This is a continuation of the interview with John Gruber on September 3, 2015 by Jan Yaeger at the Seldovia Museum in Seldovia, Alaska. In this second part of a two part interview, John talks about his grandparents, Jack and Susan English, their love for the community of Seldovia, and their role in the community changes and Urban Renewal after the 1964 Earthquake. He also talks about what Seldovia was like when he was a child, how it changed after the earthquake, and the history of some of the old buildings still standing around town.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Seldovia Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Sep 3, 2015
Narrator(s): John Gruber
Interviewer(s): Jan Yaeger
Transcriber: Sue Beck
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
Describing his grandmother, Susan English
The impact the 1964 Alaska Earthquake had on his grandmother
Talking about his grandfather, Jack English
Susan English's role in education and libraries in Seldovia, and the importance of the school being named after her
Different locations of the library over time
Temporary building put up after the earthquake that housed the post office
Louis Louids and the Coffee Cup Café
Buildings and businesses pre-earthquake and post-earthquake with urban renewal
Describing Louis Louids, and telling story about type of service he offered at restaurant
What Seldovia was like when he was growing up
Experience of the 1964 Earthquake
Parent's purchase of their house in 1953 from Squeaky Anderson
More earthquake damage, and town's decision to rebuild and accept urban renewal
Thoughts about what Seldovia might be like if they had saved structures after the earthquake, and canneries had stayed
Effect of flooding after the earthquake
Lose of historic buildings, and moving other buiildings
Buildings still standing in Seldovia that pre-date the earthquake
Movement of house from mine at Chrome Bay to Seldovia
Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.
After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.
JAN YAEGER: So a lot of times when I’d ask people, you know, “So who are the folks that you remember who are no longer with us?”, Jack and Susan English are the first people they mention. Can you just talk a little bit about what they were like as people?
JOHN GRUBER: Yeah. Of course, they were my grandparents so I’m kind of biased.
My grandmother, I think, she was a very kind, warm person. Loved --
I guess the one thing I could say about her was the love of her -- she loved Seldovia. She loved her community.
And she loved the -- she was fiercely defensive about her town and the people in it, no matter what they were, what they did in life, you know. Good, bad, and in between.
She -- kind of hard to explain. She was a very gentle person.
Never wore pants. That was kind of a funny joke. She always wore dresses. Was a lady.
I don’t think I ever heard her say a bad word. Never drank, never smoked. Wasn’t a church person, but just lived her life like that.
She -- I think that the trials -- like we talked earlier about losing her folks. Janet, I think that was a huge impact in her life.
And I know it was, because the way she spoke about it at different times to us. And it was hugely important to her to have her home.
It was a devastating, devastating, almost a life -- definitely even a more life-changing event when the earthquake happened to her when she lost her home.
Because losing it once was bad. After her mother and dad passed away and having to leave, not having that support here, having to leave her home and then coming back and regaining it.
And then to have it -- lose it again and after the earthquake was -- it just about -- it just about killed her.
We were too -- I was too young at the time. I was ten years old when the earthquake -- about eleven years old.
And I remember my grandmother being ill, but you know, being at that age, I didn’t understand really what was going on. But what was happening was they were fighting for their life to keep their home, and Seldovia as it was.
Talking to people that were around, older folks than me that were kind of adults at that time and -- Lou Collier, for instance, was very instrumental in that era of time.
And I’ve talk to Lou a lot about it, trying to get a perspective of what they were dealing with. Why they had to make the decision for Urban Renewal to come in.
And, of course, my grandmother and grandfather were totally on the other side of it. They did not want to see that change, because they -- I think my grandfather could see the devastating side effects from it.
And being a traditionalist and, you know, wanted to see things stay the same. Like all of us as we get older, I think, get that way.
My grandmother so much so. But it was a huge impact. When she lost her home, she ended up kind of with a -- I guess what you call a nervous breakdown today. Ended up in the hospital in Anchorage for some time.
It was a tough time for her and her -- I think her spirit kind of went away, a little bit of her at that point. I don’t think that ever came back.
But she still -- you know, when they built the building down here, got that -- when that transition of time Seldovia was kind of transitioning on what we were gonna do, how many canneries were gonna stay, you know.
Of course, we ended up with just the one. Luckily, I guess. And the whole nature of just looking at Seldovia at that time -- people coming, going, mostly going.
And she still maintained that -- that fierceness of pride of Seldovia, you know. Loved it. Loved the community, loved the people.
And being, you know, at the post office and at the news stand and having them connected, you know, people were coming and going every day. She saw everybody.
Was -- you know, always greeted people with a smile and visited. She loved to visit.
She had three or four or five of her lady friends that came down: Katie Kashevarof, you know, and Alice Nutbeem and Eliza Colberg, Daisy Lindstedt. Some of the folks that you’ve probably heard names of those folks.
They came down regularly, sit back and have tea with her.
You know, being an old connect -- you know, she was one of the older families in town and that connection I think was a fierce pride -- basically is what it was -- of the town.
And my grandfather, you know, had that, too. I mean, you know, he came here as a young man and basically this was his home, you know. He went back to Strathroy, Canada.
I guess not to digress a little bit in the story -- 1975, I was living in Seattle at that time and my mother called me and said -- a little upset -- she said, “Your grandparents are coming down to Seattle and they’re taking a trip to Canada.”
And my mother -- at that time my grandfather had to have been seventy-one years old. And she was a little upset that they were gonna actually try to drive to Canada from Seattle.
