The Redoubt Reporter will return Jan. 2, 2013. Happy holidays.
Monthly Archives: December 2012
By Jenny Neyman
The hearts of the founders and volunteers of the fledgling The Underground organization are in the right place — with the youth, teens and young adults they seek to help in the central Kenai Peninsula community. But for the time being, the organization is as homeless as many of its target clients are.
A mere 13 months old and the organization already is bursting at the seams in its efforts to help youths and young adults in the area who lack a stable place to live and other basic necessities of life. The program operates two free clothing closets — one for kids in sixth grade and under and one for ages 13 to 22 — accepting donations from the community and distributing them to youth in need. It’s starting up a mentoring program to teach life skills — cooking, budgeting, anger management, resume writing and the like — for youth to transition into successful as adults. It’s adopted five families for Christmas to provide them not only with holiday decorations and a few presents, but the furniture, appliances, dishes and other household basics that they currently lack.
And all this is happening out of three homes and two storage units. There are piles of donated clothing sitting on living room chairs where family members otherwise would sit. Garbage bags holding more donations, which are awaiting sorting, tower in corners and fill up car trunks. Furniture edges vehicles out of garages and personal belongings out of storage units, all in a continual circuit of seeing a need and trying to meet it.
“Too many of us have too many things in our houses and storage facilities right now. We’ve given
everything we have to give and still keep us in our house,” said Shawn Schooley, co-founder, with his wife, Krista, of The Underground.
Not that organizers and volunteers are complaining. Losing use of their space is a small price to pay to help others who have no space of their own, much less anything to put in it. The Christmas families, for instance, aren’t a case of “Johnny wants a pair of skates, Susie wants a sled.” More like Johnny wants running water, and Susie wants a roof over her head.
“We have one 19-year-old girl we’re helping who was homeless and just got into an apartment and took in her two brothers, 14 and 18. And she had nothing going into this apartment — no furniture, no working stove. She took on a second job just to be able to make ends meet, so no Christmas for her and her brothers,” Krista said.
Krista turned to Facebook, just as she had a week earlier to ask for donations to help another family that was going to have to skip Christmas.
“Two hundred people later this house is completely furnished. There’s a tree, decoration and presents, some wrapped for the kids, some given with wrapping paper so the parents can do it for their kids,” Krista said.
But in order to serve more people, to expand the organization’s programs and to really get The Underground off the ground requires the homelessness-focused organization to find a home of its own.
“We know the programs we want to get going but we have to have a way to get a facility to hold it. So we’re looking for commitments of people to help us,” said Tricey Katzenberger, a volunteer organizer.
By Joseph Robertia
Clam Gulch is a small community, which makes the loss of any neighbor noticeable. But with the passing, on Dec. 7, of such a longtime resident and active community member as Mike Wiley, the loss isn’t just perceptible, it’s palpable.
Wiley, 71, formerly of Vermont, came to Alaska in 1966 with his wife, Bertha. The two settled in Skagway, where Wiley taught fifth grade for two years. Two years later he was offered a teaching position at Tustumena Elementary School, in Kasilof, but before the family could move together tragedy struck and his wife, and their 1- and 2-year-old sons, were killed when their car went off the road and into the freezing Chilkat River.
Wiley came up and settled in the former homestead of Clam Gulch residents Bill and Ruth Reeder, located on a little lake at Mile 116 of the Sterling Highway. Not long after, Wiley married his next-door neighbor, Linda Hatten, and they had three daughters during the marriage, which lasted until 1980.
After three years at Tustumena Elementary, and eventually achieving the position of principal, Wiley began teaching in even smaller communities — Nanwalek, Tyonek, Port Heiden and numerous other places.
Wiley began commercial fishing in 1970, set netting at Tuxedni Bay with Don Thrapp, who was a homesteader on Crooked Creek Road. The next year, Wiley fished near Corea Creek with Everett Bice, who, in 1977, formed a partnership with Brent and Judy Johnson. The Johnsons eventually inherited the site in 1990. Wiley bought a site himself in Clam Gulch in 1975.
“Mike was one of those guys who always fished to the end of the season each year,” Brent Johnson said.
By Joseph Robertia
While the passing of Dec. 12 came and went without fanfare for many people, for Robyne and Zack Misner, that day marks not only a once-in-a-century date, but also the birth of their first child.
