By Clark Fair
In the early 1980s, friends of Jean McMaster were tearing down the lean-to attached to the back of her log-cabin dance studio near Kenai when they came across an old brass plaque hanging on the wall in a room that had been used for radio-dispatch calls to the Kenai volunteer fire department. The rectangular plaque had grind marks on each corner, as if bolts holding it in place had been sheared off to remove it.
Stamped into the metal was the name of the manufacturer: the Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel Co. And below that were four lines of data: Whatever the plaque had been attached to had been erected in 1952 and had a capacity of 150,000 gallons. Its “upper capacity level” was 147 feet, 6 inches, while its “lower capacity level” was 120 feet, 2 inches.
Longtime area educator, Gene Morin, whose daughter and son-in-law, Chris and Britton Cook, had been helping tear down the lean-to, realized what the plaque was, and Morin thought he knew who might like to have it.
Back on Good Friday, March 27, 1964, Clayton Brockel, the 37-year-old director of adult education and recently appointed director of the new Kenai Peninsula Community College, had just finished another day of work and was planning to wind down. He climbed into his 1960 white, two-door Chevy Corvair and headed west out of Kenai toward the Wildwood Army Station, where he was a civilian regular at the Friday evening social hour.
He arrived in front of the Officers Club at approximately 5:30 p.m., parked in front of a 4-by-4 post supporting an electrical plug-in, and strolled inside. The Officers Club consisted of three stories —upstairs quarters, a downstairs mess hall and a basement bar and social area. Brockel walked in through the front door and headed down.
“I walked in, and I recall that someone said he wanted me to meet this new officer,” said Brockel, now 82. “So we shook hands, and, about the same time that we shook hands, the earthquake started.” Continue reading