You know, my grandfather hadn’t been back to Canada since 1919 or ‘20. You know, he had never been back home.
So this was his home, you know. He went back one time and that was in 1975 after leaving in 1920. And so he had this -- the same pride and, you know, fierce protection of Seldovia that my grandmother had.
You know, they just loved their community and loved everybody in it. I mean everybody.
Grandfather maybe not so much. He was a little bit more stubborn and opinionated, but my grandmother was always the -- in the family was always the one that would try to even things out, you know. Keep the peace, you know.
Love everybody, accept everybody for what they are. I mean, she wasn’t afraid to bawl somebody out when they came in the newsstand, maybe, and had a few drinks or something, that she knew them.
But she could bawl somebody out in a way that when you left there you always felt better. You know, you might’ve got your butt chewed.
And she would’ve never said the word butt, but you get my meaning. But that’s -- yeah, that’s kind of the person she was.
And as far as being -- you know, the school being named for her was a huge honor for her. Her father was Adam Bloch. Was instrumental in getting the school -- public school system started here.
JAN YAEGER: Oh, really?
JOHN GRUBER: And he was heavily involved in that. And so the school was -- to my grandmother was hugely important.
I think in some -- and again, Janet, I think a lot of that came from maybe not being able to finish school and seeing how her life changed so much after the death of her parents and not being able to follow through.
Because Juanita Anderson being here at that time -- and was a teacher here, was big into education. And I think my grandmother felt that need, but was never able to carry it through.
So having the school here and just that whole education and the system and the meaning of it and knowing how valuable it was to all of us was huge to her. Was very important.
And I think she was really touched when they did that.
JAN YAEGER: And she was on the school board for quite a long time, right? JOHN GRUBER: Yeah. Yep, she was. Yes.
JAN YAEGER: I heard someone -- I know someone said that she was the school board. In a way.
JOHN GRUBER: Yeah, and like she was a librarian for many years. That was another side of things that people maybe forgotten now. Well, there’re not a lot of folks around here in Seldovia that remember them.
So the library was very -- also as -- probably as important as having the school and keeping that school as an entity.
And again, I’m -- I don’t -- you know, I can’t say that my grandmother started the library. I don’t think she did. I think it was started by others and maybe her and many other of the ladies in town and people.
I think mostly the women started that, got that going.
And like I say, it started -- it was originally, I remember it -- and folks maybe older than me could remember it other places, but it was down in the old school building that sat on the boardwalk, the original school building, the territorial school.
And it was there for years until that building had to go away after the earthquake. And then, you know, then we had our library built here, you know, where it is today.
And then she just transitioned and did that until her retirement. I don’t recall exactly.
She was still doing that when me and Diane moved back in ‘80, so --
But Shirly Giles stepped in and was a huge help to my grandmother to help her keep that going. Because I think it was, you know, my grandmother was getting along at that point and Shirly was big, as a fresh -- you know -- a young face at that time, Shirly was,
And was interested in the library and helped my grandmother out, amongst others, you know. But --
JAN YAEGER: Do you know where the library was in sort of the interim between when the one building had to be taken down and the current building was built?
JOHN GRUBER: You know, I was trying to think about that. Because there had -- there had to be someplace for it because that -- that structure was taken down.
Oh boy, I don’t know. Shirly might remember that. God, I -- I’m drawing a blank where that was moved.
I don’t believe it was taken up to the school or the old school shop.
You know, at a time the old -- where we call the school shop now was the old gymnasium and school, but there was a library downstairs in that in one of the rooms. I don’t know if that was that -- JAN YAEGER: Oh, really?
JOHN GRUBER: Yeah. I don’t remember if it was something that was moved to there, because there, you’re right, there was a time when the old building was taken down -- the old school, territorial school went away.
And then for a few years there, we had a building that was moved, oh, about the location of where the library sits today. Or -- and the community council room.
There was a building, two-story building, that sat there. And I think it was originally Adam Lipke’s clothing store or --
And at that -- at that time it served as a jail. There was apartments above the store -- up above it.
I think actually Cheryl Reynolds and Larry lived up there for a short time when he first came here as a -- as a doctor.
And it -- I don’t -- and again, it could have been moved to that point back of the -- in the back of that building.
JAN YAEGER: And you said that was Lipke’s store. So that would have been a building that had been on the boardwalk and was moved back? JOHN GRUBER: On the boardwalk and moved, yes. JAN YAEGER: Okay.
JOHN GRUBER: Yeah, it was a two-story building and at some time -- I don’t know if I’ve got any pictures of that. I think I do.
But it was kind of slid back in there and -- and staged. And that stayed for a couple of years, three or four years or maybe more, until they were able to get, you know, the money or however that started where they eventually started to build the --
the library building as we know it today was the first structure and then the clinic and then, I think, the jailhouse and fire hall were the last attachments to it.
But -- but it was -- it sat right there for a long time and basically was just sitting, you know, kind of on piling, or on skids.
It was never meant to be a permanent structure, but it was -- it was a permanent -- it was Lipke’s store at one point. Adam and Tindal Lipke were their names. And Adam was a marine wireless operator here. Yeah.
JAN YAEGER: And then what about the post office? You know, when the one building came down after -- ?
JOHN GRUBER: There was a temporary building. Have you heard that?
