Marjorie Rambeau was just 9 when she landed in Nome with her mother and grandmother, who had planned to start a hospital there. That plan failed when her mother realized they would have to pay laborers up to $40 an hour to build it. The trio turned to other endeavors, with Marjorie dressing like a boy so she could sneak into Front Street’s dance halls to sell doughnuts and sweep floors. She reportedly got $50-$75 a day just sweeping up gold dust that miners had dropped from their pokes as they paid for liquor refills with shaky hands. She also earned up to $100 a night as a busker, playing banjo for miners who enjoyed singing along with her happy tunes.
Acting as a boy must have been good training for Marjorie’s later career as a noted stage and screen actress. Although her movies aren’t well-known today, she was quite famous in her time and earned two Oscar nominations. She never forgot her adventures in Alaska, and said, “All my later experience has served to reinforce what I began to learn at Nome – that people are fundamentally good.”