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Home 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!


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Recent 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


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 Mall and the Sourdough Shoppe.

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

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Several years ago we attended a  family wedding in Alaska.  During this visit I reflected on how “grown-up” Anchorage had become since I moved there in 1948, when the population was about 15,000. How different Anchorage is now compared to the “early days!”

I thought of my grandchildren, who have grown up in a much different world than we did; theirs is a world full of cell phones and video games and wireless Internet. They are used to the hustle-bustle of modern Anchorage, riddled with freeways, coffee kiosks and retail outlets on every corner. They didn’t experience a Territorial Anchorage that ended at the Park Strip or a time when Anchorage International Airport didn’t exist, or when there was only one High School in town. They didn’t order from the Sears and Roebuck Catalog because the Northern Commercial Company didn’t have what you needed.

My grandchildren didn’t go to 1st grade in a quonset hut, or live by lantern light when the neighborhood generator burned. They don’t remember when Northern Lights Blvd. was named KFQD Road after the radio station.  They didn’t innocently play in the ash that dumped on Anchorage on July 10, 1953 from Mt. Spurr’s violent eruption.  They didn’t see Anchorage rebuild after the devastating March 27, 1964 Alaskan earthquake. They didn’t have first hand views of the enormous ice of Portage Glacier.

In many ways, life was 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 Anchorage weather – snow, ice or mud.

Kids played outside in the woods during the long summer hours and their mothers couldn’t call them on cell phones when they were late for lunch.  We didn’t worry about bears raiding our garbage cans; we burned our garbage.  Brown and Grizzly bears kept their distance; they hadn’t learned to scavenger close to civilization. The hillside was not populated with homes that 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 so people could enjoy an Alaskan cruise. There were no tours of Denali Park.  In 1948, Alaska was 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 become an Alaskan Tourist Industry. There were no freeways; the road to Seward had not yet been built and going to Palmer was a nightmare on the old road. The Parks Highway had not yet been conceived of.  If you wanted to go northwest out of Palmer, you took the train.

And, in fact, the train stopped whenever it was flagged down, to pick up some hunter with his load of gear and meat.  If you wanted to fly to Seattle, it took 8.5 hours on a DC-4 propeller plane. There was minimal electricity, and sometimes none! Most families had only one car and were lucky to have indoor plumbing.

Those were wonderful years – an Alaska that I loved dearly and miss to this day.

Since starting this website, I’ve been joined by a number of friends from 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, true, 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!






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 
Logo by Cassandra Sweetman



  1. Alden 'Paul' Akers says:

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

  2. 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!

  3. Arnie Westfall says:

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

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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. 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:-)

  9. Marsha says:

    I love the new header graphic!!

  10. 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.

  11. Genebrown17 says:

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

  12. Lelad1234 says:

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

  13. 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

  14. 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.

  15. Danny Gray says:

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

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