Ruben Gaines and Ed Stevens

by Robert Knox

These comments were written by my adopted uncle, Robert Knox. He and his wife, Wilma, were journalists in Anchorage between 1951 and 1984.

In spite of its small size - or perhaps because of it - KBYR tended to attract some unusual characters.

Two colorful characters arrived as a team.

Ed Stevens and Ruben Gaines were said to have been network radio announcers and drinking buddies in Los Angeles. The story went that they both became disenchanted with the big city scene, so they pooled their money and flew to the most remote place they could afford - Anchorage.

After failing to secure work at the two major stations, Hiebert signed them on at KBYR.

Gaines had a wild imagination, and he soon developed a character called Chilkoot Charlie, a drunk, old sourdough, whose adventures radio listeners followed through a series of sagas written and narrated by Gaines. The series proved popular, and it was on the air for several years.

Gaines also wrote about the adventures of Chilkoot Charlie in a series of small books, and so the character became quite famous in the Anchorage area. As a tribute, a fan in Spenard named a bar for him.

Stevens too, strayed from radio.

He was interested in sports and wound up writing a column for the (Anchorage)Daily News. Gaines, apparently, did not think much of the printed medium, and each time Stevens left to deliver a new column, Gaines cautioned him about "casting his pearls before swine."

Despite the warnings, Stevens continued writing the column for some time.

In return, the News people wrote a five-minute local news summary for KBYR every afternoon that would include some of the top stories in the newspaper and, of course, giving themselves a plug with lines like "for more details, see the Daily News."

Stevens and Gaines enjoyed visiting the News office because there was a bar conveniently located across the street in the Westward Hotel.

The last time I remember seeing them in the attic was just before we moved to the new building. We were already in the process of packing, when they appeared in full fishing regalia and carrying every bit of gear one could imagine; waders, fishing rods, nets, tackle box.

They announced that they were going to take a train up the line to a lake and do some fishing. Since the train wasn’t due for an hour, they left all their gear in the newsroom and went across the street to have a drink.

They never came back.

When we vacated the building, all that fishing equipment was still in a corner of the room.

Check out Ruben Gaines and Chilkoot Charlie right now.

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