Going but not gone: Auction helps preserve history in Kasilof

Posted: Tuesday, October 14, 2003

As part of the effort to preserve the history of Kasilof, a slightly used computer scanner was sold at auction last week, but only after auctioneer Brent Johnson sweetened the deal a bit.

"I'll give you a piece of pie with the scanner," Johnson told the skeptical auction goers gathered at Tustumena Elementary School on Friday night. "And you know the scanner works."

The combination sold for $2, just a couple of the sometimes bizarre, sometimes bargain items donated for the Kasilof Regional Historical Association's yearly fund raising auction.

The event raised money to benefit the association, a group of area residents working to preserve the fading history of Kasilof, a quirky swath of the Kenai Peninsula that's been home to everyone from Alaska Natives to wily fox farmers over the years.

Linda McLane is the association's treasurer. She said the group is doing everything it can to help preserve what remains from the area's checkered past.

"As a historical society, we try to preserve the history of the area," McLane said.

The group currently is working to restore some of the area's oldest buildings, many of them deteriorating log cabins dating back to the days before roads, electricity and running water tamed much of the peninsula.

Some of the money raised at the auction will go to preserving the association's most recent acquisition, the "Fox kitchen," a log cabin used as part of a fox farm that operated in the area in the early 1900s.

McLane said in addition to the buildings themselves, many things settlers used to make life bearable now antiques have been forgotten or neglected.

"If people don't take an interest in these items, they'll just slip away," she said.

Some things you just can't let slip away. Like fudge.

Homemade goodies, including fudge, pies and cookies were hot items in Friday's auction. Most baked goods went for no less than $10, making them among the more sought after items.

There were some genuine bargains to be had, as well, though.

Auctioneer Johnson couldn't resist picking up a dog-sled ride with Kasilof's own Iditarod Sled Dog Race champion Dean Osmar for just $85.

"If I only had the people from the Lower 48, I bet it would go for $500," Johnson said during the bidding.

"Brent's going to sell it on eBay to the people from the Lower 48," someone joked after Johnson made the high bid.

Other items auctioned off included an oil change, a piggy bank (some change included), a snowblower, framed artwork and a dental check-up presumably for whoever bought the fudge.

In the end, the auction raised several hundred dollars, which will be used to preserve some of the area's real treasures. McLane said the group is hoping to eventually raise enough money to move its collection of artifacts from the area many of which date back to the 1800s into a permanent home.

"Our intention is to have a small museum for all the artifacts from the area," McLane said.

It's an ambitions goal, especially considering the fact that Alaska Natives, Russian settlers and every sort of wanderer and dreamer from fox farmer to dog musher have all helped shape the history of the Kasilof area.

But thanks to the generosity of the people who support the association either by baking cookies or donating historical artifacts (or used computer equipment, for that matter) the association is working to make the dream a reality. Because unless people take an interest in preserving their history, it'll soon be forgotten. And for a place like Kasilof, that would be a shame, McLane said.

"We're just trying to get people to take an interest and appreciate the place where they live," she said. "There's a lot of history here."



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