Written by Joe Granquist with photos added by Kristin (Johnson/Granquist) Peterson

Joseph Lee Granquist is the father of Gary William Granquist

Joseph Lee Granquist
born April 14, 1917

Oakland Hotel

1942 - Joe and Lee Granquist

Hired again at Alaska Steamship Company

I went back to the ticket office (at Alaska Steamship Company) and was lucky enough to get hired again. I was just a clerical worker, but I did learn something about tickets.  Dean Stockman was the youngest of the counter employees.  From him I learned that with each ticket they sold, they would suggest “trip insurance” and just about every traveler would buy.  They got 60% commission on the insurance and kept track and settled up with the insurance company individually.  That was a lot of money.  Dean was making $150 in salary and averaged over $400 in insurance commissions.  How do you get in position to take the job if one of the six quit or retired?  One way was to make the trip to Seward and go to Anchorage by train and find out all the details so you could answer the questions passengers asked.  Dean Stockman had done that. I didn’t have the wherewithal or time to do that so I went to Pier Two and applied for freight clerk’s job.  W. T. Ford was the auditor’s name and it wasn’t too long that he called and I went out as “Jr. Jr.” Purser on the Yukon.

I kept a log of the ships I sailed on and am enclosing it herewith. After Pearl Harbor on the Mount McKinley the company was at a loss of how the ships would be used.  The Seattle Port of Embarkation was just starting in January 1942 and I found a niche there. 

In the summer of 1943, the Port Purser at Alaska Steam called my boss at the port and I got permission to go on the George Flavel, a liberty troop carrier, to Bristol Bay.  Bobby Winslow was the Purser, but they wanted me to go along to give Bobby some help.  I’d been up there on the Clevedon so had an idea (of what to expect). The Seattle port was all in a dither about the end of 1943 and the start of 1944.  It had decided that there would be no draft deferments.  I actually went to the Navy and made application to hopefully get in as an ensign.  In the process you end up with a lieutenant commander who reviewed your paperwork and gave you an okay or no. He saw I had been a Purser on commercial ships and said, “You can get a job tomorrow as a Purser so I’m not going to okay you’re going the Navy where we will have to train you before we could get you into duty status.”  He also said, “You’d do better for money as a merchant man… And you can start as soon as you want.”

So I sailed again on the M.S. Derblay 01-27-44 and continued until 1968 when I went ashore as Port Purser. The company folded up for me November 1970 and I started with the MM & P (Master, Mates & Pilots) on February 1, 1971. You are knowledgeable about these last few years so really I think I can stop here.

Up above I mentioned the George Flavel and the one trip that I’ve made that year in 1943. One of my coworkers on the Seattle Port of Embarkation saw the daily position report of ships out of Seattle. He called Mildred and let her know where we were and what ETD was shown. The ship started back to Seattle but was diverted to San Francisco and expected to load foreign. Her contact at the port suggested that if she wanted to see me she should go down. Mildred, I thought, knew that I’d only be on that ship for only one trip and then go back working at the port. When she got to San Francisco she inquired about the ship and how she could contact me. In a matter of minutes she’s upstairs in some admirals office answering all kinds of questions. Somehow she pacified them and could get into a hotel. I think I got in the next day and got the word from the agent that she was there and the location. And really I was free to go. As you know the MSTS (Military Sea Transportation Service) Manning only allowed one Purser.


Fred Lindquist - 1933

1933 - Joe's initiation on the Elwyn C. Hale cannery ship.
Joe is sitting on the far left next to the man with the white hat.

The Elywn C. Hale Cannery Ship
He (Fred) arranged for me to go through the company doctor, and get a permit from the longshoreman to go out to the cannery ship Elwyn C. Hale. There wasn’t any assurance of the job but the Superintendent told Fred that if someone didn’t show up I maybe could go.  It worked… I got a job and sailed about two weeks before school was completed.  I’d gone to the Principle and he consulted with my teachers and allowed me to graduate and take the job.  I told him it was my only chance to make some money to start college in the fall.

The whole cannery crew was jammed onto this relatively “little” ship and we eventually anchored up in Dillingham, Bristol Bay. The cannery was “Wood River Cannery” operated by the Alaska Salmon Company.  I did whatever I was told to do: peeled potatoes and vegetables en route on the ship; got into the “monkey wrench gang” at first in the cannery, then went out on a tender as deckhand/cook.  And back to the cannery stacking cases or any other odd job they had.  Got back to San Francisco two months and 23 days after we had sailed and I had a $329 payoff.

