Baldwin, William A.C. "Lucky"

1864-1942 | Pioneer Grocer


One of the most colorful characters to live in Anchorage was William A. C. “Lucky” Baldwin, who arrived in Anchorage with his wife, Mame, around 1923.  He owned Lucky’s Self-Service Grocery (313 Fourth Avenue),1 the first self-service grocery in Anchorage, where he sought to reduce the cost of food.  Eccentric and brash, Baldwin’s motto, painted on his store windows in huge silver dollars, was:  “In God we trust, all others pay cash.”2  When Baldwin died on May 23, 1942, the Anchorage Daily Times remarked that Lucky was “known to virtually everyone in Anchorage.”3

Early Years

William Alfred Conrad Baldwin was born on October 23, 1864 in Quebec.  He spent his early life in Canada.  On April 7, 1885, he married Rose Lundy in Ontario, Canada.  By 1891, the couple had three children and he was working as an agent for an insurance company.

In 1898, Baldwin went to the Yukon.  In 1901 and 1902, he was a collector for the Northern Commercial Company.  In 1903, he was working in some capacity for the North American Transportation and Trading Company in Dawson, which supplied general merchandise, miners’ outfits, and general trade supplies to gold seekers.4  It was later claimed in his obituary, but never proven, that he had “long service in the Canadian N[orth] W[est] Mounted Police forces,”5 but no evidence was found to confirm it.6

Alaska Business Career

Baldwin immigrated to the United States in 1904.7 In 1905, he filed a declaration of intention or application for U.S. citizenship at the U.S. District Court at Fairbanks, and became a citizen in 1915.8

Baldwin was usually engaged in some type of business.  He frequently moved to and from Seward, Cordova, Juneau, and Anchorage between 1908 and 1929.

Baldwin first came to Seward in 19089 and stayed until 1910.  In 1909-1910, he was a driver for Brown and Hawkins and was the caretaker of the Alaska Railroad’s building in Seward.  In 1910, he managed the Copper River Transfer Company.10  In 1910-1911, he managed the Overland Hotel.11  In early 1914, he was managing the Seward Hotel while the owner, William McNeilly, was on a trip.12

Baldwin left Seward for Cordova, where he was manager of the Windsor Hotel in 1916.  In 1917 and 1918, he managed the Hotel Zynda in Juneau.  By 1910, Rose Lundy Baldwin had died, and he was a widower.13  In 1917 or 1918, he met Mame Charon, later Mrs. W.A.C. Baldwin, who resided at the Hotel Zynda when he was the hotel’s manager.14  By 1920, he had returned to Seward to manage the Overland Hotel, and had married Mame Charon Baldwin.15

By 1923, "Lucky" Baldwin and Mame Charon Baldwin had moved to Anchorage, where they lived for a few years, then went their separate ways16 and were later divorced.17  Baldwin opened a grocery store at 313 Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage.  Mame opened her store, Baldwin Grocery, at 644 Fourth Avenue.18

Baldwin returned again to Seward to open Lucky Baldwin’s Red Front Store in May 1926.  His series of humorous advertisements first appeared in the Seward Gateway shortly afterwards.  During the height of the Prohibition era,19 one of these read:  “Lucky says:  it is against the law to have a brewery but he has malt at 16 cents a pound.”20

In October 1926, his advertisement read:  “Lucky says, ‘The poor are always with us,’ don’t be one of them.  Buy for cash and save your payroll.”21 That same month, Baldwin moved his store to the Frye building in Seward, but quickly moved back to his previous location:  the building with the red front.  Lucky announced the news:  “ ‘Some jump out of the fry pan into the fire,’ but Lucky jumped into the Frye building.”22

Following this, Baldwin moved back to Anchorage in 1929 and opened Lucky’s Self-Serve Grocery.  This was the town’s first self-service grocery and was always on the competitive edge.  He shipped by boat with Heinie Berger Transportation because Berger could deliver goods more cheaply by water than the Alaska Railroad.

Wisecracks were a specialty of Baldwin and he picked up the latest news items and used them as a moral for buying groceries from him.  He often invited Alaska Railroad employees to shop in his store, where goods were cheaper partly because they were not shipped on the Alaska Railroad. He often chided his customers in print and when they came into his store, and they seemed to enjoy his “verbal thrashings.”23  He sat by the stove and growled at them day after day.  As an example, a woman came in to buy bird seed, and, when the clerk went to find it for her, "Lucky" said, “What in the hell are you doing trying to raise a canary when you can’t even take care of your family.”24

Baldwin was definitely a character.  He often bragged that he was only person in Anchorage who could prove he was sane.  He carried with him discharge papers from Morningside Hospital (a mental health institution in Portland, Oregon which treated Alaska’s psychiatric patients between 1905 and 1968)25 and presented them to prove his contention.26

