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Alaska is Where our Hearts Are

Welcome to Growing Up Anchorage!

 

In the true sense of the word, GrowingUpAnchorage.com is not a blog, but a group venture dedicated to preserving authentic stories of life in Anchorage during the 1940’s through the 1980’s.  These are not the narratives of the luminous historical figures in Alaska’s history; rather they are the memories of everyday people who lived under rather extraordinary conditions.

 

Alaska is exceptional; we can all attest to her uniqueness, even now.  However, those of us who lived in Anchorage in earlier times experienced an even more rare, select culture that has long since altered and moved forward to meet the pace of a greater population and modern technology. Those years hold a very special place in our memories and deserve to be remembered and told so that current and future generations have an understanding of what our day-to-day life and living conditions were like.

 

I welcome you to read and enjoy our memoirs as much as we love sharing them!

 

 ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥

 We are an official participant in the Anchorage Centennial Celebration

Anchorage Centennial

 

 

Growing Up Anchorage PowerPoint Presentation

by
Naomi Sweetman.
Naomi has given this presentation to a Pioneer Women’s group in Anchorage, as well as several Rotary Clubs.  She is available to speak and share this presentation with other interested groups.
Contact Jana for more information.   janaariane@msn.com

 

 

 

Interviews of Jana Ariane Nelson and Connie Walker by Alaska Public Media are available to listen to via streaming radio broadcast or by reading the interview text:

 

Alaska Public Radio Interview May 13, 2013

Alaska Public Radio Interview September 23, 2013

 

Enjoy listening to ‘The Sand Lake Boys’ written and read by Mike Byers:

Alaska Public Radio September 09, 2014

 

Some of our Growing Up Anchorage writers are show-cased on the Anchorage Centennial Website:

 Anchorage Centennial Family Albums

 

We are regularly featured on AlaskaPublic.org/Town Square 49.  To read the current feature, click on the Town Square 49 link below:

 Town Square 49

 

We have also been featured on the Anchorage Daily News.com website. Click on the ADN link below:

Anchorage Daily News 

 

We hope you will spend many hours enjoying our authentic stories about Anchorage during the mid-20th Century!

Story links are on the left, with more below, in categories and archived by date as well as by author.

Be sure and explore the links at the top of each page:  Our Authors, Last Frontier Cafe, Info Nuggets, the Midnight Sun Masters and the Sourdough Shoppe.

More information about the beginning of this website, contributor and contact information is below.

 ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥

 

A few years ago I flew back to Anchorage for the wedding of one of my granddaughters.  So often during the visit I thought about how “grown-up” Anchorage had become since my family arrived in the fall of 1948 to the nondescript, grubby little town with a population near 15,000; a far cry from Portland, even in the 1940’s. 

On the flight back to Oregon after the wedding, I continued to think of my grandchildren who grew up in a much different world than we did; theirs is a world full of cell phones and texting, video games and wireless Internet. They are used to the hustle-bustle of modern Anchorage, anywhere USA, riddled with freeways, coffee kiosks, retail outlets and malls on every corner. They didn’t experience a Territorial Anchorage that ended at the Park Strip, or 4th Avenue only paved for a few blocks, or a time when Anchorage International Airport was a far-off dream, or when there was only one High School in town. They didn’t order from the Sears and Roebuck or Spiegel Catalogs because the Northern Commercial Company couldn’t supply what they needed.

My grandchildren didn’t go to first and second grade in a Quonset hut where mice munched on their books at night, or live by lantern light when the neighborhood generator burned. They have no clue that Northern Lights Blvd. was originally named KFQD Road after the radio station at its end close to Cook Inlet.  They didn’t innocently play in the ash dumped on Anchorage on July 10, 1953 from Mt. Spurr’s violent eruption. They didn’t experience the devastating March 27, 1964 Alaskan earthquake, its traumatic aftermath and rebuilding, and they didn’t encounter the mad days the Alaska Pipeline brought to Anchorage.   They didn’t have first hand views of the enormous ice of Portage Glacier before the great melt.

Our lives were much simpler then. Neighbors helped each other build their homes and churches; we never locked our doors; boys were given .22 rifles and BB guns in grade school and went hunting with their dads for the winter supply of moose meat. Cars always stopped if you were stalled on the side of the road due to inclement weather and road or car misbehaviors. Girls had few dolls to play with and were the best tomboys their brother’s friends could wish for. TV was minimal, theaters sparse and Hollywood blockbusters still decades in the future.

