Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program

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Fairbanks Montage

The Alaska Communities of Memory Project was a statewide effort from 1994-1996 funded by the Alaska Humanities Forum to provide an opportunity for people in communities around Alaska to share memories of their community and to reflect on what made their community special. These gatherings were held in BethelFairbanksHomerJuneau, Kenai-Soldotna, Kotzebue, NomeUnalaska, and Wasilla.

This Jukebox, also funded by the Alaska Humanities Forum, highlights some of the storytelling from Fairbanks, Alaska in 1995 and 1996. Three community storytelling events were held, each with a different theme: celebration of holidays (December 9, 1995); life along the river (March 2, 1996); and history of Creamer's Field (April 3, 1996).

Stories from ten people from Fairbanks are in this Jukebox based upon their importance to the overall telling of Fairbanks' history. A representative sample was taken from each of the sessions. Story selection was made by Dr. William Schneider, Curator of Oral History at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Click on a picture below to access a person's interview.

People

Jim Binkley Captain Jim Binkley

Charles Madison "Captain Jim" Binkley, Jr. was a World War II veteran and popular Alaska riverboat captain. Captain Jim was born in Wrangell, Alaska, on May 16, 1920. He worked in Alaska, piloting freight vessels on the Yukon and Tanana Rivers. He later created the popular Riverboat Discovery tour of the Chena and Tanana Rivers in Fairbanks, Alaska. In addition to running this riverboat tour business, Captain Jim also... Read More

Jack Coghill Jack Coghill Jack Coghill was born in Fairbanks, Alaska on September 24, 1925. Originally a businessman in Nenana, Jack Coghill eventually turned to politics and had a long and distinguished political career. He was mayor of Nenana for 22 years, served in the Alaska territorial and state legislatures, and was the eighth lieutenant governor of Alaska from 1990 to 1994. Jack Coghill also served as one of the fifty-five members of Alaska’s Constitutional Convention in 1955/56 that was responsible for... Read More
Don Creamer Don Creamer Don Creamer is a long-time resident of Fairbanks, Alaska. His family owned and operated Creamer's Dairy until it closed in 1966. The land later became the Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge.
Richard Frank Richard Frank Richard Frank was a respected Athabascan Elder from Minto, Alaska. He was born in 1927 to Justin and Lucy Frank, during a time when a nomadic subsistence lifestyle was paramount for survival. His family moved across the lands of Rampart, Stevens Village and Minto. He grew up learning the skills and traditions of his ancestors. This early training set the path and philosophy that Richard followed throughout his life: a strong work ethic, a sense of place, service to his community, fierce... Read More
Merritt Helfferich Merritt Helfferich

Merritt Helfferich was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1935, and came to Fairbanks, Alaska in 1958. He holds a bachelor degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Early in his career he worked as a ballistic meteorologist and flight safety officer at the Poker Flat Research Rocket Range, and in 1969 as an ice technician on the SS Manhattan's transit of the Northwest Passage. He... Read More

Effie Kokrine Effie Kokrine Effie Kokrine was a respected Athabascan Elder and long-time resident of Fairbanks, Alaska. She was born in a camp on the Tanana River on March 23, 1919, and moved to Fairbanks with her husband, Andy Kokrine, in 1949. She was an avid dog-musher who won the Women's North American Sled Dog Championships in 1946 and 1947. She was a dedicated educator, teaching Athabascan culture to Fairbanks school children. To them, she was known as "Grandma Effie." After living in Fairbanks for many years,... Read More
Howard Luke Howard Luke

Howard Luke is an Athabascan Elder who was born at Linder Lake, near Nenana, Alaska, in 1923. His mother would teach him at night with stories and how to take care of your luck, "gallee'ya". He moved with his mother and rest of the family to Fairbanks in 1936. Hwward began dog training and racing in the 1940s. His first Open North American Sled Dog Race was in Fairbanks in 1947; he came in second place. Howard also raced boats, winning the 1965 Yukon 800 Boat Race, which runs on the Tanana... Read More

Wilma Rutherford Wilma Rutherford

Wilma Rutherford was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on April 1, 1929. Wilma was one of the first women inducted into the WACs (Women's Auxiliary Corps) from Pittsburgh. In the military, she was an X-ray technician, which was a career she continued later in life. While in the service, she met her husband, Walter Lee Rutherford Jr., and she followed him to Alaska in 1951, when he was stationed at Ladd Field in Fairbanks. In 1958, they homesteaded in North Pole, Alaska where they farmed and... Read More

Judy Shiffler Judy Shiffler Judy Shiffler came to Fairbanks, Alaska in 1968 with her husband, Wendell Shiffler. Judy has been involved with education in Fairbanks, first teaching at Denali Elementary School.
Jane Williams Jane Williams Jane Norris Williams was born in Dayton, Ohio on November 6, 1914. She received a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science degree from Otterbein College (Ohio) in 1938, followed by a master's degree in biology at the University of New Mexico. She moved to Alaska in 1949 with her husband Homer “Red” Williams. Together they homesteaded in Central, Alaska. After teaching in the villages of Fort Yukon and Cantwell for several winters, Jane and Red relocated the family to Fairbanks. Jane... Read More
Red Williams Red Williams

Homer O. "Red" Williams was born in 1915 and came to Alaska in the 1930's in search of work and adventure. His first job was working in the mining industry. He became interested in flying and enrolled in the Civilian Pilot Training Program at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. He then advanced to the Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet Program. Throughout his many years in Alaska, Red was a school teacher, a bush pilot, and a mechanic. In the late 1940's, he began flying tourists around Circle... Read More

Ginny Wood Ginny Wood

Virginia “Ginny” Hill Wood was born in Moro, Washington, on October 24, 1917. She came to Alaska in 1947 after serving as a Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) during World War II. She subsequently received the Congressional Gold Medal for her honorable service. In 1952, Ginny Wood, her husband Morton Wood, and their friend Celia Hunter opened Camp Denali, a wilderness tourism lodge in Denali National Park. Ginny Wood was passionate about environmental conservation and dedicated much of her... Read More

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