JAN YAEGER: I haven’t. I assumed there had to be, because, of course, you’ve got to have a post office, but --
JOHN GRUBER: I’m surprised nobody’s told you that.
JAN YAEGER: No one's told me about it.
JOHN GRUBER: Well, that -- that was -- that’s a kind of a neat story, too, because I -- I would like to have more pictures of that.
I remember that building real clear. After the earthquake, of course, when they started taking structures down, Cap’s Hill, which is right here, coming down, and, you know, using the fill and getting things filled out over the beach and everything and built up higher.
The businesses like, well, the post office for instance, the two or three -- there was three bars. The Polar Bar, the Linwood Bar, and the Surf Club were in that building.
The store was already there, as it is now. The old SNA building. JAN YAEGER: Okay, so we're talking about the SNA building.
JOHN GRUBER: That was the store at that point. Chuck Knight, I think, was the --
Chuck Knight came in and bought Raby out when Raby had the original store on the boardwalk. So they were here pre-earthquake.
Then after the earthquake, he had that building constructed, that middle building that’s down there now that SNA owns that had the store and the apartments above. Just -- and in the same configuration it is today.
So that was -- that was there -- that was there -- oh, boy -- right after the earthquake. And I'm --
Again, that had to have been built obviously after the earthquake, because of the fill and everything. But it was -- it was up real quick.
Then right next to that -- actually where SVT sits today, almost in the exact spot SVT has sat, they built a metal -- a wooden, metal -- a wooden building with metal siding and roof on it. Kind of a -- we called it a temporary building and long structure.
And the post office was in the end closest to the street. Then there had a bearing wall down the middle of it, and the side of the -- the east side of it facing the store, the old store, they had a bar. I think it was the Linwood Bar in there.
Then there was a café, the Coffee Cup Café, and my dad’s mother worked in that with a guy by the name of Louie Louids owned that. He had the original structure down again.
JAN YAEGER: Louids? JOHN GRUBER: Louie Louids.
JAN YAEGER: Do you know how to spell “Louids”?
JOHN GRUBER: I don’t -- L-O-U-I-D-S, I believe, is how. And he was a old Greek, and -- have you ever heard him mentioned? JAN YAEGER: No, I haven’t. JOHN GRUBER: And the Coffee Cup Café?
JAN YAEGER: I’ve heard of the Coffee Cup. I think when -- I believe that the Colbergs had it for a while.
JOHN GRUBER: Yeah, originally. But there was a couple different cafés in that general area. So they were in the part -- they were in the temporary building.
Then there was another bar in the end. I believe it was the Surf Club. Enni Allen had that. She ended up leaving or not rebuilding. She ended up deciding not to rebuild and carry on the bar.
So everything was in the temporary building for a few years, until those folks were able to gather money and property and rebuild.
One of the first people to rebuild was the Linwood Bar, which was Shorty Bailey. I think his name was. He built where the Linwood is today.
Grandparents built about a year later at their structure where the post office is now.
The Coffee Cup Café never did rebuild. They stayed in the temporary building until -- I don’t know if -- if it was a thing where they were forced to move out of the building. The building was gonna be disbanded and moved, torn down, or there was a lease to it? I don’t remember.
Again, Lou Collier could probably tell you some of that history, because he was kind of involved in Urban Renewal at that time. So it was all part of this Urban Renewal program.
JAN YAEGER: And he's who used the term to me -- or maybe it was Josie, but plywood bars? So those were probably the plywood bars they were talking about?
JOHN GRUBER: Yeah. That was it. Yeah. It was a very rudimentary structure. I mean, sound as far as it had a steel roof, steel siding on it.
I remember it clearly. It was kind of neat to have everything in a building about the size of this -- not as wide as this, but maybe as long this way and half as wide.
And everything -- you know, like I say, you had the post office in it, you had a -- two bars and a restaurant in this one building.
And so until everybody started to get the property and get -- again, I don’t know, you know, as these buildings were torn down, there had to have been compensation somehow.
And I believe part of that compensation was what my grandparents built the post office building as we know it today.
And the Linwood Bar was built, and those different entities started to happen.
And to kind of, you know, talk about the Coffee Cup Café, it was a little tiny structure right next to Linwood Bar. And if I -- in my mind’s eye it sat right about where the Linwood Bar sits now, maybe more towards the Tidepool.
JAN YAEGER: This is pre-earthquake?
JOHN GRUBER: Pre-earthquake on the boardwalk -- in the boardwalk era. It was just a little place. And all it had was a horseshoe bar and stools. It had no tables in it.
And a little guy by the name of Louie Louids. He was a little Greek. He ran it. And I don’t know if he was the original owner. But he was the one I always remember running it there.
There was another restaurant a little farther down right next to Raby’s store that Lindstedts used to run. And other people had it, too, but they were I think the ones that started that. They weren’t the same entities.
But Louie was a real character. He was kind of scary to us little kids.
But my Grandmother Gruber, my dad’s mother, came up from Montana to work with him. And she was a little itty-bitty woman, too, and they both had the same kind of personalities. And I think they loved to play off each other.
They both fought almost like kids, but they loved each other.
And Louie was -- could speak English, but very -- kind of broken English, heavy accent. Was I think a kind of -- I think back as I get older now, I think he had a very dry sense of humor.
Andy Anderson tells a story of -- I don’t think Andy would mind me telling it -- going in there when he was a real young guy just getting to Seldovia. Walked in one night, had dinner, and said, oh, he would love a bowl of ice cream. Oh, ice cream sounded good.
