Legislature(2001 - 2002)
05/04/2002 01:35 PM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 285-SECOND VERSE OF ALASKA'S STATE SONG CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT said it was not his intent to move HB 285 that day but he would like to hear public testimony. MR. BILL LAWRENCE, Aide to Representative Carl Morgan, sponsor of HB 285, said it was the appropriate time to officially add the second verse of the Alaska State Song to state law because it was th the 75 anniversary of the Alaska State Flag. He said it would be a long overdue honor to the late Carol Beery Davis, who authored the second verse and gifted it to the University of Alaska in 1987. The verse commemorated Bennie Benson, who designed the Alaska State Flag, and recognized the natural beauty and splendor of Alaska. He said the second verse had been sung throughout Alaska for many years. He said: Officially putting the second verse in the state statute will not solve all of our problems, but it's a small step toward creating peace and harmony among all the people in the state. It's basically the right time to do the right thing. CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT asked if there were any questions for Mr. Lawrence. There were none. MS. CONSTANCE DAVIS, daughter of Carol Beery Davis read the following statement: I would like to give you a little summary of my family history on this eventful occasion. My paternal grandfather arrived in Juneau early in 1891 for a short stay, working for the Nowell Mining Co. as a bookkeeper. With paints, brushes and canvas, my grandmother landed at the Juneau docks a few months later. She planned to paint Alaskan scenery for a month or two. The following year they were married in the Log Cabin church. Both of them came from England. My mother came to Juneau in 1920 to play for the silent movies at the Palace Theater, a three-month, temporary job that lasted for seven years. By that time, Marie Drake was a good friend, the contest to choose a flag for Alaska was underway, and my father was a member of the Final Awards Committee to choose the flag. Mother took notes of the events at that time. Later she wrote that once the design was chosen, Marie felt that the school children of Alaska would understand the historical event better if they had words to recite, something like those in her head. The Territorial Commissioner of Education gave his approval, and so the first step towards a song was born. When mother was approached to add a second verse to the state song, she believed that it was important to do so, and that her old friend, Marie, would approve. Using the themes of unity, history, progress and the state's natural beauty, she carefully composed the verse with her enduring love for Alaska. It was her last gift. She was 95 years old. CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT asked if there were any questions for Ms. Davis. There were none. MS. CONSTANCE MONROE said she was an adult educator who was retired from the Department of Education. When she came to Alaska in 1971, she felt the state song was limited in its recognition of only gold miners and not other Alaskans, especially the first Alaskans. She said she discovered that this was not oversight, it was a historical situation because the first verse written by Marie Drake was initially a poem to honor the flag and was not expected to be the state song. She said she was a good friend with Representative Alvin Osterback's wife Marie because of their work on the Governor's alcohol and drug commission. She said she spoke with Representative and Mrs. Osterback and Senator Frank Ferguson about the possibility of having a second verse for the state song and opening it up for a statewide contest. She said they thought about it and discussed it with their colleagues and came to the conclusion that it probably wouldn't be advantageous for the State to hold a contest. However, if there was a gift of someone providing a second verse, they could look at it and see whether or not it was appropriate. She lost her job in 1985 because of the economic downturn. She said she called Carol Beery Davis and said she would probably be moving and was very sad that they never got a second verse for the Alaska State Song. The next morning she received a call from Carol Beery Davis asking her to come to look at a draft of the second verse that was going to be a gift to the State. Carol Beery Davis asked if she would take it to Representative Osterback and Senator Ferguson and see if they thought it was appropriate. She said they loved it. MS. MONROE said the second verse had been a struggle since the 1970s. It passed the House of Representatives in 1986 but failed in the Senate. She said she hoped the committee's leadership would provide support for the second verse. She said it honored everyone in Alaska including the first Alaskans, minorities and people who came from everywhere to live in the state. CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT asked why they felt a contest was not appropriate at the time. MS. MONROE said they were concerned that there would be too much disagreement over what the second verse was supposed to be. She said they couldn't come up with guidelines that were not insulting and it would have been too difficult for a committee to choose something. She said they didn't have the financial backing. She noted that when the gift was received, they went through the proper procedures with the University in Fairbanks to have the verse held in trust. She said the second verse had been sung across the state. She said because she was working with community education and school districts she was able to request that the second verse be sung at graduations. She said when Senator Ferguson was honored for his work with vocational education, the second verse was sung at the ceremony. She said Alvin and Marie Osterback, who have always been strong supporters, are still waiting to see the second verse come to fruition. She said she thought the whole native