Kasilof Community News

Posted: Monday, February 25, 2008

Josh Denna has signed a football scholarship to play at Valley City State University in North Dakota. Josh, a senior at Soldotna High School. His mother is Laura Lahndt, his grandmother is Joan Lahndt and his great-grandmother was Enid McLane, the matriarch of Kasilof education.

Enid, the first territorial teacher in Kasilof, opened classes in the 1932-33 school year. Then the school was on the Cohoe side of the river, and it remained there until about a month into the 1938 school year.

The building now resides on Larry Meyer's property off Yukon Road. That building is one of several historic cabins that Larry has restored.

In 1938, the old Alaska Packers Association hospital was moved from the river to the Kasilof airport. It became the territorial schoolhouse, but the change was controversial. Kasilof River had no bridge and crossing the river was difficult when ice was unstable. Between 1932-38, Enid moved across the river each season when school started. Once the school came to the east side of the river, she could remain at home.

Her daughters, Joan and Jettie, graduated from eighth grade at Kasilof in the spring of 1939. For three school seasons Enid accompanied them to Washington where they lived with their grandmother, Bertha Stryker, and attended school. Enid's husband, Archie, often had to run their Kasilof farm without her.

In 1939-40 John Cowles was the Kasilof teacher. In 1940-41 Marie Fox took that position, and Fred Caldwell held that post for the 1941-42 season. The coming of World War II saw several families leave Kasilof and enrollment dropped too low to open the school. Enid taught at Kenai in 1942-43, 1943-44, and 1944-45.

In subsequent columns I'll follow this narrative through to Tustumena Elementary School and current principal, Ken Halverson.

The airport schoolhouse was eventually moved and became the McLane Center. It houses the Kasilof Historical Association museum where public presentations are made the second Thursday of winter months.

On Feb. 14, Linda Chamberlain, PhD, MPH, gave one of these presentations. She spoke on the history of Alaska dog mushing mail, with a focus on the Kenai Peninsula. A full house attended, including distinguished pioneers such as Dolly Farnsworth, Marge and Peggy Mullen, Al Hershberger and Ty Hanley.

Linda is a scientist educated at Yale and John Hopkins universities. She married Al Breitzman, and they live 14 miles east of Homer. There they have Howling Husky Homestead, which includes a dog mushing museum.

Linda has been trained on how violence effects brain development and offers expertise to service providers who work with traumatized children. She has adapted a technique using the various positions of dogs in a team to illustrate the necessity of people working together.

Carol Joyce, the Kasilof postmistress, saw Linda's presentation. Carol will be attending a postmasters meeting in Anchorage and intends to let other postmasters know about Linda's research on dog mushing mail. Linda is writing a book on this subject.

Happy belated birthday Feb. 20 to Ginger Johnson, Darrell Misner, Jeanne Jackinsky and Trudy Webb.

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