Sometime before 1940, Baldwin sold his store and retired.  He became paralyzed during the last years of his life, but he refused to let doctors and friends keep him confined.  He became known to virtually everyone in Anchorage as the person who motored over Anchorage’s sidewalks in his three wheel electric chair that he steered with a tiller.27

William A.C. “Lucky” Baldwin died on May 23, 1942 at Providence Hospital following a lingering illness.  After Providence was built in 1939 Lucky signed himself in as a patient and lived his last years there. He was buried in the Pioneer Tract, Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery (Tract 14, Row 14, Lot 4).28 Z. J. Loussac, the president of the Pioneers of Alaska, Igloo 15, to which he was a member, and Father Dermot O’Flanagan presided at his funeral.  Mame Charon Baldwin died in Seattle in 1949 and is buried there.29

Baldwin’s tombstone was cast from concrete by John Oden and was inscribed:  “Here Lies Lucky and Always Will Lie.”30  This same tombstone was stored in the living quarters in the rear of the store.  When employee Louis Odsather worked for Baldwin, he and his wife had to move the stone from under the bed every night prior to retiring.31


Endnotes

1. John Bagoy gives the location of Lucky’s Self Service Grocery on Fourth Avenue between D and E Streets.  John P. Bagoy, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage:  Publications Consultants, 2001), 268.  Mary J. Barry, Seward:  A History of the Gateway City, Volume II:  1914-1923, The Railroad Years (Anchorage:  Mary J. Barry, 1993), 68, gives the store’s original location, in 1929, on Fourth Avenue, between C and D Streets.

2. John P. Bagoy, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage 1910-1935, 269.

3. “Lucky Baldwin Passes Away,” Anchorage Daily Times, May 23, 1942, 1.

4. David A. Hales, Margaret N. Heath, and Gretchen L. Lake, An Index to Dawson City, Yukon Territory and Alaska Directory and Gazetteer, Alaska-Yukon Directory and Gazetteer, and Polk’s Alaska-Yukon Gazetteer and Business Directory, 1901-1912, Volume I:  A-C (Fairbanks:  Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 1995), 12; UA Scholarworks; https://scholarwoorks.alaska.edu/search?query=hales&submit=G (accessed October 31, 2015).

5. “Lucky Baldwin Passes Away,” Anchorage Daily Times, May 23, 1942, 1.

6. See, North West Mounted Police (NWMP) – Personnel Records, 1873-1904 [database on-line]; Library and Archives Canada; http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng (accessed October 31, 2015).  A studio photograph of Baldwin in the uniform of the Queen’s Own Canadian Hussars of Quebec, found in Larry S. Mikelsen, Alaska…Having the best time I ever had: The Alaskan Journals of Gunnery Sgt. Robert Rudolf “Bob” Huttle, U.S.M.C.R (Bloomington, Indiana: Author House, 2012), 240, is also unsupported by documentation.

7. William A.C. Baldwin, Alaska 1930 Census, Anchorage, Third Judicial District, Alaska Territory; National Archives Microfilm Publication T626, Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930, Roll 2627, ED 14, page 27A; 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line], image 891.0, FHL microfilm:  2342361, http://ancestry.com (accessed October 31, 2015).

8. Although Baldwin filed his Declaration of Intention at the U.S. District Court at Fairbanks on August 28, 1905, it appears that the Petition of Naturalization (S-41) was filed at the Seward term of the U.S. District Court on June 8, 1915.  Index card, William Alfred Conrad Baldwin, National Archives Microfilm Publication M1788, Indexes to Naturalization Records of the U.S. District Court for the District, Territory, and State of Alaska (Third Division), 1903-1991, Roll 2, U.S., Naturalization Indexes, 1791-1992 (Indexed in World Archives Project) [database on-line], http://ancestry.com (accessed October 31, 2015).

9. Mary J. Barry, Seward, Alaska:  A History of the Gateway City, Volume II:  1914-1923, The Railroad Construction Years (Anchorage:  Mary J. Barry, 1993), 68.

10. [W.A.C. Baldwin], Seward Weekly Gateway, April 9, 1910, 2; and Mary J. Barry, Seward, Alaska:  A History of the Gateway City, Volume II:  1914-1923, The Railroad Construction Years, 68.

11. David A. Hales, Margaret N. Heath, and Gretchen L. Lake, Polk’s Alaska An Index to Dawson City, Yukon Territory and Alaska Directory and Gazetteer, Alaska-Yukon Directory and Gazetteer, and Yukon Gazetteer and Business Directory, 1901-1912, Volume I:  A-C, 12.

