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Mary Ellen Duggan Clark

Mary Ellen Duggan Clark was interviewed on June 16, 1990 by Sande Faulkner in Kennecott, Alaska during the Kennecott Kids reunion. In this interview, she talks about growing up in Kennecott, going to school there, and what it was like to be a part the Kennecott community.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 95-71-21

Project: Wrangell-St.Elias National Park
Date of Interview: Jun 16, 1990
Narrator(s): Mary Ellen Duggan Clark
Interviewer(s): Sande Faulkner
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

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1) Her background

2) Her family's background

3) Coming to Kennecott

4) School in Kennecott

5) Housing facilities for single employees

6) Family housing and her father's job

7) Class relations, clothing, laundry, and cleaning

8) School pageants and holidays

9) Clothing and personal appearance

10) Domestic furnishings, and the company store

11) Her boarding school in California

12) Illness, and McCarthy

13) Transportation around Kennecott

15) Recreational activities

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.


This is Sande Faulkner, National Park Service, at Kennecott, Alaska, June 16, 1990, at the Kennecott Kids Reunion, talking with Mary Ellen Duggan Clark.

Mary Ellen, if I can just have you, just identify who you are and the date and where you were born and where you came from, that kind of information.

CLARK: Well, I'm Mary Ellen Duggan Clark and I was born in Goldfield, Nevada. I now live in Superior, Colorado.

Now what else did you want? FAULKNER: I think that’s enough.

Let's see. How long were you at -- for what years were you at Kennecott?

CLARK: I lived in Kennecott from 1924 to 1933.

And I was six years old when I came to Kennecott so that meant I went from the first grade through ninth grade here.

FAULKNER: And why did your family come to Kennecott?

CLARK: Now, my father's a mining engineer and he got a job in Kennecott at the mill there.

FAULKNER: Did you live in another mining community before you came here?

CLARK: Yes, we lived in Latouche for about four years before we came to Kennecott and Latouche is another mine operated by Kennecott Copper.

FAULKNER: And where's that at?

CLARK: That is on an island and it's in Prince William Sound, but I believe more to the West of Anchorage.

FAULKNER: How long were you at Latouche?

CLARK: I was there four years, I believe. Yeah. I was quite little then.

FAULKNER: Do you remember anything at all of Latouche?

CLARK: Very little. I remember that they had boardwalks everywhere and the houses were up on stilts because they were so close to the water.

FAULKNER: What kind of mining did they do there? CLARK: That was the same kind, copper.

FAULKNER: How did your dad -- did your dad always work for this company?

CLARK: Well, no. He had worked for a gold mining company and I think at Latouche was the first time he'd worked for Kennecott.

FAULKNER: And where was he from?

CLARK: He was from Indiana but he just wanted to come West and so he went to school at the University of Utah and took up mining. That's how we got located in Goldfield.

FAULKNER: And then, what about your mom, where was she from?

CLARK: She was from California and she went to school in California.

She went through college. She wanted to teach, and California required, even then, an additional year after college for her to teach.

So she went to Goldfield, Nevada so she could teach there right away and she met my dad there.

FAULKNER: He was the mining engineer there?

CLARK: He was a mining -- he was the mining engineer, I think in milling even then.

He specialized in the milling part of that.

FAULKNER: And so they were married, had you --

CLARK: And for a while I guess the gold mining economy wasn't too good and he lost that job. So we went back to Indiana and stayed on his father's farm there for a few months and then the position in Alaska opened up.

FAULKNER: Do you know where in Indiana?

CLARK: It was around Ivesdale, I believe.

FAULKNER: Did you have aunts and uncles that you knew?

CLARK: Well, I had -- yeah, I had two aunts that were back there then and lots of cousins.

Unfortunately, I lost touch with them, it's been so long ago.

Let's see. Two first cousins on my dad's side. One of them now is in California and the other is in St. Louis, Missouri. I don't have anyone back in Indiana now.

FAULKNER: And how did you come up to Kennecott? You were at Latouche and came down.

CLARK: Yes, we were at Latouche and took a steamship from Latouche over to Cordova and that's the way we came then.

And at Cordova we got on the train. The train went from Cordova and stopped at Chitina overnight and we'd sleep in the hotel at Chitina and next day come on to Kennecott

FAULKNER: Did you bring all your family goods along? Do you remember packing?

CLARK: I don't remember that, I was too small, but I'm sure they didn't bring very much. It was just too expensive.

FAULKNER: Oh, did you have to pay your own move, do you know? CLARK: I don't know about that, I don't know just what the arrangement was.

FAULKNER: And then, why did you leave, or did your dad leave Kennecott?

CLARK: Well, the mine was closing down then. It was -- they knew it was gonna close down.

