Kathy & Ollie Walker

Ollie Walker - Chugiak Pioneer Passes Away

Ollie Walker, 86, died March 23, 2007 (of Alzheimer's complications) in Long Beach, California. He was born on April 28, 1920 in Eureka, South Dakota. He was drafted into the Army in 1942 and stationed at Bassingbourn, England as a telephone operator for the Mighty Eighth Air Force during WWII. While in England, he met and married a Cambridge girl named Kathleen Furness. Ollie and Kathy came to Alaska in 1950, homesteading near Fire Lake. They were founding members of the Chugiak Dog Mushers Club, the Chugiak Benefit Association and the Birchwood Baptist Church. Ollie worked as an auto-body repairman on Fort Richardson from 1950 until 1975. After retirement, he worked on the North Slope as a welder for 10 years. Ollie competed in dog races at the Tozier Track, in Fairbanks, at the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous and at Pipple's Field. He made all of his own dog sleds and harnesses and kept a dog lot of about 40 dogs. He also experimented with breeding a greyhound line for a number of years. His dogs won several first place trophies in Fur Rendezvous weight-pull contests in the late 1950's. In 1968, the Walker's became "snowbirds" and lived in Texas in the winter and Alaska during the summers. Preceding him in death is his wife Kathy, of 45 years (1992), a son David Oliver (1947), and 10 siblings. Surviving him is his second wife Julie and his children, Coleen Mielke of Wasilla, Debbie Childress of Ohio, Terry Walker of Peters Creek, Sherrie Walker of Chugiak, nine grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.


Here is a great must read from Coleen 

Coleen's South Central Alaska Website

Growing Up On The Old Glenn Highway  

or go to her website here

By Coleen (Walker) Mielke 2008

I recently re-discovered an interview I did with my father in 1985. It reminded me that it was time to record my own memories of Chugiak during the 1950’s & 1960’s.  All of the businesses, mentioned in this story, thrived during my childhood but no longer exist…the people I mention, were all Chugiak homesteaders who were family friends. Keep in mind that this account is written through the eyes of my youth, and may not be exactly correct; however, it is how I remember it.

My father, Ollie Walker, was the son of Jacob and Rosina Walker of Eureka, South Dakota. My mother, Kathy (Furness) Walker, was the daughter of Thomas and Kate Furness of  Cambridge, England. They met while dad was stationed in England during World War II. Immediately after getting married (in England) they moved back to North Dakota where dad attended vocational school and learned how to do auto-body repair work.

In March of 1950, my parents moved to Alaska. They rented a tiny house behind the Stop & Shop Grocery in Mt. View. The “house” was actually a large wooden packing crate, from the military base, which had been converted into an apartment because of a serious housing shortage in Anchorage. Dad found temporary work as a laborer on Elmendorf Air Force Base and a had second job as a pinsetter at a Mt. View bowling alley at nights. I was born in 1950, Debbie was born in 1952, Terry was born in 1955 and Sherrie was born in 1957. We were all born in the old Providence Hospital at Ninth & L Street in Anchorage.

In the early spring of 1950, my parents bought half an acre of land (mile 18½ of the Old Glenn Highway) near Gib & Eileen Reid. Life in the new community of Chugiak was primitive but they liked the area which was sparsely populated and open to homesteading. That summer dad secured a Civil Service Job on Fort Richardson Army Base, a job he would keep until his retirement in 1975.

In May of 1950, they filed an application with the Land Office for a 160-acre homestead at mile 17½ on the Old Glenn Highway. The Government’s main requirement, before granting a homestead patent, was that the applicant had to live on and farm the land for five years. After filing their application, mom and dad sold their little cabin and bought a bulldozer to clear their prospective homestead. They moved an old building onto the property, moved into it and grew potatoes and chickens, all in accordance with the homestead plan. To make a little extra money on the weekends, dad cleared land for people with his dozer.

