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Juneau-Douglas City Museum

Johnson, William O. & Ella Lorraine (Brewer)

by Lorraine Alice Johnson Cattermole

William O. Johnson, a veteran of WW I was born in Warsaw, Missouri, but grew up in Washington State. He worked most of his life in the retail grocery business. Ella Lorraine Brewer was born in Salem, Oregon, and was a secretary for the Federal Government, mostly for BIA, prior to her marriage to William O. Johnson.

Depression years led to loss of work for William so the family decided Ella Lorraine should put in an application for work with the government again and she was offered a job in Juneau. This was an extremely big decision as Alaska was considered the ends of the earth to other family members and they were sure they would never see their family again. In June 1934, the family boarded a ship and off they went. Upon arrival they rented an apartment. Ella Lorraine went to work at the Federal Building and William got a job at a small grocery store which he bought a few years later. In all the years they lived in Juneau, they never bought a home but always rented. Their daughter Lorraine Alice’s favorite home was on Gold Street, next to the Catholic School playground.

Lorraine Alice entered the fourth grade that September while her brother Don went into the first grade. Lorraine Alice did not remember the teachers names but did remember Mr. Ferguson, a teacher she had for three grades. In school, she remembered spell downs and looking out a window with her friends when the Goldstein block burned.

Her parents belonged to the American Legion and they all marched in the Memorial Day and Armistice Day parades. Lorraine Alice spent two weeks at the Girl Scout Camp one year and never did learn to swim. She remembered riding bikes out the highway and eating salmonberries as they went, enjoyed going to the museum in the Federal Building and Father Kashaveroff telling them stories, the Northern Lights in color, not black and white as they are in Montana. She remembered picnics at the rustic shelters. One summer day, all the neighborhood kids were on the roof of the garage feeding bread to the seagulls. They were so tame they almost ate out of their hands. Summer days were spent in the Evergreen Bowl.

In July of 1940, William and Ella Lorraine divorced. In October of that year, because of Ella Lorraine’s ill health, she took the children and their dog, Penny, and moved south. Lorraine Alice hated leaving but had no choice in the matter. After Ella Lorraine regained her health, she again applied for work with the government and they moved her to the Crow Indian Agency in southeastern Montana.

Lorraine Alice finished high school in Hardin, Montana, and married her high school sweetheart, Roy James and they had four children: Barbara, Sharon, Bill and Roy. They moved to Helena, Montana, in 1950, and lived there ever since. In 1960, Roy and Lorraine Alice took the kids to Juneau so they could see where she had grown up and had a wonderful visit. Roy James died in 1972, and Lorraine Alice married Leland “Dick” Cattermole in 1977, and he died in 1998. Lorraine Alice has been back to Juneau twice since 1960, and she hopes to return again. Juneau will always be her hometown.

As an insert to this story it should be mentioned that the maternal grandmother of Ella Lorraine was Kate Loulin who was born in Sitka in 1865, of Russian and native parents. She and her sister, Louisa, were orphaned at an early age and were sent to the “lower 48” states when Kate was only fifteen. Kate married David Ernest Brewer. She never talked much about her early years. An Uncle Ruthyn Turney (he married Ella Lorraine’s Aunt Gertrude) went to Skagway during the gold rush and spent most of his time there delivering mail to the gold camps. He returned to Salem, Oregon, and resumed his career as a music teacher and concert cellist.