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Longtime Soldotna couple named Progress Days royalty

Posted: Monday, July 23, 2001

When Jim and Betty Harris' oldest daughter, Janice, found out her parents had been named the king and queen of Soldotna's Progress Days she couldn't resist buying them title appropriate mugs.

Queen Betty's pink mug is adorned with a more feminine tiara whereas king Jim's blue one has a larger jewel encrusted crown.

So, if nothing else, the couple got new coffee mugs out of their newly appointed status.

Now they will be reminded for years to come of Progress Days 2001, when they got to ride in style in a horse-drawn carriage for all their subjects to see.

One subject, longtime friend Mike Sweeney, is a member of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce board of directors, and he pushed for them to be selected as this year's royalty.

"They are a very deserving couple, all of the old-timers just love them," he said. "They are good friends, and they do a lot of great things. They have been here a long time."

In fact, the Harrises have been Soldotna residents since 1960, when they made the move from Valdez.

Jim first arrived in Alaska as a recent high school graduate in April of 1951. He worked with his brother for the Alaska Road Commission out of Valdez.

In 1954, he was working at the 47-mile camp with a man who turned out to be his future bride's father.

"We got to talking, and I found out he had a good lookin' daughter," Jim said.

Betty and her family had moved to Valdez from Montana earlier that year. They actually lived at Slate Creek Mines from 1936 to 1938 but moved back to Montana until joining her aunt and uncle in Valdez nearly 20 years later.

Betty and Jim were married in 1955 shortly after he was drafted into the Army. In those days, Alaskans who were drafted were required to stay in the state, so the couple moved to Anchorage for 16 weeks while Jim completed basic training at Fort Richardson.

Then he was stationed at Fort Greely in Big Delta for the remainder of his term, which turned out to be 17 months and one day.

The couple moved back to Valdez for a few years, but in 1960 they decided their children needed to be raised elsewhere, and they relocated to Soldotna.

Jim got a job with Weaver Brothers, grading and maintaining the gravel road from Soldotna to Homer, and he and Betty lived in a 10-foot-wide trailer on the company's land in Sterling. For the first few years, he worked for Weaver until the state took over maintenance of the road.

In the mid-1960s, he started to haul oil field equipment around the Kenai Peninsula. Over the years he has owned two trucking businesses. From 1962-69, he owned and operated Arctic Motor Freight, and in 1976 they started Hustlers Inc. That business was sold in 1989, six years after the couple built J-B Stor 'n' Lok, which they still operate today.

Throughout the past 40 years the couple has spent in Soldotna, they have survived an earthquake and a lot of changes. The census in 1960 recorded 332 people living in the area, a far cry from the more than 4,000 that now reside here.

However, back then, the only road through town was gravel with deep ditches on either side. Most of the land was still divided into homesteads, although some had been subdivided and portioned off. The area was still largely unpopulated and isolated, Betty said.

"I think there are probably more kids going to school here than lived on the entire peninsula at the time," Jim said.

Soldotna's businesses were family run, and everyone knew everyone else, the couple recalled.

"Then we had personal businesses, it was just so neat. Vera's Variety was the first store I ever went in," said Betty. "It was much more personal then; grocery stores were small. I can't say it is bad now, but it is different.

"I like to see progress. I don't think there is any way we can stop it. There is a lot more to do now."

In her younger days, Betty said, she didn't mind how closed off Soldotna was, but now she enjoys being able to access things.

"I am just pleased with Soldotna. I think they have done a super job."

While Jim was busy with their business, Betty occupied herself by giving back to the community.

The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce nominated her as Person of the Year in 1986 and elected her to its board of directors from 1991 to 1993.

For years, the couple was responsible for the Christmas lights hung on the chamber building and stairs down to the river. Betty also has committed herself to the different beautification projects around town.

After all of their efforts on behalf of the city, Sweeney and the rest of the board agreed it was time to repay them.

Betty just happened to stop by the chamber shortly after the decision was made. A staff member told her, and Betty admits she burst into tears.

"I was kind of shocked, honored and elated," she said. "I didn't mean to cry."

Jim on the other hand, said it was more for his wife than for him.

"Of course, she was all twitterpated," he said. "I really don't need this. It's neat for Betty, and it's an honor."

The couple's only obligation, as the weekend's royalty, is to ride in the parade. However, they plan to attend all of the events they can.

Their neighborhood is quite excited, said Betty. To have a king, queen and grand marshal, Les Anderson, all living on one block doesn't happen every day.

Jim and Betty said they are here to stay. They agree, deteriorating health would be the only thing that would ever chase them out of town to what they call a "Viagra Village" in the Lower 48.

"I guess we've been here long enough to qualify," Jim said. "It's really a young community, we are just barely getting started."