The first five years of my baby book (1950-55) read like an early Chugiak telephone directory (except there were no telephones in early Chugiak). Gifts came from the families of:

Billy Cairnes

Olga Johnson

Roger & Millie Ball and children Timmy and Ronnie

Jim & Marie McDowell

Paul & Margaret Swanson and children Martha and Steven

Les  & Dottie Fetrow and children Sandy, Larry and Carla

The Sehm Family

The Hatcher’s with children Bobby & Shirley

Simon & Bobbie Media and children Simon, David and Paul

Pat & Micky Earles

The Curry’s and children Corky and Stevie

Gib & Eileen Reid

The Gibsons with daughters Michael & Gale

The Frary’s with daughters Maureen & Star

Allen & Rose Pearce and son Larry

Aden & Jo Cates and children Kenneth, Pat, and Denise

Robert & Susie Aubrey and children Robyn, Audrey and Rhonda

Velda, Vesta and Bobby Land 

Jess & Doris Straight and children Linda, Ryan (also known as Stubby) and Candy

The Gunnell’s and son Gregory

I started first grade, in 1956, at Chugiak Elementary on the Old Glenn Highway. The first day of school, we were all lined up and given DPT shots. Several of us had serious reactions and Mrs. Emmert (the principal’s wife) decided it was because the nurse had used the same syringe for everyone…times have certainly changed. Starting in the third grade, if you helped wash dishes in the school kitchen (in the days before automatic dishwashers), you got a free hot lunch. A popular lunch was moose meat stew (schools received road killed moose in those days) and homemade bread made by a wonderful cook named Penn Lee who was Paul Swanson’s sister. Paul Swanson ran the Post Office across the street from the school. Every day, his Collie dog came over to the playground during noon recess, and every day, Mr. Swanson came over to scold the dog and chase him home with a board. I don’t know which was worse for Mr. Swanson, the humiliation of a misbehaving dog or the jeering kids on the playground (we all wanted the dog to stay and play).

By 1956, Chugiak Elementary was very crowded. Overflow classes were held in surplus Army buildings and Quonset huts. My first grade teacher was Miss Noland (later Mrs. Waterman); my second grade class was held in the church across the street from the school; my third grade teacher was Mrs. May; my fourth grade teacher was Miss Eggleston (later Mrs. Aske); my fifth grade teacher was Mrs. Golden Pettit and my sixth grade teacher was Mr. Kerr.

In 1962, they changed the school boundaries and I attended 7th and 8th grade in Eagle River. My teachers were Mr. Rouse, Mrs. Carole Connell and Mrs. Golden Pettit (again). I attended Chugiak High School the first year it opened,1964, and graduated in 1968; we were the first class to attend grades 1-12  in Chugiak/Eagle River. Prior to 1964, all high school students attended East High School, in Anchorage.

Before “real” telephones found their way to the homestead, dad and three other neighbors established a do-it-yourself phone system. They strung surplus Army wire between the homesteads and hooked up World War II, EE-8 Army field phones. The field phone had a standard receiver, that hung from the side of a ten-pound canvas-covered battery pack base, and a hand crank that powered a 100-volt ringing generator. One full revolution of the hand crank (which was very hard to turn) meant everyone on the system would hear one full ring in their home. Supposedly, each family had its own designated number of rings but realistically, any time the phone rang, everyone answered it and listened in. The other three families connected to our phone system were the Robert Schoonmaker’s, the Robert Aubrey’s and the Hank Aust’s.

Mom was very homesick for England and nurtured friendships with other war brides in the area such as Jo Cates, Daphne Monroe, Eileen Reid, Violet Hall, Edna Seabolt, Dorothy Liska, and other names lost in time. Many afternoons were spent with these English friends chatting and reminiscing over tea and biscuits.

In the spring of 1954, thinking they were well on their way to completing their homestead requirements, mom and dad had their land surveyed and submitted the final homestead application papers. That’s when they learned they had made a critical error that would cost them the majority of their homestead. The Homestead Act allowed people to file on a single piece of property. The land my parents staked was technically two pieces of property since the Old Glenn Highway ran through one side of it. The Government made them choose which side of the highway they wanted to apply for. After much thought, they decided to file for the smaller parcel (that lay up against the mountains) because their home was on it and because it included Fire Creek. They released their claim to the 100 acres that lay on the west side of the highway and were granted a U. S. Patent No. 1152305 to the remaining 58.62 acres at mile 17½ of the Old Glenn Highway in 1955.