I'm not -- I don't believe it had actually closed down.

He was able to get a position at Climax, Colorado so he came out there.

FAULKNER: Was that another mill -- mining situation? CLARK: Yes, it was milling but it was molybdenum. That was the Climax Molybdenum Company.

FAULKNER: And how was Climax different from here?

CLARK: Well, I think the main thing is that there were other towns around, we could get -- get out of the actual camp and go -- like go to Leadville and shop and go to a movie and things like that.

And so it was different in that way, although at Climax they didn't have a high school there.

They did have a grade school, but by that time, of course, I was almost finished high school.

My -- the last half of my senior year my sister and I went down to Leadville and boarded during the week and went to Leadville High School and then we'd get a ride on Friday afternoon, usually with some miner or someone that was going up to Climax.

And then Monday morning we'd have to get a ride back again.

FAULKNER: And how would you travel? CLARK: Just by car. There was a good highway between Climax and Leadville.

FAULKNER: And when was your sister born? CLARK: She was born in '22, she was about 2 and half years younger than I. And she was born in Latouche.

FAULKNER: Did they have a hospital at Latouche? CLARK: Yeah, they had a hospital.

FAULKNER: So then you came over to Kennecott and you started school here? CLARK: Yes.

FAULKNER: And what was the school like? CLARK: Well, it was a two room school, we had one teacher for each room, and I'd say, on the average, I'd say about 20 children overall.

But, we felt that we got a really good education. Each teacher had to teach, say four grades and she'd review the lessons of one group -- one grade and then give them an assignment, put them to working on it, and then go to the next grade and she had to keep doing that all day long, jumping from one to the other.

And then, I mentioned before that the teacher who had all probably fifth and sixth through eighth grade was really excellent.

Usually, right after lunch, she would read a little something to us from a book like "The Oregon Trail" or "A Lantern in Her Hand", I guess books that would give us some knowledge of history as well as a story.

And then on certain days she would play classical records for about 15 minutes.

And she'd give us a little quiz on it, just encourage us to learn the names.

And on Friday afternoons, after recess, we would have art and we always looked forward to that and that was fun.

FAULKNER: Do you remember her name?

CLARK: Yeah. That was Ruth, let me think. Her maiden name was Ruth Waters and -- when she started, she was Ruth Waters and after a few years she married Eric Danielson.

And I especially remember his name, because he was an assistant to my father in the mill.

She did keep up teaching after she married and that was unusual for the teachers at that time.

FAULKNER: Where did the teacher live?

CLARK: Well, they had a staff house and the teachers and the nurses and the office secretary lived there.

And there also were the single men, who were staff people lived there.

They had an accountant or something like that, that was single. Most of the men were married, but a few that either were single or perhaps their families had gone back outside.

FAULKNER: Did they have -- share a room, kind of like two women to a room, do you remember?

CLARK: I don't honestly remember that.

FAULKNER: Okay. And then did they eat in that building too?

CLARK: No. They had another building which -- they called it the mess hall, where they served meals for those people, for the staff, you know.

And then the people in town, if they wanted to, they could go down there and have a meal, you know, just pay for it.

You know, if some mothers got really tired of cooking and we could go down there, or if they were sick.

My mother was in the hospital for a while and so my father took us down there to eat.

FAULKNER: What was wrong with your mom? CLARK: She had appendicitis and the doctor in the hospital there operated on her and everything went fine.

FAULKNER: Well, how about the house that you lived in?

CLARK: You know, first we lived in a house up on the hill, which -- one of the four houses in the group. We lived in one of them for, I imagine for four or five years, and then later we moved down to the house which was for the superintendent.

Well, my father was the mill superintendent and we moved down there and it's a house that isn't there now.

FAULKNER: Is that in by the hospital, in that area?

CLARK: Yeah, it was by the hospital. It was near the manager's house and then the house we lived in, that's the superintendent's house, and then the staff house. That staff house was three stories.

FAULKNER: And the men and women -- single men and women staff were down there?

CLARK: Yeah, they'd have one floor for men and one for women.

FAULKNER: And then your father was superintendent of the mill. Did he have anyone here over him or was he boss whole camp?

CLARK: Well, no. There was the manager over him. But otherwise, he was the boss for everything that happened in the mill, the mill, the crusher, the leaching plant, the things that were related to the mill.

FAULKNER: That was quite a job for him then.

CLARK: It was, I think it proved, you know, to be quite a job. FAULKNER: A lot of responsibility.

Well, so how was it for you, to be the boss' kid?

CLARK: Well, I don't think that he was that much of a boss, at least I didn't feel that way at the time.

And so I don't feel that it made any difference. There were some class distinctions among the families, but the kids didn't worry about it.

