Peninsula Reflections

Posted: Tuesday, December 26, 2006

From the organizational meeting of the first Cooper Landing Chamber of Commerce held at Millie Eaton’s Kenai Lake Lodge on June 11, 1959, until the chamber secretary closed out their bank account by writing a check to the Cooper Landing Community Club, in 1964, the chamber records illustrate the actions of a small but dynamic group dedicated to bettering the community.

Helen Gwin was the chamber secretary who wrote the $62.82 check to the CLCC, and it is through Helen’s donation of the chamber’s letters, minutes and other memorabilia to the Cooper Landing Museum that we have this glimpse of our past.

Bill Pege was elected chamber president. Helen Gwin became secretary treasurer, with Katie Coppock as her assistant. Jack Willis was appointed chair of the membership committee with Ruth Clemson and Pat Gwin assisting. Millie Eaton was voted the publicity director. Alex Bolam, Herman Berger, Gene Binger, Jack Coppock and Carl Clemson were the first elected board of directors.

Quickly the chamber set to work getting information toward an air strip, enlarging the school, building a church, holding a community picnic, bringing in television, storage for firefighting equipment, decreasing the speed limit through town, improving the recreational areas and having boat races.

The chamber looked at many ways to follow bylaws objectives “to promote and perpetuate the business and civic interests and the promotion of the general welfare and prosperity of Cooper Landing and its environs,” including getting the U.S. Forest Service out of the area.

A letter to the state Commissioner of Natural Resources requested the Chugach National Forest on the Kenai Peninsula be taken over by the state — “We, the people of the Cooper Landing community, are unable to develop our community, as well as the scenic areas of the Chugach National forest on the peninsula, due to bureaucratic restrictions of the Department of the Interior or the Forest Service.” They were successful with more practical requests.

In July of 1959, the chamber president wrote to Supertendent of Schools Robert Isaac, Bureau of Education, in Juneau requesting a portable school addition.

“Last year 27 pupils attended this small one room school. This year between 35 and 40 pupils are expected to attend.”

The chamber also requested water for the school from drilling a well or tapping a nearby stream and for transportation for high school age children to be taken to the Seward High School.

In September, the chamber received help from Alaska Sen. Irwin Metcalf. Metcalf wrote the state commissioner of education after attending a chamber meeting regarding completion of the Cooper Landing school building. He mentions in his letter that the present enrollment is 51 pupils.

“I was also shown an Army Surplus Building, which had been moved in on the school premises and set up on cement blocks, but incomplete so far as insulation, heating, and drinking water facilities were concerned,” Metcalf wrote.

The Army surplus school building was repaired and used until the new school was built in 1972.

In the fall of 1973, this building was donated by the Kenai Peninsula Borough to the community to house the ambulance. The building was separated into two sections, approximately 24 feet by 32 feet, by local volunteers and moved to the public facilities site on Snug Harbor Road by Sea Land, thanks to Ken Lancaster.

Cheryle James was the first president of the present Cooper Landing Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau formed in 2002. She currently is chamber president.

This column was provided by Mona Painter with the Cooper Landing Historical Society.

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