Doug Blossom remembers when the Ninilchik School had only four classrooms, a utility room and an ice rink. In the 1950s, Blossom said that track and hockey were the big sports, and a station wagon served as the school bus.
As the school celebrates its 100th year, multiple state championship banners hung in the gymnasium. Today the 13 classrooms sport laptop computers and students walk the halls with cell phones and MP3 players.
"All the kids play basketball," he said, of the student body today.
The kindergarten through 12th-grade school held an anniversary dinner to commemorate the 100th year since the school's founding.
The school has survived the Great Depression, two World Wars and two fires. One of them destroyed the original building in 1941; another destroyed the elementary wing in 1996.
After the second fire, students had classes in a display home at the town's fair grounds. Head custodian John McCombs, who received a service award for his 25 years of employment, said that kids used a horse stable for a playground during the winter that year.
Once the manure unfroze come break-up, play time was relocated to another area, he chuckled.
Current principle Terry Martin said that he makes decisions at Ninilchik based on a basic principle: simplicity.
"Do your work, stay in school and make the most of your educational opportunities," Martin advised students at the gathering.
Classes began at the school's first incarnation with the arrival of Alyce Anderson in 1911, according to her daughter. Anderson began classes after shuttling extra supplies from a Kenai school into the old Russian edifying edifice.
The Kenai connection didn't end there. Blossom said that the two schools faced off on the ice because no other settlements had hockey teams. He remembers slapping skates with Palmer at the state finals back in the day.
Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education member Penny Vadla, of Soldotna, who is also a retired teacher and coach, believed that the school has changed with the population. Enrollment was 225 in 1978 when she first entered Ninilchik's doors. She said that the numbers dropped as logging left the area, and when the town's cannery burned down.
Despite Ninilchik's struggles, staff believed that the school has reflected the community's intimate culture. It has grown with it as well.
"Parts of it are kind of tired," said McCombs. "But it has got a lot of stuff."
The Homer News contributed to this article. Tony Cella can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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