Ohman, Lazzette Caughreon
by Lazzette Ohman
It all really started back in 1898, when Grandfather Wilkes came up to Skagway from Kansas to run packhorses, but that is another story. (See Lewis C. Wilkes.) I am the daughter of Marvel Wilkes and Milo Caughrean and was born in Ketchikan, Alaska, on January 8, 1919.
Milo was a chief engineer for the Alaska Steamship Company and was not home very much so mother remarried and in 1921, we moved to Sukoi Island out of Petersburg where my stepfather, Tom Shearer, took care of a fox farm. Mother was a dead shot from hunting seals for fox feed.
In 1923, we moved to Juneau and our new home was the superintendent’s house across Salmon Creek from the Boston Gold Mine. I attended the Juneau public school and graduated in 1937. I was a member of the Rainbow Girls and in 1938, was awarded the Grand Cross of Colors. My father Tom was the State Boxing Commissioner and ran a tailor shop next to what is now the Rendevous Bar. I used to walk the beach to town a lot and played with the native kids at their fish camp on Salmon Creek. I remember that the Lemon Creek Glacier was a lot lower and there were icebergs in the Gastineau Channel. I used to walk up to Perseverance Mine and pick up the miner’s suits for my dad and then take them back that day. “One armed Dick” always looked after me and fed me a nice dinner after all the miners had left the mess hall.
I married Robert E. Shelley in 1941, and shortly after took my son and my niece up north to Flat to see my father Milo at his placer mine. Milo is still remembered in that area for his “Iron Dogsled” that he built and used to haul supplies to other miners. Milo was a chief engineer, machinist and inventor and he always thought it was the first snowmachine.
I did not return to Juneau as my husband had purchased property in Anchorage at 15th and F Streets, the last street in town at that time. We lived in a tent while he built a house. My daughter Lauren was born there June 2, 1945. I wanted to be home and take care of my kids but periodically I had to work, for the Corps of Army Engineers, War Department.
Late in October of 1949, we moved to Monterey, California, and purchased a home in Del Rey Woods. I got divorced and moved to Pacific Grove, learned to drive, got a car and went to work again for the Corps of Army Engineers at Fort Ord. Later, I transferred to the Army Language School at the Presidio of Monterey. I joined the Science of the Mind church and took classes in the evenings and eventually received B.S. and M.S. degrees. In 1956, my son Jerry joined the Marine Corps and was stationed at Camp Pendelton for four years.
In 1958, I married Gunnar Ohman, whom I had known when I was younger, and he moved me to his “Little Cabin” in Funter Bay. But oh, what a beautiful home it was and still is. It was all made with Gunnar’s hands and no electrical tools. He was a master custom wood craftsman and it should be a historical site. It was self sufficient with wood heat, 12 volt battery/generator lights, root cellar and garden. At first he continued to fish and trap in the area. We had a fish camp we stayed at in the summer. Then Gunnar built a floating fish scow and we bought troll caught salmon for Art Bertholl on the Fern II from Funter to Pinto Cove in the summers for 12 years. I also worked for the National Weather Service calling in the weather when we were home.
It was a fantastic 21 years; all the gardening, berry picking, canning and baking. And when we were home, the fishermen and many good friends came to party and sauna. I had my adorable orphaned fawns that thought I was their mom and that they were puppies. They were so smart and docile until socalled “hunters” came to our beach while we were in town. Well, I suppose they were doomed as orphans anyway. At least we had a lot of love for awhile. Our spring and fall trips to town were fun-they made us appreciate living in Funter Bay. As I said, it was a fantastic twenty-one years. Some of the fishermen still stop me on the street to say hello.
In 1979, we had to move back to Juneau due to Gunnar’s health. In 1980, I went to work for the U.S. Forest Service where I am still curator for their pictures.
In 1989 Gunnar, bless his soul, passed away. In 1996, I moved into the Fireweed Place with my son. I still work a few hours a day at the Forest Service and am active in the Pioneers of Alaska, the Salvation Army Auxiliary and am still a member of the Cross of Colors.