This week on AK we’re beginning our look back at to the earliest days of Alaska’s statehood. We’ll look at the forces that moved Alaska closer to becoming a state — or held it back: from the military to mining, fish to friendships. Plus, how a popular novel played a role, and memories of an early Kenai Peninsula homesteader.
Download Audio (MP3, 60min)
Host: Steve Heimel
An introduction to Alaska’s statehood battle, from 1915 to 1958. Cuts from General Jim Keck and Senator Ernest Gruening.
Anne Sutton takes a look at the role of Alaska industries in pushing for or against statehood. For many Alaskans, like John Enge of Petersburg, the huge fish traps run by outside cannery owners were a rallying cry for more control over Alaska’s resources. With historians David Stone, Steve Haycox, and Bob King.
- Break: “Catch a Falling Star” by the Sergio Rafael Orchestra from “Moon River – 60 Minutes of Romantic Strings”
Remembering Anchorage, 1949
Jessica Cochran, AK
Lee Jordan came to Alaska with the Army’s Alaska Communications Service: he arrived in the middle of the winter, and was pleasantly surprised by Anchorage. He typeset the “We’re In” headline, and went on to found the Chugiak-Eagle River Star newspaper.
The Military Role
World War II and the increased military presence in, and defense significance of, Alaska increased the state’s visibility, and built up its population and infrastructure…to bring statehood closer to reality. But it also may have held it back. Interview with retired Elmendorf historian John Cloe.
- Music Button: “Rebel Rouser” by Duane Eddy from “Have Twangy Guitar Will Travel (1958 Jamie Records Original)”
Much of the opposition to statehood from inside the state arose from concern about the economics. Here actor Rick Reichman reads from a 1943 Juneau Chamber of Commerce report opposing statehood.
Jessica Cochran, AK
Some who opposed statehood preferred the idea of becoming a commonwealth, but historian Steve Haycox says most Alaskans wanted full statehood and nothing less.
This popular novel by Edna Ferber was adamantly pro-statehood, says historian Mary Mangusso. Ernest Gruening credited it with winning over some votes. With clips from the film based on Ferber’s book.
- Break: “A Certain Smile” by Beegie Adair from “An Affair to Remember”
Steve Heimel, APRN
Territorial Governor Mike Stepovich and Alaska Senator Ted Stevens recall the spring of 1958, and the day the Alaska Statehood Bill finally passed.
Historian John Whitehead says to some extent, passage of the bill was based on how much people liked Alaska’s boosters — like Bob Bartlett and Ernest Gruening. But Nevada Senator George Malone was one who could never be swayed.
- Music Button
Ed Murrow said Alaska would draw its strength from homesteaders. And they were a hardy bunch: like Frank and Marge Mullins of Kenai. AK’s Ellen Lockyer visited Marge at their original homestead.
The Alaska Symphony
This summer, Juneau’s Symphony Orchestra premiered the revised version of Wilson Sawyer’s grand symphony about Alaska. Anne Sutton spoke with violinist Bob King.
- Closing: “The Alaska Symphony” written by Wilson Sawyer, performed by the Juneau Symphony Orchestra.