And said, “I’d like a bowl of chocolate ice cream, Louie. Top off the dinner." And Louie said we -- and he spoke in a kind of language like, “We no gotta chocolate. We gotta vanilla.”
“Well, I really wanted chocolate.” “Well, we gotta vanilla.”
And his old saying was, “You don’t like it, you keepa go.” So Andy said, “Okay, I’ll take vanilla.”
And said he was enjoying his vanilla ice cream, and he said so a guy come back in a few minutes later, sat down, and looked at Andy’s ice cream, and said, “Well, that looks good. Louie, I’d like a bowl of ice cream.”
“Whaddaya want?” He said, “I want chocolate.” Louie goes back and gets him chocolate ice cream.
So Andy says, “Well, Louie, I wanted the chocolate.” Louie just said, “Well, if you don’t like it, keepa go.”
Louie sold -- if there was -- if he had steaks that he needed to sell that day and you went in, you had steaks. You might want hamburger. You might want chicken. But when Louie wanted to sell you steaks, you had steaks. If you didn’t like it, there’s the door.
So he was that kind of a crusty old guy, but people loved him.
And it was interesting because if you sat at the bar, you could look at the kitchen and then there was a door right to the right, and the bar -- open bar was right there.
So they could go behind the bar and there was always an open door between the Linwood Bar and the restaurant.
It was just another one of those unique Seldovia little places that had a little jukebox in it and a little horseshoe bar with probably, I don’t know, maybe a dozen stools around it or so. It wasn’t much. But it was a popular place.
And so that was Louie Louids. And he lived here until he passed away. He --
Like I say, after folks moved out of that temporary building, you know, he was -- well, he had to have been fairly elderly at that point. I don’t remember when he died, but he was alive in the ‘70s.
Was taken care of by a guy by the name of Wally Bowers. And Wally kind of took care of him up here. He had a little trailer up behind Wheeler’s store there on the hill.
And Louie passed away and was buried up there, and it wasn’t too long after that that Wally passed away, too.
Wally ended up -- he had a boat here, and I don’t know anything of the history of Wally. He came from the East Coast and how he ended up in Seldovia? Don’t know.
But he was a very nice old guy, too, and kind of took Louie under his wing and kind of took care of him, so.
JAN YAEGER: Let’s take a break for just a short while. JOHN GRUBER: Sure.
JAN YAEGER: It’s still September 3rd on Friday, and we are continuing our conversation with John Gruber for the In Our Own Words project.
And so you were a kid here in the boardwalk days. You mention that the earthquake happened when you were about ten. Can you kind of talk about what the energy was like in Seldovia when you were young and -- ?
JOHN GRUBER: There was a lot of energy. Like I say, especially in the summer. Again, in the wintertime things did slow down a little bit, kinda like they do now.
Maybe not as much, because I think the canneries were running in the -- in wintertime. Not as -- not as much as they were in the late ‘60s and the ‘70s when the crab fishing was going, but there was just a lot going on in the summer here. Especially in the summer -- spring, summer, and fall.
It -- you know, the boardwalk, what a wonderful entity to have, because everything was on the boardwalk. All the, you know, the businesses, the people, the main thoroughfare. Kind of as it is now today with Main Street, but even much more so just because of the activities.
And you know, you could go down on that boardwalk any time of day or night and there would be people on it, you know.
The -- just the whole -- you know, it was vibrant. It really was.
People talk -- I’ve talked to folks that have come to Seldovia maybe during that time from elsewhere, and it was interesting because we didn’t notice it, but the smell. You know, processing fish, you know, obviously, you know what that was gonna smell like.
And we had three processors going at one time. We didn’t notice it. I guess it was something that you get used to. Obviously it was, because I remember folks -- meeting people later on -- you know, twenty years later or so and say, “Yeah, I was in Seldovia in 1963 and, you know, one of the first things I noticed was all the fish smell."
It was -- it was, you know, that whole feeling. Not just the busyness and the processing, but the smell of it. I mean, gurry scows out tied against the wharf.
You know, I remember walking on the beach and going next to the canneries, all built on piling, of course, and they would let the steam boilers out, you know, and, you know, purge the boilers and all that steam would boil out underneath the canneries. It was pretty impressive. It was pretty neat.
It was a great time to be a kid here. It was -- yeah.
It was -- it’s kind of hard to explain. And the huge dynamic of change that happened in a very short time after that earthquake.
And the earthquake itself, you know. I was -- I was standing next to my dad’s office downtown on Main Street right about where the Linwood Bar and the Surf Club are, which would be about where Wheeler’s store is, I think, about where that building sat, out a little farther than that, but standing -- leaning against a railing.
And there was a -- my dad’s Volkswagen bus was kind of takin’ off down the road or the boardwalk, heading probably for the airport at the time.
And I remember when vehicles went up and down the boardwalk. And there wasn’t a lot of vehicles, but the boardwalk kind of shook a little bit, you know.
And I remember the bus leaving and I was standing there leaning against the railing, and the railings didn’t quit vibrating. And it actually started to increase.
And that’s when I think everybody kind of knew that this -- something was happening. And so I was about ten years old and I remember hanging onto that railing and just -- it was pretty surreal.
It was, you know, swaying and I was hanging on to stand up. It was movin’ pretty good.
