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Jean Rogers
Jean Rogers
Jean Rogers talks about coming to Juneau, Alaska during World War II for her husband George's work, first impressions of Juneau, and why they ended up making Juneau their home.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2010-06

Project: Juneau Communities of Memory
Date of Interview: Nov 17, 1995
Narrator(s): Jean Rogers
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Humanities Forum
Alternate Transcripts
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Coming to Juneau

First impressions of Juneau

Falling in love with Juneau

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JEAN ROGERS: I get to the tell the tale, the tale of how we came. Um we, we were students at the University of California during the war, during the war. And that's were we met.

And George was a 4F because he work the coke bottle glasses that, that umm that Annabelle so aptly described. And the minute he graduated and got his new master's degree his professor had gone over the, the San Francisco to the Office of Price Administration and he got George over to work for him.

And their, their habit was to send George to trouble spots and let him clean up messes. And they thought Juneau was a little trouble spot because fish were so important and they wanted to put fixed price on fish.

So they asked him if he'd go to Juneau. And he had two brothers in, in the war and I had three. And all five of them would write home all the time and say, "now George, you've got to stay out of the war, army because they need one man in the family that isn't in the army."

And as though we had anything to do about that you know, what, what could we have done? But we took on this job to Juneau as, as our war duty.

And gosh living in Berkeley, you know, at that time there were all sorts of restrictions and all sorts of, of things missing from your life like pineapple...


JEAN ROGERS: Like pineapple and meat. And when we came to Juneau we thought this would be a hardship place to come, it was anything but a hardship place.

But we popped on the train and went to Seattle and then from Seattle we took the ferry, the Princess Alice over to Vancouver and arrived there, oh about a couple of hours or so before we could get on the old Princess Nora to come to Juneau.

And it was dark and cold and we weren't allow --, there wasn't -- anything for us to do, we kind of wandered around and looked at Vancouver and then finally got on the boat.

I remember the crossing, the Queen Charlotte Sound because it was winter. It was, by this time it was January and it was not only winter but it was rough and we had a very rough crossing and every single person on that boat was sick, including the people who were running the boat.

The stewards and they would spread newspapers down and hand you a basin but George and I went out on deck with a Seventh Day Adventist minister and his family who were coming to, to Juneau.

And he said that if we stayed out in the fresh air we probably wouldn't get seasick. Well eventually everybody that was out on deck also got seasick except me and I just felt terrible.

But we made it to Juneau and it was January. It was dark and it was raining. And we docked down here and it, it just seemed to me this big barn-like cavern that we, dark hole that we were stepping into, that there were friendly people to meet us and put us up.

And, and morning dawned and we found out what kind of a place we were in. And I made some notes here because I don't want to, I don't want to forget telling you how, how, how different things seemed for a while.

There wasn't any pavement, there was still some boardwalks. There were lots of wooden stairs and housing was just as scarce then as it, as it's ever been. And we had a heck of a time finding a place to live.

I remember, somebody introduced us to Trevor Davis because he had a couple of houses for rent up on 6th street. And we did look at them but they were totally unfurnished, the electric wiring was, was something to see and, and the rent was cheap.

But we finally found a place out, out in umm what was it called the Cedar Track Edition. And it was, it was part of the city limits. Umm it's Evergreen Avenue today and I guess it was Evergreen Avenue then, wasn't it?


JEAN ROGERS: But people thought it was pretty far out of town. And we lived in a little brown house that had belonged to Dr. Blanton where, where Elsa Demiska (phonetic) and, and Peter Forlek (phonetic) live today.

And we used to walk up to the end of the, the end of the brush where we live today and think how nice it would be to have a house there but we never dreamed that, that we really would ever have a house there. Umm it was a little homestead cabin and it turned out to be a wonderful place, it's the, it's the basis of our house today.

Checks, I, it was a real shocked to come from California to find that people would cash your check at the drop of a hat. But more than that they urged you to, to take credit.

Umm they didn't, they acted as though cash was not the least bit important and that you should charge your everything, your groceries and anything else you bought. And there was just no questions asked, they trusted you on sight.

Umm groceries were delivered, milk was delivered. And sometimes there was a shortage of food actually when there had been a st -- a boat strike or when a boat was delayed. Umm that was certainly something new.

We were, coming from California we were surprised at the expense of food of course and the small choice that there was. You know today the food in, in Juneau is as good or better than many places but it wasn't, it wasn't that way then.

And at first I wouldn't buy bananas because they were so shockingly expensive but it dawned on me not too long after that, that if you wanted a banana you had to pay for it and never mind what the price was. If you wanted a banana you had to, you had to pay the going price.

It was a very rainy January and I, the skiers were all complaining and it continued to be a very rainy summer. And we thought it was beautiful but peculiar. And I remember distinctly that going out to the woods on hikes and that sort of thing, the woods were sort of a pale green, kind of a pale yellowy-green.

Well I’ve seen many dark green summers since then, but that was the rainiest summer I think we've ever had here, almost. But we, we liked it in spite of that.

And I think one of the, one of the signs of hospitality in Juneau at that time was to invite you to dinner and show you slides. And some people had only a few slides, but most people had thousands of slides.

And they, they showed you several hundred in an evening. It was, it was...

GEORGE ROGERS: You could see the glacier receeding..

JEAN ROGERS: It was a, a, a common, a common aliment was slide-eye. Umm the, George and I didn't own a camera and we never did get one and we never did take slides. But we have many fond memories of, of the people that invited us out and were good to us.

One of the, one of the things that, the very first people who invited us out, and I think it was the very next day after we got here lived in the Francis Apartments. Which is where Jim and um Bridget Asberg (phonetic) live today.

And it was these three apartments and the bottom floor Dorothy and Alex Russell lived. And on the middle floor, our friends and the, the the Price Administration the OPA lived in the middle section.

And then atop them lived Dorothy and Gill Idy (phonetic). And next door lived Barney Anderson and his wife, and he was the football coach at that time and...


JEAN ROGERS: The basket, yes the basketball. Yes, no how, how did I happen to say football. I don't even like football.

GEORGE ROGERS: You love basketball

JEAN ROGERS: Yes. Well Barney insisted that we love basketball and we did. And we saw those marvelous Douglas, Juneau-Douglas games where sometimes Douglas didn't have enough people to, to field five people on the if, if somebody fouled out but, they frequently won.

And as Fortuna said there were very few cars. Umm we thought we'd come and stay two years. And Mrs. Herman who was George’s first boss and the boss of the the Price Administration then told us that sometimes old timers didn't like to take up new comers who came who were only going to be here two years.

They were sick and tired of having government workers come and stay two years, you'd just get fond of them and they'd go away. But we were really lucky falling in with that schoolteacher crowd. And then another person that we met first off were the Stewarts and they were, they were instrumental in... introducing us to a lot of the real of the old-time Juneauites.

And I think that's probably the reason we fell so completely in love with Juneau and came back at our earliest opportunity. We did leave, and we stayed longer than two years, at the beginning.

But we did, we did leave to, for George to go finish his education, but we came back at our first opportunity. And the only time we've been gone since was the year we spent in Fairbanks at the University and a year we spent in England at Cambridge University.

And all the rest of the time we've been in Juneau and we intend to stay here.