Working before heading off to College

During the summer my mother had moved up and joined my dad in the house he had built in Alderwood Manor.  
I went out to the University in Berkeley, but I was too late… couldn’t get in for that semester.

There was a party on Saturday night the week I got back from Alaska where mostly kids from our class in school attended.  I was amazed to learn that most of the boys had been trying or looking for anything at all and had gone the whole summer without any job at all.  Whitey was at the party and he and his brother were working for Alaska Packers in Alameda.  They suggested I be down at the gate 6:30 Monday morning with a chance to get hired.

I went down on Monday morning but there must have been 500 men already there.  A 17-year-old kid doesn’t stand much chance and I recognized it and walked down Santa Clara Blvd. looking for a phone booth.  At the Encinal terminal I walked toward the building and when I was about 10 feet away the door opens and someone calls out “Hey! Bub! Do you want a job.”  

Of course I did, so I started at $.50 an hour $20 a week.

1931 - Joe Granquist (age 14)

Joseph Leander Granquist and Emma Charlotta Olivia (Anderson) Granquist

Mildred and I were married on September 13, 1939

Mildred’s mother had passed away in the spring and she had taken an apartment and gave 14-year-old youngest sister, Violet, a place to call home.  We were married on September 13, 1939 and moved into the apartment.  As much as possible, I tried to make friends with Violet and succeeded somewhat in gaining her confidence.

Canadian National had a policy that their female employees could not be on the payroll if they were married.  Mildred knew this so she seized being on the payroll on September 12th.  Somewhere on 1 January 1940 I got an awful shock… Alaska Steam laid me off to come back “when they would call”.  I was fortunate-when I worked at Milani’s I assisted an accountant John Lucurell.  We met just on the street and went to have coffee someplace. I ended up as a “traffic manager” for G. P. Halferty, a canner of clams, etc. and a broker selling canned salmon usually under private labels.  I don’t remember the salary but I believe it was a little better than the ticket office.  The job itself was very stressful… I managed to get by but just barely.  Halferty himself got into financial straits and his bank physically took over his offices.  Offices were in the Exchange Building when we closed on a Friday night.  On Monday morning the Exchange Building offices were locked and signs directed you to the Coleman Building across the street.  We were given a termination paycheck by some bank employee that we didn’t know.

​Joseph Lee Granquist

December 25, 1941 - Mildred and Lee Granquist

Mildred Stout (age 19)

I worked there until I headed for the University of Washington in Seattle. The UW had four quarters in the year and the fall quarter starts around 1st of  October.  I stayed at my sister Ellen’s in Seattle for a couple of weeks when school first started.  Then got a house boys job at the Sigma Chi Fraternity. There I met Don Cuff and we have been close friends ever since.

Milani's
My money lasted for three quarters so in June 1935,  I had to find a job.  I got on with Milani’s… a small food manufacturer of pasta products.  Chef Milani sold the company to a Washington co-op firm and that meant new managers.  I didn’t like the changes but I also knew the job so I kept going. 

High School in Oakland, CA
In the fall of 1931 I was starting the 10th grade.  In our neighborhood was a man named Guy Brown.  He lived with his mother and had an office downtown as an architect.  I knew that things were tight financially at home and managed to get hired for the school cafeteria.  There were two lunch hours-one for the junior high school students and one for the seniors.  Guy Brown offered a job as an office boy. The pay was practically nothing (like a dollar a week) but it was also an opportunity to learn drafting and possibly other skills.

Guy Brown and my parents were acquainted and they had no objection to my spending so much time with him.  For some reason he almost adopted me as his son.  He had brothers with families, but he had not married himself because he felt obligated to keep the home going for his mother.  He played the piano quite well, was a tenor and sang with the Oakland Orpheus Society (two concerts a year in the Civic Auditorium) and I got to to to the rehearsals, go with him to bridge parties, to swimming beaches in Alameda, and during the winter of 1931, he took me skiing in Yosemite.

Growing Up and the Stock Market Crash of '29

My mother was 42 and my dad 49 when I was born. Later, when I was in the eighth grade, sister Ruth was a teacher in Shannon, California and Esther was married in December 1930, so I was a young boy with relatively old parents.

1931 Joe Granquist performing a hand stand at the Russian River north of San Francisco, CA

Berkeley, California had a fire in 1922 the burned literally thousands of homes and small businesses.  The same friend that had urged him to move from Bismarck to Everett went down to the Bay Area and wrote him about all the work opportunities in that area.

