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Grannie Annie: From Sleepers Trailer Court to Mallard Park

Posted: March 5, 2013 - 5:46pm

The response about the story of Sleepers Trailer Court has been heartwarming. My good friend of many years Dolores Wik relates that she lived in the same trailer court behind M&M Market in 1968 with her 2 small children. She says they were there only a short time until they moved to a trailer court on Wik road. We met about 10 years later and we have talked about everything under the sun but did not know that we were once neighbors in the trailer court.

Michael Wearly e-mailed me about growing up in Sleepers Trailer Court in 1968. He says he remembers the rope swing that Mr. Webb put up for the kids in the trailer court. In back of the swing, in the trees, his brother helped him build two huge tree houses. The master architect was his older brother Kenny Wearly. His partner was Michael Chenault. They tied the two together with several ropes and planks. Back in that day there was never a shortage of scrap wood, as new oilfield families always moved in and out and left scraps from skirting the trailer houses. He says his mom always made a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies to take out and share with all his friends in the trailer park. Mr. Sleeper was a great person and always planned different events for the kids. He remembers the great Easter Egg Hunts with plenty of snow on the ground. There were great prizes on the eggs. He remembers the pool hall game room Mr. Sleeper put up for the kids in the trailer court and he also remembers that he broke a new window out of the game room. Thanks Michael and Dolores for all the memories.

A correction on M&M Trailer Park: It was installed by the McGahans, but referred to as M&M because it was behind the grocery store and the Hunger Hut.

Mallard trailer park was built to accommodate all the workers building Colliers Chemical Plant, later known as Unocal and now Agrium. The work on that started in 1967 or 68. This was a huge trailer park complete with post office and a bank. It was located across the highway from the Tessoro (7-11) gas station (which was not there at the time) and extended almost up to where the Forelands Bar is now. We moved into a large trailer next to the street that came off the main highway.  It had great mounds of earth that made a great sledding hill in the wintertime. (Wonderful mud sliding hill in the summer!) Susan recalls that it had one large hill and then a smaller one, kind of like a roller coaster. If you didn’t have a heavy wool hat as a helmet on your head, you could smack your head easily at the bottom, which was usually a big ice rink. She said she had a heavy wool hat on that saved her many times as she slid down the hill onto the ice. A smaller kid was always posted at the entrance to the trailer court just in case a car was coming so no one would run over all the sledding kids.

There were various sleds of many descriptions. The usual wood sled with runners was scarce. David had one (a gift from his Grandma in Colorado) and it was used and shared constantly. The round plastic sleds had not been invented yet. Some of the kids used garbage bags as a sled. They also used the seat of their snow pants. Visqueen was a wonderful sled if you were fortunate enough to have a Dad that had a coveted piece in his stash of goodies. We never threw anything away as it was too hard to come by. It was too far to Anchorage to replace. (Like the coffee cans I still hang on to — that I cooked out of when we first came to Alaska.) This trailer park had dozens and dozens of little kids about my kid’s grade school age. There was always someone to play with. No matter what time of day in the summer time you could hear the laughter of someone having fun somewhere in the trailer park. Susan said this is her first recollection of having such a good time on a sledding hill with her friends.

One afternoon I sent Susan over to our friend Jo Anne Adams who lived several mud puddles away from us, to borrow some butter for cookies I wanted to bake. Susan hopped on her bike and rode over to Jo Anne’s to borrow the butter. She rode back through the numerous mud puddles, accidentally dropping the butter into one of them. She picked it up, brushed it off and continued on her way. I received the butter dented, full of mud and sand. Being in desperate need of the item, I carefully washed the outside wrapper, scraped the inside layer off and plopped it in my cookie dough. No one was the wiser and I received lots of compliments on my good tasting peanut butter cookies.

I had instilled a fear of electrical things in my children. David and Gail ignored my uneducated warning. But when Jo Anne went to use her brand new microwave Susan went in to a panic and screamed at Jo Anne that her mom told her to get out of the room if anyone was going to use that microwave, because it might hurt you! I still can imagine the look on Jo Anne’s face and the total fear on Susan’s! Boy! Have we come a long way!

