Parks and Recreation Image

Juneau-Douglas City Museum


by Harry, Mary, David & Bill Sperling

MAHIAS HALM OR “MATT” (1874-1953)

Grandpa Halm was born in Hannerberg Am Rhine, Germany, in 1874. As a young man he “jumped ship” in the United States and went to a predominately German settlement outside of Chicago. There he met and married Mary Wibblesman in 1899.


The future Mrs. Halm was born in Gelsenkirchen, Westphalia, Germany, in 1874, and with her parents arrived in the United States in 1881. She was seven years old. Mary was 23 when she married Matt in Illinois. Three years later she was en route to Alaska where she lived until her death in Juneau at the age of 53. She was active in church and lodge circles. She was a member of the Rebekah Lodge and of the local Pioneers Auxiliary.

Shortly after their marriage, the Halms traveled west to California and lived in San Francisco for three years. During that time, their daughter Mary was born in 1900 (Goldie and John were born in Alaska). Once again they pulled up stakes and sailed to Douglas, Alaska, arriving in 1903. Matt got a job at the Treadwell Mine. He was paid in gold coin. While Matt worked for the mine, his wife ran a boarding house at Douglas for the miners. This ended in 1917, when the Treadwell Mine caved in. The family moved back to Seattle for two years but returned in 1920 to Juneau. Matt then worked at the Alaska-Juneau Gold Mine. His wife died seven years later.

In 1930, Matt made a trip to Germany and met and married Charlotte Feist. To her friends she was known as Lotty or Lotta and to her family as Grandma Halm. They lost their home during the Big Slide in the 1930’s, and bought a little place at the small boat harbor which they occupied until Grandma left in 1960, for Chico, California. Matt had passed away in 1953.

The Halms also had a place 12 miles “out-the-road” off the fork of the Loop Road near Montana Creek where they lived during the summer and grew vegetables for market. Since there was no plumbing, electricity or phone, life seemed simple and the big wood stove in the kitchen fed everyone. The goats provided the milk and the chickens the meat. Charley Rudy’s mink farm was their closest neighbor.


As mentioned, Mamie was born in San Francisco but grew up in Douglas. She started piano at an early age but didn’t have one to practice on until she proved herself to her father. At some early period she went to a convent in Canada and according to her brother, John, won several piano contests. When in Seattle with the family 1918-1920, she played for music stores to sell sheet music and after returning to Juneau when she was 20 years old, she wrote her compositions for the silent movies. It was in the “pit” that her future husband kept trying to hold her hands while she was playing. They married in 1923. They had a short life together, less than 25 years, but did have four children, two years apart; Harry, Mary, David, and Bill Sperling. Music was a big part of their lives. Mother at the piano and Dad singing. Mother performed at most musical functions in town. Quite often she played with Klondy Dufresne, a concert violinist. In 1948, Mamie had a cerebral hemorrhage while giving a dinner party. She died within two hours at the age of 47.


Not much is known about “Aunty Goldie” who was named after the Golden Gate Bridge. She was born in Douglas. She first married J. W. Flannigan who was connected with the Alaska-Juneau Gold Mine and then Anaconda Copper Mine in Butte, Montana, where they resided. However, she returned to Juneau alone. Bert Johnson was her second husband. Finally, she married Gus Gustafson who was the skipper of the Estebeth. Goldie died in 1951. There were no children. Gus died in Seattle a year later. Except for the two years in Seattle after the mine cave in, I believe she lived always in Douglas and Juneau.


Uncle John was born in Douglas, Alaska. He attended grade school in Douglas and high school in Juneau, crossing the channel every day by rowboat. He didn’t graduate from high school until 1925, as he had to work in the shipyards in Seattle to help out his family. He married Kay in Juneau and worked for the Columbia Lumber Co. In 1944, John and Kay and daughter Mary moved to Ketchikan. They raised their family there adding two boys, Jack and Doug. After retiring, he and Kay moved to Bellingham, Washington, in 1966.