We all -- there were so few of us that we all played together.

FAULKNER: What'd you wear to school?

CLARK: Well, we wore -- we all wore dresses, probably a wool or a heavy -- some type of heavy material. But we all wore long johns, then we wore lyle stockings over them and then heavy wool socks over that and so either felt boots or some kind of heavy boots. You know, in this weather and the cold. When we went out to play, we wore pants.

FAULKNER: Oh, you did? CLARK: Yeah, we wore -- oh, bundle up, maybe a couple of pairs of pants, sweaters and coats and everything we could get our hands on.

FAULKNER: How about laundry? CLARK: Well, my mother generally did our own laundry. There was a laundry here. And well, some -- there were some times when her back bothered her, then she would send the laundry out.

As I say, had a laundry and they would deliver. They'd come and pick it up and deliver it.

FAULKNER: Did your mother ever have any household help, to help with heavy cleaning or anything like that?

CLARK: When we lived in the superintendent's house, she did. She had a lady come in I think once a week and, as you say, do the heavy cleaning.

FAULKNER: And who would that be? Would it be someone's wife, or a single lady, or someone from McCarthy?

CLARK: I think it was a single lady, I'm not quite sure. Someone would, you know, maybe hear about work from some other place and come up to do that.

FAULKNER: Were there special school pageants or programs?

CLARK: Yes. Oh for special holidays we would put on a program. Sometimes we we'd have a program just at the school, if it was something during school hours. I remember our mothers were invited and we would just do recitations and things like that.

But oh say for Christmas, and then at Easter it seems like we did something. But the biggest thing, of course, was Christmas and we practiced that for, oh, a long time.

And each -- each one of us would have some part, a skit or a play or a dance and we would get up on the stage and do our part.

And then after all the program was finished -- and this was in the rec hall and they had a big Christmas tree and so after our part was finished or after everything was finished, we'd go and sit down.

They had an artificial fireplace on the stage and then Santa Claus would come through the fireplace and come out and they had a gift for each child and a stocking with some fruit and candy in it.

And it was, oh, I guess a big occasion here.

FAULKNER: Sounds like. And then would there be a family Christmas as well?

CLARK: Yes, usually the next day the families would celebrate Christmas at home. And then they had a custom of visiting each home. Usually it was just the nuclear family. We didn't have any other relatives near, so our family would go to the family next door and visit them, then we'd go over to the next house and just visit all around and usually have a drink or two.

It was really a time where we visited and then people would come to our house and it was a time to get together.

FAULKNER: Did you have a special party dress? CLARK: Oh yes. My mother usually made our clothes, not all of them, but some of them. She was an excellent sew-er.

FAULKNER: Do you remember anyone specially?

CLARK: Well, I can't remember that much about them. Usually they might have a little collar with some lace on it.

FAULKNER: Did you wear your hair long? CLARK: No. I wore mine in a bob, I guess you'd call it. Most of the girls wore it short. Some of them wore it long.

FAULKNER: Do you remember in your house, if your mother -- the special touches that she would do -- anything that -- could she -- did she paint it a different color or put up curtains, to make it her own, or would there be family pictures or?

CLARK: I think maybe family pictures. She got one painting, of -- a Ziegler painting he was quite a well known Alaskan artist -- and it was an oil painting.

And that was -- she set great store by it.

FAULKNER: Do you still have it? CLARK: I still have that. All the rest I think were just ordinary pictures.

FAULKNER: Did the company provide furniture and curtains and things or did you have to?

CLARK: I'm not sure. I don't think the company provided them. I really don't know how that was arranged. I would guess that people would buy things, you know, if someone was leaving, maybe they'd buy something from them, you know, and it would kind of get passed around because it was so expensive to bring furniture from the states.

And so I'm just guessing, but I think that's the way we got a lot of our furniture.

FAULKNER: Any musical instruments?

CLARK: Well, we didn't have any. Let's see our friends next door had a piano. There were several people in town that had pianos.

FAULKNER: That's a big instrument to bring in here. CLARK: Yes, and we don't know how they even got them in there.

FAULKNER: You mentioned your mom made most of your clothes. Did she buy the material from the company store or order it from somewhere?

CLARK: Well she must have ordered it. The company store, it didn't have too much like that.

They had boots and plain clothes and gloves and things like that, but I don't think they had much in the way of clothes, at least when I was there. They might have before we came, because the camp was a little bigger before we got there.

FAULKNER: Okay. Now when you finished school -- you were telling me before, then you had to go away to boarding school? CLARK: Yeah. Yes, we certainly did.

FAULKNER: And did you have to wait then for your sister to catch up?

