Alaska Facts and History
Have you ever heard of Bettles, Alaska? The story of Bettles is a tale of a man from Montana and two tiny towns near the Arctic Circle.
In the photo above is Gordon C. Bettles, 1898 from the Bettles Family Collection
Bettles was a fur trader, prospector, newspaper reporter and shopkeeper who traveled to Alaska from Montana.
In 1890, miners discovered gold on tributaries of the Koyukuk River, north of the Arctic Circle.
Because of the strike, Gordon Bettles ordered 20 tons of supplies and formed, G.C. Bettles & Co. His newspaper advertising motto was, “From Pickaxe to a Candle”.
In 1898, 2,000 gold stampeders left the Klondike Gold Rush and headed for the Koyukuk river for what they thought would be the next “El Dorado”, or place of vast riches.
Gordon Bettles responded by establishing the outpost of Bergman and another store farther north that he named Bettles. By 1899, gold fever had faded. By 1901, the tiny outpost of Bettles had a post office and the trading post was still doing business with local miners. The Post Office later closed in 1956.
In the photo above are the first buildings in Bettles, in 1900
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So, Where is Bettles?
The residents of the original Bettles have moved the community about five miles east to Evansville because the military had left an abandoned airfield at that location.
The original, “Old” Bettles became a ghost town. The “New” Bettles was incorporated in 1985.
The new Bettles is located on the Koyukuk River, 20 miles south of the Arctic National Park Reserve. It’s on the Dalton Highway as a winter only ice road that crosses the Jim River. Bettles is 35 miles north of the Arctic Circle, just south of the Brooks Range.
In the photo above is the new Bettles on the right, with Evansville on the left. All on the banks of the Koyukuk River.
Get to know Gordon Bettles: Koyukuk Pioneer and discover.
In the photo above is the old Bettles trading post.
Enjoy this YouTube about Old Bettles
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From Our North Stars (that’s you)
We heard from many of our North Stars following our look at Matanuska Maid
“Matanuska Maid had the very best egg nog.”
“Enjoyed this history. I have some Matanuska milk bottles and cartons of products from the dairy. Thanks again.”
William shared this photo of his mom, Dorothy Mary Jane Huntley, who was the 1946, Fur Rendezvous, “Miss Matanuska Maid”
And Scott shared the following
“I remember wishing we could have that milk. Because we had 4 kids, and even though our father earned a US Govt engineers salary, we always made milk from Carnation instant milk. Just couldn't afford real milk or beef (so every way Caribou could be prepared).
We lived in Anchorage from 1963-1967. I was going to Turnagain Elementary and was in 4th grade when the 1964 earthquake happened. Pretty sure Joe Hickel was in my class!
Moved from a temporary apartment outside Turnagain to Inlet View elementary and then one year (7th) at Central Junior High.
The Nerlands (furniture) and Kennards (Bank President) were our neighbors.
I was a Boy Scout with Troop 101 and those years have ingrained in me a real love of nature.
I Enjoy the Anchorage Memories VIP Club”
Do you have an answer for a question from Loren?
“What was the name of the burger place located at Hill Crest and Spenard Road? It burnt down in 1962 and the Sunrise Bakery expanded onto the lot. The burger place had a checkered parkay dance floor. The Juke box would give you 3 songs for a quarter. And yes, we bopped in our socks.”
And Tony reached out to say that his family couldn’t afford Matanuska Maid, so they used powdered milk instead. Yes, Tony, many Alaskans relied on powered milk and other milk substitutes.
TV Hostess, Norma Goodman told This Story
One day after her show, Norma told Mike of Anchorage Memories the following story about the live commercials she used to do for a product called “Quilk” which was a synthetic milk product that came in a large can.
Quilk was a seemingly perfect product for Alaska, especially for those who lived in remote areas of the state who either had to use powdered milk, or do without.
As Norma told the story, Mike remembered seeing her live Quilk commercials.
After a successful run of live Quilk commercials, the product's representatives thought it would be a great idea if Norma would actually pour herself a glass of Quilk at the end of the live commercial. She would then take a drink and say something like “Quilk, it tastes delicious.” Norma agreed.
That evening when the camera went live, Norma did her commercial and ended it by pouring herself a glass of Quilk, taking a big drink and saying “Quilk, it tastes delicious.”
Then it happened -
The director in the control room faded to black. But he forgot to turn off Norma's microphone. And instead of going to the next film, the director made the mistake of going back to the live studio camera that was still on Norma.
And there she was. Norma Goodman, the first lady of Anchorage TV, making a horrible face and saying “this stuff tastes terrible.”
When Norma discovered she was live on camera, she was horrified and sure the sponsor would never advertise on KTVA again.
The next day, a funny thing happened -
All the Anchorage grocery stores reported that they had sold out of Quilk.
It appeared that everyone who was watching Norma do her live Quilk commercial had actually thought that Norma was just playing around and really liked the taste of Quilk.
Following that, Norma continued doing live Quilk commercials, but no longer agreed to drink the product on camera.
What the VIP Club is Working On
We’re hard at work with a member of the Gilman’s family, on a story about Anchorage’s own Gilman’s Bakery. Plenty of great memories. Be looking for it.
Did you ever swim at the Spa?
For a long while, it was the only swimming pool in Anchorage. Except for the military base?
Did you enjoy learning about Bettles, Alaska? The discovery of gold had a lot to do with the creation of many new settlements in Alaska.
Do you want to send us a comment? Or do you just want to say, “I swam at the Spa.”
You can reply to this email, or you can Contact Us right now.
Until Next Time
Mike and Mary
Yep, I swam at the Spa. I heard someone built an underground running track around there some years ago. Would be interesting to find out if that's true. Also swam at the pool at Stuckagain Heights and ski patrolled at Don Cconrads Lincoln powered rope tow. As I recall Stuckagain was run by Marge ?
I knew there WAS a Bettles, but I had never heard or read the story. Fascinating! :-D