In 1958, my parents inadvertently went into pig farming when JoAnn Vanover gave mom a baby pig that was destined to be destroyed because of a crippled back leg. Before long, mom went back to Vanover’s and got another pig; two summers later, our pigs had 11 piglets of their own. They grew quickly, and that fall dad hired a fellow dog musher named Joe Traversie to slaughter and dress the pigs. Joe was a Sioux Indian and his wife Gladys was an Eskimo. She was an excellent skin sewer and made dad a beautiful pair of mukluks with moose-hide soles and intricate seal and caribou fur trim. She had a son (my age) named Eddie Serrin (not sure of that spelling). Joe Traversie was a custodian at Chugiak High School when it opened in 1964.

Our homestead fronted the Old Glenn Highway, from the northern tip of Upper Fire Lake, to (today’s) Del’s Lane. Besides our house, we had a Jamesway hut, a large barn, a small travel trailer and the obligatory outhouse. The Jamesway hut was a 16’x32’surplus military building (canvas skin over wood ribs) where dad stored bales of hay and 50 lb. bags of oats for his dog team. The travel trailer was used to store dog harnesses, rigging and extra chain. The pole barn was made of spruce poles, covered with corrugated aluminum and must have been about 15’x30’. It was primarily for dry storage, but occasionally locals who were down on their luck, or families burned out of their homes lived in our barn.

Besides the pigs, we had six goats, dozens of guinea hens (for the eggs), rabbits, a cow, and forty sled dogs. The dogs were Dad’s passion and he made his own dog harnesses as well as his own freight and race sleds. In the winter, the dogs were fed a cooked mixture of meat, tallow scraps and oats. Dad got the meat trimmings and tallow, for free, from a (dog friendly) butcher at the Piggly Wiggly store in Mt. View. The ingredients were then cooked in a huge pot, over an outdoor burner to form an easily digestible meal for the dogs.

Mom and dad were charter members of the Chugiak Dog Mushing Club.  Dad raced dogs in the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous and at the Tozier Track on Tudor Road. He also raced dogs, most weekends, on Walt & Melva Pippel’s 90-acre vegetable farm, in downtown Eagle River. Today “Pippel’s field” is covered with a variety of businesses, including the Carr’s grocery store.

Although Dad had little success in racing dogs, he won first and second place trophies in the Fur Rendezvous weight-pull competition two years in a row in the late 1950’s. His lead dog, Yukon, won first place for pulling over 1,200 pounds and in the three-dog class, his team pulled 2,350 pounds.

When mom and dad originally staked the homestead, we had zero neighbors, however people moved into the area quickly. Robert & Lillian Schoonmaker moved in on the hill at mile 18 (their house was later purchased by the William & Phyllis Watkins family). Across the Old Glenn Highway from our house, lived Barry and Creatus Darby, Jerry & Leona Setters, the Gardners, Denzel & Daisey Schetzel, Burrell & Louise Frary and Charlie & Jeanie Crane. They all lived on the same street (today it is called Darby Rd.). Three of these families had close ties (Frary, Setters and Crane). Burrell and Louise Frary’s son (“Sonny”) married Jerry and Leona Setters daughter (Wilma), and Burrell Frary and Charlie Crane grew up together in Montana and were life long friends.

Just north of Darby Rd., was the log home of James and Janell Lamay. James was accidentally shot to death while he was putting a rifle into the gun rack of his truck (1960?). Today, Dorothy Liska lives in that house.

Just north of the Lamay/Liska house is Athanasius Street where the St. John Orthodox Church is. When I was growing up, that road had no name. The only people who lived on it were the Cremin’s, the Radiskie’s and the Despain’s (the road dead-ended just past the Despain’s house). The Cremin’s had two school age sons who were notorious for their violence in the neighborhood.

