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Jack Trambitas
Jack Trambitas
Jack Trambitas talks about coming to Juneau, Alaska, meeting his wife, working in the mines, changes in Juneau over the years, and the "entertainment girls" that were a part of the character of Juneau.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2010-06

Project: Juneau Communities of Memory
Date of Interview: Nov 17, 1995
Narrator(s): Jack Trambitas
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Humanities Forum
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
There is no slideshow for this person.

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Coming to Juneau and meeting his wife

Working at the mine

The business of the "entertainment girls"

Impression of how Juneau has changed

More about the "entertainment girls"

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After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


WALLY OLSON: Well let's start with Jack Trambitas and Jack you want to talk a little bit about your picture of Juneau. You've been here a long time.

JACK TRAMBITAS: Yeah, I arrived here in Juneau June 1938.

And I met my present wife who's been my wife for a long period of time. I met her the same day I arrived in Juneau at my mother's house.

And her, her saying about me is that, "I thought he was pretty much of a jerk when I first saw him."

And I probably was because I, I came from Portland, Oregon I was born there and raised there a little bit. Then I joined the army because things in the lower 48 were pretty rough.

You had to buy a job down there in order to have any kind of work. What I did, I went riding boxcars down into California, picking fruit.

And I was 15 years old when I done that. So ... anything would kind of look good if you could get a job.

I arrived aboard the, the North Sea that was Northland Transportation Company. It was the Northland and the North Sea and there was another vessel with Northland, I can't remember the name of...

AUDIENCE: the North Star

JACK TRAMBITAS: What's that?


JACK TRAMBITAS: Yeah, right yeah right. I'm kinda loosing it a little bit, I, you've got to bear with me. I'd say I'm loosing it quite a bit.

But, I, when I came to Juneau I, I bought myself out of the army. My mother worked at St. Ann's as a nurse and she sent, sent me 25 dollars in order, in order to get up here steerage.

I was 18 years old then. I first worked for the 3C Montana Creek.

I, I've got this written down by my wife because some things I'd skip over and then I'd get off on a tangent and forget where in the hell I was at.

After that, oh I did some boxing, too, picked up a few bucks on the side. My brother who was going to school here, Larry and, and I got a job in the AJ Mine after I went, well I went to work with the sawmill. Clean up, I worked at night.

Nobody, no one, they let nobody see me, they just kept me down in the sawmill. Anyhow I couldn't get a job, you couldn't get a job when you first come up here unless you were from Butte, Montana

or someplace like that and you were new to town, AJ would hire you. But if you lived you for any period of time they wouldn't hire you for some reason. Well anyway, I got a job in the AJ Mines finally after 1939.

My wife and I got married that month. I was making $580 a month running a Nippon Motor.

I want to read this as my wife put it down because she's sharper than I am. She should be sitting here talking to you folks instead of me 'cause she went to school here.

She was raised in Auke Bay with a mining family. Her father was Spalding, who the trail was originally named after.

I don't know where this guy Muir came from, I hear his name around the country but I know Spalding was the guy that went up there with the mining equipment or what not.

They started on that during World War 1 and they had machinery strung, mining machinery, mills and what not strung up the Spalding trail clear to the first meadow and then they collapsed.

I don't know what happened but it was, some of it was still sitting there when Ernie Torgenson (phonetic) lived out the road. Not very many people that know Ernie but there was a brother-in-law,

that lived across the road, Glennecky [phonetic] owns the place now and they're refurbishing it. Kind of cleaning it up, painting it because there was a lot of comment about how much garbage he had out in front of his house.

He let the, let the trees grow up and it was not too popular to have that stuff around the front and people driving back and forth now days are pretty touchy about that.

Oh, oh when I went to work in the mine I started out running the Nippon Motor. That's a little, it's a smaller motor than a ore -- ore car, ore motors that pulled 40 cars out of the mine, took them to the tipple.

The tipple is where you backed up four cars and then acted, acted operated activated it and turned it upside down. And then you'd bring them back down, push it 'till it got the 40 cars emptied.

Then they'd get a cle -- clearance from the portal men and that was where the rock started. Before that was they build a shed out of umm wood material, tin.

And they had a couple of slides there and they had to redo it, but they still, until the this last time they wouldn't be able to do it again.

The cars, the steel cars, the shops that they had there, all went down the gully. Where past the boarder now, and you, I don't know if there's still -- I think the the Echo Bay is trying to salvage one of those cars.

And they got it on the Gastineau Mine end of the, the AJ and they take it in a certain place and they took it in a certain area and park it there and then go with it.

They use about three, they took us guys in the mine. There was quite a few of us they took in the mine and they took us guys in there to show us how the mine was in the present condition you know.