Sacha Cole Misner was born at 7:34 p.m. on the 12th day of the 12th month of the 12th year at Providence Hospital Women and Children’s Pavilion in Everett, Wash. She weighed 7 pounds, 13 ounces, and measured 19 inches.
Zack, a graduate of Kenai Central High School, currently serving in the Navy as a religious programs specialist second class aboard the U.S.S. Nimitz, said that while he and his wife didn’t plan the serendipitous birth date, they are happy for their daughter to have it.
“Sacha’s due date was originally Dec. 19, but Robyne was induced due to some signs of preeclampsia,” said Misner, referring to a risky pregnancy condition in which the mother develops swelling and high blood pressure. If untreated, the condition could threaten the life of the mother and baby.
The condition kept the parents from even noticing the numerical significance of the proposed birthdate, but after Robyne was admitted to the hospital and spent several hours in labor, they realized the unique situation which was presenting itself.
“I never really thought about it, until one of the nurses mentioned it,” Zack said.
Despite the preeclampsia, labor went well once Robyne was admitted to the hospital, and Zack said that over the hours he waited for his daughter to be born, he got to reflect on her birthdate.
By Jenny Neyman
Dust off your bell-bottoms, trim up those sideburns and pull out the platform shoes as the Kenai Performers ring in the new year with a trip back to the 1970s.
“I miss the ’70s, and the outrageous styles and the sparkle. It was so glitzy but seemed very carefree,” said Sally Cassano, organizer of the New Year’s Eve gala event.
OK, yes, there was polyester. And the Farrah Fawcett feather cut, obnoxiously busy flower prints and — brace yourself — the leisure suit.
These might be some of the loudest examples to come to mind when recalling the culture of the 1970s, but dismissing the entire decade based on a few cringe-worthy misadventures in fashion and fabric would be doing a disservice to the many contributions of the era that still stand the tests of taste and time. Particularly in music.
By Clark Fair
The holiday season on the Kenai was a far different affair in the 1940s than it is today. This is — mainly in their own words through letters they wrote to relatives in Ohio — a first-Alaska-Christmas recollection by Rusty and Larry Lancashire, who, along with their three young daughters, were among the early homesteaders on the central peninsula. In the late spring of 1948, they settled on a piece of land atop Pickle Hill in what came to be known as Ridgeway, between Kenai and Soldotna.
Kenai at the time was a village of a few hundred residents, and Soldotna was more or less a sparsely populated junction on the recently completed Sterling Highway. Christmas in 1948 occurred on a Saturday.
Jan. 2, 1949
RUSTY: “The hungry cry of the coyote, the huge bull moose darting across our moonlit path, and the snow! Since November our earth has been white. Any soiled spots are soon covered over with a fresh layer. Snowshoes are a must! The few moonlit nights are beyond belief! The snow lays heavy upon the tall spruce — crystallized into an unbelievable fairy land. We only wish you could all share in the more beautiful parts of this life … .
“We’ll back up a few days and try to let you know what’s been going on. Our well is now working. Not too good, but we get five gallons every hour, and it’s as clean as Soldotna Creek anyway!
“We gave Christmas a huge build-up — only to have to change our tune the last week. The first barge to leave Seattle sank — hit some reef or something. They tried for days to save the cargo but couldn’t. Then our hopes soared when the ‘Baranof’ docked almost a week before in Seward. The ‘Aleutian’ came in the same week. They were so loaded from the back shipping that all was lost in confusion. They got Anchorage and Seward mail but not ours.
“We started telling the children, ‘Santa might have to start around the other side of the world — that’s how it is when you live on top of the world, you know.’ I decided we would blow what we could on groceries and make the day family.
“I caught Mel Cole going to Seward Wednesday and gave him a big order. They always get groceries off the ships … . Man, Larry dives in to see if his things arrived — Martha and Lorrie dance and Rusty checks groceries. We all love packages — mail or otherwise. Anyway — here we sit — really on top of the world — a turkey, eggs in the shell, cabbage, and a squash! Our mouths watered.
