Q. What happened to the cattle roaming the flats of Strawberry Point in the 1930’s?
A. From our viewpoint looking back, it is difficult to even imagine herds of cattle ranging free in what now amounts to all of our back yards—and the Scottish Galloway mix cattle were everywhere, belonging to just about everyone. The Parkers had a herd of over a hundred strong. Harry Hall and Lester Rink had a group of “wild cattle” that got all mixed together (remember the wild cattle and the “Great Alaskan Shootout” tale?). Hank Johnson had a few he yoked together like oxen to pull his wagons and logs. It was a way of life, and the most tender, juicy steaks available anywhere were sold for miles around to nearby islanders and grateful canneries throughout the southeast. Just telling the story of the Galloway beef made our homesteaders salivate till the day they died—and made them hate the “Killer Bear” who plundered their herd even more with each passing year.
But, when the Parkers struck a deal with Rink and Hall to purchase their entire combined wild herd—ending the dangerous threat hanging over Gustavus like a heavy fog, there was an immediate problem of what to do with the meat. As luck would have it (and our homesteaders needed all the luck they could get), they were soon aided by “the strike of the decade”. Longshoremen walked off their jobs freezing trade and shutting down all ports along the Pacific coast. A severe supply line crisis affected Alaska in short order—just the right time for marketing locally grown beef to a hungry and worried Juneau crowd.
So, 77 years ago this fall and following a long period of Labor unrest, with great fanfare the Parker brothers opened the Parker Beef meat department counter in the popular Corner Market on the Willoughby Avenue waterfront in Juneau, Alaska. The Point’s very own locally raised “baby steer beef” went to market aboard Abraham Parker’s homebuilt boat the “Edith A”—the flats first successful far-reaching enterprise since the rutabaga trade destined to be wiped out by rising tides, the freezing hand of mother nature, and sinking ships. Check out the prices in the ad that ran (in part) in the Daily Alaskan Empire and see if you can strike a “price match” next time you visit ToshCo, the Bear Track Mercantile, or Sunnyside Market…