And they took KT Uhoh [phonetic] -- I think, I say oohooh. He probably don't appreciate that. But I, I been in there before when I, I with the Echo Bay just at the at the entrance.

But I, that was the first time they, all of us, some of the fellas have past away now and I'm looking behind me. I'm a little nervous.

I been here, I been here 50 some years now, 50 well Edie and I have been married 55 yeas. And oh and I done a few different jobs besides the mine.

But it was main, mainly the mine is where I made my money, that fabulous payroll that I received.

Back in those days everybody was really friendly. They'd, they speak to you on the street because they knew who the heck you were.

Governor Egan was a carryover of that. He'd see you downtown, he'd know you by your name and he'd greet ya.

He might even go into a bar and have a beer. I know he used to go into the city cafe where the Japanese people run cooked and run a restaurant.

And I'm going tell you something that probably is not too nice in some people's thinking. But in those days we had what you called entertainment girls and they'd serve you drinks and anything else that you might require.

And that, that mine was there quite a while along with the girls.

So they used go, they used to go every Wednesday and get examined from the doctors that we had. And they done a good job because everybody kept going back to work.

Well, maybe not too many guys like saying things but, I know I've heard some ladies telling me, "I wish that they had those girls back again." Bernie Hulk was the chief of police and he was the guy that closed, closed the places down.

I know when I worked at the sawmill, kind of a comical thing, and I'm not picking on anybody in particular, race or whatever.

But there was a gal that used to patrol down there, she was as big Indian woman. And they called her Big Mabel. And her prices were very reasonable.

I aint going to tell you what they charged, what she charged.

But they, it kind of made the cab business flourish in this town because they, they would, the girls would hire the cabs after hours

and they'd, there was a probably remember and some of you probably are wondering where in the hell did that come from. And that was a log cabin out there where you turned to go down to the glacier, that was a nightclub.

Then there was Ed Yonky (phonetic), I don't know, probably not, he's a long time, he's past away. But he had, he had a roadhouse where he served, saw a lot of wasn't soft drinks.

It was bootleg days. Oh Charlie Rooty (phonetic) he, he got throwed in the slammer for bootlegging.

And he, he was married to a Indian lady and she wouldn't have anything more to do with him because he, she disgraced with him. She was pretty -- Charlie Rooty.

She was a very nice lady and I used to get a kick at my mother-in-law used to go over and talk Tlingit to her.

And she'd used to pronounce school "skoon" and "peppins" stuff lie that, you know, broken. I used to get a charge out of that when I was working in the mine and talking to her.

Lets see, you knew just about everyone back in, in those days. The coal storage was going full speed and there was a lot of fishing going on.

I, I only got three pages here so you don't, don't worry. I'm not going to sit down, sit here and talk all, all night.

In the Juneau area there was no crime, especially among the kids. There was a curfew in those days. The parents knew where their kids were.

You never, you just never heard of slashed tires, all this vandalism there is today. I'm gonna turn it over one more time, I guess.

You know the Skaters (phonetic) cabin the problem that we've had with Skater's cabin and places like, hunting cabins.

My I, I tell you, I don't say it's to blame I don't say, I don't make any claims that the ferries are the ones that done it. But my mother-in-law said, told me, Dora Spalding.

She and my, he said, "all these tramps are coming up here on them ferries and just raising hell in this town."

And in some ways she probably was right, but she more or less was kidding about the tramps, you know.

She realized that, now you can say what you want about the territory but there were a lot of nice things that went on with the territory. It was, you never had to lock your boat.

I owned a boat and I had a house here right, my wife and I built a house out there where it still is today after 50 some years it's still in the same spot. We really enjoyed ourself up here.

But about everyone back in those days, the coal storage was going. Let me get there. Repeat, repeat myself.

Throw that bum out of here. There was no crime, especially among the kids. There was curfew in those days, the parents knew where -- yeah I told you that. But anyway...

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Tell us about the girls again


AUDIENCE MEMBER: I like those entertainment girls.

JACK TRAMBITAS: You liked the part about the entertainment girls. Well, we should. I don't blame ya. It was, lot of times, not a lot of times, but a few times.

I'll put it that way. The, the guys, the guys. -- Yeah I got to be careful with it.

The guys that went to see the girls was the married men. Single fellas didn't have to.

No, but when one shift would come off, off work they would go visit the shift that went on. Mistakenly they'd visit the wrong home or house or something.

And they'd be, they'd take advantage of what happened when one shift comes off and another shift goes on.

They would go visit the ladies when the guys were working in the mines. Not the ladies that hire, but the, the ladies you know they're married to. And ...

WALLY OLSON: Thank you very much Jack. You see there, there's a lot of history about Juneau that we've never heard before.