By Zirrus VanDevere, for the Redoubt Reporter
The brilliant thing about Joe Kashi’s most recent idea for an exhibit at the Kenai Fine Arts Center is that the judges have already done their work, and the artists have already done theirs. Pieces by local photographers that have previously been accepted into statewide photography exhibits — Rarified Light and Alaska Positive — over the last seven years were eligible to be entered into “Refined Light,” showing through December in Gallery One.
The result is a distinct, cream-of-the-crop sort of show, and although the judges were many and varied, the high quality of the exhibit is tough to dispute.
Just for fun, I thought I might try and judge the exhibit a final time, which turned out to be more difficult than I’d bargained for. There are so many really fine pieces in this show that I ended up with a lot of placers, and a long list of honorable mentions. It helps to remember that I am only one person, and also that it was often only one person who judged these pieces in the first place to be worthy of inclusion in the statewide shows.
These are artists and photography that I am familiar with and, like anyone else, I have certain biases and aesthetic tastes and preferences.
By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter
In some respects, it takes more effort to look at photographs than it takes to take them. While at the Kenai Fine Arts Center the other day, I was reminded of how often all of us, as viewers, fail to make that effort.
The December exhibit at the Kenai Fine Arts Center consists of 40 photographs by 16 local photographers. Each of those 40 photographs was accepted between 2005 and 2012 into “Rarified Light,” Alaska’s most prestigious annual juried photography exhibit. It’s quite a diverse set of images, as might be expected of work produced by so many people and selected by eight different nationally prominent jurors. Surely, at least a few of those images should catch visitors’ eyes enough for them to linger and consider the image, at least for a few seconds.
Yet, I saw some visitors powering through those 40 select photographs as if they were on afterburner, moving through the entire exhibit in three or four minutes. That averages about four to six seconds per image, including the time spent walking between each photo. It’s hard to imagine that those viewers derived either benefit or pleasure from their brief exposure to these works. Doing so takes a bit more time and a receptive — shall we say, introspective — attitude.
Good work should produce some degree of useful emotional reaction and/or a deepened sense of personal understanding. In the best work, the emotional reaction or sense of understanding comes from within each viewer.
Perhaps I can illustrate this point using a photo from this exhibit. Although nominally a simple photo of an empty chair partially side lit by drawn curtains, I heard many different reactions from viewers. Some were reminded of happy childhood memories at home or while visiting grandparents while others saw death and loss in that empty chair. These are diametrically opposed reactions, yet all make perfectly good sense when considering each viewer’s own life experiences.
By Jenny Neyman
For an adventure to live up to the Seth Holden standard requires meeting some steep qualifications:
It has to be big — week-long winter ski traverses, remote mountain climbs, explorations of backcountry terrain so way out and wild that few even fly over it, much less navigate through.
It has to be human-powered — climbing, skiing, pack rafting, hiking, hunting; wherever man provides the means, the mettle and the locomotion.
It has to be unique — an unclimbed peak, an untried route or some other feat rarely, if ever, attempted, much less accomplished.
It has to be a challenge — to skill, strength, smarts, resourcefulness and determination (and intestinal continence of any lacking Holden’s nerve).
It has to be thoroughly enjoyed — in all the good weather, bad luck and ugly obstacles Alaska can generate.
It has to be so epic as to approach the mythological in becoming part of Alaska outdoorsmen’s lore, yet grounded by the fact that the quiet, introspective Holden not only never bragged about his exploits, but rarely spoke of them at all.
“I think for him it was just purely internal, for his own benefit, not to try and brag or anything. He did it because it was something important to him. He just had a deep love for being outside and pushing himself against the wilderness whenever he could,” said Clint Helander, Holden’s friend and climbing partner.
In his 29 years, Holden, who grew up in Soldonta, amassed an impressive array of backcountry adventures — climbing Denali, notching first ascents of peaks in the Revelation Mountains at the southwest end of the Alaska Range, scaling the South Face of the Moose’s Tooth, pack rafting the Aniakchak, doing solo Dall sheep hunts in the high country around Tustumena Lake. There’s no doubt that the next 29 years would have brought many more, as the only thing that could match Holden’s ability in the outdoors was his enthusiasm for being in it.
A plane crash Aug. 24, 2010, brought Holden’s adventure to an end, but his adventurous spirit and all-around “Mr. Alaska” reputation lives on to inspire others following in Holden’s very large, very far-ranging footsteps.
