SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska



My First Day in Ketchikan
By Alan Rudolf McGillvray


February 14, 2006

This letter is in the "First Day in Ketchikan" genre.

I remember the first conscious day in Ketchikan like yesterday. I was 6 years old at the time, and had only one brother, David. My parents, Don and Virginia McGillvray, had decided to move back to Ketchikan, so Dad booked passage on the P/V "Baranof" a passenger ship that belonged to the Alaska Steamship Co.

The day we landed in Ketchikan, (June 1952) was a beautiful sunny day, the docks were crowded with people to-ing and fro-ing. Ketchikan had lots of businesses, both sides of Front St. had businesses, shoe stores, bars (Rainbird) is the one I remember, and we moved into Dad's uncle's (Clyde McGillvray) house above what became the tunnel.

A few days after we arrived, and moved into the apt, somebody yelled that the Standard Oil Plant was on fire. We watched the plant burn, and oil drums lighting off and shooting high into the air, trailing fire and smoke. Eventually the fire was put out, and we all went back to our lives. We moved to a house on upper Water Street on the trestle section (1412 Water). Mom & Dad's home in Ketchikan.

Ketchikan was a busy place back then, many fishing boats, logging, mining, and the Pulp Mill was being built. And I seem to remember FIRE was a daily constant in Ketchikan. It seemed every time one turned around there was another major fire happening somewhere in town. The first after the Standard Oil Fire, was the downtown block involving the Bowling Alley/Champion Shoe store/& Coliseum Theater. Another, was the Ketchikan Cold Storage/Front St. fire. And when they were repairing the Cold Storage Building, the fire started up again, and consumed the entire plant. New England Fish burned a couple of times in this interval, and we ended up w/ a volunteer fireman, who was giving himself job insurance by setting fires.

Alan Rudolf McGillvray
E-mail: rudystahrman[at]
Ketchikan, AK - USA


About: Alan Rudolf McGillvray is a here and gone resident of Ketchikan; this time since 2000 to the present.


Related Column:

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I can't remember my first day here or my second or even my third. I was born in the old hospital on Bawden Street. I remember playing in the snow on Jefferson Street when I was three or so and nearly drowning while trout fishing near Ella Lake when I must have been four. That's about it. - More...
Monday Pm - February 13, 2006


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Ketchikan, Alaska