HARRY SPERLING (1895-1950)

Our dad, Harry Sperling, was born in the Belarus, Russia, area in 1895, the eldest of six children.He was about six years old when his family of four escaped from Russia during the pogrom, when the Jewish people were expelled and many killed. They fled to England where two more siblings were born and finally to the United States where two more children were born, eventually settling in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Harry joined the Army before graduating and was sent overseas and became one of the Honor Guards for President Wilson in Germany. After the Army he moved to Missoula, Montana, where he joined the Forest Service and arrived in Juneau in 1920. He traveled all over Alaska in this capacity with the Forest Service. In his early years, he thought to supplement his income as a representative for New York Life, turning that over later to Keith Wildes. Dad was active in civic affairs. He was an Exalted Ruler of the Elks and a life member. He enjoyed the theater and was in many productions. He loved to sing.

In 1947, he took a geographic trip with his son David and daughter Mary. They bicycled the Alcan Highway from Whitehorse, Y.T., to Minneapolis, a total of 1,000 bicycle miles. The Alcan was completed in 1945, and it was rough, tough, and dusty. No one could ever guess that he would have a cerebral hemorrhage less than three years later. He was 55 when he died in 1950.


Harry Jr., was born in 1925 at home on Irwin Street near the ACS apartments. My parents eventually purchased the home of the late Dr. McAuliffe on 10th Street in 1935. I was enrolled in the Juneau Elementary School System and graduated from high school in 1943. At that time I was 1-A in the draft but was determined not to be drafted in Juneau for fear of being assigned to the Duck Creek Commandos. John Bavard felt much the same so we decided to pay our own way to Seattle to enlist. I served with the 10th AAF Emergency Rescue Boat Squadron in the Aleutian Islands 1943-45. Fished halibut, black cod and albacore tuna from 1946-54 with three attempts at college from 1946-48 ending up purchasing the halibut schooner Sitka in a partnership with Erling Oswald and Bill Odell. I married my wife Annice in 1951, and then worked for the National Marine Fisheries on the John R. Manning for almost three years.

In 1954, I was skipper of a large tuna long liner for the Kayler-Dahl Fish Co. to fish out of Honolulu in the Line Islands. I then found a position with what is now the Federal Aviation Administration as a powerhouse operator on Wake Island for the next eight years. When I realized the island’s days were numbered, I sent an SOS to Erling Oswald for employment with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and was employed in Jamaica and now had a wife and two infant daughters. Then working with the major fishing nations of Korea, Indonesia and Manila I became the FAO Regional Fisheries Coordinator for the South Pacific commuting between the South Pacific countries and Manila where the office was located in 1975. In 1985 and at age 60, I took an early retirement. My career with FAO was very satisfying and I think I contributed something to fisheries development in a number of third-world countries. We had purchased property in Ocean Shores, Washington, and moved there after retirement.


I had no idea that being born and raised in Alaska was such a unique background until I enrolled as a freshman at the U. of Minnesota in 1945. One would think I was from another planet; the Alaskan aura. In fact, my college address was changed to “Mary Alaska Sperling” to distinguish me from another girl who had the same name. I know beyond a doubt how lucky we were to have had Alaskan pioneer parents and to grow up in a community boasting 5,000 population. I always knew everyone in my school classes as did everyone else. Teachers were personal. We went from 8th grade across the road to high school. In my graduating class there were 26 students. In 1946, I enrolled at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks and my roommate was Nadine Metcalfe.

I enrolled for my third year of college in Eugene, Oregon. It was there, in 1947, I saw my Mother for the last time. I quit school when Mother died in February and returned to Juneau. I had met Ernie that fall in Oregon and he flew up in August and we were married in Juneau in 1948. Zalmain and Charmaine Gross gave us a reception at their home; Minnie Field baked our wedding cake; Mother’s Stitch ‘n Bitch Club (known as the S&B Club) put on our wedding, gave me showers and took the place of my Mother. We returned to Juneau the following two summers to work.

We were married for 47 years and during that time I managed to finish college (just before the medical school years, 1951-1955) then internship, residency, private practice, and finally a three-year residency in psychiatry. The third year we had the good fortune to take in England. By this time we were a family of eight with four girls and two boys. The number four child turned out to be four and five, identical twins. We moved back to Chico, California, in 1969, where Ernie worked for the Butte Co. Mental Health until his retirement in 1985. He died in 1995 of cancer. I continue to live in Chico, 1031 Downing Ave., Zip: 95926. Three of the six kids live in Chico and three not that far away. I have 10 grandchildren and count my life as being joyous and full.


