In 1952, Fairbanks was visited by the ghost of Dan McGrew. Fairbanks was being transformed from the old log cabins and wooden false front gold camp community to a modern city with cement, pavement, and other modern conveniences. The Polaris & Northward buildings were rapidly going up, the old steel overhead girder bridge was being replaced with the modern Cushman St. bridge still in use today, and the city streets were being paved. It was an exciting time to be in Fairbanks and the following story was printed in a local newspaper about what old “Dangerous Dan McGrew,” a character in a poem by Robert Service, would think of all that had been accomplished:
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner November 13, 1952
Dangerous Dan Is Against These New Fangled Things
By means of a spiritualist, or maybe it was an occultist, the News-Miner contacted the ghost of Dangerous Dan McGrew. Dangerous Dan passed on some 40 years ago, and it is reported he got a hot reception in the next world. At any rate, we’ve asked his ghost to look over present day Fairbanks, and tell just how his city differs from Alaskan and Yukon Territory communities of the rip roaring old days.
By Dangerous Dan McGrew
First of all, I would like to say that I’m right proud of Fairbanks. Few cities in Alaska are hanging on to the landmarks of the good old days like Fairbanks is. Why, some of these towns in Alaska are even paving their streets! Sissies, that’s what they are.
Lately, I been noticing some changes in Fairbanks, and they’re making me uneasy.
What’s the idea of building nine and eleven story buildings? A log cabin is good enough for the average guy. Every time I look at Fairbanks and see them two big buildings looming up, I wonder what’s got into Fairbanks. A man ain’t supposed to climb that high.
Are you folks serious when you say you’re going to build a new bridge across the Chena? What’s the matter with your old bridge? It was good enough for dog teams, and it ought to be good enough for cars.
What’s this rumor I hear about you paving your streets. Sure hope it isn’t true. Why, life ain’t natural unless you sink up to your hip boots in mud in the spring, and waller in dust in the summer. Man, you folks are Alaskans. You ain’t supposed to be walking around on pavement like New Yorkers. If you want paving, why don’t you move to New York?
I hear reports that you are thinking of installing a water system. Ain’t a well good enough for you? What do you want, and egg in your water? Suppose you’re thinking of putting our fires with that water! Back in the old days, we just let ’em burn when they caught on fire. Boys would bet on how long it would take the firemen to get a hose to the scene. That’s the way we used to do it.
Power plants, phooey! We didn’t need electricity back in the days when Alaskans were really Alaskans. We could see our drinks by coal oil lamp, and that was all we needed to see at night.
Paved streets, dial telephones, new bridges, modern stores, new power plants-all that stuff is for old ladies. If Fairbanks keeps putting in all these modern improvements, I’m going to start turning over in my grave.
Even the lady that was known as Lou didn’t figger she needed a bathtub, or an electric curling iron to pinch a poke, or win her man.
Note: It has been many years since we heard from the ghost of Dangerous Dan McGrew. All the municipal improvements he worked so hard to avoid have now come to pass— along with many more. We have more big buildings, lots of pavement, traffic lights o’plenty, LED lights, burn bans, water stations, and smart phones! This haunting History Nugget has been proudly brought to you by Men’s Igloo No. 4 and Women’s Igloo No. 8.