 Some of my parent’s more colorful friends deserve mention in this story. In no particular order, I start with Nora Collett. The first time I met Nora, she was selling small bags of delicious coconut brittle and divinity, for 50¢, at the bingo concession stand in the Chugiak VFW Hall. She also had a small candy shop in the Tommy Slanker building near Eagle River Elementary. After school, kids walked over to her shop and bought broken candies at a discount price. If you made a lot of noise in the shop, or if you were less than respectful, she would give you a tongue-lashing and banish you from the store. Nora was famous for closing her candy store, on a sunny day, and putting up a hand lettered sign that said, “gone fishing…you should too!”

 Another colorful person was Dotty Cochran. Dottie’s husband’s name was Corky Cochran and dad did a lot of land clearing on their homestead in the early years. Dotty went to jail for shooting a man that she said was attacking her in her house. However, when the police arrived, the dead man was still sitting upright, in a chair, with his legs crossed at the knees and his cigarette was still between his fingers. Dotty was a character, she always dressed in mens Hawaiian shirts…combed her greased hair straight back, jokingly threatened to steal everyone’s husband and swore like a sailor.

 Fred Bustrin, known as Chief Chugiak, rented some land from my father and opened a jewelry shop on the north end of our homestead. He was a giant, diabetic bachelor who told the tourists he was from the village of Egegik but in reality, he was from the East Coast. He made gold nugget jewelry and a variety of other items, with forget-me-nots, cast in resin. Fred paid local kids 50¢ a coffee can for moose nuggets in perfect condition. He used the droppings to make novelty earrings and necklaces as well as a very popular item called a “moosequito”. A “moosequito” was an oversized mosquito made out of moose droppings and porcupine quills; he sold hundreds of them, to tourists, every summer. His partner was Fred Buske, a dog musher; the two were locally known as Big Fred and Little Freddie.

 In 1952, dad sold five acres on the south end of the homestead to Bob & Susie Aubrey. Bob was in the military and had a shop in his basement where he sold eyeglasses. He and his family spent several years in Okinawa so Bob’s shop was decorated with Japanese souvenirs and dried, inflated puffer fish hanging on strings from the ceiling. Their son Robyn was killed in a fire at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks in 1968.

 In the mid 1950’s, dad sold five acres, on the north end of the homestead, to Hank and Pat Aust. Today, their driveway is a street called Del’s Lane. In 1960, a neighbor, Jerry Setters, who lived in a swampy area of Darby Road, bought 2½ acres from dad, just south of our house. As part of that sale, dad created a road easement between the homestead and the land he sold to Setters. He named it New Market Road, after the street in Cambridge, England where my mother was born.

 In 1960, two Native girls moved into the neighborhood; their last name was Mosquito. Their mother was an excellent skin sewer and made beautifully beaded miniature mukluks that she turned into zipper pulls; her daughters sold them at my school for 50¢. They lived deep in the woods across the street from my house (off of today’s Darby Road). Their “house” was like nothing I had ever seen before or since. It was just a dirt cave deep in the side of a hill. The hole was obviously hand dug because the moss, plants and trees that grew on top of the cave were totally undisturbed. The entrance to their “house” was about 5’ tall and covered with a tarp. The interior walls were covered with old gray boards and their floor was smooth dirt. I don’t recall a stove of any kind although there must have been one because the girls’ clothes smelled like a wood fire. Mrs. Mosquito was a short, sturdy woman who was all business and said very little. She and her two daughters lived in that dirt house for about 18 months. I have no idea where they came from or where they went when they left…one day they were just gone.

 Less than a quarter mile north of our driveway was Del’s Drive Inn, or I should say, the empty shell of Del’s Drive Inn. Originally owned by Sareefa Wright, it was a  6’ x 8’ abandoned sandwich stand on the right side of the highway at mile 17¾. In 1958, the “building” was still in good shape and had a plywood counter, a couple of papered shelves and a wire dish drainer. Neighborhood kids used it as a playhouse.