Jo Anne and I were always hosting birthday parties. She had two little kids, Dawn and Jay. At this time in my “other” life I ended up with six kids, off and on. We always made a big deal out of birthdays. There was the time we made a birthday cake out of balloons. We blew up balloons and tied them down in a pan. We frosted the whole thing with a ton of frosting and put candles on top. We let the birthday person blow out the candles and then handed them the knife. The first cut into the cake was the comment “this cake sure is tough” and we’d say push a little harder. Boom! The balloons blew up and the birthday person and everybody standing around was covered with frosting. Oh! So much fun. No one complained.

Susan was invited to a birthday party at Jo Anne’s again and Jo Anne had baked a dime into each square of cake so that each partygoer would receive a dime. Everyone found their dime but Susan. “You must’ve swallowed it” Jo Anne said “NO-huh-uh,” said Susan. Jo Anne had to hunt up another dime to give to Susan, so she would not feel left out. We always wondered who got two dimes!

In the spring time a playground appeared in the back of the trailer park. It was a big, very often muddy, open field that had been cleared off in case more trailer space was needed. All the kids in the park, 30 or more, would gather and play various games. Some would climb trees; all were running and playing with their friends. Jay, who was Jo Anne’s son, had been given a very nice bow and arrow set by his dad. He was given lessons on the proper use of it. Some straw bale targets had been set up at the edge of the playing field for target practice. Kids were milling around everywhere when Jay wanted to target practice with the bow. He told everyone to clear away and pulled back his bow. The message got lost in the shuffle of all the kids. The arrow went into the bale and out the other side just as an unfortunate kid ran behind the bale. The kid appeared on the other side of the bale with an arrow stuck in his cheek between his upper teeth and lower teeth and was resting on his tongue.

Pandemonium set in and every kid started running to Jo Anne’s including the kid with the arrow in his cheek. Jay’s dad broke the arrow off on the outside and pulled it through the inside of the cheek. The kid was taken to Dr. Hansen’s office in Kenai where he was examined and declared in good health. He just had a hole in his cheek!

I was making cookies, canning or sewing when Susan and David came running into our trailer, eyes wide open, screaming, “Jay shot an arrow into the cheek of (kid’s name?)  He’s gonna go to the doctor!” Well in my minds eye I could see an arrow sticking into his heart, or out the other side of his head. I did not hear cheek. I took off running for Jo Anne’s to see if I could help. All I saw was mortified kids milling around saying they were sure glad it was not them! The unfortunate kid had already been put in the car by his mother and taken to the doctor’s office in Kenai. Jay was in “big trouble” with the dad. Most of the kids would say it was not his fault that he had told everybody to move. We were all glad it turned out as well as it did! Susan tells me that before the accident with the arrow, that she felt something was going to happen. It did!

On the Fourth of July or Children’s Day, which I believe is in June, Jack and Earle at Bishop Creek Bar, put on what they called Kiddies Day. Because there were so many children of grade school age in the area, they had a huge party for children. The oil field companies, welding companies, pipe companies and tug boats, donated great items for Kiddies Day. Lots of bicycles,(that’s where my kids got theirs) wagons, toys for girls, toys for boys. However everyone had to earn a prize by competing in various games. Hidden treasures in straw stacks, sack races and greased pole competition. One year it was a greased pig! Scavenger hunts and obstacle courses. Much of the games and events were set up by a motor cycle club in the area. Mothers and dads were the overseers and everyone had a grand time and every child got a prize. The food was plentiful and delicious. Usually BBQ’d moose and moose ribs and fish. I remember ordering chickens from Anchorage so I could fry chicken. Lots of salads, lots of cakes and tons of cookies. The kids played all day and well into the evening as the sun barely dipped down in the sky and then came back up.

Kiddies Day at Bishop Creek lasted for several years, until it got so famous that people showed up in motor homes from Anchorage and various other places. They piled plates high with food and took home prizes and food that were meant for North Kenai kids. Sadly, Jack and Earle stopped having Kiddies Day. The memory lingers on through the years. We all miss Jack and Earle!

The series is written by a 44 year resident of Alaska, Ann Berg of Nikiski. Ann shares her collections of recipes from family and friends. She has gathered recipes for more that 50 years. Some are her own creation. Her love of recipes and food came from her Mother, a self taught wonderful cook.

She hopes you enjoy the recipes and that the stories will bring a smile to your day.

Grannie Annie can be reached at anninalaska@gci.net.

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