by Earle L. Hunter III
To the best of my recollection my grandfather, Earle L. Hunter, came to Alaska sometime in the early 1890’s. During his lifetime in Alaska, he served as postmaster, legislator, customs collector, and was in charge of the Bureau of Fisheries fleet at the time of his death in 1935. He had Master’s papers for vessels for waters from Puget Sound to and including southeastern and southwestern waters of Alaska. He married Emma Lulu Miller, originally from Oregon, in 1899. They had one son, Earle L. Hunter, Jr., born in Juneau on November 1, 1906, who graduated from Juneau High School and attended Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State University), and married Mary Uinta Kirk from Oregon in 1927. They were married in Juneau and both lived there for the rest of their lives.
Earle, Jr. had a dance band called the Serenaders and played piano for several years, while working at the First National Bank of Juneau at the same time. As the Depression deepened, the bank officials told him he could only have one job, either playing music or being a banker. He chose the bank. He and Teddy, as my mother was better known in Juneau all her life, had one son Earle L. Hunter, III in November 1929. Earle, Jr. continued at the bank until about 1954, when he left as Executive Vice President and made an unsuccessful try for election for Territorial treasurer. He then became Executive Vice President of Alaska Federal Savings and Loan. The current Savings and Loan building on Franklin Street was built during his administration. He died in a boating accident while on a hunting trip in Tracy Arm in September 1962. Hunting and fishing had been his passions all of his life. Teddy continued on in Juneau with her activities with the Garden Club, the TB Association, the Symphony association, Eastern Star, etc., as well as working for the Newt Cutler Insurance office, retiring from that job after some twenty years. She died at the Juneau Pioneers’ Home in 1993.
I remember growing up living at 428 W. 12th Street in a small house my parents had built in 1936, by Jimmy Larsen, a local contractor. There were no sidewalks, and the street was a typical dirt road. Obviously, the highway “out the road,” as we called it, was not paved at that time either. I attended Juneau Grade School and High School and was able to watch as the streets were paved and out the highway to the airport and even beyond. I remember the first Juneau-Douglas Bridge being built and opened. In the early years, there was also a ceremony at the airport commemorating the inauguration of the first air mail flights (a Pan American DC-3) and the first air mail stamp for six cents. We watched the Duck Creek Camp being built near the airport for the Army during World War II, and the beginning of the USO where I played piano for many dances and occasions. There were literally thousands of soldiers going through Duck Creek in those days. As high school skiers, we saw many of them up the old ski trail in Douglas staying overnight and trying to become exposed to skiing at the old Third Cabin about three miles up the trail.
I continued to play the piano through high school and college, working at Mike’s Place in Douglas, the Bubble Room at the Baranof Hotel, the Salmon Creek Country Club, as well as working with a band at Oregon State and the University of Oregon. I entered the Army in 1951, and served as a medic in Korea. I married Helen Doreen Dawson from Ottawa, Ontario, in 1954, and went to the Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago. We returned to Juneau in 1957. I practice optometry with Dr. C. J. Meyers for two years. Our son, James was finally diagnosed as mild cerebral palsy and totally deaf, and we decided we should move south for better education and therapy for him. We settled in Oregon and practiced there for fifteen years. We made several trips back to Juneau, particularly after my mother went to the Pioneers’ Home. We also were back in 1996, for the 50th reunion of the High School classes of 1946-50.