CLARK: Well no, I guess what they did was I stayed and took ninth grade work, even though the school wasn't providing it at that time.

The teacher -- the eighth grade teacher knew Spanish and my father taught me geometry and I don't remember -- the other teacher was able to teach enough so that I had enough credits for ninth grade.

So then when we went outside, my sister, let's see -- she was in ninth grade and I was in tenth then, so, she came out the same time I did.

FAULKNER: And you went, you were saying, to California where your mother had relatives?

CLARK: Yes, my mother had relatives and they looked around and found a good boarding school and we went there up until my senior year.

I took half of my senior year at boarding school and then my father and mother came out and we went to Climax. So I finished school in Leadville.

FAULKNER: How did you get to school? CLARK: In Leadville?

FAULKNER: Or from Kennecott. Did you and your sister travel by yourselves or did your mom take you down?

CLARK: My mom and Dad both took us down and they stayed in California for a while and took a little vacation and then went back.

FAULKNER: Were you there year around then, or did you come back summers?

CLARK: Well, in the summers, let's see, we went to my grandmother's home, because she had -- her home was there, and stayed with her during the summer and went back to the boarding school.

It was a pleasant place and, you know, southern California. There were orange groves and horses to ride. FAULKNER: It must have been quite a change from Alaska then. CLARK: Oh, it was a definite change.

FAULKNER: And how -- did the kids have questions for you, about living in Alaska?

CLARK: Well, not too much. They just seemed to take it in stride.

FAULKNER: What about, do you remember if you were sick, chicken pox, measles, things like that? Did you go to the doctor here and medical things?

CLARK: I don't remember being sick up here, or really sick.

We went to the doctor for shots and vaccinations. I remember we got a small pox vaccination and a couple of other vaccinations.

But what would happen, since we lived here and we weren't in contact with a lot of people, when we would go out, say to California, then my sister and I would catch something right away.

And we had -- one time we had measles when we were visiting my grandmother. Yeah and my parents were there then too, we were little.

And the next time I got mumps. And I don't think my sister got the mumps, somehow she escaped it. But that often happened.

We'd come out and catch something that was going on because we hadn't been exposed up here.

FAULKNER: Would you ever go down to McCarthy?

CLARK: Well, we didn't very often. We -- at Fourth of July usually the school had a program, of course, school was out then but the teachers worked on it before school let out and they must have had somebody to carry on.

We went down there one year, I remember they had a float and a parade. We often went down there then.

And other -- we didn't usually go, our parents didn't want us to go by ourselves.

One time we did walk all the way down the tracks and got to McCarthy, then we got a ride back home.

FAULKNER: How would you get a ride back? CLARK: Well, it just happened that someone was coming up to Kennecott. FAULKNER: In a car? CLARK: In a car, yeah.

FAULKNER: Did they have hand cars to ride on the railroad? CLARK: Just the railroad company, just them.

FAULKNER: And what was the relationship between Kennecott and the railroad? Could you ride the railroad for free or depend on it for transporting things? CLARK: I don't think it was free. I imagine we just had to buy a ticket. But yeah, we could use it anytime we wanted to.

FAULKNER: What about going out to Cordova?

CLARK: I don't recall that we ever did. One time we went to Tonsina and we went by car. Let's see, I've forgotten -- I think we went to Chitina and then maybe down the highway to Valdez. I'm not sure which highway it is now but it's not too far from here. And was a lodge that was operating then. We stayed a few days.

FAULKNER: For a vacation? CLARK: Yeah.

FAULKNER: Did you vacation at all otherwise in Alaska?

CLARK: Not a vacation. No. Oh we took -- we took little excursions, like a picnic, berry picking, something like that.

FAULKNER: Would they be town picnics or? CLARK: Sometimes there was a town or sometimes just a family or a group would go. They had very few cars in Kennecott, maybe three cars that were running, because there wasn't hardly any place to go.

FAULKNER: And what about for fun?

CLARK: Well, in the winter it was skiing, skating, sliding, things like that. And once in a while the company -- or the school would have a dance, then my mother would let us go, if it were a school sponsored dance.

Sometimes there was just a dance so -- I don't know who sponsored it, just you know for --

FAULKNER: Was it for adults? CLARK: For adults. Well, some of the children went, older children went. But we usually didn't, unless it was a school sponsored dance. And they had movies twice a week in the rec hall also and we went to movies.

FAULKNER: There were tennis courts -- did you play tennis?

CLARK: Well, my sister and I just batted the ball around a little. My parents played tennis. They would play there. A lot of times in the evening they'd go out and play tennis, cause it stayed light for so long and we'd just go along and watch and chase balls and play around outside the court.

FAULKNER: Did you do much hiking around the area?

CLARK: Well, some. We liked hiking.