And, of course I, you know, pretty frightened and lookin’ around. I saw people running up and down the boardwalk and out of the buildings and kind of standin’ around like I was, just looking, and everybody had kind of a wide-eyed look on their face, adults and kids and all.
And when it started to slow down enough, I think -- where I figured I could run. I remember running as fast as I could down towards the post office and going by Frank Raby’s store.
At that time, the boardwalk went right in front of Frank’s and there was a covered awning there, and I remember as I was running by, looking in the store.
And, of course, there was big plate glass windows there. I don’t recall any of the windows being broke, but I remember looking and seeing everything off the shelves, people running around, stepping over cans and groceries.
And I just kept going all the way down to the post office.
And, you know, structurally it didn’t -- it didn’t do anything other than knock things off the shelves basically, I guess is what you could say.
The -- again, folks that are older than me -- we were all rushed up to the hill up by the school and into the old shop class now, which was the gym, and everybody -- well, not everybody, but most of the town was up there.
And so the damage basically came from the water rushing in and out and almost like a sloshing, I was told.
My grandfather stayed down. I remember we were pretty upset as kids, knowing my grandfather was gonna to stay down and watch the water come in. I mean, he probably stood up by the fuel tanks or something.
But he kind of explained it like the water just kind of all drained out of the bay real quick and all come running back in and drained out again and came back in three or four different times.
And I think it stirred up the harbor a little bit and ripped some pilings up and some floats got away and things like that. But other than that, that was -- that was pretty much the damage.
And you know, again, we didn’t realize, you know, what happened to the -- to the land structure until the tide started to come back in. A high tide series of -- later on, you know, in a week or two or -- whether it was a month, I don’t remember.
But at some point we have there a series of high tides and, of course, it was obvious that things changed. And that Seldovia was going to change drastically at that point.
JAN YAEGER: And did you live right on the boardwalk?
JOHN GRUBER: No. We lived actually right where I live today. JAN YAEGER: Oh, really?
JOHN GRUBER: Yeah. In a much smaller house, but, nope.
I live in the house that my parents bought in 1953 from Squeaky Anderson. And Squeaky Anderson is an old-timer around here that -- kind of famous in Alaska.
He was -- he had Alaska Packing, I think it was called. Cannery, one of the first canneries here. Basically, sat right where the Linwood Bar kind of sits today, between Linwood Bar and Dean Lent's place.
It's that's -- Seldovia Street hasn’t changed its location from the boardwalk times. If you just go right down Seldovia Street heading for Main Street, as you -- today right past the post office and the clinic, you’ll go right into the -- where Seldovia Bay or Alaska Packing was.
And Squeaky owned that house that we live in. And my parents bought that in 1953.
Interesting story, me and my uncle were here this summer going through some stuff in a safe, and I found a letter written by Squeaky to my mother and dad dated in ’53, and it was basically a bill of sale for the house.
He was in Seattle at that time and they wanted to buy the house, and they put five hundred dollars down and he sold the house to ‘em for five thousand. And they had a certain -- a monthly payment they had to make and a interest rate.
And it was a pretty neat letter, so it was -- and it was one of those -- kind of funny because it was all one of those deals where it’s a shake and a letter and that was all people needed in those days. There was no contract. There was no realtor.
He said, you know, you make a payment, you know, every month in the bank, you know, his bank down in Seattle, Washington, and the house became theirs after so many years. So that’s where we were at.
You know, basically again, and our house up there, it was a house on piling, you know, cement pad and piling. And, you know, we went back home.
My mother was at the post office at that time working and we ran home. And, you know, there were some dishes on the floor and the cat was hidin’ under the couch and there was no windows broke and nothing structurally damaging.
So, it was the tide, you know. It was the water that caused the, you know, things to change, and us to have to think about, you know, what we were going to do, the community.
Of course, I'm being -- being young and a kid didn’t have any say-so in it, but the adults in town had to -- as we were talking earlier, had to make that decision. And it was quite a contentious time for us.
JAN YAEGER: Yeah. I think the town had -- was it three votes altogether before they finally decided?
JOHN GRUBER: I don’t know. Might have been. Yeah, you’ve talked to folks that were involved in that. Yeah, and it could’ve been. I just remember it was very -- yeah, it was a contentious time.
But being young, you don’t pay attention to that stuff as much. Around the dinner table I could hear my parents and my grandfather and grandmother talk about it, but other -- we really just weren’t aware of how devastating things were going to change, you know.
I mean it was devastating for some folks and, you know, advantage to other folks, of course.
But I look back on -- on the time and I think, "Well, if we would’ve stayed, what -- you know, what would've Seldovia look like now?"
You know, if those canneries wouldn’t have stayed, what would’ve happened to ‘em, you know. Would they have turned into -- what? Shops?
I mean, the uniqueness of Seldovia -- it would’ve been -- for a tourist view of it, it would’ve been wonderful to have the boardwalk and, you know, the old canneries turning into gift shops or B&Bs.
Or you could have done anything to them, because they were incredibly stout buildings, thinking back on the construction of them and looking at old pictures. And even seeing some of the remnants that people went down, you know, and got planking and tried to save some of ‘em to use ‘em as personal structures or whatever they did with them.
A lot of it unfortunately was burned and buried and stuff and destroyed, but they were incredibly strong, sturdy buildings. They weren’t gonna go anywhere soon.
And it would have been very realistic to have those buildings here today, you know, with regular maintenance. But what -- what they could’ve become?