This time he (my Dad) went down just by himself - got work right away and bought a lot about six blocks away from the duplex he had rented.

My mother, Esther, Ruth and I went down by train approximately six months after he got there.  I’d started kindergarten in Everett and was finished up in Oakland.  He built our house at 2533 13thAve. in Oakland and we moved in about October in 1924.

I went to Bella Vista grade school and somehow, in the process, skipped a grade… Oakland Junior and Senior High School opened in 1927 and I was there in the seventh grade.  Eventually I graduated in 1934.


The 1923 Berkeley Fire was a conflagration which consumed some 640 structures, including 584 homes in the densely-built neighborhoods north of the campus of the University of California in Berkeley, California on September 17, 1923.   1923 Berkeley Fire

1931 Joe Granquist swimming at the Russian River north of San Francisco, CA

1935 BILLBOARD ADVERTISING FAMOUS CHEF MILANI'S TAMALE PETITE.......SEATTLE AND TACOMA DECEMBER 9, 1935

Photo courtesy of Milani


Photo above is from left to right: Oscar (Wally), Harold, Joseph, Emma, Esther, and Ellen taken in 1903 in Everett, WA. 

More to Joe's Story
The lives of Joe's parents, Joseph and Emma Granquist

The lives of Joe's grandparents, John and Clara Anderson



The following is a photo presentation of Joe's life in photos created by Jessie (Vinson) Beltran (and family) in 2004.  



Alaska Steamship Company

Alaska Steamship Company had a huge ticket office in the northwest corner of the Olympic Hotel building.  They had just about 100% of the passenger traffic to the territory and there were two sailings a week.  Mildred sometimes had coffee in a shop that was kitty corner from the Alaska Steam office.  She overheard them talking about hiring a new person for their summer rush in 1938.  She suggested I go in and apply.  I got hired “just for the summer” but the pay was $125 as compared with $95 at the University of Washington.  It was an information office as well as ticketing passengers.  

They had a general agent in charge, a traveling agent, six ticket clerks, an auditor, two reservation clerks, a male secretary and then me.  It was interesting and I enjoyed the generally good feelings that was in that office and seemed to extend down to offices on the piers as well.  Eventually I was laid off but went right back to Western Union, the same job, same hours.

In 1939 I went back to the ticket office (at Alaska Steamship Company) a little earlier and thought I had a permanent job.  Tom Maloney had been the secretary for several years and worked all year.  The agent in Anchorage took sick and they sent Tom up to Anchorage to take over.  He did that for over 30 years.  I assumed Tom’s job duties in the office and my immediate boss assumed I would be kept on all year just as Tom Maloney had.

In late 1928 my dad and a partner bought a lot next to the Lakeside Baptist Church, where we all attended, with plans to build an apartment house of 32 units.  They were then about 62 and this was going to be for their retirement. They started early in 1929 and had it ready to rent in the fall of 1930.  I really don’t know the details but they put an awful lot of their money into the project as well as getting a substantial loan from a bank.  With the stock market crash in 1929 and the depression that developed in the next three years, when they were ready to rent they couldn’t even get half of the rent that they had projected.  To make a long story short, the bank got the building and Dad and his partner lost everything.  

Driver's License at 14!
My brother, Harold, worked in Martinez (California) for Shell Oil Company.  After the apartment fiasco he and my dad built a house for Harold.  Harold paid him so that kept us going for about six months.  Then in the summer of 1931 he had bought a lot next to Harold’s and built a house on it.  I was his helper.  It also was the year I learned to drive.  When we left Oakland on Mondays he would drive out through Richmond in our 1922 four door Chevrolet.  Then I’d get to drive to Martinez. By the time the summer was over I was driving all the way.  You could get a license at that time when you were 14.  

My dad did sell that house and I presume it made some money for him.  I learned some things from the experience… I knew there had to be a better way to make a living than using a pick and shovel.

So, before the summer ended, I had a driver’s license and have had one ever since.

Manning's Coffee Cafe, Seattle, 1962

Manning's Coffee Cafes were very popular with Seattle residents.  Around 1950, the company had ten restaurants in various parts of the city where they sold "home-style food, delicious coffee, and heavenly cakes to take hom."  The company also had its own bakery and coffee roasting plant.

