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Jack Calvin

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John Thornton “Jack” Calvin was born October 17, 1901, to James and Fannie Thornton Calvin in Miles City Montana. In May 1908, his father, then foreman of the famous W bar Ranch of Wilbaux, Montana, died of internal injuries sustained from an accident involving a saddle horse. In 1913, Fannie Calvin and her two sons, Jack and Frank, moved to California. Jack Calvin first attended schools in the San Francisco Bay area, eventually graduating from high school in Seattle, Washington in 1919. After high school Calvin traveled to Alaska, where during the summers he worked at the Wakefield cannery in Little Port Walter and for a sawmill in Wrangell.

After completing a Bachelors degree at the University of Washington, Calvin attended Stanford University, where he received a Masters degree in English literature, in 1924. During these years, Calvin worked for the Alaska Packers Association, owners of the steel hulled, four-masted Star of Zealand, which he sailed aboard from San Francisco to the Bering Sea.

After completing his education at Stanford, Calvin moved to Carmel, California where he wrote two juvenile adventure stories, Square-rigged (1929) and Fisherman 28 (1930), based on his journey aboard the Star of Zealand. Living in Carmel afforded Calvin the opportunity to meet his future wife Mary “Sasha” Kashevaroff.
Jack Calvin and Sasha Kashevaroff married in 1929, spending their honeymoon traveling by way of canoe from Tacoma, Washington, to Juneau Alaska, by way of the Inside Passage.Calvin's recounting of the couples open canoe voyage was later published in the July 1933 issue of National Geographic.

By late summer of 1931, Jack was planning he and Sasha’s departure from Carmel. An article in the “People Talked About” section Carmel Pine Cone that appeared on September 18, 1931, mentioned the Calvin’s purchasing their boat, the Grampus, which Jack would motor through the inside passage from Tacoma, Washington to Juneau, Alaska, with Sasha, Ed Ricketts and Joseph Campbell onboard.  Jack Calvin, author of “Square Rigged” and “Fisherman 28” has an idea for dodging the tax collector, and Some of the high costs of living. He and Mrs. Jack plan to sell their home here and buy a ship. The idea is that, by sailing away from an anchorage, one may automatically cancel city and county taxes, by living in the cabin one may save rent, and by fishing from the stem one may supply the needs of the stomach…A year or so ago, the Jack Calvin’s voyaged to Alaska in a canoe, taking the inside passage, and camping ashore nights. Photographs made by him on this trip, together with some of former voyages aboard salmon fishing boats, and the full-rigged ships of the fishing fleet, have been exhibited at the Denny-Watrous Gallery. Both of his published books have to do with the sea, and with the canneries of Alaska.

An article in the Carmel Pine Cone title Build Sea Going Craft to Dodge High Cost of Living appeared on March 11, 1932 stated that Calvin was in Seattle “busy completing the alterations to the coasting boat on which he and his wife will live in the future, dodging rent, taxes, and may of the other inconveniences of civilization.  He is in Seattle, and the recently purchased craft is having a cabin added to house its owners, when they sail shortly for northern ports.” The date of this article suggests the Calvin’s had left Carmel before the Joseph Campbell arrived in tiny bohemian community and took up residence in the Pumpkin Shell cottage on Lincoln Avenue.

The Carmel Pine Cone dated 12-30 -1932 printed a short mention “From Juneau, Alaska come season’s greetings from Jack and Sasha Calvin…” which suggests the Calvin’s arrival to Juneau via the Grampus with Ed Ricketts and Joseph Campbell in August 1932. 

Several years later the newlyweds relocated briefly to Juneau  Alaska, where Sasha's father, Reverend Andrew P. Kashevaroff served as a Priest  of the St. Nicholas Cathedral, and then relocated permanently to Sitka, Alaska

How it was that Jack Calvin came to assist EF Ricketts with the writing of Between Pacific Tides is told as follows. When Edward F. Ricketts became sole proprietor of Pacific Biological Laboratories in 1925, the emphasis in the business moved away from developing prepared microscope slides, to providing biological specimens to high schools, universities and natural history museums for teaching and research purposes. With this emphasis on providing specimens to customers, came the necessity of being able to identify specific animals and knowing when and where to collect them.

From the moment he started collecting in 1923, Ed Ricketts, a keen observer of nature, began taking detailed notes about the intertidal invertebrates he gathered from the tide pools and along the shores of the Pacific coast. In addition to his pencil and writing pad, Ricketts often brought along his family, which by 1928 had grown to include two daughters, Nancy Jane and Cornelia, on his trips to the intertidal.

Beyond his wife and children, Ricketts occasionally invited friends to join his forays to the seashore. One of the friends Ricketts’ invited along on his littoral collecting trips was Jack Calvin, an aspiring free-lance writer whom he met in the later half of 1920s. In an interview for the Daily Sitka Sentinel in 1979, Calvin recalled how he and Ricketts struck up their friendship and their idea for a book:

“We found we had similar tastes in wine, music and attitudes toward life,” Calvin recalled. “Ed was always looking for someone to go along with him on his collecting trips, and that's since filled in how I got involved. Unintentionally, I was in training with the best marine biologist in the world.” Calvin said. The idea of a book grew gradually. “Everywhere we went we were bothered by people wanting to know more about the creatures we were collecting. So I suggested Ed put together a little pocket manual for people to carry along on the beach as a handy guide to the marine life of California beaches.” Calvin said. “He said, 'I'll do it if you'll help me.” Picking up the SJ copy of the current 500-page edition of “Between Pacific Tides,” Calvin said “This is what our little pocket guide turned out to be.”

Beyond the contribution of his writing and photography skills to Between Pacific Tides, Jack Calvin's familiarity with the outer shores of Washington, British Columbia and Alaska were extended to Ricketts, as Calvin accompanied Ricketts on his ventures to the Pacific Northwest during the summers of 1930 and 1932.

 In the years to follow, Jack Calvin pursued photography, printing, writing and journalism as he owned and operated various businesses, including Sitka Arts and Crafts, Arrowhead Press and Sitka Printing Company. While owner and operator of the Sitka Printer Company, Calvin wrote and published a book outlining the history of Sitka, Alaska, aptly titled Sitka, A Short History (1959). During the 1960’s using his skills as a writer and printer, Calvin successfully campaigned for the establishment of Wilderness Areas in Southeast Alaska.

Jack Calvin gave his close friends Francis and Elaine Whitaker a signed copy of his book, "Square-Rigged" with the following inscription.

Above images are from the original book in the possession of Mike Guardino, who kindly allowed the pages to be scanned and posted online.