Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Good Times


Creek Street, Ketchikan
We arrived back in Ketchikan on July 13th with a couple of days left for sightseeing prior to John’s flight home.  We toured the waterfront and the shops along historic Creek Street.  Creek Street was the “red light” district of 1902 where more than 30 houses lined the creek, each with one or two “working girls;” rowboats slipped in at night on high tide and liquor rose through trap doors during prohibition.  

Creek Street, Ketchikan
Dolly was Ketchikan’s most famous madam and her house is preserved much the way she left it.  You can read more about Creek Street and Ketchikan on a previous blog posting dated May 3rd, 2015.  

Long House at Totem Bight State Park 
John also enjoyed beautiful Totem Bight State Historical Park, a collection of totems and a clan house typical of the three area Native groups:  the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian.  
Archival Photo of Old Kasaan Village, Prince of Wales Island
This collection of reproductions were copied from originals found deteriorating at old Native villages.  In the 1930’s the U.S. Forest Service in cooperation with Native organizations began to salvage and reconstruct the totems.  
Totem Bight State Historical Park 
In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s religious missionaries and the U.S. Government policy of assimilation had discouraged Alaskan Natives from practicing their art and culture.  When totem-polls fell to deteriorate in the harsh climate of the rainforest, tradition held that they should not be lifted but rather left to return to the earth.  As the old totems fell, new poles were no longer carved to take their place.  Thankfully, the art of totem carving has been rekindled among Native peoples.
After our visit at Totem Bight State Park, we rode the city bus back to the boat for lunch then headed into town to see the Tongass Historical Museum.  The excellent museum covers the history of Ketchikan, its people, activities, and business endeavors.  Of interest on display was the 49-Star Flag, the official U.S. Flag adopted in 1959 when Alaska joined the Union. The proclamation was signed by President Dwight Eisenhower on January 3rd with Vice-President Richard Nixon, Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, and Alaskan dignitaries in attendance.  
Archival Photo, Ketchikan 1908
rchival photos at the Museum are fascinating and show downtown Ketchikan in the early 1900’s and the once productive Spruce Mills and Pulp Mill.  Founded in 1903, the Ketchikan Spruce Mill operated for 79 years.  During the 1920’s it was the largest mill in Alaska.  The Ketchikan Pulp Mill operated from 1954 until 1997, employing more than 500 workers at its peak.  
Archival Photo, Ketchikan Pulp Mill
Hundreds more worked as loggers, machinists, riggers, road and bridge builders, and boat crew in support of the pulp mill and spruce mills.  At one point there were 37 outlying logging camps, many of these were floating communities.  Other interesting artifacts and historical photos include the history of fish traps in Alaska.  Native peoples of Southeast Alaska built traps on streams for hundreds of generations; but in the late 1800’s, cannery operators began building large, stationary traps at the mouths of salmon streams by driving pilings to support nets.  Because these traps endangered salmon runs, the government later prohibited placement of commercial traps near spawning streams.  Trap operators responded by putting traps along salmon migration routes, usually in deeper water requiring a floating fish trap system, a framework of logs from which wire netting was suspended.  
Model of Floating Fish Trap

Many Alaskan’s hated these traps because they were largely owned by outside corporations and depleted the salmon runs.  When Alaska achieved Statehood in 1959, its new legislature banned the use of fish traps in Alaskan waters.  We found the aviation history of Ketchikan to be equally interesting.  In July of 1922, pilot Roy Jones and mechanic Gerald Smith completed the first flight from Seattle to Alaska, landing on Tongass Narrows in front of Ketchikan.  Twenty some airlines, mostly short-lived, followed Jones example in the years prior to World War II.  
Goodbye Wishes
The best known of these was Ellis Air Lines started in 1936 by Bob Ellis which later merged with Alaska Coastal Airlines of Juneau in 1962.  The new company in turn became a part of Alaska Airlines.  Ketchikan continues to be a major hub for floatplane transportation, actively coming and going on Tongass Narrows.  Our day had come to a close and it was time to say goodbye to John.  We motored across the Narrows with the dinghy and dropped John off at the pickup/drop-off dock next to the Airport.  
Dinghy and Seaplane Float, Ketchikan
We watched the floatplanes for a while come and go from the adjacent dock. But alas, John’s Alaska Airline had arrived at the airport.  With smiles, hugs, and watery eyes, we said our last goodbyes to a special Nephew, we will miss his company.  Java, too, pouted that day having been spoiled with hugs, walks and snacks from John.

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