Courtesy Doris Bordine
Doris Bordine of Eagle River, whose father was one of the founders of the Alaska Sportsman, sits at a typewriter as a young girl. She’s 81-years-old now.

A funny thing happened on the way to my new job as editor of Alaska magazine. An 81-year-old writer friend, Doris Bordine of Eagle River, reminded me her father was one of the founders of the publication.

Emery Tobin, born in 1895, arrived in Alaska in 1920 after hearing wonderful stories about this Great Land from his prospector father, August.


Tobin landed a job at the New England Fish Co. in Ketchikan, then later as a newspaperman at the local paper. Then in 1935, Tobin learned The Sportsman Club of Ketchikan, which had produced a few issues of a small magazine called Alaska Sportsman, couldn’t continue publication.

“They put out maybe two to four issues,” Bordine said. “Dad thought it such a good idea, he took over, sold stock, borrowed money and used all his resources to keep it going.

“Of course, starting a new magazine in the middle of the Depression was not too great of a money-maker idea.”

Tobin became the editor and publisher, and his wife, Clara, became managing editor. Their vision for the magazine: “Holding a mirror to life on the Last Frontier.” The audience was mostly Alaskans. Promotion was word-of-mouth and through a family-owned bookstore/souvenir shop that opened whenever the boats came in, even if it was the middle of the night.

“My dad was just dedicated to it,”  Bordine said. “He wouldn’t give up. He had to keep it going. He had to get every issue out. He went to the post office several times a day to see if any more checks arrived  so he could pay the bills.”

Clara was also devoted to the magazine and eventually sold a timber investment to support it. Other family members jumped in as well.

And when Bordine was old enough, about 8 years old, she went to work there as well, doing odd jobs such as working with machines that embossed metal plates with addresses, folding pages to make them magazine size, collating the pages and running the linotype.

“I thought I was big time,” Bordine said. “They let me think I could do anything.”

It was there she met her husband, Gordon Bordine, a pressman. The family expanded the magazine and opened a bigger souvenir store and constructed a building for printing and bindery work.

Tobin sold the company in 1958 to Bob Henning and moved to Vancouver, Wash.

“Henning then developed Northwest Publishing and they changed the periodical to Alaska magazine in about 1966.” In 1995 it was sold to its current owners, the Morris family, which publishes newspapers and magazines and has radio stations throughout Alaska. The Morris family has owned Morris Communications since 1945.

Share on Tumblr