BYLINE1:By CARLY BOSSERT

BYLINE2:Peninsula Clarion

When Jim and Betty Harris' oldest daughter, Janice, found out her parents had been named the king and queen of Soldotna's Progress Days she couldn't resist buying them title appropriate mugs.

Queen Betty's pink mug is adorned with a more feminine tiara whereas king Jim's blue one has a larger jewel encrusted crown.

So, if nothing else, the couple got new coffee mugs out of their newly appointed status.

Now they will be reminded for years to come of Progress Days 2001, when they got to ride in style in a horse-drawn carriage for all their subjects to see.

One subject, longtime friend Mike Sweeney, is a member of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce board of directors, and he pushed for them to be selected as this year's royalty.

"They are a very deserving couple, all of the old-timers just love them," he said. "They are good friends, and they do a lot of great things. They have been here a long time."

In fact, the Harrises have been Soldotna residents since 1960, when they made the move from Valdez.

Jim first arrived in Alaska as a recent high school graduate in April of 1951. He worked with his brother for the Alaska Road Commission out of Valdez.

In 1954, he was working at the 47-mile camp with a man who turned out to be his future bride's father.

"We got to talking, and I found out he had a good lookin' daughter," Jim said.

Betty and her family had moved to Valdez from Montana earlier that year. They actually lived at Slate Creek Mines from 1936 to 1938 but moved back to Montana until joining her aunt and uncle in Valdez nearly 20 years later.

Betty and Jim were married in 1955 shortly after he was drafted into the Army. In those days, Alaskans who were drafted were required to stay in the state, so the couple moved to Anchorage for 16 weeks while Jim completed basic training at Fort Richardson.

Then he was stationed at Fort Greely in Big Delta for the remainder of his term, which turned out to be 17 months and one day.

The couple moved back to Valdez for a few years, but in 1960 they decided their children needed to be raised elsewhere, and they relocated to Soldotna.

Jim got a job with Weaver Brothers, grading and maintaining the gravel road from Soldotna to Homer, and he and Betty lived in a 10-foot-wide trailer on the company's land in Sterling. For the first few years, he worked for Weaver until the state took over maintenance of the road.

In the mid-1960s, he started to haul oil field equipment around the Kenai Peninsula. Over the years he has owned two trucking businesses. From 1962-69, he owned and operated Arctic Motor Freight, and in 1976 they started Hustlers Inc. That business was sold in 1989, six years after the couple built J-B Stor 'n' Lok, which they still operate today.

Throughout the past 40 years the couple has spent in Soldotna, they have survived an earthquake and a lot of changes. The census in 1960 recorded 332 people living in the area, a far cry from the more than 4,000 that now reside here.

However, back then, the only road through town was gravel with deep ditches on either side. Most of the land was still divided into homesteads, although some had been subdivided and portioned off. The area was still largely unpopulated and isolated, Betty said.

"I think there are probably more kids going to school here than lived on the entire peninsula at the time," Jim said.

Soldotna's businesses were family run, and everyone knew everyone else, the couple recalled.

"Then we had personal businesses, it was just so neat. Vera's Variety was the first store I ever went in," said Betty. "It was much more personal then; grocery stores were small. I can't say it is bad now, but it is different.

"I like to see progress. I don't think there is any way we can stop it. There is a lot more to do now."

In her younger days, Betty said, she didn't mind how closed off Soldotna was, but now she enjoys being able to access things.

"I am just pleased with Soldotna. I think they have done a super job."

While Jim was busy with their business, Betty occupied herself by giving back to the community.

The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce nominated her as Person of the Year in 1986 and elected her to its board of directors from 1991 to 1993.

For years, the couple was responsible for the Christmas lights hung on the chamber building and stairs down to the river. Betty also has committed herself to the different beautification projects around town.

After all of their efforts on behalf of the city, Sweeney and the rest of the board agreed it was time to repay them.

Betty just happened to stop by the chamber shortly after the decision was made. A staff member told her, and Betty admits she burst into tears.

"I was kind of shocked, honored and elated," she said. "I didn't mean to cry."

Jim on the other hand, said it was more for his wife than for him.

"Of course, she was all twitterpated," he said. "I really don't need this. It's neat for Betty, and it's an honor."

The couple's only obligation, as the weekend's royalty, is to ride in the parade. However, they plan to attend all of the events they can.

Their neighborhood is quite excited, said Betty. To have a king, queen and grand marshal, Les Anderson, all living on one block doesn't happen every day.

Jim and Betty said they are here to stay. They agree, deteriorating health would be the only thing that would ever chase them out of town to what they call a "Viagra Village" in the Lower 48.

"I guess we've been here long enough to qualify," Jim said. "It's really a young community, we are just barely getting started."