 At mile 18 was a small restaurant called the Wheeler Inn. It was next to Ralph Anderson’s gas station on the left side of the Old Glenn Highway near (today’s) Division Street. Anderson’s gas station no longer exists and the Wheeler Inn is now a private residence.

 A small green house sits just south of today’s old Fuji Gift shop. It was a bath house for many years and was owned by Einar & Inez Huseby, former Matanuska Colonists. They were great people and had a variety of exotic birds.

 In the early 1950’s, we got our mail from Moose Horn Lodge at mile 18½. The lodge was owned by Jim & Marie McDowell. Marie ran a (horseshoe shaped) café counter and hot showers; Jim ran the gas pump and tow truck. The McDowell’s made everyone feel welcome and the lodge always smelled like good food and strong coffee. Long after they were gone, Moose Horn became a bus garage for the Anchorage School District and later yet it was turned into apartments.  It burned to the ground in 2007.

 A stones throw north of Moose Horn was a small log coffee shop, on a little hill right beside the road, owned by Cloyce and Justine Parks. Today, that location is part of the Klondike Concrete Co. driveway. As I remember it, the little diner had the only neon sign north of Anchorage. Everyone got their water from Parks Creek near the diner. It was fairly common for there to be a line of cars waiting (at the creek) to fill their water cans.

 At mile 20, sits a tiny, dark log house on the right side of the Old Glenn Highway. Years ago, we all knew it as the Spring Creek Lodge. Obviously, my memory has faded, because I remember it as being a large building. My family ate at there on very special occasions only. It had red plaid tablecloths and the best banana cream pie in the world.

 The Chugiak VFW Hall (at about mile 21) was a military surplus building that housed bingo games and dances; the huge Chugiak Senior Center and apartments are built in that location today. Just north of the VFW Hall, was the location for the Chugiak Benefit Associations annual spring carnival. People came from as far away as Anchorage to attend three days of motorcycle races, games, food booths, beauty contests and of course, Les Fetrow as the carnival clown.

 Before the North Birchwood Loop overpass was built, the north end of the Birchwood Loop left the Old Glenn at mile 21.  Today, mile 21 would be where the rear parking lot of the new Chugiak Elementary School is. From there, the old Loop followed a sharp ridge back towards the Loop we are all familiar with, except it ran behind (today’s) Circle S Grocery building, instead of in front of it. On that ridge, was the Birchwood Loop dump. Paralleling the old Loop, it was a crude 400’ open dumpsite, which had no fees, no regulation and minimal maintenance. People dumped everything imaginable there. Bigger items like vehicles, old appliances and dead animals, were pushed over the ridge, but most of the household garbage was just tossed onto a heap beside the road. Occasionally, when the garbage started to spill out onto the Loop road, someone would bulldozer it back towards the ridge and set it on fire. The dump was so large that it could be seen, cascading down the bluff, as you drove south towards the Peters Creek Bridge on the Old Glenn Highway. My husband John remembers a whale that was dumped there in 1962. Evidently, it died while it was being prepared for shipment to a lower 48 aquatic zoo, and for unknown reasons, it ended up at the Birchwood Loop dump; you can imagine the smell.

 Just past the Old Glenn Highway-Birchwood Loop intersection, on the right, was a long uphill driveway (today it’s called Lace Street). At the end of that driveway was the First Baptist Church of Birchwood, which my parents were charter members of. It was housed in a WWII surplus building and had a membership of about 45 people. When the church moved to its present day location on the Birchwood Loop, it sold the old church building to Ted Sadler who used it as his first Alaska furniture store.

 Reece & Gracie Tatro had a hamburger and ice cream shop in Peters Creek at about mile 22. They called it the Dairy Delight and it was a popular “Sunday drive” destination for many people. Today, the Dairy Delight has morphed into Bella Vista Pizza.

 From the Dairy Delight, still heading north on the Old Glenn Highway, there was a store called Allen’s Grocery owned by George Allen. It was built on a ridge, on the left side of the highway, just north of (today’s) Mt. Eklutna Drive. Allen’s Grocery was tiny, but invaluable, since it was the only grocery store for miles around…and because it let people carry a tab until payday.

