Preserving our past

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - 20:00

“We’re losing too many of our old timers and their personal histories!”

This declaration was directed at me in March of 1993 by longtime resident Bill Lowe. I agreed, but wasn’t sure what he expected me to do about it. Two hours later I found myself “appointed” to round up a few other friends to form a steering committee that would work toward establishing a local historical society. After many phone calls and cajoling, I convinced Margaret Swanson, Natalie Brooks and Rita lane to join Bill Lowe and I in this project. After numerous meetings and phone calls to the president of the Wasilla Historical Society for advice, our first general meeting was held in the old school. Natalie was elected president, I was elected vice president, Rita Lane became our secretary and Fred Sawyer treasurer. Bylaws were written and room in the Chugiak Children’s Center was acquired for meetings. After jumping through all the necessary hoops, we became designated by the state as a non-profit bona fide organization.

Although our main purpose is in preserving materials in our archives, we have accomplished much more. In 1997, we had Marjorie Cochrane’s local history book, “Between Two Rivers,” reprinted with a few corrections, a new cover and a forward by Lee Jordan. Copies are available for sale at the Chamber of Commerce office in Eagle River.

The society was also responsible for getting the old Spring Creek Lodge placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and for naming the Chugiak Children’s Center building after Paul Swanson, who was a longtime postmaster and school agent in Chugiak. The society has also been involved in many celebrations, such as Chugiak’s 50th anniversary, Alaska’s 50th celebration of statehood and the 1996 Arctic Winter Games in Eagle River. You probably also saw our floats in past Bear Paw and Fourth of July parades. Some of our members have made presentations of community history to elementary school classes and scout groups.

One of our longest ongoing projects has been a yearly calendar, which displays photos of old times in the area. These have been printed and sold for 16 years, and are once again on sale in Eagle River at the chamber office and in Appletree Book Store in Eagle River. The Chugiak, the calendars may be purchased at Rural Discount Center and in the Forget-me-not Cottage. At just $15 each, they make great gifts — especially for past residents who have moved out of state.

We are always in need of more old photos (copies, please) for future calendars. Contact us if you have one or some we might be able to use.

Leave us a message on our voicemail at 688-4706 or drop us a note at Box 670573, Chugiak, AK, 99567.

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