by Minnie Rogers Keating
My father, John Rogers, came to Alaska in June 1923. He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on May 7, 1877. He moved with his family to Glasgow and became apprenticed on the River Clyde as a mechanical engineer and worked for Harlan and Wolf, the company that built the Titanic. Times were bad in Scotland after World War I, and he wanted better things for his family. By this time, he was married to Jemima Graham who came from the north of Scotland, known as the Highlands. He also had three daughters, Katherine, Mary and Minnie. It would be quite a project to save up enough money to bring his family over from Scotland.
He got his visa and crossed the Atlantic, landing in Quebec, then to Montreal and across Canada by train to Vancouver where my motherís cousins the McLeods lived. Times were not good in Vancouver either, and he soon went to Seattle where he heard about jobs in Alaska. He was hired by a Mr. Livie and went to Juneau to work in the AJ Mine as a foreman in the machine shop. He lived in the AJ boarding house at the foot of Basin Road with other single men. At this time Mr. Beistline, Mr. Scott, Frenchy Riendeau, Mr. Bonnet, and Mr. Mead all worked in the AJ.
In 1925, my father sent us our tickets. This was a very trying time for my mother. The only time she had been away from Scotland was when she and my father spent some time in Ireland on their honeymoon. We left Scotland, June 1925. All the relatives were crying and my mother was having a fit because we had to be seen by a doctor to be sure we were healthy. I had bad eyes and she was afraid that I wouldnít pass the examination. On the Saturnia it took seven days to cross the Atlantic and we were all sick. We arrived in Quebec and on to Montreal, then boarded a train to reach Vancouver where we were met by our cousins and it was old-home-week. My mother and her cousins started talking Gaelic and she told them about our relatives in the old country.
Then we headed for Ketchikan, our port of entry to the United States. The customs officer treated my mother very well and she was really pleased. She said afterwards if she had known they would have been so nice she would have packed a lot differently. She didnít know what to expect. Mrs. Livie met us in Juneau and took us to her house. My dad finally came and got us and took us to a house on Starr Hill. My mother had lived in a flat all her life so I am sure she was impressed. At one time, the house must have belonged to a mining company because there were five of them, all alike. The Meads lived next door to us and on the end lived the mine boss, Frenchy Riendeau. In back lived the Browns and the Ramseys.
At that time, they were still using horses to go to the garbage dump. The Catholic Church played a big part in town. They had a whole city block which consisted of the hospital, church, school and a playground. The hospital was strictly run by the Sisters of St. Annís. In back of the church were wonderful crab apple trees which we would raid. When the Glacier Priest, Father Hubbard would come north, he would fasten his dog team in back of the church. At night when you heard a siren you knew there had been an accident at the mine. Mr. Riendeau would have to go and get the body of a miner whose blast had failed to go off and had gone back to check on it.
A short time later, my sister Kate married Dave Simonson and had two girls. She divorced him and moved to Seattle and had another girl. She now has great grandchildren living in different parts of the US. She is 93 and lives in an assisted home in Arlington, Washington.
In the meantime, my mother still hadnít adapted to American ways. She was frustrated by the money and the lack of fresh fruit. She had a standard feud with the butcher, Mr. Manthy. Then she worried about the education system. In Scotland, they had very good schools. Mary ended up in the 7th grade with Mrs. Tuppe. I was put in the third grade with Miss Alma Miller, who later went on a vacation and ran into Winnie Ruth Judd, a murderess who killed Miss Miller. One of the teachers that everyone loved was Miss Tillotson. I would never have made it through algebra without her help. Miss Marietta Shaw taught the eighth grade and she later married Mr. Pilgrim. She published a history book on Alaska which the schools used.
We also had Dr. Dawes, Mr. Jenne and Mr. Freeburger, both dentists. Dr. Simpson was an eye doctor. Dorothy Roth and Grace Nagel taught dancing and Mrs. Davis taught piano and wrote music. Mr. Anderson owned the local music store and sold pianos all over Alaska and the Yukon. Mr. Hammer, a Finnish gentleman, weighed about 300 pounds and owned a steam bath. He was also a very graceful dancer. Mr. Spickett owned the Palace Theater and Miss Coleman, our librarian, saw that we read the right kind of books. Mr. Pullen, head of the Alaska Light and Power Company would drive down to Thane and play golf on the sand in his plus fours.