 That is about as far north as my memories take me. Now, I’ll list the people and businesses I was familiar with, heading south, towards Eagle River, from our homestead.

 Today, there is an old dilapidated building sitting at the mile 17 summit of the Old Glenn Highway (½ mile south of our driveway). In it’s heyday, it was the Fire Lake Lodge, owned by Jim & Lillian Polyefko and was a favorite “watering hole” for locals and military bachelors until it burned down in 1954. The lodge was rebuilt, but by 1960, it was a private residence (the Bruton family lived there). Later yet, it was a Jehovah Witness Church. Just south of the lodge was Ralph Rollins’ gas station…his eccentric wife kept a skunk and a raven in her office.

 My mom used to have coffee and chat with friends at a little used furniture shop on the north end of Eagle River. It was called the “Swap & Shop” and was owned by Melba Charles and her sister-in-law, Floss Charles (their husbands Tony & Willie were brothers).The shop sat next to Jesse & Nella Wooten’s Tasty Freeze (remnants of Wooten’s stand still exist). Both Charles families, lived where Cronquist Corners Ski Doo shop is today. Another business in that area (across from today’s McDonalds) was the Lamp Post Inn, an upscale, family style hotel, run by the Bowen family.

 In the heart of Eagle River was the Market Basket grocery store in the Eagle River Shopping Center. In 1960, it was the only store, between Anchorage and Palmer to have a full service meat counter. When the Market Basket store closed, it was replaced by Value City Grocery, and after that it was a Carr’s Grocery. Decades later, Carr’s Grocery built a big store on Pippel’s field in Eagle River.

 Just south of  the Market Basket, and a stones throw north of Monte Rd., was McGann’ Grocery. It was a very small wooden structure that looked more like a house than a store. The store had two entrances, one for basic groceries like bread and canned goods and the other entrance was a liquor store. The little store was popular with Eagle River kids because it had an excellent penny candy counter. The McGann family lived in the back of the store and you often had to knock on their door (which was next to the bread shelf) and ask them if you could pay for something.

 Before the existence of today’s divided four-lane highway that bypasses Eagle River and Chugiak, the Old Glenn Highway used to be a narrow two lane road that ran right through the heart of Eagle River, Chugiak, Peters Creek and up against the edge of Mirror Lake. I do not recall a single stop light or stop sign on the main highway that ran through Eagle River.

 The north and south approaches to the Eagle River Bridge were very steep, narrow and unlit. When the roads were particularly icy, traffic would come to a full stop at the top of the hill. Vehicles waited for the car in front of them to get over the bridge and back up the other side before they made their own bonsai attempt. This practice began out of necessity, because some people didn’t make it up the other side on their first try and had to back down the treacherous grade, it was terrifying.

 There wasn’t a lot for teenagers to do in Eagle River in the mid-1960’s. A favorite place for teens with cars, was the parking lot in front of the Eagle River Shopping Center. Most of us just sat in our cars and watched the impromptu tire squealing contests and listened to the ensuing rpm flexing. One summer, someone tried to organize street dances in the parking lot, but they didn’t go over very well. Eagle River only had one Alaska State Trooper, in the mid-1960’s… Trooper Dubber, who lived in the trailer court on the hill behind the Eagle River Shopping Center. The teenagers kept him pretty busy with traffic tickets, etc., although I don’t remember a lot of other crime during that time.

 A favorite sledding hill was Monte Rd., next to the Eagle River Baptist Church. We called it “suicide hill” for obvious reasons. When traffic was light, kids would sled down the steep road, and (hopefully) stop before a car came. Half way up “suicide hill” was the Eagle River Bowling Alley. My mother had a snack bar there from 1962-1964. Floyd Smith was the manager of the bowling alley, Phyllis Stewart was the secretary, Denny Marquis was the custodian and Frank Ryan owned the bar/lounge.

