UA Journey

1951-1953 Essie Rock Dale

Essie Rock Dale, Fairbanks. Photo: Essie Rock Dale and Jack Ferguson papers and photographs, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage

Fairbanks

Mrs. Essie Rock Dale was born on February 1, 1881 in Mankato, Kansas and moved to Wyoming early in life. She graduated from the University of Wyoming with a B.S. degree. She began teaching school and rose to school superintendent in Jackson, Wyoming. She married Ford J. Dale on June 1, 1908.

When the national economic depression of the 1930s caused widespread unemployment, the Dales decided to go to Alaska. They arrived in Fairbanks in 1937, driving up the Richardson highway in a new car, which had only a down payment on it. Dale was a semi-invalid and the young son was still a minor. The father and son began contracting for building construction while Mrs. Dale opened a small dress shop.

World War II came along and the construction business was suspended but the ladies-read-to-wear shop, known as the Travelknit shop, flourished. Daughter Mrs. Dorothy McCulloch joined her mother in the business in 1942 and so did the menfolk, changing the name to the Dale Enterprises. The eldest daughter Inez continued to teach school in Wyoming. Later she came to Alaska and while teaching school at Ft. Yukon met and married Jack Ferguson, the manager of the Northern Commercial company's store.

Dale Enterprises expanded to include sporting goods and men's clothing. Later it added motor repair and gunsmith. In 1953 an ultra-modern fireproof building was built to house the Sportsman shop. The Dales also owned a fishing lodge on Paxton Lake. Mr. Dale passed away in 1950. Mrs. Dale opened three women's dress shops in different parts of town. She marveled at her financial success inasmuch as she arrived broke and past fifty years of age.

In Dale's backyard - Bob Bartlett etc. Photo: Essie Rock Dale and Jack Ferguson papers and photographs, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage

Mrs. Dale had been active in Democratic politics while in Wyoming so rose quickly to divisional chairmanship in Fairbanks and was elected national committeewoman in 1948 for a four-year term.

Governor Gruening's appointment of Mrs. Dale to the board of Regents was the occasion of one of the most tumultuous political reactions in the territorial legislature. She was appointed to fill-out the unexpired term of Mrs. Harriet Hess, who died in 1951. Gruening made the appointment after the legislature had adjourned that year. She was serving as Democratic national committeewoman for Alaska and had served in the 1949 House of Representatives.

When Mrs. Dale's name came up for confirmation in the 1953 legislature, composed of thirty-one Republicans and nine Democrats, it met with strong opposition. Democrat Wendell Kay proposed confirmation and Republican Miscovich from Fairbanks, objected on the grounds that a majority of the Fourth Division delegation in the legislature were opposed to the appointment. Miscovich had even wired Mrs. Dale suggesting that she resign but she refused. The vote against confirmation was 26 to 13; all those voting against her were Republicans except Mark Jensen, an anti-Gruening Democrat. The Democrats called it foul politics but the Republicans denied they were playing partisan politics. The reappointments of Republicans Elmer Rasmuson and Andrew Nerland were confirmed.

Essie Rock Dale, Fairbanks (1954). Photo: Essie Rock Dale and Jack Ferguson papers and photographs, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage

When Frank Heintzlman took over the governorship from Gruening he appointed Republican Mrs. Audrey Loftus of Fairbanks to fill Mrs. Hess's unexpired term.

She remained active in her businesses, assisted by her son and daughter, until her death in Fairbanks on June 14, 1965. She was 84 years old.


Source:

BOR file

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