladder. Walking was also difficult because of many ice sheets piled up on one another from tidal action.

Eight months later on Christmas Eve, 1952, a daughter, Karen Leslie was born at St. Ann’s Hospital. We put Karen in a bassinet on a feather pillow next to the heater in the living room. What water we had froze up and our supply was by 5 gallon milk cans via our old Hupmobile. It was a rather difficult time because Louie had fallen off the roof of the newer house, broken one ankle, sprained the other and was crawling around on padded knees. The oil supply to the house stopped and I put a rag soaked in kerosene around a pipe and lit it to thaw any ice in the line. It worked!

Eighteen months later a second daughter, Sally Louise, was born at St. Ann’s on June 26, 1954.

I remember taking my children to the big bonfire at the Subport to celebrate Statehood in 1959. I told Karen to always remember the occasion and she does to this day.

When both girls were old enough to go to school, I went to work as a deputy clerk and clerk transcriber for the superior court in Juneau. The judge at that time was James A. von der Heydt. He was also a writer and painter. He and his wife live in Anchorage.

In the summer of 1963, both daughters flew alone to Norway to visit their grandmother and other relatives on “Papa’s” side. When they returned, the girls and I moved to a house in Juneau and their parents got divorced in 1966. It was bitter cold that winter and the only heat for the rental house was an oil space heater in the living room. The girls bathed in a tub next to the heater as the shower had frozen.

Later, I was secretary to the Marine Transportation director. I then held secretarial positions for directors in Highways, Marine Transportation, Fish and Game and Public Health.

During my latter work years, I married Allan McGregory who had come to Juneau from Valdez when the big quake wiped out the town. He worked for the State in charge of Weights and Measures. He passed away suddenly in April 1976.

My daughters are married. Karen, a Registered Nurse is married to a State Trooper (retired) and lives in Anchorage. Sally and her husband and children own and drive a semi across the U.S.

I have been retired many years and maintain a home in the Lemon Creek area with beautiful trees and a large red raspberry patch in the backyard, but they cause much work for me in my old age. My companion is a dachshund, Oscar, who has aged along with her owner.

Louie and Chief.

Loraine (Gusjaas) McGregory.

Daughter Karen and children.