“The Palmer-to-Anchorage stage, 1948”
Taken from “The Chosen Place,” by Darlene Halverson:
In 1948 there were no schools between Palmer and Anchorage. Chugiak area students had to ride the regular Palmer-Anchorage Stage to attend Anchorage School that housed grades one through 12.
The bus also transported adults from the Mat-Su Valley and Chugiak to the big city to work, and so its schedule was set to accommodate those riders. That meant the school kids were picked up along the Glenn Highway very early mornings and would arrive an hour before school started. It was a 22 mile ride over a gravel road that took an hour and a half from Peters Creek to the bus depot in Anchorage. The Eagle River hill was the most dangerous spot in the road. It was especially scary crossing the creaking wooden bridge at the bottom of the hill when the river was running high.
The route had to go through Ft. Richardson and Elmendorf Air Base in those days, so the bus driver was required to stop at the Fort’s gate for a pass before continuing on. The speed limit was 15 MPH through military land.
The bus depot was located on a side street between 4th and 5th Ave. in Anchorage. A few hard benches accommodated the younger children while they waited for some older students to escort them to the Anchorage School that was two blocks west.
Returning home was the same process reversed — the kids had to wait an hour after school before boarding the Stage for home. A teacher was assigned to keep the kids busy during those periods. Some days the Chugiak kids didn’t arrive home until 8 p.m. as the bus occasionally broke down either at the depot or on the road.
To learn more about life in Chugiak during those early days, read Darlene Halverson’s book, “The Chosen Place,’ available at The Book Shelf in Eagle river and at the Forget-Me-Not Cottage in Chugiak. Darlene came to Alaska in 1947 at the age of 7 to live on her family’s newly acquired homestead in Peters Creek. She is a valued member of the Chugiak-Eagle River Historical Society, the Chugiak Benefit Association, and has taught at UAA. She facilitates the Memory Retrievers Writing Group that many of the submissions to this column. To reach the Chugiak-Eagle River Historical Society, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a messagea at 688-4706.