During the weekend of June 15-17, 1990, a reunion was held at Kennecott Glacier Lodge, Kennecott, Alaska. The "Kennecott Kids Reunion" brought together many of the people who were school-age children when the mines and mill operated and a few who worked for the Kennecott Copper Corporation during the 1920s and '30s. Inger Jensen Ricci and Eleanor Tjosevig Eidemiller, two "Kennecott Kids," organized the reunion with Rich and Jody Kirkwood, owners of the Kennecott Glacier Lodge. The Kenecott Mines are a National Historic Landmark administered by the National Park Service for the Seretary of the Interior. In cooperation with the reunion hosts, a team of historians from the Alaska Regional Office of the National Park Service conducted interviews with the Kennecott Kids. Under the direction of Regional Historian, Kate Lidfors, historians Sandra Faulkner, Logan Hovis, and Ann Kain interviewed the "kids" while Linda Cook took copy-stand pictures of the historical photographs brought to the reunion. The interviews provide the historical community with a collection of primary source material on the social history of Kennecott and McCarthy. Opportunities such as this do not occur often. You can find transcripts from all these interviews on the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park website. The mining and industrial history of Kennecott is well-known, but through the interviews we were able to know Kennecott as a living community rather than a mining ghost town. The photographs, now housed at the McCarthy Museum, also provide valuable information for research.
Inger Jensen Ricci was born at the hospital in Kennecott, Alaska in 1918 because her father was a carpenter at the Kennecott Mine. She lived there until 1932 when she moved to Seattle to go to high school. After high school, she went to business school in Seattle. She got married in 1938 in Cordova and was offered a job back at the mine as a typist. She was the only person to have been raised in Kennecott and also to work there. She hoped to be able to raise her family there, but that dream was crushed when the mine closed the day before Christmas in 1938. She and her husband moved to Seward where they operated a grocery store. She remarried in 1970 and lived in Anchorage with her husband until he passed away in 2011. Click here to access the transcript of a 1990 interview with Inger by Ann Kain of the National Park Service for the Kennecott Kids Oral History Project.
Jean McGavock Lamb and her brother, James McGavock, were raised in Kennecott, Alaska. She was born in Seattle, Washington, but was brought to Alaska when she was a few months old. She lived there for the first six years of her life. Their father was a master mechanic who worked for the Kennecott Mine. When the family left in 1937, they moved to Denver, Colorado. At the time of her 1990 interview, Jean was living in Utah.
James McGavock was born September 21, 1924, in Seattle, Washington, the son of James and Jean Scobie McGavock. Jim and his sister, Jean McGavock Lamb, were raised in Kennecott, Alaska and were always called "A Kennecott Kid". They were educated in a one room school in Kennecott while their father worked as a master mechanic for the mine. Jim graduated from high school in Denver, Colorado. On September 4, 1953, he married Elese Marie Doxey, in Ogden, Utah. Jim worked for Hill Air Force Base as an aircraft inspector for 37 years and retired in 1987. For more information on James McGavock, see his obituary in the Deseret News newspaper.
George's father came to Alaska during the goldrush along the Chilkoot Trail. George was born in Portland, Oregon in 1922 because his grandmother was sick in Oregon and there was no doctor in Valdez who could deliver him. He came back to Valdez with his mother on a steamship when he was 6 weeks old. In 1937, when he was 15 years old, he worked at the Kennecott Mine on the tram at the top of the mill building. He caught the buckets of ore (weighing 750 pounds) and dumped them to start the process of grinding the copper. His sister and brother-in-law also worked at the mine, but there was little time for socializing since he worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. After Kennecott, George worked at Gold Stream near Valdez, then on the Alaska Road Commission, and he was in the Aleutian Islands during World War II. He also worked as a Federal Marshall in Nenana in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1952, he moved with his family to Fairbanks and he was elected to the City Council while managing a freight company. He moved to Anchorage with his family in 1959. He was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives in 1964 and became the mayor of Anchorage in 1967. For more information about George, please visit his Wikipedia page or his obituary in the Anchorage Daily News newspaper.
Mary Ellen Duggan Clark moved to Kennecott, Alaska when she was six years old with her family when her father went to work at the copper mine. Her father was a mining engineer, so after living at the Latouche Copper Mine (near the mouth of Prince Williams Sound) they moved to Kennecott. She lived there from 1924 to 1933 and went to school there from first grade until ninth grade. Mary Ellen passed away in 2003.
Yvonne Konnerup Lahti was six years old when her family moved to Kennecott, Alaska. Her father worked as a clerk in the store for the six years the family lived there. When the children were ready for high school, Yvonne's mother and siblings moved to Seattle while her father continued to work in Alaska. She got her master's degree from Western Washington University and taught school for many years in Washington.
Bud Seltenreich's family came to Alaska during the Chisana gold rush and ended up homesteading near the site of the Nizina Bridge. Bud was born in 1915 at the hospital in Kennecott, Alaska. His parents had a laundry service and operated a restaurant in McCarthy during the time the Kennecott Mine was functioning. He worked for Gillam Airlines and the McCarthy Garage as a mechanic and also worked for the Alaska Road Commission. He bought a plane with his two brothers in 1930 and they had one of the first airplanes in McCarthy. He was the chief mechanic at the Alaska Division of Pan American Airlines for many years in Fairbanks. He also operated a small flying school and flying service in Fairbanks in 1946, based in a Quonset hut on Week's Field. He had a few Taylorcraft airplanes, taught a minimal ground school, and was the former Flight Standards General Aviation District Office/Flight Standards District Office Manager. He was also chief of the maintenance branch of the Flight Standards Division for the Alaska region of the Federal Aviation Administration, and accepted a position in FAA’s headquarters in Washington in 1966.
Deborah Vickery House grew up in Kennecott, Alaska with her sister, Jane Vickery Wilson, when the Kennecott mine and mill were in operation. The family moved there in 1918 when she was two years old, and lived there until 1931. Their father was the cost accountant for the town, which means he determined how much ore per ton it cost the mine to produce. When they left the mine, the family moved to Seattle so the girls could finish school. After growing up in Kennecott, Deborah found it difficult to adjust to a large school. She went to college at Western Washington University and then taught first and second grade in Washington for 30 years.
Jane Vickery Wilson grew up in Kennecott, Alaska with her sister, Deborah Vickery House, when the Kennecott Mine and mill were in operation. Her family moved to Kennecott in 1918 when she was three years old, and lived there until 1931. Their father was the cost accountant for the town, which means he determined how much ore per ton it cost the mine to produce. When they left the mine, the family moved to Seattle so the girls could finish school. Jane lived in Juneau for a few years and met her husband there. She and her husband moved back to Seattle just before the war broke out and stayed there ever since. Jane Wilson died in 2001.