Peninsula Reflections

Posted: Monday, September 11, 2006

Editors note: This is part one of a two-part column. Part two will run Oct. 9.

While reviewing museum files recently, I discovered a newsletter from January 1973. This was from the time when homesteader Mae Ciechanski, had started the museum in the former Slikok Valley School cabin and Damon Hall on Kalifornsky Beach Road at Poppy Lane. In 1986 the museum buildings were moved to their present location on Centennial Park Road in Soldotna. These buildings became part of the Soldotna Historical Homestead Museum. The unidentified writer, named “Ghosty,” writes the following story. It tells the experiences of homesteader, Tommy Jo Corr, teacher for the cabin used as Slikok Valley School in 1957-60.

“Greetings from Ghosty!

“Lately I’ve been calling on Mrs. Tommy Corr, who taught during the first two years of our museum’s beginning as the Slikok Valley School. Somehow it’s hard to believe that the present museum’s entryway was once a community built, one-room schoolhouse. It has the distinction of being the last log school built during territorial days. When I asked Tommy Jo how she ever got involved in such a project, she gave a laugh and started telling me her story.

Seems she was born in Healdton, Oklahoma, and had dreamed all her life of homesteading. After learning that homesteading in the mostly settled western states was no longer possible, she often felt that she had been born at the wrong time in history. She and her husband, Tom Corr, were married in Oklahoma in 1949. They shared a homesteader dream, often going to the library to read books about it. One book particularly caught their attention.

“A homesteading woman from Homer wrote of how she just loved having folks stop by for coffee and small talk. The Corrs wanted that kind of life, too. And Oklahoma was just too crowded, by their way of thinking.

“Finally, Tom came to Alaska to look things over and make sure they weren’t being star-struck by the books they read. He even looked up the lady from Homer, but found that the coffee pot was not on and there wasn’t much conversation time that day. But when he returned to Oklahoma, he told Tommy Jo that Alaska was the place for them.

“If there had been any reservations, they were gone before Tom finished his story of the cool, moist Alaskan summer. At that time Oklahoma was having a drought, and Tommy Jo was ready to pack. And so their dream came true when they homesteaded in forest of the Slikok Valley area on the Kenai Peninsula.”

If anyone knows the identity of the “Ghost Writer” from 1973, call the Soldotna Historical Homestead Museum.

This column was provided by Alice Hopkins with the Soldotna Historical Society

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