BYLINE1:By CARLY BOSSERT

BYLINE2:Peninsula Clarion

When Jim and Betty Harris' oldest daughter, Janice, found out her parents had been named the king and queen of Soldotna's Progress Days she couldn't resist buying them title appropriate mugs.

Queen Betty's pink mug is adorned with a more feminine tiara whereas king Jim's blue one has a larger jewel encrusted crown.

So, if nothing else, the couple got new coffee mugs out of their newly appointed status.

Now they will be reminded for years to come of Progress Days 2001, when they got to ride in style in a horse-drawn carriage for all their subjects to see.

One subject, longtime friend Mike Sweeney, is a member of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce board of directors, and he pushed for them to be selected as this year's royalty.

"They are a very deserving couple, all of the old-timers just love them," he said. "They are good friends, and they do a lot of great things. They have been here a long time."

In fact, the Harrises have been Soldotna residents since 1960, when they made the move from Valdez.

Jim first arrived in Alaska as a recent high school graduate in April of 1951. He worked with his brother for the Alaska Road Commission out of Valdez.

In 1954, he was working at the 47-mile camp with a man who turned out to be his future bride's father.

"We got to talking, and I found out he had a good lookin' daughter," Jim said.

Betty and her family had moved to Valdez from Montana earlier that year. They actually lived at Slate Creek Mines from 1936 to 1938 but moved back to Montana until joining her aunt and uncle in Valdez nearly 20 years later.

Betty and Jim were married in 1955 shortly after he was drafted into the Army. In those days, Alaskans who were drafted were required to stay in the state, so the couple moved to Anchorage for 16 weeks while Jim completed basic training at Fort Richardson.

Then he was stationed at Fort Greely in Big Delta for the remainder of his term, which turned out to be 17 months and one day.

The couple moved back to Valdez for a few years, but in 1960 they decided their children needed to be raised elsewhere, and they relocated to Soldotna.

Jim got a job with Weaver Brothers, grading and maintaining the gravel road from Soldotna to Homer, and he and Betty lived in a 10-foot-wide trailer on the company's land in Sterling. For the first few years, he worked for Weaver until the state took over maintenance of the road.

In the mid-1960s, he started to haul oil field equipment around the Kenai Peninsula. Over the years he has owned two trucking businesses. From 1962-69, he owned and operated Arctic Motor Freight, and in 1976 they started Hustlers Inc. That business was sold in 1989, six years after the couple built J-B Stor 'n' Lok, which they still operate today.

Throughout the past 40 years the couple has spent in Soldotna, they have survived an earthquake and a lot of changes. The census in 1960 recorded 332 people living in the area, a far cry from the more than 4,000 that now reside here.

However, back then, the only road through town was gravel with deep ditches on either side. Most of the land was still divided into homesteads, although some had been subdivided and portioned off. The area was still largely unpopulated and isolated, Betty said.

"I think there are probably more kids going to school here than lived on the entire peninsula at the time," Jim said.

Soldotna's businesses were family run, and everyone knew everyone else, the couple recalled.

"Then we had personal businesses, it was just so neat. Vera's Variety was the first store I ever went in," said Betty. "It was much more personal then; grocery stores were small. I can't say it is bad now, but it is different.

"I like to see progress. I don't think there is any way we can stop it. There is a lot more to do now."

In her younger days, Betty said, she didn't mind how closed off Soldotna was, but now she enjoys being able to access things.

"I am just pleased with Soldotna. I think they have done a super job."

While Jim was busy with their business, Betty occupied herself by giving back to the community.

The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce nominated her as Person of the Year in 1986 and elected her to its board of directors from 1991 to 1993.

For years, the couple was responsible for the Christmas lights hung on the chamber building and stairs down to the river. Betty also has committed herself to the different beautification projects around town.

After all of their efforts on behalf of the city, Sweeney and the rest of the board agreed it was time to repay them.

Betty just happened to stop by the chamber shortly after the decision was made. A staff member told her, and Betty admits she burst into tears.

"I was kind of shocked, honored and elated," she said. "I didn't mean to cry."

Jim on the other hand, said it was more for his wife than for him.

"Of course, she was all twitterpated," he said. "I really don't need this. It's neat for Betty, and it's an honor."

The couple's only obligation, as the weekend's royalty, is to ride in the parade. However, they plan to attend all of the events they can.

Their neighborhood is quite excited, said Betty. To have a king, queen and grand marshal, Les Anderson, all living on one block doesn't happen every day.

Jim and Betty said they are here to stay. They agree, deteriorating health would be the only thing that would ever chase them out of town to what they call a "Viagra Village" in the Lower 48.

"I guess we've been here long enough to qualify," Jim said. "It's really a young community, we are just barely getting started."

HEAD:Longtime Soldotna couple named Progress Days royalty

CREDIT:Photo by M. Scott Moon

CAPTION:Jim and Betty Harris are this year's Progress Days royalty.