 On March 27, 1964, I was helping mom at the snack bar when the big earthquake hit. At first, I wasn’t sure what was happening. I could hear/feel a deep rumble that sounded like an earth excavator pushing against the building. Within seconds, all of the snack bar salt and pepper shakers bounced off the shelf and landed in the deep fryer, causing a huge boil over. Stacks of glass dinner plates crashed to the floor and the bowling pins in all ten lanes fell over, causing the big orange Brunswick Crown logo’s (that indicated a strike) to simultaneously light up over every bowling lane. The next heave knocked all of the bowling balls off their storage racks; that’s when everyone decided we might be safer outside. As we ran out of the building, I saw Mr. Ryan, through the large plate glass windows that divided his lounge from the main bowling alley. He had both arms stretched out, valiantly trying to stop dozens of liquor bottles from sliding off his counters; his eyes were as big as saucers. Once outdoors, the first thing I noticed was the absence of everyday noise…no cars, no machinery, no construction, no dogs barking or people noises. All I could hear was the deep rumble coming from the earth and the sound of overhead electrical lines making a zinging noise as the power poles caused the lines to alternate from very slack to very taut. The earth was moving so violently, that it was nearly impossible to stand up, so we steadied ourselves by standing with our feet far apart; it seemed like the shaking would never stop. After a couple of minutes, Mr. Ryan gave up the fight to save his liquor bottles, and tried to exit the big glass bowling alley doors. The shifting building had jammed the doors shut, leaving him banging on the glass with his fists…reminiscent of Dustin Hoffman in the Graduate. Fifteen seconds later, the building shifted again and the big doors sprung open and released him. The earthquake lasted for nearly five minutes.

 After the earthquake, the bowling alley was set up as a refuge for people that needed a place to stay. Since the electricity and telephones were out, mom sent me down to the grocery store to ask the manager if they could help feed those who were gathering. The store was a mess; the isles were completely blocked by fallen merchandise that was at least two feet deep. The store smelled like broken pickle jars and was dark and very quiet. The manager generously donated lunchmeat, bread, chips, milk, soda, ice and anything else that he could not keep without refrigeration. Mom and  friend, Yadie Hutchison, used the facilities at the snack bar to make hundreds of sandwiches for people who were camping out on the floor of Mr. Ryan’s lounge over the next three days.

 Our house didn’t suffer very much damage during the earthquake, just a few broken dishes and a gold fish that sloshed out of its bowl. We had countless earth tremors over the next week. Our whole dog team seemed to sense when a shake was approaching and howled in unison before each sizeable tremor. The gymnasium walls of Eagle River Elementary School collapsed during the earthquake, as did many chimneys. All in all, Chugiak and Eagle River were very lucky.

 In 1968, my parents sold their old house, at mile 17½, to Jimmie & Joyce Connell and moved to Anchorage. Like everyone else in early Chugiak, they worked hard, packed water, battled the elements, lived paycheck to paycheck, pitched in when a neighbor needed a hand, broke fish & game laws (when it was necessary) and participated in a lot of “firsts” for Chugiak. In their “golden years”, they spent their winters in Texas and summers in a small house they built on a reserved piece of the old homestead (across the highway from the Liska family). Mom died in 1992 and dad died in 2007.

 Written by:

Coleen (Walker) Mielke

8485 North Wasilla Fishhook Road

Wasilla, Alaska 99654



These photos & comments copied from Coleen Walker with permission. Thanks Coleen...

Click to see full size.

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My folks,Oliver Walker and Kathleen Furness right after they married in Cambridge, England 1947.

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My mother was a wonderful person. Born in Cambridge, England, she came to America as a young WWII bride. She & dad moved to Alaska in the spring of 1950 and lived in a tiny log cabin with wood heat and no electricity or running water. She was a strong adventurous woman with a huge heart and a big laugh.

Raising four children on the homestead, so far away from England, could not have been easy, but she did it well. She instilled in us a sense of humor, a love for life and a love of family. I miss you mom and I love you more every day. Happy Mothers Day♥ ♥ May 8, 2010