Born at St. Ann’s Hospital; went from K-12 at Juneau schools graduating in 1947. Accepted at the
U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and commissioned Ensign in 1952. One year in Destroyers. Flight training Florida and received my wings in 1954. Married Judy Perry in 1957. Had three children, Mike, Michelle, and Douglas. Flight instructor Pensacola 1957-60, career tail hook pilot; two combat tours Viet Nam, stationed with family in Europe/Mediterranean 1970-77; promoted to Captain in 1973; Naval Attache Egypt, 1980-83 (in the viewing stands with Judy when Saddat was killed). Retired in 1983 after 31 year commissioned service. Currently reside in Pensacola, Florida.

About Juneau: delivered Daily Alaska Empire papers while in grade school. Boy Scouts with civil defense at night following bombing of Dutch Harbor. Drove truck for Jack McDaniel’s White service. Worked in summer at Pelican Cold Storage with several high school classmates (Roy Gray, Denny Merritt and Bob Larsen). Forest Service summer trail crew Kenai Peninsula with Jack O’Connor and Bob Larsen. During winter months, helped grandparents with janitorial chores at the high school and Behrends Bank. Broke leg sliding down 9th Street hill (body cast 6-8 weeks), usurped sister’s room and became spoiled brat. Early summers a Halm country farm out-the-road complete with “2-holer.” Skiing on Douglas Island with what amounted to plain skis with a strap to insert foot held in place by rubber bands cut from inner tubes. Some deer hunting on the island without much luck, but hell on wheels shooting ducks on the flats outside of town. I often accompanied my Dad on his frequent inspection trips in SE Alaska. Always by air on chartered seaplanes from Shell Simmons (source of my
love for flying I guess). High school? Nothing big, worked on school paper, on the basketball team, theater projectionist and ticket taker. First and only love was Shasta Hatten who moved to Port Angeles, Washington. My time in Juneau ended after my Dad’s death, except for the memorable 50th class reunion.


Although I do not hold the distinction of being an Alaskan Pioneer under today’s description, I do hold the distinction of having been born at St. Ann’s Hospital in Juneau. The real memories of my childhood began at 530 West 10th and C Streets (considered the “tide flats” in those days) in a yellow house kitty-corner from the Grummets, next door to the Ramsey’s on the left and the Satres on the right. I loved my parents and became influenced by their good judgment and talents. The neighborhood kids played hide and seek, kick the can, spin the bottle and wars...wars that included wooden weapons that were as real to us as our imagination would allow.

My school years from grade school to high school were absolutely wonderful. I had my favorite teachers that I loved dearly, wonderful and tragic love affairs with broken hearts and uncontrollable emotions. I endeavored in music with my trumpet, played basketball throughout both grade and high school, captain of the band, junior class president and contest winner of the Jr. Scholastic Magazine in the 5th grade. During those years, tragedy struck our family with the loss of my mother in 1948, and the loss of my father in 1950. I was a member of the 1950 All Alaska Basketball Team that was, I’m sure, the crowning glory of my yesteryears. I graduated from J-Hi in 1950. Subsequent years put me three years at the U. of Oregon, two years in the Army at Fort Richardson (53- 55). Residence in Anchorage working the hotel circuits and sign painting business with a departure in 1964 for the NY World Fair. Worked the fair for two summers, met my future lovely wife, Catherine, stayed in NY and married in 1969. The management of hotels became my profession, which I practiced until my retirement in 1993. I lost Catherine to cancer in March of 1993, moved to Seattle in 1994 and reside here at 10646 Glen Acres Dr. So., Seattle, WA 98168, phone 206-431-8227 (email:

I do a lot of water-color painting as a hobby (along with oils and acrylics), travel extensively to Europe, play a wicked game of golf and cribbage and tinkle on my piano attempting to keep my musical background alive. I visit Juneau non-too frequently and am getting to that age where I turn to the back page of the Alaskan magazines looking at the “End of the Trail” names.

Harry Sperling, 1895-1950.