AMHS Celebrates 50 years in Southeast
The Alaska Marine Highway System will celebrate with towns all along the Southeast for the 50 year anniversary of service to this area.
The Motor Vessel Malaspina made its inaugural trip to Petersburg at 6 p.m. Sunday, April 28, 1963 and Friday, the Malaspina will make port here again at 6 p.m.
“We have activities scheduled once people have boarded,” Petersburg Chamber of Commerce Director Sally Dwyer said. “That is when the Leikerring Dancers will dance being led by Heidi Lee.”
Dwyer said she did not know what the ferry system had scheduled once everyone has boarded, there will be plenty for everyone to see and do.
“When we didn't have the ferry system, 51 years ago,” Dwyer remembered. “We had to fly everywhere, or take fishing boats and most didn't travel at all.”
Dwyer explained that the quality of food was different as well.
“Food only came in by the Alaska Steamship,” she stated. “Milk was always frozen and the ferry system just opened up the world for us here.”
The AMHS allowed students to travel for sports and gave everyone an opportunity to travel.
“This was a huge opportunity for us,” Dwyer stated. “And it was very affordable.”
Dwyer remembered that she was eight years old when the Malaspina first made port in Petersburg and she can remember dancing for the governor's wife on the car deck.
“The whole town turned out for the first ferry landing,” she stated. “We had no idea how much this service would change our lives, but it became apparent quickly.”
Dwyer also stated that the ferry was so modern since they were used to traveling on old fishing boats.
Instead of drinking hot chocolate on a smelly fishing boat, we were in a lighted cafeteria,” she said. “This was so different and more than most of us island kids would have ever expected to see.”
Dwyer worked for the AMHS for several years and loved her job.
“I enjoyed working on the system so much,” she said. “It was like a family and I look forward to celebrating this milestone with the town and the Malaspina.”
The ferry will port at 6 p.m. and the Petersburg Chamber of Commerce has been holding a trivia contest for a golden ticket to be awarded on the ferry Friday evening. Another golden ticket will be awarded to someone aboard the ferry that evening as well. Petersburg Borough Mayor Mark Jensen will present a gift of a Rosemalled plate that was painted by Cathy Harris.
Tours of the ship and the bridge will be available as well as special gifts that can be purchased in the gift shop.
“We have made over 500 cookies in the shape of the map of Alaska, a boat and a flag for gifts as people begin to leave the ferry,” Dwyer said. “As they leave port, the community of Petersburg will send them away under a shower of fireworks.”