Memories of the
Territory of Alaska 1950
by Janet Allen
As we settled into life in the dusty city of Anchorage, we explored the offerings of enjoyment and entertainment. The beautiful surroundings in a day when the lovely pastel mountains were unmarried by skiers trails, snowmobiles, and the detritus of tourism, and the unmatched opportunities for sportsmen were relatively available for all to enjoy.
The Fur Rendezvous was colorful with banners strung across Fourth Avenue and Kit Butcher was making a name as an expert racer with her dog teams. A few of the elders were still paying their tabs at bars and restaurants with gold from leather pouches which hung from their belts.
Only a few blocks of Third and Fourth streets were paved, two blocks on Fifth, and the rest were dusty roads which were a quagmire during the thaws.
Shopping downtown offered a Sears, Northern Commercial, and a few other small name brand stores, but the word was out among our military families that ladies should beware when crossing the alley entrances as they walked along. Father Murphy, at Elmendorf, in his compulsory Saturday morning morale lectures, warned that the FBI had announced that nearly 80% of the local population were either criminals or refugees of some unsavory problems in the lower forty-eight.
Red-light districts were amply distributed around the city.
On the road out to the base was a large log roadhouse called Fort Starnes. Behind it was an establishment called the Green Lantern, dubbed the “Green Latrine” by the troops, featuring a row of cabins of a certain reputation.
When we first arrived, it was printed in the paper that Sally Rand would be appearing at Fort Starnes with performances of her fabulous fan dance. She had been a sensation at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. We decided to go and took with us a friend whose wife had not yet come up from the lower forty-eight.
The room was packed, mostly with G. I.s, the music was raucous, and the drinks were plentifully at hand.
Sally, with her enormous head-to-toe white ostrich feather fans, was a delight for the audience, and she was friendly with some of the guys who were pulled into moments of her routine.
At the conclusion, the music blared to a crescendo and Sally collapsed her fan to the floor for a moment, before she dashed behind the screen. The uproar was deafening. The audience approved!
In a few moments, she came out, thanked the audience for their favors and invited any and all to come up for an autographed picture and to say “hello”.
Our friend, also a fighter pilot, said maybe she would like to fly with him and have pictures taken for her publicity folio. So, he went up and eventually chatted with her and returned with pictures for all of us and I still have one.
This was only the beginning of our wonderful tour in the Territory of Alaska.