I don’t know. It’s -- again, it might not have been a practical view of it either. What we have today as far as practicality, the town having a little bit more room to expand and build.
The waterfront was pretty congested even during that time. Town as you know it now -- behind anything on the boardwalk -- like, Anderson Way, the slough, all that infrastructure really wasn’t there as we know it today.
I mean, some of those roads have been there forever, but not in the condition they are now. Not as, you know, not as wide, not as -- some of those roads were only passable during certain times of the year.
I remember walking to school, the old school where it was up on the hill by the fuel tanks, from my house today, as a young guy, that little street that goes between HEA and the fuel tanks, that street at many times was just a big mudhole. I mean, I don’t know if you could get a vehicle up and down it.
Again, that road has been there for many years, ‘cause I’ve got pictures of Seldovia that probably go back to the ‘40s and the ‘30s, and that road was there. But it was basically a path. I think it started as a path and maybe somebody pushed a Cat through there once or twice and maybe some material was dumped, but very little.
And it ended up turning into a road, but a lot of times it wasn’t much of a road.
So, you know, I -- like we were talkin’ earlier, I kind of -- I see both sides of it.
I think that, you know, yeah, it would’ve been great to see Seldovia stay but, you know, how we would’ve, you know, made that happen and, you know, what the industry would’ve been.
Would the canneries have stayed? No, I don’t think they would have basically until you get -- you gotta think this was before the king crab seasons were -- I mean, that era had started, and fishing was starting to slow down.
The -- you know, even at that point maybe canning everything was not, you know, economically feasible to can everything, which everybody -- that’s all they were doing. There wasn’t much fresh frozen, I don’t think, at that time.
So, you know, things were starting to change even at that point, economically, for the canneries. And so the king crab fishery, you know, ended up bringing Seldovia back a little bit for the one cannery that stayed. And created a kind of a little boom for about twenty years there.
But as we know, you know, that’s -- that’s kind of a history, too. So I don’t know.
It would be -- it’s an interesting -- you know, just thinking back of what we would’ve done. If we would’ve, you know, decided, "Okay, we’re just gonna jack everything up. Rebuild."
You know, maybe go -- we could've always went back farther into town like we have now. And expanded that way.
The economic base? I don’t know how that would’ve stayed. Don’t know.
But, you know, we -- I lived in a interesting time to be here. I lived before the earthquake -- you know, a very little part of my life before, but, you know, I did see it.
And, of course, all the old pictures and stuff that I’ve got -- my grandparents have. And I’m able to keep my memories alive that way to what it was, even though I was pretty young.
But listening to their stories and knowing that, you know, this guy lived there and this person did that and this building was this. And so I’m able to remember those and --
JAN YAEGER: Do you have any memories of kind of the in-between times, so after the earthquake but before Urban Renewal started? And just what it was like to deal with a town that, you know, every couple weeks was flooded for several hours a day? And how you went about managing that?
JOHN GRUBER: You know, I don’t -- it didn’t impact me that much, being young. I saw it and I saw the activity, you know, the sandbags on the streets and, you know, people --
You know, in some -- well, the store on this end of town, the Inglima-Morris store, for instance, they actually jacked up. I remember going by and seeing -- you know, the old Morris store was, you know, boardwalk level.
When they built the new structure next to it, it was obviously jacked up higher. And so, you know, that visual was -- was strange. But people were starting to do that, you know, getting their places --
I remember seeing -- it was kind of odd, because all of a sudden buildings were up higher than the boardwalk, you know.
And so they were trying to do that at that point. They had to do something. They couldn’t, you know, wait for Urban Renewal. They didn’t -- I didn’t know or I’m not sure if people were -- like Lou would say how many years -- it was gonna be a year out before they started this work, or two years out.
And so folks, you know, did what they had to do. My grandparents’ place, which sat basically right in front of -- oh, Greg Davis owns the house now, but the schoolteacher lives in there.
JAN YAEGER: Right. Kind of where Mermaid Park is, I think?
JOHN GRUBER: Actually, it’s -- JAN YAEGER: At that little -- JOHN GRUBER: Well, yeah, yeah. JAN YAEGER: Is that little section right next to it?
JOHN GRUBER: Just to the -- yeah -- just to the fuel station side of that, though. The street that comes down the hill by the fuel tanks? That comes right down the hill and meet Main Street?
That street was just to the -- if you were lookin’ up at the tanks, the post office was just to the left of that. Basically, right where Main Street goes right now.
So being on, you know, right on the boardwalk, not on the beach per se, because it wasn’t built on piling. It was built up, you know, on -- in the grass and the dirt area.
But, you know, the tide came up and my grandmother had a strawberry patch right in front of that. I remember the tide coming up to that point in the extreme tides.
So it really wouldn’t have been a structure that was threatened, even by high water. So, you know, that wasn’t impacted in that way.
I think the reason why that was lost was because the street basically was moved over to where it is now, and why that -- you know -- why they made that adjustment, I don’t know. I don’t know.
It was a unique, old log -- it was a extremely old building even at that era. Even by the ‘60s, that was -- it was an old structure.
JAN YAEGER: 'Cause it was built in the 1800s, wasn’t it?
JOHN GRUBER: It had to have been. And who the original builder was, I don’t know. But I have a picture of my great-grandfather standing in front of that building and dated 1915.
And it was built much before that. It would’ve been neat to try to save it. I don’t know if that was even thought of, though.
