Peninsula Reflections

Posted: Monday, March 10, 2008


  Photos by Jim

Photos by Jim

Kasilof aviation history had an interesting page in 1938 with Irvin Evenson. His first plane ride started on the water when he and four other men were loaded in a plane on floats in Bootlegger's Cove, Anchorage. And it stayed on the water. The plane attempted to take off a few times but never quite made it.

"We'll have to go back and drop someone off," the pilot said.

"By then I was hoping like hell it would be me," Irv said, in an interview. But it wasn't and the plane carried him to Bristol Bay. That plane finished its career on the next flight to Bristol Bay. It was on the ground (or water) when it caught fire and burned.

Irv bought an airplane in 1964. It was brand new and supposedly came with flying lessons, but the company he bought the plane from was too busy to give the lessons, so he got them from someone else. That same year Irv and his wife, Mildred, got a government lease on property on the Cohoe bluff and dozed in an airstrip there. A few years later they bought the Peterkin property, which is at Mile 1 Kalifornsky Beach Road and high above the Kasilof River.

Irv kept a D-8 cable dozer from earlier days when they had a potato farm in Anchorage. He dozed in a landing strip on his new property, but it was only 600 feet long and he occasionally went weed whacking off the end of it. So he bought the old Schultz property and extended his field. Irv put in a lifetime of flying which was probably less eventful then some. About 1989, when he was 75 he turned his plane over to his son, Dick, who continues to use the same strip.

A more exciting strip is located next to Jim and Ruth Lawler's place, near Johnson Lake. The roof blew off their house Thanksgiving Day and landed right where an airplane had been just recently parked. In fact, Lawler's not only have a great landing field, they also have a hangar. Their house is on top of the hangar. At first glance, one would think this had something to do with the Wizard of Oz. Nope. It was the work of a big pipe welding project and a crane.

One of the more interesting miscues at the Lawler strip happened more than 25 years ago with a young Carolyn Leman at the controls and her husband, the future Lt. Gov. Loren Leman, as passenger. Their 4-month-old son, Joseph and a 13-year-old commercial fishing deck hand were additional passengers. Somehow, Carolyn over shot the runway and ended up in the adjacent swamp. The prop tried a rototiller imitation, which slammed the passengers forward enough to draw blood and raise pulses. Loren was stitched up at the Soldotna hospital and Carolyn was held overnight there for observation. The youngest two passengers were unhurt. In fact, today Joseph is a C-17 pilot in the U.S. Air Force.

This article was written by Brent Johnson with the Kasilof Historical Society. Sources are Irvin and Mildred Evenson, Ruth Lawler and former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman.

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