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Alaska Mining Hall of Fame honors trio for ground-breaking work

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Posted: Thursday, March 22, 2012 11:06 pm | Updated: 1:45 pm, Wed Jan 16, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — Oscar Tweiten and his cousin borrowed $39 to move to Alaska after the Tacoma door factory where they worked cut their hourly wages in half to 50 cents.

“We decided that if we were going to starve, we’d do it in Alaska,” he said later of his decision to head north during the Depression.

Glen Franklin and Don Cook also said farewell to the Northwest during the Depression and found a home in Alaska.

Franklin became a star college basketball player and earned a degree in business at the University of Alaska that prepared him for the business end of mining operations.

After a World War II detour that led him to Omaha Beach, Cook continued his mining studies in Fairbanks and became a leader in mining education in Alaska.

What the three men shared, other than their arrival in Alaska during the 1930s, was a record of individual and professional accomplishments recognized by their selection for membership in the Alaska Mining Halls of Fame.

In conjunction with the Alaska Miners’ Association conference, the three are to be inducted into the hall tonight at 7 p.m. in the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center.

Tweiten, who died in 2010 at 99, first worked on Cleary Creek, the biggest gold producer in Fairbanks. Inspired by the early tales of Felix Pedro’s “lost” gold mine, he ventured up the Goodpaster with partners on a pole boat that required “more pulling than poling.”

For more than 50 years, Tweiten mined and prospected for gold on Chatham Creek, Cleary Creek and elsewhere in the Fairbanks and Goodpaster districts.

“Oscar was a man of great modesty and he thanks his family daily for his good life and was possessed of a wonderful gentle spirit to the end,” wrote Curt Freeman and Judie Wischman, Tweiten’s daughter, in a biographical sketch.

For Franklin, who died in 2008 at 95, it was the study of accounting that led to his mining career.

After completing his studies at the university, Franklin went to work for Ernest Patty, the future UA president, keeping the books for two mining firms managed by Patty.

After World War II, when gold mining resumed, Franklin and four partners started a mining company that operated in the Fortymile River country and in the Yukon. Over the years the Yukon Placer Mining Co. processed 7.06 million cubic yards of gravel and recovered 163,960 troy ounces of gold.

In addition to his business work, Franklin was active in politics, serving as a territorial legislator and in his support of the university. He led the effort to get a statue of UA President Charles Bunnell placed on the UAF campus.

That campus was familiar territory to the third mining veteran to be inducted today, Don Cook, who died in 2009 at 89.

After recovering from injuries suffered during World War II, Cook continued his mining studies and went to work for the FE Company and learned all about the local gold dredges.

He earned both a master’s degree and doctorate in mining engineering and became a leading professor in that field at UAF. He also established academic exchange programs with Taiwan and served as a trade representative with that country after leaving the university.

The public is invited to attend the 7 p.m. induction and learn more about these three at the Thompson center at 101 Dunkel Street at the intersection with Wendell Avenue.

Fairbanksan Mary Nordale is president of the hall of fame. Board members include Paul Glavinovich, Irene Anderson, David Stone, Wallace McGregor, Earl Beistline, Joe Usibelli Sr., Karl Hanneman, Chuck Hawley, Tom Bundtzen, Curt Freeman and Sandra Miscovich.The group is working with a consultant on a feasibility study for an actual building to house the mining heritage represented in it membership of more than 80 mining leaders.

•••

BOOK AND BAKE SALE: The Zeta Chapter of Alaska Alpha Delta Kappa will hold a book and bake sale Saturday in the  Sadler’s foyer downtown from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The 29-member group, which includes teachers and retired teachers, says the sale will include a wide assortment of books and baked items.

The funds from this event go toward community services and for scholarships for graduating seniors.

•••

STAGE CLASSICS: The Fairbanks Drama Association and the Fairbanks Light Opera Theatre are doing what they do best this weekend — presenting two American theatrical standards this weekend for local audiences

FDA is continuing its presentation of “A Streetcar Named Desire” at the Riverfront Theatre, while FLOT is offering “Music Man” at the West Valley Performing Arts Center.

•••

PARADE PLANS: Channel 11 weatherman Mike Shultz and Lisa Herbert of the Chamber of Commerce are co-chairing the committee planning a “Salute to Our Military Parade,” set for May 12 from 10 a.m. to noon.

Shultz said the goal is to make this the biggest parade Fairbanks has ever seen. He said he got the idea some weeks ago when he saw news coverage of a big parade in St. Louis honoring soldiers.

Dermot Cole can be reached at cole@newsminer.com or 459-7530.

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