Telephones were limited or non-existent; long distance rates high; and letters formed most communication to the “outside.” I still use that word, even after all these years away. Inside Alaska, we listened weekly to the “Mukluk Telegraph”, a radio program that communicated family news, grocery lists, pickup and delivery times, and other essential bits of information to people out in the bush with no access to phones or telegraphs. To Sam at Alexander Creek: “Pick me up at the boat landing at 3:00 on Thursday afternoon” was a common message, as was one to Tim at Willow: “Baby Boy James delivered 6:40 AM. 7 lbs 5 oz. Mother and baby doing well.” This was an early version of texting and voice messaging.

We played outside in the woods during the long summer hours and our mothers couldn’t call or text us when lunch or dinner were ready, and we usually didn’t show up until our stomachs were gnawing. None of us could conceive of bears raiding our garbage cans, and it didn’t matter because we burned our garbage in big oil barrels at the edge of our property. Brown and Grizzly bears kept their distance; it would be several decades before they learned to scavenger close to dense civilization. The hillside was pristine in those years, uninhabited by homes that later encroached on their territory.

The Municipality of Anchorage was too small to exist. The Anchorage Daily News was just a baby – having published its first issue in January 1946. Travel on Alaskan airlines was lengthy, tedious and expensive. The marine highway was not yet in operation allowing tourists to enjoy an Alaskan cruise. There were no tours of Denali Park. In 1948 Alaska was a still a Territory, not a State, and many people in the “South 48” thought that folks in Anchorage lived in igloos. Guiding for big game hunting and fishing had not yet become a huge Alaskan Tourist Industry. There were no freeways; the road to Seward had not yet been built and going to Palmer was a horror story on the old pothole-filled road. The Parks Highway had not yet been conceived of. If you wanted to go northwest out of Palmer, you took the train.

Jack and Dad After the Hunt

Jack and Dad After the Hunt

In fact, whenever it was flagged down, the train stopped to pick up some hunter with his load of gear and meat, making exact arrival time a mystery at its destination. If you wanted to fly to Seattle, you could plan on 8.5 hours on a DC-4 propeller plane. There was minimal electricity, and frequently none. Most families had only one car and were lucky to have indoor plumbing. Laundromats flourished, as did cold storage lockers where the enterprise would butcher and store your winter’s larder of moose and caribou.

Those were wonderful years that have left an indelible and eternal comment etched on my soul: Anchorage was unique in my childhood. These stories in Growing Up Anchorage.com are the stories of everyday people forging their lives in an untamed frontier. They deserve to be cherished and preserved.

 

Since starting this website, I’ve been joined by a number of friends and others who lived in Anchorage during those early years. They have contributed wonderful stories which are listed by date as well as under each individual author.  You will find more information about them on the Our Authors page above.

 

If you have stories to share, please contact me at janaariane@gmail.com.  I cannot promise that I will post everything, but I will read what you send me, and if it fits the criteria, will make every effort to post the story.  Be advised that I will only accept stories that are relevant to Anchorage and Alaska in earlier years, authentic, and do not contain anything offensive, inappropriate or inflammatory. For the most part, last names will not be used.
It also is expressly understood that by submitting material for posting, you are waiving any right to payment of any kind.  You retain your own copyright, however, and may publish your own material in any other form that you wish.

 

If you wish to contact me personally, you may do so at janaariane@gmail.com.

 

Be sure to visit frequently and check back from time to time for new postings.  All the authors are categorized under their own names, so you won’t miss anything.  You can also read past stories in the Archives.

 

And so I welcome you: readers, friends and family!  I invite your comments and memories. Anchorage may have grown and changed, but our memories are precious and should not be forgotten.

 

I hope you will visit us soon at Growing Up Anchorage!

Enjoy

and 

Welcome

 

to

Growing Up Anchorage!

Jana Ariane Nelson

Jana Ariane Nelson

Header Photo courtesy of Hipkins, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Jana’s Photo Courtesy of Danny Gray Studio 
http://www.dannygraystudio.com 
Logo by Cassandra Sweetman

 

40 comments

  1. Carol Higgins says:

    I have a son, from Texas, running tomorrow in the Moose’s Tooth Marathon.
    This brought up old memories regarding the day Alaska became a state. My uncle Frank Dills sent the family a picture of the Statehood Moose that his taxidermy shop had done. Do you know if this moose still exists??
    Thanks for your time

  2. William O. Whatley says:

    I was stationed at Elmendorf AFB from 1968 &1969. Worked downtown
    at the Federal Building in Anchorage, The Air Force operated the
    telegraph system then and I worked inside the Federal Bldg. with
    other airmen and Civilians! Made lots of friends there wonder if
    any are still around, know it has been a long time but I loved the
    city and surroundings. Probably would still be there if it wasn!t
    for orders. Maybe someone will remember, I was the only Texan there.
    would love to hear from one.

