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:
We are regularly featured on AlaskaPublic.org/Town Square 49. To read the current feature, click on the Town Square 49 link below:
We have also been featured on the Anchorage Daily News.com website. Click on the ADN link below:
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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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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email@example.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!