Anchorage Pioneers

Do you remember Nikko Garden, the Chop Suey House or Snow White Laundry and Cleaners? Meet Anchorage's pioneer family, the Kimura's in this edition.

Water color of Nikko Garden by Alaska artist Cindy Pendleton

The story of the Kimura family in Anchorage doesn’t start with Nikko Garden, but for those of us who lived in Anchorage when the original restaurant was still in Spenard, this picture holds a treasure chest of memories.

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One Afternoon at the 4th Avenue Theater, Long Ago

Somewhere between the newsreel and the main movie, I sat there, a young boy in the 4th Avenue Theater above, when an ad filled the screen.

The first thing I noticed was that it was for a local Anchorage business. I had heard the name, “Snow White Laundry and Cleaners” many times before, but knew nothing about them. But I found myself being fascinated by their movie theater ad.

You see, Snow White Laundry and Cleaners got it’s humble start back in the days when Anchorage was just a “tent City”.

Anchorage 1916

It was muddy, crude and only there because of the Alaska Railroad.

Welcome to Anchorage around 1914, 1915 and 1916. It was just a “tent city” that sprang up around the mouth of Ship Creek.

Yusuke “Harry” Kimura and Katsuyo (Yamasaki) Kimura moved from Seattle to what was then Anchorage and took over a small hand laundry from a relative and gave it the name “H&K Hand Laundry. It was located near 5th Avenue and C Street.

There was no running water.

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Chop Suey House

Then Harry opened the Cop Suey House next door to the laundry.

The Kimura Family Grows

Clockwise from left.

Sam Kimura, William (Bill) Kimura, George Kimura, Louise Kimura Wood.

World War II

In 1941, Harry Kimura was locked in a barracks at Anchorage’s Fort Richardson as part of America’s wartime “internment” program.

During that time, his son George was in basic training and was given MP duty outside the detention center.

Snow White Laundry and Cleaners

After World War II, the Kimuras returned to Anchorage and expanded their H&K Hand Laundry into Snow White Laundry and Cleaners.

Along the way, they also opened a restaurant called “The Golden Pheasant Cafe on D Street between 4th and 5th Avenues.

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Nikko Garden

Opened in 1966 and located on Spenard Road near Spenard Lake, Nikko Garden was Anchorage’s finest Oriental restaurant.

For many years, it was “the” place to go in Anchorage.

A Very Special Note:

Today (June 7) marks the 50th wedding anniversary for me (Mike) and my wife Mary.

I mention this here, because for many years, Mary and I celebrated our anniversary with dinner in one of those memorable private rooms in Nikko Garden.

Today, that restaurant location is but a wonderful memory for so many Alaskans.

In 1979, Nikko Garden burned down.

I was shooting news video for KTVA at that time and following the fire, I was assigned to go inside and shoot video of the charred remains. I can still remember the strange, tragic sight of the pond that ran the length of the restaurant.

It was covered with black soot and burnt debris was floating in the once beautiful water.

But we will always have the wonderful memories of this fine Kimura restaurant.

The Family

Sam Kimura became a photographer and taught at the University of Anchorage, Alaska for 23 years.

William “Bill” Kimura became a painter, sculptor and teacher.

The Nikko Garden - Gwennie’s Connection

Gwennie Thornton and George Kimura

Anchorage Memories did a story about Gwennie’s Old Alaskan Restaurant in Spenard.

Gwennie told us that when her and her mother first came to Anchorage, they rented an apartment from the Kimura family and got to know them.

Then one evening, many years later, Gwennie decided to drive down Spenard road from her restaurant and visit Nikko Garden.

When she walked in the restaurant and George Kimura saw her, he nearly fainted because he hadn’t seen her in so many years.

You can read more about Anchorage’s Kimura Family right now.

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response from our VIP members following our look at Anchorage Movie Theaters.

Welcome back! I’ve learned a lot about my hometown and you’ve jogged memories of things I haven’t thought about for years. I can only say YAY! Juanita.

Well done and thank you for the trip down memory lane. My favorite theater was the Empress. It was so pretty inside. But my first job was at the 4th Avenue Theater. Diana

Loved the article on Anchorage Movie Theaters. I had to laugh when you mentioned seeing “The Brain that Wouldn’t Die”. I’m still scared to watch that one. Michael

Welcome back John

I remember going to the movies as a kid at the old 4th Avenue Theater. You could watch a movie for a cereal box top and 10-25 cents on Saturday Patti

Charton Heston in the movie “Earthquake”. I went to the Anchorage premiere. A lot of people were dressed up. I had just come from work. Tried not to feel too weird. Kathy.

When young, avid watcher at the Empress and 4th Ave. When empress closed and got a bit older, I added the Denali theater. 4th had Saturday matinees with old black and white western Cliff Hangers*** Denali always had a double feature. Loved those theaters*** Pat

I remember going there as a young girl in the 60s and seeing Elvis Presley’s movies. The smell of the buttered popcorn was like no other. The artwork in the lobby was breathtaking. Clairese

Do You Have Pictures?

photo courtesy of Cindy Pendleton (Anchorage in 1968)

Anchorage Memories is looking for pictures of Anchorage in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

Do you have your pictures in albums or are they stored in a closet or dusty attic?

Now you can share them with people who will appreciate those precious memories. Just send your pictures as an email attachment.

Remember to tell us what the picture is, the year and who’s in the picture. We’ll be happy to use your name if we use your picture on the Anchorage Memories website, our Facebook Group or in our newsletter.

w… hard to believe we’ve come to the end of this edition of Anchorage Memories VIP Newsletter.

Where did the time go?

Well, Mary and I are celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary today (June 7), with a romantic drive along the coast on California’s Pacific Coast Highway.

Do you have a question, comment or just want to say “Happy Anniversary Mike & Mary”.

It’s easy. Just send us an email to Contact Us right now.

Until next time

Mike & Mary