Christmas Past

Even though this writer recognizes that not everyone is a believer in the One whose birth we celebrate this month he will never apologize for saying, “Merry Christmas.” Even a non-believer can enjoy the colored lights that brighten the darkest month of the year. The decorations are pretty and people are smiling despite their frantic shopping forays. The practice of giving and sharing love for our neighbors can be enjoyed by all—and well should be. He and the girl who became his bride 65 years ago have for many seasons celebrated the holiday by driving around to look at the decorated homes. We have noted the continuous growth of subdivisions and appreciate those who go all out to make their homes and yards festive. It’s not easy to forget the early years when the population was much smaller compared to today’s numbers. Even though smaller, the holiday spirit was evident throughout.

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Nativity celebrated here over 117 years

While Chugiak-Eagle River’s population is far more diverse today than a century ago, in the beginning only the Russian Orthodox faith was represented. Priests at St. Nicholas Church served the Native village, teaching of the birth of Jesus Christ. While most of us observe December 25 as the birthday of Jesus, Christmas for the Orthodox is celebrated each year on January 7. When Chugiak was founded in 1947 by a group of homesteaders who proved up on small tracts as well as larger parcels, those settlers primarily were Christian Protestants. Three houses of worship existing in 1953 were Chugiak Chapel, Chugiak Methodist Church and Immanuel Gospel Church. They soon were followed by others affiliated with various denominations, most faiths currently represented.

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Local Teams: From Underdogs to State Champs

The Chugiak High School Mustangs came close to making it to the football state championship finals this season, being edged in the semi-finals by Bartlett in a high-scoring contest. They did win back-to-back championships in the Railbelt Conference where they were recently placed in an apparent effort to balance competition.

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Christmas day memories for post offices

When Delores (Dee) Steeby, former Birchwood resident and long-time Chugiak Postmaster, passed away earlier this year, a big part of our community’s history also was lost. She succeeded Paul Swanson, one of Chugiak’s pioneers. As did her mentor, she spent a great deal of time helping neighbors. What brings that to mind was the question of when we need to put our Christmas cards in the mail this year. In addition, we need to know how late we can send gifts to loved ones Outside and be sure they will arrive in time.

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Voicing the Need for Preserving Veteran Oral Histories

Nearly 100 people attended a workshop hosted by the Alaska Veterans Museum (AVM) and led by the Veterans History Project (VHP) and the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of the American Indian. Attendees learned techniques for collecting oral histories from Alaska’s veterans and how to submit them to VHP, within the Library of Congress, to ensure the stories are preserved for future generations. Col. (ret) Suellyn Novak serves as the president and director for AVM, which is headquartered in Anchorage. AVM’s mission is to educate, honor and inspire by preserving artifacts and stories from Alaskan veterans. AVM has spearheaded numerous oral history efforts for this reason. The workshop fine-tuned those efforts and provided a clear avenue for those stories to be preserved at the Library of Congress.  

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Jay Hammond ‘father,’ defender of PFD

Hotly debated currently is the propriety of placing a cap on Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend. Most Alaskans recently deposited their $1100 check. Without the slice Gov. Bill Walker took to help offset the budget deficit with which he is faced, the check would have been twice as much. Generally considered the “father” of the dividend was Jay Hammond, governor of the 49th State at the time the measure was enacted. This writer has met all of Alaska’s governors since Bill Egan. Not to brag—it was just part of the job he held. They all meant well and some were more popular or more successful than others. Jay Hammond happens to be one of my favorites.

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Performing arts play part in community

In retrospect, Chugiak-Eagle River residents have much to be thankful for. Today, we live as modern a lifestyle as anyone else. That was not always the case. In Chugiak’s early days there were no paved roads, homes with attached garages, no television, no internet, no telephones—not even electricity before 1951. It was that year that the community had its first public school, a building designed to house 50 students in grades 1-8. Settlers who chose the name said to mean “place of many places” were too busy clearing land and building homes to think of entertainment.

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Crime perennial problem; answers vary over time

Local residents join their Anchorage cousins in expressing concern over growing crime rates. Some blame recent legislation such as Senate Bill 91. They believe it is too lenient by shortening sentences for certain infractions. Others look for more and better ways to rehabilitate inmates as well as provide more incentives in hopes of dissuading unfortunates from wrongdoing.

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Plane crash takes life of 2 Congressmen

It was on October 16, 1972, that Alaska’s lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives and three others, including a prominent member of Congress from New Orleans, disappeared on a flight from Anchorage to Juneau. Nicholas Joseph Begich was declared dead in December after the plane was never found despite a major search effort. The crash was believed to have been caused by bad weather although no wreckage or debris has ever been found. The tragedy and the all-out military and Coast Guard search for the missing plane led to passage by Congress of legislation requiring locator beacons be placed in all aircraft.

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Alaskans celebrate our 150-year history

Alaskans on Oct. 18 celebrated Alaska Day, a state holiday. This year marked the 150th anniversary of raising the Stars and Stripes to replace the Russian Double Eagle ensign at Sitka in 1867. The formal transfer took place in the square fronting the home of Prince Dimitri Maksoutoff, chief manager and governor of Russian-America. The stately building, generally referred to as “Baranof Castle,” perched atop a hill overlooking the town of Sitka, then known as New Archangel.

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