We eventually had to move, so we rented several places around town but returned to Starr Hill where my dad built a house at the top of the stairs. It had two bathrooms which was unusual at the time. When we first moved on the hill, the Bayers lived there. She was of Russian decent and was married to Tay Bayers who captained a mail boat. They had five girls and one boy named Kinky. Judge Dunn lived in the last house at the top of the steps. Then the trail to the mine began. At night you could see the lights of the miners going up the hill. On nice days I would take my dadís lunch to him and we would eat on top of the rock pile. Then he would take me through his shop and show me the gold bars.
This was a wonderful time to be a kid. We had the Perseverance Mine in all its glory. It looked as though they had dinner and walked away. The pool tables were still in the bunkhouses, pillows and blankets on the beds. The bossesí houses were still intact-just like a storehouse. The books were still in the library. We packed more stuff out of there-my mother wouldnít let us keep it. The tennis courts were still solid. Then we had Mt. Roberts. We climbed over it like mountain goats. My best friend was Judy Alstead Nance who died last year. We used to go above timberline and sun ourselves. We swam in Auke Bay and gravel pits at Lemon Creek. We would climb to the remaining houses down at Thane. My dad was a good friend of the Scotsman who was in charge of the Point Retreat Lighthouse and we went there occasionally. We also would swim in an old mud hole where now the city of Juneau has tennis courts.
My dad, while working for the AJ came up with some gadget to attach to the cars that moved the ore. He was a self educated man. He tutored a group of White Russians that worked in the mine. These men were the elite of the Czar, well educated and could speak several languages but couldnít speak English. When the Czar was murdered, they had to flee their country without any worldly goods. They escaped to Harbin, China, and then on to Alaska. Some of them had degrees in mine engineering. In return for my fatherís help with English, and towards citizenship, they would invite us to their Christmas celebrations at the Salmon Creek roadhouse. They would don their Cossack costumes and dance on the tables with their swords, in full regalia.
My mother and dad moved to Seattle when he retired in 1957. At that time, no one ever retired in Alaska. My mother died in early 1959, with cancer and my dad a short time later of old age. They are both buried in Seattle.
My sister, Mary, graduated from Juneau High School in 1935. She had always wanted to be a school teacher. She chose to go to Bellingham Normal where she roomed with Janet Stewart. She graduated with a teacherís degree and was immediately assigned to Ft. Yukon. She was 22 years old. After other teaching assignments, she was transferred to Wasilla where she met and married her husband, Rex Pinkley. She became pregnant and went to California to have her baby, Mary Dallas Pinkley. In the meantime, Rex, moved to Juneau and got a job in the mine and Mary returned with her daughter. The marriage didnít last and they separated with Mary moving in with our folks. She worked at Percyís Cafť in the summer to make ends meet. She then got a job teaching at the Minnie Field Home which she loved. When Mary Dallas was college age they moved to Sedro Wooley and she taught there. Mary Dallas married Andy Anderson and had two children, Heather and Duke. She later married Thor Johnson and worked as a secretary at a school in Washington. She and Thor live there now and both are retired. Heather and Duke both live in the area. Duke has two sons and works as an engineer for Boeing. In 1962, Mary developed a brain tumor and died in a few months.
My name is Minnie Rogers Keating. I am 83 years old, retired and live in Soldotna. I graduated from the Juneau High School in 1935, and went out to school in Seattle. I returned to Juneau in 1937, where I went to work for several lawyers. I moved to Seward and went to work for the Army Transport Service at the beginning of WWII. We were bringing troops into Alaska on the transports. There were already about 5000 soldiers in Seward. I married Douglas Keating and had two sons, Dennis and John. We eventually got divorced. When the earthquake hit us, I had just left work and was on my way home. We had all the train cars loaded waiting to go north. After the quake there was no more Army dock or small boat dock; oil tanks caught fire and it looked like we were done in. Many train cars had gone into the bay and were not retrievable. Since the docks were destroyed, I transferred to the Corps of Engineers. Anchorage suffered a great deal of damage and Valdez was completely wiped out.
My son Dennis became an electrician and married Rose Ann Lanzaro. As a teacher he has a masters degree in counseling and teaches at Soldotna. They have three children, Danny who works in the fishing business and lives in Soldotna, Rebecca who lives in Anchorage and is in the insurance business and Ian who is getting ready to graduate from the UA at Fairbanks with a masters degree in computers. John became a bus driver and lives in Sterling. He married Margo Zuroff. They have a son Sean who is working towards a teaching degree and is an assistant for Home Depot in Anchorage. Johnís daughter Margie is a junior in high school and wants to be a teacher. They all plan on staying in Alaska.