BYLINE1:By CARLY BOSSERT

BYLINE2:Peninsula Clarion

When Jim and Betty Harris' oldest daughter, Janice, found out her parents had been named the king and queen of Soldotna's Progress Days she couldn't resist buying them title appropriate mugs.

Queen Betty's pink mug is adorned with a more feminine tiara whereas king Jim's blue one has a larger jewel encrusted crown.

So, if nothing else, the couple got new coffee mugs out of their newly appointed status.

Now they will be reminded for years to come of Progress Days 2001, when they got to ride in style in a horse-drawn carriage for all their subjects to see.

One subject, longtime friend Mike Sweeney, is a member of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce board of directors, and he pushed for them to be selected as this year's royalty.

"They are a very deserving couple, all of the old-timers just love them," he said. "They are good friends, and they do a lot of great things. They have been here a long time."

In fact, the Harrises have been Soldotna residents since 1960, when they made the move from Valdez.

Jim first arrived in Alaska as a recent high school graduate in April of 1951. He worked with his brother for the Alaska Road Commission out of Valdez.

In 1954, he was working at the 47-mile camp with a man who turned out to be his future bride's father.

"We got to talking, and I found out he had a good lookin' daughter," Jim said.

Betty and her family had moved to Valdez from Montana earlier that year. They actually lived at Slate Creek Mines from 1936 to 1938 but moved back to Montana until joining her aunt and uncle in Valdez nearly 20 years later.

Betty and Jim were married in 1955 shortly after he was drafted into the Army. In those days, Alaskans who were drafted were required to stay in the state, so the couple moved to Anchorage for 16 weeks while Jim completed basic training at Fort Richardson.

Then he was stationed at Fort Greely in Big Delta for the remainder of his term, which turned out to be 17 months and one day.

The couple moved back to Valdez for a few years, but in 1960 they decided their children needed to be raised elsewhere, and they relocated to Soldotna.

Jim got a job with Weaver Brothers, grading and maintaining the gravel road from Soldotna to Homer, and he and Betty lived in a 10-foot-wide trailer on the company's land in Sterling. For the first few years, he worked for Weaver until the state took over maintenance of the road.

In the mid-1960s, he started to haul oil field equipment around the Kenai Peninsula. Over the years he has owned two trucking businesses. From 1962-69, he owned and operated Arctic Motor Freight, and in 1976 they started Hustlers Inc. That business was sold in 1989, six years after the couple built J-B Stor 'n' Lok, which they still operate today.

Throughout the past 40 years the couple has spent in Soldotna, they have survived an earthquake and a lot of changes. The census in 1960 recorded 332 people living in the area, a far cry from the more than 4,000 that now reside here.

However, back then, the only road through town was gravel with deep ditches on either side. Most of the land was still divided into homesteads, although some had been subdivided and portioned off. The area was still largely unpopulated and isolated, Betty said.

"I think there are probably more kids going to school here than lived on the entire peninsula at the time," Jim said.

Soldotna's businesses were family run, and everyone knew everyone else, the couple recalled.

"Then we had personal businesses, it was just so neat. Vera's Variety was the first store I ever went in," said Betty. "It was much more personal then; grocery stores were small. I can't say it is bad now, but it is different.

"I like to see progress. I don't think there is any way we can stop it. There is a lot more to do now."

In her younger days, Betty said, she didn't mind how closed off Soldotna was, but now she enjoys being able to access things.

"I am just pleased with Soldotna. I think they have done a super job."

While Jim was busy with their business, Betty occupied herself by giving back to the community.

The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce nominated her as Person of the Year in 1986 and elected her to its board of directors from 1991 to 1993.

For years, the couple was responsible for the Christmas lights hung on the chamber building and stairs down to the river. Betty also has committed herself to the different beautification projects around town.

After all of their efforts on behalf of the city, Sweeney and the rest of the board agreed it was time to repay them.

Betty just happened to stop by the chamber shortly after the decision was made. A staff member told her, and Betty admits she burst into tears.

"I was kind of shocked, honored and elated," she said. "I didn't mean to cry."

Jim on the other hand, said it was more for his wife than for him.

"Of course, she was all twitterpated," he said. "I really don't need this. It's neat for Betty, and it's an honor."

The couple's only obligation, as the weekend's royalty, is to ride in the parade. However, they plan to attend all of the events they can.

Their neighborhood is quite excited, said Betty. To have a king, queen and grand marshal, Les Anderson, all living on one block doesn't happen every day.

Jim and Betty said they are here to stay. They agree, deteriorating health would be the only thing that would ever chase them out of town to what they call a "Viagra Village" in the Lower 48.

"I guess we've been here long enough to qualify," Jim said. "It's really a young community, we are just barely getting started."



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