caucus felt it was time as well. She said they should have held a contest, but they didn't have the leadership at the time to do so. They couldn't use money from the Department of Education. She noted that there was not a contest held for the first verse and they wanted some continuity in how the verse was chosen. SENATOR PHILLIPS said he went to the museum and saw Bennie Benson's submission for the Alaska State Flag contest. He said Bennie had submitted a written piece along with the design and a lot of the phrases in the song came from that. He said the first verse was a carryover and the submission of the first verse was part of the submission of the flag. CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT said he thought Senator Phillips was trying to say that although the first verse was not part of a contest, the wording was taken from the concepts in Bennie Benson's written comments on his flag submission. Therefore, it had stemmed from the contest. He said he asked a question about the Alaska State Song in his questionnaire. In response, a number of people said they had some ideas. He said it was also suggested to him that a well-known music instructor in Fairbanks might have an excellent idea. He said the way the first verse links in with the contest for the design of the flag, people are interested in having an opportunity to suggest wording if there is to be a second verse. He said that if people had known the State was looking for a gift of a second verse, there probably would have been a lot of suggestions. MS. MONROE said that was probably true. She asked if he would have liked to judge that. CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT said he understood that would be a difficult task. MS. MONROE said she strongly supported Carol Beery Davis' verse as the second verse of the Alaska State Song. She said it was beautiful that a pioneer of Alaska wrote it as a gift to the first Alaskans, minorities and all the residents of the state. She said she thought the words were appropriate and was hoping that it would be passed out of committee. CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT asked if there were any additional questions for Ms. Monroe. There were none. MS. HARRIET ROBERTS said she was retired from the Department of Health and Social Services. She said she had lived in Alaska for 20 years. She said when she came to Alaska she had the Alaska State Song card in her purse. She said the ferry trip took several days and her husband couldn't sleep. He asked for the card because he wanted to read it. She said he couldn't believe they were actually in Alaska. He said it was so beautiful it was like heaven. She said, "When you sing this song, all this flashes in your mind." She said when the second verse came to the Legislature, Camp #2 of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and the Alaska Native Sisterhood passed a resolution in support of the second verse. She said she couldn't speak for the other camps, but she was sure they supported it as well. She said Dorothy Wallace had also come forward in support of the verse. CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT asked if she was representing the Alaska Native Brotherhood and the Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp #2. MS. ROBERTS said their grand president Delores Cadiente was on a trip and their local president Alberta Aspen wasn't able to attend the meeting so she was testifying for them. CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT asked if there were any questions for Ms. Roberts. There were none. MR. J. ALLAN MACKINNON said he was a lifelong Alaskan and resident of Juneau. He wanted to speak in support of the second verse and felt it should have been adopted years ago. He said he was one of the founders and director of the Juneau Oratorio Choir and was supportive of the Alaska Youth Choir. He said the musical director of the Alaska Youth Choir, Missouri Smythe, could not attend the hearing. He said the Alaska Youth Choir incorporated the second verse into their programming at all their presentations. He traveled with the group to Brooklyn, New York and they performed the second verse there. He said the Juneau Oratorio Choir was probably one of the first choruses to sing both verses during one governor's inauguration ceremony. He said Carol Beery Davis was very much a friend to the native community. She was authorized to translate the native oral tradition of songs and other pieces onto paper, many of which were preserved in museums and the State Library. He said he spent 10 or 12 years learning piano from Carol Beery Davis. He remembered her talking about Marie Drake and Elinor Dusenbury. He said the three were contemporaries and very well known and well thought of in their writings and poetry. Marie Drake took certain elements of Bennie Benson's wording and put them into a poem that was of the proper length and meter. Carol Beery Davis was a contemporary of Marie Drake's and also used some of Bennie Benson's wording, creating a verse of the proper length and meter. He said there were certain times when contests were appropriate, but this was not one of them. He said naming a state ferry, town sites or other things might be appropriate contests for the youth. He said his teenaged son wrote poetry but he would not want to have to consider his writing in a contest setting. He urged the committee to adopt the second verse as it was and make it an official part of the statutes. He said it would be taking the writings of two contemporary individuals who were very well thought of out of historical context if they were to reopen the issue of who would write the second verse. 2:00 p.m. CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT asked if there were any questions for Mr. MacKinnon. There were none. He asked if there was anybody else who wished to testify on HB 285. There was nobody. He announced that the bill would probably come back up for final action on Tuesday, May 7, 2002. HB 285 was held in committee.