  3. David Hall says:

    My family lived in Nunaka Valley from aroung 1956 to 1961. My dad, Horace Hall, was stationed at Elmendorf AFB and was also a preacher at a small church somewhere in the mountains outside of Anchorage. My brother Wayne and I attended Nunaka Valley Elementary School. I remember fondly the snow, summers, and the northern lights of Alaska. I would love to move back but my wife doesn’t like cold or snow, being from New England.
    I have dreams and memories that time can never erase about the most beautiful and magical place on the earth.

  4. Ginger Akason says:

    My grandfather, George Heinle, worked at Elmendorf AFB as an engineer from about 1943-1959. He left his family behind in Grinnell, Iowa. I’m looking forward to reading more stories to learn more about the place where he lived and worked for much of my dad’s childhood.

  5. Vickie Henninger O'Bannon says:

    I happened on this website by accident today while trying to find a photo of Big Lake in the 1950’s. Dad had homesteaded on the Lake, and we carried all the materials by boat to built a shelter. I’ve read a few of the stories but plan to read more. I was so excited to see other people who lived in this small community pre-statehood, and I cannot wait to read more. What a wonderful idea, I thank you for creating a page for those long ago memories. My Mother worked at East High School and my Father opened a business, Modern Floors. We lived in Spenard on Northern Lights Blvd. across from the then Dairy. Thanks again !

  6. Carl Hild says:

    I would like to contact author Gene Brown to follow-up on the story about his brother Skip.
    Would you please share my e-mail with him.
    Thank you.
    Carl Hild

  7. Fine and informative presentation!
    GUA,which started as a glimmer of an idea, is filling an essential niche in Anchorage’s history.
    Thanks to the wonders of the internet, and judging from the feedback, it has a world-wide audience. Amazing.

  8. Rosemary Hanson Redmond says:

    I was born in Anchorage; great-grandparents settled in Wasilla in 1914 before Colonists! Mother was May Queen of Anchorage–father was first radio man for Alaska Airlines (then McGee Airways) Have many stories I would love to share!

    • George "Joe" Hanson says:

      George Hanson
      Hi sis! Write some tales! I plan on it in the near future. But don’t tell on me! We have another sister, Carol and our older brother Alan. That’s 4 Anchorage brats!

  9. Klaus Pergeorelis says:

    My father was stationed at Fort Richardson, Alaska, from 1960 to 1964. My mother, younger sister and I joined him there in August, 1960. I attended West Anchorage High School for one year since it was the only high school in 1960. In 1961, East Anchorage High School was finished and all the high school kids living on Fort Richardson where transferred to East High (Thunderbirds) after double shifting at West High for a short while. The high school students from Elmendorf AFB stayed at West High (Eagles). During my senior year (’61-’62) at East High, I played on the varsity basketball team. Unfortunately, the West High team beat us every time we played it including during the tournament at the end of the basketball season. My family experienced the March 27, 1964 earthquake and I’m still very sensitive to any ground movement. My older sister had joined us in Alaska and was working in the newly-constructed JC Penney’s building when the quake struck. Part of the building collapsed and, I believe, it was demolished and rebuilt. I now live in Florida and have experienced several hurricanes. Earthquakes and hurricanes are definitely frightening; although, I think that the Alaskan quake was probably more scary because it came without warning and I was afraid of being swallowed up by the ground that moved liked ocean waves. I actually thought that maybe the USSR had attacked us with an atomic weapon, since we were forever having fallout shelter exercises.

    We were the Senior Class of ’62 and our motto was “All the Rest We Will Outdo, Senior Class of “62.” Our slogan for the class of ’63 was “Hang your diapers from a tree, Senior Class of ’63.

    I worked for the Air Force Eastern Test Range at Patrick AFB, FL for 32 years. During that time, I actually worked with a lady that was an Air Force brat and attended West Anchorage High; however, she is about 10 years younger than I am. There was another lady in our unit who worked for the government at Elmendorf AFB during the 1964 earthquake.

    Several people I know still live in Anchorage or nearby, including Donna Shaw and Maurice Goff, who was the “Big Man” on our team. I understand that Tim Gordon, the Senior Class President and captain of our basketball team, was killed in a truck accident within a few years after we graduated. Before I left Alaska, I did hear about a plane crash that killed two of my classmates, Gwenn Allen, the twin sister of Gail Allen who was the head cheerleader and Tim Gordon’s honey, and Sonny Larson, the captain of our hockey team. Gwenn and Sonny were going to college in the lower 48, and were headed back to Anchorage to be with their families for the 1963 Christmas holidays.

