This morning we docked in Skagway, a town of about 3000 people, not counting tourists. The dockside was a total contrast to what we encountered in Juneau, which was a complicated assemblage of docks and slips, with all sorts of facilities for small cargo. In Skagway we tied up to a simple concrete dock, nothing more. There is a wall of rough stone wall facing us, painted with all sorts flags, banners, and symbols of local organizations.
For a while I worked with Tony checking out the slides and video for our performance
tomorrow, and it looks everything will go quite well.
After a leisurely lunch, Teresa and I decided to go on Skagway’s “Ghosts & Good Time Girls Walking Tour”. It was really fun. Our guide went by the name of Rosie Bumps, was fully costumed as a lady of the evening in the wild wild West. She introduced our driver, Polly as the “second-best ride in town”. Our guide was actually trained as an opera singer, and also
has a business degree. She thought her family would not think well of her job here, but then she found out her aunt had actually been a cancan dancer here in the 1980s! She had known her aunt was in Alaska but she really didn’t know what she was doing!
We got a few history tidbits along the way. The Klondike Gold Rush, which essentially created the town of Skagway, was the shortest gold rush anywhere lasting only from 1898 to 1900. You’ll hear different numbers about who traveled to find gold, but she said it was 100,000, which 4000 found gold, 100 found enough to make it worthwhile, and 20 people became rich. Of those, only six managed to stay rich. Among them, the Nordstrom family, and Donald Trump’s grandfather, who built the very first Trump Hotel, here in Skagway. The Levi brand got started here, supplying tents and pants to the prospectors.
Skagway was a rough and tough town, and
gunfire could be heard every night. There were 83 brothels and one church, at one point. Girls who walked the street could charge one dollar a trick, a “crib girl”, that is one who had a place and a bed, could charge three dollars, and if she worked in a brothel, the price was five dollars but she only got to keep a dollar and a quarter. But she got free room
and board, and a clothing allowance.
Dance Hall girls were at the top of the pecking order, not only because they earned $125 a week, but also because they could pick and choose their clients.
The Ghost part of the tour was a little thin, but then, the ghosts have to cooperate, and apparently few did. There was one notable local resident, Harriet Cohen who told stories until she died in her 80s in 1947.
We finished up the tour with a glass of champagne in the Red Onion Saloon which
was a regular bar downstairs, and a museum upstairs where the girls used to work. When a customer paid downstairs he received a token, which he gave to the girl. At the end, she dropped the token into a hole in the floor (which had a pipe leading to the office), signifying she was ready for her next customer.
We made it back to the boat just in time to have dinner with Tony and Greta.
We then headed for the Universe Lounge (where we will sing tomorrow), to hear Steve Hites perform his “North to Alaska” show with the guitar and harmonica. It was both informative and fun.