Before Chugiak had power

Thursday, December 15, 2011 - 07:51

(Ed. Note: This is one of a series of articles Les Fetrow wrote for the Knik Arm Courier in 1962. The whole series was titled, “Chugiak is Fifteen.”)

For the first few years of the community, there was no electricity. During the first two years, there was only one home that had any electricity at all. This was the home of Cloyce and Justine Parks.

Lighting was usually by the old standby Coleman Lantern. No home was complete without this hissing appliance. Some women of the community even had Coleman irons for ironing. Laundry was hauled all the way to Anchorage.

In 1949, there were a few homes with generator plants of their own. Parks had a little four-cylinder Hercules plant. When this ran out of gas in the evening, it was time to go to bed. Fetrows had a little plant powered by a Briggs & Stratton engine. This was a sometimes plant; sometimes it ran and sometimes it wouldn’t. It had the peculiarity of refusing to start until the spark plug was changed. It always paid to have two plugs on hand just to give one a ‘rest’ for it could be used later with no trouble.

Vern Haik had a plant at his Spring Creek Lodge that would stop for no apparent reason and at odd times. Most of the plants were either too hard for the women to start or else they didn’t understand the intricacies of the things, so most homes waited without power until the husband got home in the evening to start the plant.

Of course, without electricity there was no water in most of the homes. At this time, the water at Parks Creek was pure and safe for drinking purposes. Parks Creek had a pipe that protruded from the bank below Parksville — now where Klondike Concrete is located. Cars could pull off the road to fill their water cans from that pipe and almost every homeowner stopped at the creek on their way home. It can be seen that no one wasted water, as it was too hard to carry.

Edited by Jinny Kirk and Dennis Bel Isle of the Chugiak-Eagle River Historical Society. The society is located at 18606 Old Glenn Highway in Chugiak. Reach them by phone at 688-4706, email [email protected] or visit them online at

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