    I enjoyed my time (mostly teenage years) in Alaska immensely. I loved the wide open spaces and the long summer days–the short winter days weren’t that bad either because of my involvement in basketball, going to the movies for a quarter, and spending a lot of time with my friends on Fort Rich. I still stay in touch with some of my “Alaskan” friends.

    Klaus Pergeorelis

  10. ned wright says:

    I would like to hear from anyone that remembers me

  11. Joe Nicks says:

    I have been trying to learn more about the history of the state. Your website really helps. Some lifelong Alaskans have told me the original Seward Highway was much higher in the mountains near Anchorage. Have you written much about a previous route during the 40’s, 50’s or 60’s?

  12. Michele Holley says:

    Born at Old Providence and grew up at 4th and Barrow at the Palace Hotel. Denali, Central, West. What a life it has been! To watch the growing of this city and state from wilderness…
    Great site, thanks for putting it together.

  13. David Curtis says:

    My family moved to Anchorage in 1941. We lived at 14th ave and Fst. This is a great site.

  14. My folks lived on KFQD Road sometime around the late 40’s, early 50’s. Nice to see this site and hope to visit often.

  15. Peggy Allison says:

    I recognized the Quonset hut & remembered going to school in one years ago. I came to Alaska in 1949. The town ended at 15th Ave.

  16. Bruce Ficke says:

    Love hearing old Anchorage stories.May have a few to share.Nice website..;-)

    • George "Joe" Hanson says:

      Hi Bruce! One of the brave guys that believed in Alyeska Ski Resort and a major player in its developement. I enjoyed our chats at the “Musky”. Hope you and family are well.
      “Joe” Hanson

  17. Alden 'Paul' Akers says:

    Great to have lived in Anchorage since 1943; always like to hear stories about the old times.

  18. Diane (Ambrose) Delkettie says:

    I was in North Star School from 1957 to 1961 when I lived with Helen Martins at Northern Lights and Arctic, I would like to know if anyone has class pictures from those days and if not how would you go about getting copies does anyone know, A couple of years ago I got my school transcript I could get the teachers names? I love this sight, came across it by accident, don’t know many people that remember anchorage before it had paved roads lol

    • Jana Ariane Nelson says:

      Hi, Diane,

      Glad to have you join us! I’ve put out a few inquiries about the pictures and hopefully will find some we can post!

  19. Arnie Westfall says:

    Please tell Cassandra that I remember: Ninjas walk on water.
    Good to see your excellent work. Be well.

  20. Jan Petri Haines says:

    This is a great format — and I like the reminders of how it was. Thank you!

  21. MaryJo says:

    This is nice, Jana. I love the header photo, the additional info below your story about who’s featuring you, and especially how to find submission guidelines! mj

  22. This particular blog, “Growing Up Anchorage: Growing Up With Anchorage in
    the Mid 20th Century” was in fact excellent. I’m impressing out a replicate to present my
    personal associates. Thanks-Shelli

  23. Quincy says:

    Wow, superb blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
    you make blogging look easy. The overall glance of your web site is great, as smartly as the content!

    • Jana Ariane says:

      Thanks for your wonderful comment! :-) I started this website in December 2011 with a few stories. Since then a number of friends from the “old days” have joined and frequently contribute fabulous stories. It’s the group effort that makes it so great for me. Actually, WordPress makes blogging pretty easy, although I am still in the learning curve. Thanks again, come back often and tell your friends! I try to post a new story every Friday.

  24. Kathleen says:

    Thank you, Jana, for reminding us of Mt. Spurr’s eruption when the powdery ash covered everything, grass, cars, and houses.  I had forgotten that “exciting” time that I think was the only time we kids ever had to stay indoors:-)
    kath

  25. Marsha says:

    I love the new header graphic!!

  26. jsinclair says:

    Although I have spent most of my Alaskan time in the Sitka  I still found sojourning in to early Anchorage days’ a pleasant trip down memory lane for me as well.  Excellent work, Jana, and look forward to more.

  27. Genebrown17 says:

    Very nice, Jana!  The blue type is very readable. I like it!  g

  28. Lelad1234 says:

    How cool is this.  So glad you have these memories.

  29. Barb says:

    I can see you are having so much fun with this, keeping memorizes alive!
    Fun reading. will have to come back for earlier posts.

    hugs and blessings
    barb

  30. Jlstelling says:

    Yes, I remember the Seward Highway ended not far from the Rabbit Creek Inn. There was an abandoned railway station on the right side of the road.

  31. Danny Gray says:

    This is a great idea and I look forward reading more anchorage stories. Keep going with this!

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