Laura Lee Collins, daughter of Peggy Gill Collins (now Thompson) is shown in this undated photo taking a bath in their home. Note wood blocks to lift the tub off of the floor.
Given a job to teach in Kenai Junior High, with my 6-year-old daughter Laura Lee, I moved to Kenai in August 1963. After the first quarter I was moved to the high school that was housed in the same building (now home of the Boys and Girls Club).
There was an episode of culture shock the first year of living in Alaska. I was definitely challenged to a different way of life than where I grew up in the Bootheel of Missouri. I hungered for fresh garden vegetables. Fruits did not taste like fruit. I had to purchase warmer clothing. Men talked about hunting, fishing and airplanes rather than cotton farming as was the case of my dad.
Alaskans shared their moose meat and fish. Thank goodness for this generosity as I was not at all affluent. With Bill Moran, the butcher at Navarre’s Grocery, watching, I viewed and yearned for pork chops that I felt I could not afford. My daughter and I dined on delicious noon meals at school, our suppers were simple.
We learned new concepts. “Winterizing” included putting Visqueen over windows -- work that one of my students did for me. Breakup was when your vehicle sank down to the axles. That twice happened to my pickup truck.
Unhappy with living in an apartment building, via realtor J. W. Thompson, I bought a bare-bones small house, previously owned by an Army person stationed at Wildwood. The fellow was a jack of many trades, but master of nothing. He had moved the structure from downtown Kenai to a wilderness lot three miles east of Kenai. The underpinning was tar paper. When the temperature dropped to minus 20 degrees, water spilled onto the floor froze immediately. When the temperature dropped to minus 50 degrees, I was thankful my mother had sent us an electric blanket for Christmas. I had NEVER experienced such cold.
This house was a long way from being refinished. Celotex hung down from the ceiling; the electrical system needed upgrading. The shower stall was not plumbed, though it appeared fully installed! The previous owners had a washing machine, whereas connecting water pipes with a faucet were on the outside of the wall. Jerry Thompson loaned me an oval galvanized tub that was placed under the faucet so hot and cold water could drain into the tub. After bathing, I dipped the water into the commode.
In the spring we experienced a squirrel visitor that came down from the attic onto the open kitchen shelves, then onto a counter. When we arrived at the door, this squirrel scampered up the shelves then out through a hole in the ceiling. I told of this invasion to my students. A couple of young fellows loaned a trap to me so as to catch the squirrel. On a Sunday morning Laura and I heard the trap shut. Sure enough the squirrel was captured.
Living in Alaska has been rewarding -- a wonderful life.
This column was provided by Peggy Gill Thompson with the Kenai Historical Society.
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