A night to remember
Five or six decades can disappear awful fast.
Just ask those in attendance at last week’s “Old Timers’ Dinner” held at the Eagle River Lions Club.
“Time flies,” said Tom Blavka, who first arrived in Chugiak more than 50 years ago.
Co-hosted by Rep. Bill Stoltze (R-Chugiak/Mat-Su) and Rep. Anna Fairclough (R-Eagle River), the free dinner was a chance for many of the area’s long-term residents to get together for a once-a-year gab session.
“Some of the people you can’t put a name to, but you sure know the faces,” said Tom McKinley, who arrived in Alaska in 1968.
About 170 “old timers” turned out for the dinner, which included pork roast, baked potatoes and all the fixin’s served up by Stoltze, Fairclough and an eager host of volunteers that included several of the representatives’ family members.
“It’s a family affair,” Fairclough said.
Dinner was served by members of the Chugiak High NJROTC program and the Lions’ youth group — the Leo’s.
“It’s the young serving the old,” said volunteer — and Stoltze’s sister — Cassie Koehler.
NJROTC member Daniel Yesner said the group was happy to help.
“It’s pretty much what ROTC does,” said Yesner, a senior at Chugiak High.
Stoltze said the dinner was an annual affair in Eagle River that had disappeared in the past couple years. He wanted to bring it back because he feels it’s important to honor the area’s founding members and give them a chance to get together and share memories of the “good old days.”
“After a couple years hiatus, I’m glad we got it back on track,” Stoltze said.
Chugiak-Eagle River Historical Society member Jinny Kirk said the dinner (which Kirk said used to be called the “Pioneer’s Dinner”) was first held in 1996, hosted by North Slope Restaurant owners George and Susan Malekos and sponsored by Sen. Rick Halford. In 2003, the dinner moved to the Lions Club and was rechristened as the “Old Timers” dinner, Kirk said.
Although there has sometimes been entertainment, Kirk said the dinner’s primary purpose has been simply to gather together for a shared community meal.
One thing hasn’t changed over all the years.
“The veggies were always Matanuska veggies, and they were always cooked to perfection,” she said.
Although six decades of growth has brought a lot of change to Chugiak-Eagle River, Tom Blavka said the character of the community remains relatively unchanged today.
“The only thing that’s different is the crowds,” he said.
Stoltze said providing a chance for some of the area’s longest-term residents (many said they have been in the community for more than 50 or even 60 years) was reason enough to slice pork and chew the fat for one winter evening.
“You can’t buy that,” Stolze said.
Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or firstname.lastname@example.org