1919 (Mom and Me)
Emma (age 27) and her son, Joe Granquist (age 2)

My dad was born in Sweden in 1867.  He had one brother and when his parents were killed in an accident both boys were taken by an uncle in Goteburg (Sweden).  They were teenagers and the uncle saw that they went through the equivalent of high school.  They both worked in their uncle’s shoe shop and one of my dad’s chores was to deliver shoes or boots often to ships in the harbor.  He made friends with the sailing ship captain who promised him “next trip” you can go with me.   And it happened - the next trip was some 10 months later when he bundled up his belongings and joined the ship as a cabin boy.

They went to a number of ports in Europe and South America and eventually ended up in Baltimore approximately 3 years later.  In Baltimore he simply “jumped ship.”  At that time Baltimore was almost a Swedish colony.  He got a job laying ties for the railroad going west.  Language was no barrier because the whole crew were Swedes.  When he got to Bismarck, North Dakota he decided to try a job in one place.  He told me once that he learned some English, learned to swear, drink whiskey, smoke cigars and gamble.  He didn’t say it but, when I was older, I imagine he was a patron at the “red light” hotels.

He found a job in a wheat mill outside of Bismarck, got a place in a board and rooming house and started attending a Swedish Baptist Church.  He met Emma at church functions and got invited for Sunday dinners, etc.

Emma Charlotta Olivia Anderson was also from Sweden.  She had come over with her aunt and uncle when she was about seven.  Her parents came about three years later and after they got a place, she lived with them.  Both her parents and her aunt and uncle attended the Swedish Baptist Church.  Joseph Leander Granquist and Emma were married on December 19, 1891 at the church in Bismarck.

Standard Oil Tanker 

In the spring of 1936 I got a chance to ship out as a wiper on a Standard oil tanker. 

Wiper -- Performs manual labor in engine department, such as cleaning and painting and assists in repair work. 

The ship went from Seattle to El Segundo, CA and stopped in Richmond coming back. When we got back the 1st Assistant called me in and told me pack my gear and get off. I was simply shocked.  One of the A.B.s  (Able Bodied Seaman) had been in the cannery the previous summary and I learned from him later on that the 1st Assistant had a nephew that wanted a job so I was fired to make room for him.

Western Union

I didn’t want to tell my folks, or Ellen or Oscar so I just got out and found a room and started ringing doorbells to find a job.  I finally got hired as a delivery clerk by Western Union telegraph.  Essentially the job was to send the delivery boys out on routes to deliver or pickup telegrams.  After six months or so I requested the 4 PM to 12 midnight shift and got it.  Then I went back to University.  Took about 10 hours a quarter and went four quarters.  Lived with two roommates Don Cuff and Harold Rush in a basement apartment right close to the campus.  Western Union had many offices around downtown most of them closed by 6 PM.  Our office was open until midnight and that’s where I worked for the next few years. The 4 to 12 shift.  I liked it and I did accumulate some credit hours toward a degree.Met Mildred
Sometime in the summer of 1937 a very attractive gal came in the office and wanted to cash a check. That was taboo but I offered to lend her the five dollars.  She was a secretary for the Canadian National Railway just a couple of doors up the street from Western Union.  I would come to town half hour or so early to take her to coffee at Mannings.


My Senior Year at Oakland High and Jean Harlow

After the summer of 1933 and I was about to start my senior year in Oakland High, I realized I’d not participated in any school related activities… I’d allowed myself to be a part of an adult world rather than mingle with kids my own age.  I got away from this Guy Brown and had a normal social life in 1933-34. 

Two friends from high school are still friends:  Henry “Whitey” Gustafson and Ellen May Ohslund Martin.

Juneau, AK and my birth

In 1916 my dad bid on a school job in Juneau, Alaska. 

Emma (my mother) was pregnant again and my dad had gotten the job in Juneau and was to sail on Saturday, 14 April (1917).  Ellen, the oldest girl, had been a nurse in the Army in World War I, came home from Fort Lewis and actually delivered her mother’s last child.  That was me… in our house on Rucker Avenue in Everett.   My dad took one look at this boy they named Joseph Lee Granquist and then went to Seattle to sail on Saturday morning.  It just happened that I was born on Friday the 13th… I’m not superstitious and, as far as I’m concerned, it hasn’t been bad luck.

My parents lived in Bismarck, ND

My father continued working in the mill, they got 20 acres just outside Bismarck and he and his relatives built a house. Ellen was born in 1892, Harold in 1896, and Oscar in 1898.

Years later, when I too was married with small children, I asked her, “How in the world could you raise three children without electricity, running water, or toilets.”