12. Mary J. Barry, Seward, Alaska:  A History of the Gateway City, Volume II:  1914-1923, The Railroad Construction Years, 68.

13. William A.C. Baldwin, 1910 Alaska Census, Arrivals of steamships at Valdez, Valdez Precinct, Division 3, Alaska Territory, National Archives Microfilm Publication T624, Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910, Roll 1750, ED 7, stamped page 242, 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line], http://ancestry.com (accessed October 31, 2015).

14. R.L. Polk & Co., Inc., Alaska-Yukon Gazetteer and Business Directory, 1917-1918 (Seattle, WA:  R.L. Polk and Company, Inc., 1917), 335 and 341.

15. William Baldwin, 1920 Alaska Census, Seward, Kenai Recorder’s District, Third Judicial District, Alaska Territory, ED 1, stamped page 14, National Archives Microfilm Publication T625, Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920, Roll 2031; 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line], http://ancestry.com (accessed October 31, 2015); and Entry for Mame Baldwin, 1920 Washington State Census, Everett, Snohomish County, Washington, National Archives Microfilm Publication T625, Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920, Roll 1938, ED 2, stamped page 314, 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line], http://ancestry.com (accessed October 31, 2015).

16. Entry for W.A.C. Baldwin, grocer, in R.L. Polk & Company, Inc., Alaska-Yukon Gazetteer and Business Directory, 1923-1924 (Seattle, WA:  R.L. Polk & Company, 1923), 60 and 563.

17. Baldwin’s entry in the 1930 federal census shows that he is single and living alone.  William A. Baldwin, 1930 Alaska Census, Anchorage, Third Judicial District, Alaska Territory, National Archives Microfilm Publication T626, Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930, Roll 2627, ED 3-14, stamped page 186, 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line], http://ancestry.com (accessed October 31, 2015).

18. John P. Bagoy, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage 1910-1935, 267-268.

19. The Prohibition era covered the period from 1920 to 1933.  The Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was ratified in 1919 and enacted in 1920, outlawed the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors” in the United States.  The Twenty-First Amendment repealing the Eighteenth Amendment was passed in 1933.  See, Lisa Anderson, “Prohibition and Its Effects,” The Gilder Lehman Institute of American History; https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/roaring-twenties/essays/prohibition (accessed October 31, 2015).

20. Mary J. Barry, Seward, Alaska:  A History of the Gateway City, Volume II:  1914-1923, The Railroad Construction Years, 68.

21. Ibid.

22. Ibid.

23. "Lucky’s Death Recalls Unique ‘Ad’ Campaign,” Anchorage Daily Times, May 29, 1942, 7.

24. Ibid.

25. Entry for “Morningside Hospital,” Oregon Encyclopedia:  A Project of the Oregon Historical Society, http://www.oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/morningside_hospital/#.VjgJdberTrc (accessed October 31, 2015).

26. “Lucky’s Death Recalls Unique ‘Ad’ Campaign,” Anchorage Daily Times, May 29, 1942, 7; and Mary J. Barry, Seward, Alaska:  A History of the Gateway City, Volume II:  1914-1923, The Railroad Construction Years, 68.

27. Mary J. Barry, Seward, Alaska:  A History of the Gateway City, Volume II:  1914-1923, The Railroad Construction Years, 68.

28. Entry for William Alfred “Lucky” Baldwin, in Find A Grave [database on-line], http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=grGRid=7636642 (accessed October 31, 2015).

29. Mame Charon Baldwin; Washington, Deaths, 1883-1960 [database on-line], http://ancestry.com (accessed October 31, 2015).

30. John P. Bagoy, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935, 268.

31. Ibid.


Sources

This entry for William A.C. "Lucky" Baldwin originally appeared in John P. Bagoy’s Legends & Legacies, Anchorage 1910-1935 (Anchorage:  Publications Consultants, 2001), 268-269.  See also the W.A.C. "Lucky & Mame" Baldwin file, Bagoy Family Pioneer Files (2004.11), Box 9, Atwood Resource Center, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Anchorage, AK.  Note:  edited, revised, and expanded by Walter Van Horn and Bruce Parham in October 2015.

Preferred citation: Walter Van Horn and Bruce Parham, “Baldwin, William A.C. ‘Lucky’, ” Cook Inlet Historical Society, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940, http://www.alaskahistory.org.


Major support for Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940, provided by: Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Atwood Foundation, Cook Inlet Historical Society, and the Rasmuson Foundation. This educational resource is provided by the Cook Inlet Historical Society, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt association. Contact us at the Cook Inlet Historical Society, by mail at Cook Inlet Historical Society, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, 625 C Street, Anchorage, AK 99501 or through the Cook Inlet Historical Society website, www.cookinlethistory.org.