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Thomas Stewart
Judge Thomas Stewart
Thomas Stewart talks about the community gatherings on Marmion Island and the 4th of July celebration. He also tells a story about a young man who made a wager with the 4th of July committee that he could run up and down Mt. Juneau in one hour.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2010-06

Project: Juneau Communities of Memory
Date of Interview: Nov 17, 1995
Narrator(s): Judge Thomas Stewart
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Humanities Forum
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Elk's Picnic community event

4th of July and a bet with the committee

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THOMAS STEWART: I speak about a very brief time, about a brief period of time. In the 1920's when I was between the ages of 1 and 10, there were two special community events that brought the community together particularly. 

One of them was simply called the Elks picnic and it was sponsored by the Elks Club, but the whole community was invited and it was held regularly at Marmion Island.

And the Elks got a barge, anchored it slightly off shore in a little cove, on the North Side of Marmion Island and then they used the various vessels that were available for ferries, the Teddy, the Alma, the Lone Fisherman, what else?

Do you remember other vessels? Those were the principle ones and they would take anybody in the town that wanted to go to the picnic and land them onto the barge and then they would be ferried by a skiff to the beach. And this was a major event of the entire summer for the whole community to go to the Elk’s Picnic.

And I don’t remember when that venture was stopped but it was certainly something that brought the community, the entire community together. Anybody was free to go and it was free, it was a memorable event.

And the other thing that brought the community together was, of course, the 4th of July celebration. It’s not so terribly different from what you see now, although we of course, we did not have the trucks to decorate as floats.

The events were fairly much were concentrated at the ball park and the ball park is basically where the Federal Building stands now, on the West Side of Gold Creek. There was a grand stand on the extreme west end of it would be the corner of about Glacier Ave and 9th St.

But the rest of it was all clear and there were of course, races of all kinds; three legged race and the potato sack race and what have you.

A particular event that I remember and it stands out so clearly in my mind, I believe it was about 1927. There was a seaman from one of the Canadian Vessels that was in port that day.

I do not remember his name, my name is not Bob , I do not pour over old newspapers in the museum, so I can’t tell you precisely the year and I can not tell you the name of the man but I have a clear vision of him in my minds eye.

He wagered with the 4th of July committee that he could climb to the top of Mt. Juneau and return in one hour. Now, I don’t know how much you have climbed, I supposed I’ve climbed Mt. Juneau a hundred times and probably the fastest I ever did it was about 2 hours going up, maybe 2 and a quarter and an hour and a half coming back.

And I would get a quarter of the way today, doing that. This man wagered that he could do it in one hour and he was going to plant a flag on top of the mountain to prove that he had been there.

And I watched him do that. I couldn’t see him all the way, he was went in a pair of shorts and he went straight up the mountain, the most direct route that he could find and he went to the top of that mountain and put that flag there. And he came back down and I could see him running across the Wolf Creek bridge, cut and torn and bleeding and exhausted, in one hour and 20 minutes.

And others in the community were distressed, as I remember my father being, that the committee refused to give him anything at all. He had not done it in the one hour that he had promised, therefore, he didn’t get the hundred dollars.

But that was, it was truly a remarkable feat. And it turns out as one of my key memories of unusual events in early days.

Wally Olsen: Thank you very much, Tom.