The Elsie Oberg story (continued)
Among the more memorable events of her homesteading life, Elsie recalls the eruption of Mt. Spurr in 1953. As the gray ash began to fall, Russell was sent home from work to bring his stock in for fear the ash fall would worsen. The ash was inches deep in Anchorage, hardly noticeable in Palmer, and ¼ to ½ inch thick in Chugiak. It took Anchorage that whole summer to wash the ash from its streets, according to Elsie.
Most Alaskans who were here during the 1964 earthquake vividly recall their actions on that day. Elsie was no exception. She had been in Anchorage all day and had just entered the house when the earthquake struck. She said it sounded like a train had jumped the nearby tracks and was heading straight for the house. As she watched, the ground humped up, looking like a giant inchworm was crawling just beneath the surface. At first, she planned to go outside for safety, but noticed the utility wires near the house quivering and decided it was safer to remain inside to avoid being hit by one of the wires. When the quake ended, the only damage done to the Oberg homestead was a fingerwide crack running through the fields and shop.
Between her duties to her family and their farm, Elsie also found time to be active in Girl Scouts, where she was instrumental in establishing day camp facilities and served as director for many years. She also worked with 4-H, was a substitute teacher and sold Avon products for four years. In 1974, she even ran for a seat on the school board for our “proposed independent borough.”
Both Elsie and Russell have passed away. One of the buildings of the old (territorial) Chugiak Elementary School at Mile 6 of the Old Glenn Highway has been named the Elsie Oberg Center in her honor. The building is now used by the Chugiak Dog Obedience club, the Chugiak-Eagle River Historical Society and the Chugiak Benefit Association.
** The information in this article was gleaned from a story in the Chugiak-Eagle River Star and a 1976 article by Ann Chandonnet in the GreatLander shopping news. It was edited by the Memory Retrievers, a small group of potential writers that meets weekly in Chugiak.
This column is provided by the Chugiak-Eagle River Historical Society. Reach them at [email protected]