Her answer, “We didn’t know different.  We pumped water from the well, we had an outhouse  -  it was hard, but we managed. “

The family moved to Everett, WA

Another Swedish family were neighbors and also members of the church.  His name was Walgren and about 1900 or 1901 he got the urge to go West.  He was a carpenter and found his way to Everett, Washington and landed a job right away.  
In a few months his family followed and he wrote my dad urging him to do the same. He took his advice and arranged to sell out in Bismarck and got on a train for Everett.  They all welcomed the chance to live where the climate was mild and get away from the severe winters.

My mother was pregnant when they moved and Esther was born after they had been in Everett about seven months.  My dad was very good with his hands and it didn’t take him long to learn the carpenter trade.  He pursued that kind of work for the rest of his life.  Ruth came along on July 29, 1906 and by that time they had a comfortable home and he was subcontracting floors and finish work and had a reasonable, steady 

Ellen May Ohslund in 1934

1917 Ruth (age 10), Ellen (age 24), Esther (age 13) with Joe, Jr.

Most of what I know about my first few years comes from my sister Ruth (age 11).  She was stuck with being babysitter.  Esther, three years older (age 14), did her share, too.  I gather, from what they have told me, that our mother wasn’t exactly pleased to have another baby when almost 43 years old, but she accepted the fact and certainly did her best to see that I was well cared for.

My dad was in Juneau for about 2 ½ years.  Of course, he kept the family solvent.  When he got back, work in Everett had slowed down and his prospects were not too good.  Then came disaster.

Construction from 1910 to 1912, the Hotel Oakland was built for over $3,000,000.  The Grand Opening of the Hotel Oakland took place on December 23, 1912.  Photo courtesy of Hotel Oakland.  

Whitey was a football player and very popular with members of our class… we are both Swedes and seem to have known each other forever.  When he was in the Marine Corps during World War II we saw him quite often, as I told you once, he often came out and stayed for a day or two even if I was off sailing.  I’ve talked to Whitey recently and will see him in October when we are supposed to have another reunion of the 1934 graduates of Oakland High.  Whitey Gustafson – 1916 to 2005

Ellen May was editor, I think, of the school paper and I remember going with her to interview Jean Harlow at the Oakland Hotel.  We went to a few dances and other school things but, in essence we were friends rather than boyfriend or girlfriend as some high school kids are. 

Jean Harlow:  She was becoming a superstar. In MGM's glittering all-star Dinner at Eight (1933) Jean was at her comedic best as the wife of a ruthless tycoon (Wallace Beery) trying to take over another man's (Lionel Barrymore) failing business. Later that year she played the part of Lola Burns in director Victor Fleming's hit Bombshell (1933). It was a Hollywood parody loosely based on Clara Bow's and Harlow's real-life experiences, right down to the latter's greedy stepfather, nine-room Georgian-style home with mostly-white interiors, her numerous pet dogs - right down to having her re-shoot scenes from the Gable and Harlow hit, Red Dust (1932) here! In 1933 Jean married cinematographer Harold Rosson, a union that would only last eight months (although Rosson lived another 53 years, he never remarried). Biography of Jean Harlow

Encinal Terminal, Alameda, CA

​photo courtesy of Encinal Terminal


1933 - Joe Granquist (age 16) skiing - he wrote 'Hotcha' on the photo!

​​​​  GRANQUIST

Mildred Stout - photostaken at Kennell-Ellis Studios


Alderwood Manor

My Dad tried every day to find work.  In 1932 and 1933 he, like thousands of others, just could not find a job.  He sold our house to sister Esther and her husband, Roland, and went back to Washington.  He and Harold had acquired 10 acres in Alderwood Manor (half way between Seattle/Everett) when Harold got out of the Navy in 1921. They had built a large chicken house on the property but Harold got hired by Shell Oil in Colinga, CA and never used the building at all. My mother and I lived with Esther and Roland my last year in school.  She had a room in the basement and I had my sleeping porch room that I’d always had.  There was a kitchen downstairs so we had our meals together and, Esther and Roland were very hospitable, but it was better that we could be “out of the way”, so to speak.

Fred Lindquist


My sister, Ruth, had a boyfriend (later husband) named Fred Lindquist.  He was from Finland and worked summers fishing in Bristol Bay, Alaska.  He was a “highliner” and much in demand up north.

“Highliners is the commercial fishermen’s term for their own elite, the skippers and crews who bring in the biggest hauls.”

1931 - Joe Granquist (age 14)