And how -- and even if they had the ability to save it at that point. Urban Renewal I don’t think came in here with the ability, equipment-wise, to move and save structures. It was to take structures out, so --
And where it would’ve been moved to? Maybe -- I think in today’s thinking, probably we would go back in today’s world and say, you know, that’s a historic structure, like the church in other words, or any other of these older buildings in the world.
They would say, you know, we’re gonna spend the money to jack it up, save it, keep it sound, and move it somewhere as a historical place and -- But in those days, you know, that wasn’t -- that wasn’t thought of.
They could of done a lot of that to the buildings. But you know, like I say, it wasn’t --
JAN YAEGER: Yeah, I’ve heard of a couple of buildings that were moved. You mentioned Lipke’s store. JOHN GRUBER: Lipke's store.
JAN YAEGER: And I think the house that Vivian Rojas lives in now, I think that was moved.
JOHN GRUBER: That -- that building, if I’m not mistaken, and she might know, I -- that was Tuggle Int-Hout’s building. And I’ve got a picture of that building down here on the cliff where the boats are stored. JAN YAEGER: Okay,
JOHN GRUBER: That was moved from there. And that building was brought in by the construction crews. They lived in that building or used it as an office.
And that was -- that’s how that was put there. And that got skidded down and put up on the hill.
JAN YAEGER: So just about the length of town?
JOHN GRUBER: Yeah. Mm-hm, yeah. They towed it all the way down and stuck it up there and Tuggle bought it. Either purchased it when it was down there and had it moved or, you know, they moved it and then he bought it at that point.
JAN YAEGER: Yeah, so my question there becomes, how do you move something the length of Main Street when Main Street is a boardwalk?
JOHN GRUBER: Well, it wasn’t a boardwalk. It was after the earthquake. JAN YAEGER: Okay. JOHN GRUBER: It was moved during the fill. JAN YAEGER: And so they kind of filled and moved it along the way. Okay.
JOHN GRUBER: It was filled and they had that structure staged down there and they were living in it. Either the construction crews -- either --
It was Studnick Construction, I think was the outfit. Either they used it as a office or something, because --
JAN YAEGER: And so Tuggle moved it after the -- after renewal?
JOHN GRUBER: I think Tuggle purchased the building once the Urban Renewal crews were done and didn’t have any use for it. And then he used it as -- he took it up there and lived in it. Yeah.
I have a picture of it down there sitting against the cliff, on -- just basically, it was just cribbed, you know, cribbed up.
JAN YAEGER: Okay, ‘cause I think it was a fairly new building at that point, right? It hadn't been built long before.
JOHN GRUBER: Yep, yeah. You know I don’t remember if it was the Studnick crew built that building or it was a -- one of those modulars? I don’t know how it was put together originally, but that’s -- that’s what it was used for, I believe.
Again, you know, somebody like Lou might know more about that, you know.
JAN YAEGER: And you talked earlier about Steve Zawistowski, and I know his house, which, of course, would have been real close to your grandmother’s house -- JOHN GRUBER: Yep. Yeah, neighbors.
JAN YAEGER: -- is still there. And I’m not sure if there are any other buildings along Main Street that pre-date the earthquake? You mentioned the cafe, now, that was your dad’s office.
JOHN GRUBER: That came after the earthquake, though. JAN YAEGER: Oh, okay. JOHN GRUBER: Let me -- I gotta think. I’m just going to go through town in my mind here.
Yeah, the structure that’s next to Chissus -- of course, Chissus’s house. That was Juanita Anderson’s. JAN YAEGER: Yeah, which is a little bit higher.
JOHN GRUBER: Yeah, that was -- that’s a very old building. Then the one this way of it. What’s her name? Mary that works at school with -- she's --
JAN YAEGER: Mary Montgomery?
JOHN GRUBER: Mary Montgomery. That house has been there pre- earthquake. The structure that we’re talking about, the Zawistowski house, that was one of those Montgomery Ward’s places, I was told. You could order out of the catalog, and that’s what that was.
Again, Bert Simpson and Winnie lived in that. That was their place.
And if we keep goin’ down the road, the next structure -- boardwalk’s -- wow -- nothing all the way until we get down here. 'Til we get to the boardwalk-boardwalk.
Would be some of those structures like the Lippincott -- well, I called it the Lippincott place. It’s Walt -- Sachiko and Walt’s place. Nels and Nora Lippincott lived in that.
Lethin’s place. That was -- when I was little that was owned by -- he was a carpenter. I’ll think of his name in a minute. Drawin’ a blank.
Susan Mumma's. All those buildings along there all pre-date the earthquake. Yeah, by quite a bit. So there are a few.
I love to see the house across the slough that Bryan Chartier owns now. Some years back he brought me over there and I think I was just -- I’d just quit workin’ for the city, just before I went up to the Slope.
He had a water and sewer issue and a drainage issue, and he brought me over there to --'cause I knew a little bit about the water and sewer system on that side.
And we were talking and I asked him at that time -- he said, “I bought the house from my mother.” And, of course, that -- it was the old Josefsen house.
And he said, “I think I’m gonna tear it down and rebuild.” And I said -- I said, “Geez, I hate to see that, Bryan.” I said, “That is probably the oldest or one of the oldest houses-houses, other than the church and, like Chissus’s, left in town.”
JAN YAEGER: From what we can determine, it is the second oldest after Chissus’s house.
JOHN GRUBER: Yeah. I think it is. And that house that I lived in up on the hill behind the fuel tanks is about the third, I think.
