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Anchorage Beatles Memories
Did you know the Beatles came to Anchorage? Were you There? Yes, Beatlemania came to Anchorage. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.
Nearly 500 excited teens gathered outside the Anchorage Westward Hotel (now the Hilton), in downtown Anchorage.
The teens were there, hoping to catch a glimpse of the young men pictured above.
Yes, the Fab Four, the four “mop tops”, known the world over as, the Beatles, had landed right smack in the middle of Anchorage, Alaska.
The British invasion had suddenly come to our town and area teens were thrilled.
How Did it Happen?
On June 27, 1966, a plane carrying the Beatles had landed at Anchorage International Airport.
One story says that it was a scheduled refueling stop on the Beatle’s trip to Japan. During a routine inspection of their plane, a mechanical problem was discovered. Necessary repairs kept the plane on the ground for some time.
Another story tells us, that while on route to Japan, the plan had to land in Anchorage to avoid a typhoon.
Either way, the Beatles were going to be in town for a while.
So, it was decided that a secret bus would take the Fab Four to the downtown Anchorage Westward Hotel where John, Paul, George, and Ringo could rest quietly and have something to eat while they waited.
But some Anchorage teens were at the airport and spotted the Beatles. Word spread quicker than the Northern Lights can dance across the sky. A caravan of cars filled with local teens followed the bus into town.
Do you believe in Yesterday?
Yes, that’s a play on the lyrics to the Beatles’ song “Yesterday”
Did you know that you can share this look back (Yesterday) at the Beatles in Anchorage with friends and family? And when you do, they’ll have a “Ticket to Ride” and some great memories.
Click on the following link:
A few early Beatles hits include:
Love Me Do, She Loves You, I want to Hold Your Hand, and, I Saw Her Standing There.
You’ve Got to be Kidding Me!
As word continued to spread – around 500 happy, local teenagers converged on the Westward.
In the photo above is Mary of Anchorage Memories when she was a staff dancer on Anchorage’s teen TV dance program, The Varsity Show. Circa 1967.
Mary was a young teen when the Beatles made their visit.
She remembers how she first learned that the Fab Four were in town.
“My sister Betty and my brother Norman came into my bedroom and woke me up by shouting, “The Beatles are here!, The Beatles are here!”
At first, I thought they were pulling a practical joke on me. But when I discovered that the Beatles were really in town at the Anchorage Westward Hotel, I shouted. “Well what are we waiting for? Let’s get down there!”
So, along with her sister Betty and brother Norman, they joined the huge gathering outside the hotel.
While Mary didn’t know it at the time, later that night, she would come face to face with John Lennon.
Mary wrote a short story about the Beatles visit to Anchorage and her amazing experience.
Take a look at Face to Face with John Lennon and enjoy.
In the photo above, Anchorage teens on the roof of a building, hold up a sign welcoming the Beatles.
Inside the Anchorage Westward
Once John, Paul, George, and Ringo arrived at the hotel, they were quickly hustled up to room 1050.
“Myself, my first Wife and my good friend were working at the Anchorage Westward Hotel when the Beatles Arrived.
My Wife was a Maid (Julie Stewart) and (Mike Shepherd) and I were custodians. We had to guard the doors when the community found out about the Beatles being there.
It was a Crazy time.
A maid stuck a mop out of a window and the kids screamed thinking a long haired Beatle was looking out the window!”
Tim Stewart Sr.
What Did the Beatles do in Anchorage?
In the photo above, George is taking Polaroid pictures of the group in their hotel room.
The Beatles ordered hamburgers and King Crab from room service.
George called Seidenverg and Kay’s, an upscale Anchorage men’s shop, and ordered a hat and some shirts which were delivered to the hotel.
In the photo above, the Beatles are in room 1050 of the Anchorage Westward Hotel
Breakfast in Bedlam
A local Anchorage television morning show on KTVA channel 11, called “Breakfast in Bedlam”, had an idea when the Fab Four arrived in town.
“The producers and hosts of Breakfast in Bedlam, Josef Princiotta and Merrill Mael had offices across the street from the Westward hotel in downtown Anchorage. And when the Beatles made their famous stop-over, Josef went across the street to the hotel and interviewed the Beatles. As a parting gift, the fab four gave Josef an autographed Beatles album.
The next morning, Josef and Merrill auctioned off the autographed Beatles' album on Breakfast in Bedlam.”
Do you remember “Breakfast in Bedlam”?
Take a look at this story about Breakfast in Bedlam and remember.
The Great Escape
Even though it was late, there were still Anchorage teens waiting outside the hotel, hoping to get a look at the Beatles.
So once again, the Fab Four were secretly hustled on-to a waiting bus and taken back to the airport. A long caravan of cars followed.
It had been a day to remember for area teens.
Meanwhile, at the Drive-In Theatre
Did you know that when the Beatles were in town, the Billiken Drive-In Theater happened to be showing the Beatle’s 1965 movie, “Help!”
Do you remember when you first heard the Beatles on Anchorage radio?
They were an instant hit.
But there were no Beatles records in local record shops.
How did Anchorage finally get those fun Beatles records?
You’ll enjoy playing this short, Anchorage Memories Game Show.
Click on the video below
Do You Remember?
In the photo above, notice the “city limits” sign that points to Anchorage on one side and Spenard on the other.
It was like going on a ride at Disneyland.
The first escalator in Anchorage, was also the first in Alaska. On March 19, 1961, Anchorage shoppers visited Caribou’s Department Store for a ride.
Many had never been on an escalator before. We you there? Tell us about it.
In 1961, Spenard was its own town and a suburb of Anchorage. In 1975, Spenard became part of Anchorage.
Caribou’s Department Store became part of Montgomery Wards in the late 1960s. At that time it became known as “Caribou Wards”.
From Our North Stars (that’s you)
About our Anchorage Pioneers edition on Bert and Violet Wennerstrom.
“As usual, your use of “personal history” adds just what we who were born and raised in Anchorage need beyond the “do you remember the X stores”, etc. Thank you.”
About the home of Anchorage Pioneers, Bert and Violet Wennerstrom, located at 415 West 8th Avenue.
“Thanks for sharing. Enjoyed reading their history. Is the house still standing today?”
“I grew up a block away from their 8th Avenue home. Nice family and the house was always so well-kept. The house is no longer there, a day care building is on the property, and it has a nice display of the history of the family on the sidewalk.”
“Did not know about this couple but what a great story. I do remember the Sports Arena though. We lived on, 23rd street just below fireweed lane so we went there to ice skate. Also went to school for a short time close to Spenard near the arena. And then when the Fireweed Theater was put in, that was the spot for us kids. What a great memory. Thank you.”
“I didn't know Bert's and Violet's history, so that was all fascinating. I DO remember the Sports Arena, and have great memories of events there. One of my very favorite memories of all time, is when Andre Crouch and his sister did a concert there. I think it was in 1975.”
Connect with Us
In the photo above is Mary of Anchorage Memories when she was one of the Fringe Benefit dancers (go-go girls) for Pacesetters when the Turtle’s (“Happy Together”) performed at the Sports Arena. The big fellow next to Mary is Mark Volman of the Turtles.
Did you enjoy this look back at Beatlemania in Anchorage?
You can easily send along your comments by replying to this email. Or you can say, “I was in Anchorage when the Beatles came to town” and Contact Us directly.
Did you play the Anchorage Memories Game Show? It’s lots of fun, so scroll back up and see if you can guess who brought the first Beatles records to an Anchorage record shop.
Until Next Time
Mike and Mary