But anyway, so I told Bryan, I said, “God, Bryan, if you could save that, that’s a neat old house.”
And, you know, the porch was bad. There was a lean-to on the backside of it that he’s taken off now that was added much later.
But the original structure that they’re -- that Bryan has there now was -- that’s how it was originally when Josefsen, I’m sure, built the house there. And they go back, you know, 1900, that family.
So he saved it, which I’m glad to see. He gutted it, of course, but he kept the basic structure and everything -- you know, he said it was pretty sound, too. It was amazingly sound. The siding and everything which, you know, it’s just wonderful that he was able to do that, or he saw the value of doing that. I’m grateful he did.
Because, you know, we're -- there’s not many. You could -- we could probably count ‘em on one hand that are left from that era.
Even the house that I live on --live in right now, you know, the original structure is still there but it’s no where like it was when I grew up. It was a tiny little place, but --
JAN YAEGER: I know going toward the Bible Chapel there’s some buildings over there in that area that have been around for quite awhile.
JOHN GRUBER: Yeah, the Buchman's place, JAN YAEGER: Including, of course, the Bible Chapel, itself.
JOHN GRUBER: Leni Buchman’s place pre-dates the Bible Chapel, I think.
And the guy who -- I was told the original builder of that. God, I can’t think of his name and I’ll -- my uncle knows. And he’s another guy you need to get in here.
But yeah, that’s an old pre-earthquake -- well before the earthquake structure. It’s still there and doing pretty good.
My little place on the hill up behind the fuel tanks, that was originally from Chrome Bay.
JAN YAEGER: I was just going to ask if it was the place that was brought from the mine. And I just know the story that it was barged over. But I don’t know -- JOHN GRUBER: I talked -- JAN YAEGER: -- when or why or --
JOHN GRUBER: Well, I don’t know -- JAN YAEGER: -- how it was done, or -- JOHN GRUBER: -- exactly for sure. I do know the guy who did it, though. Well, I don’t know him, he’s passed away now.
But it was interesting because my -- it might’ve been after my grandmother passed away, so it had to have been ‘86, ’87. My grandfather was still alive, and this old guy shows up in town and was up and visiting with my grandfather.
One day I happened to go upstairs in the apartment above and he introduced me to him and, of course, my grandfather had known him since the ‘20s.
And he told me he was the guy that used to own the house that I was living in. At that time we were raising, you know, my girls, and me and Diane were living in the house.
And I thought, "Oh, this is pretty cool." And I can’t think of his name, but he said, “Yeah,” he said. “I put that house up there.”
And so I asked him a little bit about it, how that all came about, and he said, well, at the time, he -- those structures were abandoned down in Chrome Bay, and the mining -- chromite mining had long ceased.
And he said, I went down and either bought or, you know, it was either come and get it type of thing, you know. I don’t know -- I don’t remember if he told me he purchased the thing or whatever. They just went down and got it.
But they -- but he rafted it up, got somebody to tow it up to Seldovia, and they took an old -- a Cat they had around here and slid that thing up there, and took it apart --
JAN YAEGER: 'Cause it’s quite a ways up the hill. It’s not near sea level.
JOHN GRUBER: No, no. JAN YAEGER: It was quite the project, I imagine.
JOHN GRUBER: And it came up from behind, the back side, he told me. He said it was quite a process to get it up there.
The original structure as you look at it now is to the right -- the right side of the building. The kitchen area where the roof slopes down to the left as you’re facing it up -- that was added later. He added that on. That wasn’t the original structure. He said it was the cook shack.
And he said when they brought it up here at the time there was one big -- what we call our living room now. And then there was a -- the cook lived upstairs and there was an outside stairwell goin’ up the backside of the building to an entrance up to the top level, so --
And I thought he told me about 1925, that that got put up there.
The original structure was -- who knows when it was built. I do know that that was turn-of-the-century, that mining operation was going on in Chrome and so, you know, it was obviously built probably in Chrome Bay. But when, I don’t know. I don’t know.
I just know that I’ve gotten into it at different times, into the structure of it, you know, siding and flooring and doing different things, and it’s all rough cut. It’s all two-by-four rough cut.
And so it was -- I’m sure it was milled down there and used as a cook shack. So kind of interesting.
Seems like a pretty extreme thing to go do, but I guess maybe, you know, he looked at it, and it had to have been -- it must’ve been a free. It must’ve been a freebie. Go down and get it. It’s yours, you know.
But still the time and effort to take to do that during those days, just the lack of equipment, heavy equipment around here and --
JAN YAEGER: And so he put it up there and that was his personal home.
JOHN GRUBER: That was his home, yeah, yeah. And he was -- he was living in Seattle at the time and had been out of Seldovia for fifty years, you know.
He was -- he was my grandfather’s age when he came back. I’m thinking he was probably in his late seventies, early eighties when he was here. And this was about 19 -- oh, like I say, about 1970 -- or '87, '88, probably.
It was a few -- few years before my grandfather passed away that he had come to town. And I’ve never seen him since.
He was here for three or four days and, again, was amazed on the changes at that point because he left probably -- I think he said he left in the ‘40s. And hadn’t been to Seldovia since the ‘40s. So, quite substantial changes for him.
JAN YAEGER: Yeah. JOHN GRUBER: Yeah. JAN YAEGER: Certainly. Let’s take a break again for just a second. JOHN GRUBER:Yeah.