And now his legacy will help others on their own journeys, through the Seth Holden Alaska Remote Exploration Grant, established through memorial donations made by family, friends and supporters.
“We had a lot of overwhelming support from his friends and family, from, well, really, just from all over the country. We had people come up and say, ‘What can we do?’” Helander said.
By Jenny Neyman
A controversial move by the Alaska State Board of Education on Friday to incorporate student performance into teachers’ job evaluations has educators bristling at what feels to them to be an attempt to fit unstandardizable qualities into a standardized system of evaluation.
There are many influences on how a student performs that are out of a teacher’s control — home life, health, whether they got a good night’s sleep, whether they ate a good breakfast, etc. Evaluating a teacher’s performance in part based on how students perform on standardized testing is unfair, said Wayne Floyd, a 30-plus-year teacher at Nikiski North Star Elementary, and one of more than 900 people who submitted comments on the state school board proposal.
“The student population is a moving target that’s never the same from year to year. It’s not something that can be predicted, just based on the dynamics of each year’s class. One year you can have a huge overload of kids with learning issues and need for support shadows, or kids with abuse at home, and all that comes to school with them. And the problem is noneducators are treating the education system like it’s a factory where you put standardized products into the factory and out the other end pops a high-quality product,” he said.
“In teaching you only have them for six hours out of a 24-hour day. You’re supposed to be making the biggest impact on them, when actually the biggest impact is outside of your environment. Let’s say you’re a dentist and the amount of money you can collect from the dental process is based on the success of clients not having cavities. This is like grading a dentist on how much candy a kid eats and cavities they have,” Floyd said.
The new rule stipulates that by the 2015-16 school year, 20 percent of a teacher’s assessment will be based on student performance, increasing to 50 percent of the evaluation by 2018-19. Districts can use four ways to measure student performance in evaluating its teachers, but one must be a statewide standardized test.
The standardized test piece is particularly worrisome, given debate over the accuracy of gauging student performance through that approach.
“Research has shown that written tests only measure a certain percentage. Maybe about 40 percent of the student population can be measured accurately that way. There are other things that need to come into play addressing the other areas of learning. Now you’re running into huge variability and opinions. That’s the problem with humanities — they’ve tried to make it scientific for years and there’s always that human element that throws science out of the window at times,” Floyd said.
Floyd is not opposed to the idea of holding teachers accountable for the achievement of their students, but wants to see it done in a way that is reasonable and takes into account the reality that student performance hinges on more than just teacher effectiveness.
“It’s fine that we’re pushing for improvements but it needs to be fair. I think the biggest problem we have here is people on both sides agree that student achievement needs to be included, but there’s a disagreement on how to handle it. If it’s going to be a fair system it needs to be based on factors that are predictable and measurable, and in most cases that’s not going to happen year after year,” Floyd said.
Editor’s note: This is part two of a series of columns explaining the techniques of cross-country skiing.
Last week, we began with the Seven Magic Movements of Cross-Country Skiing — No. 1, athletic posture; No. 2, forward lean; No. 3, the kick; No. 4, the glide and No. 5, compression. This week, we pick up where we left off in classic skiing:
- No. 6: Pole plant. Arms should be bent at a 60-degree angle or less. If viewed from the side, poles should be planted with a forward angle. If viewed from the front, poles should be vertical or angled slightly to your centerline. The shoulders should be parallel, not hunched on the pole arm. Common problems: If you find your arms are too straight, try bending an arm as you bring it forward to plant the pole. If the pole shoulder is hunched, try keeping shoulders relaxed, and don’t overswing your arms too high when diagonal poling.
By Clark Fair
When Victor Frolich announced in the spring of 1962 that he was having a contest to rename his recently purchased Soldotna motel, he was doing more than merely stamping his own identity on the place. He was masking a stain from its past.
On Dec. 18, 1961, Arthur Vernon Watson had shot and killed Marion T. Grissom, a former employee who had been assisting in the construction of the Watson Motel.
Watson, 53, never denied shooting Grissom. In fact, he was the one who had called the authorities after Grissom dropped dead on Watson’s kitchen floor. But Watson claimed that he had pulled the trigger in self-defense, and the facts of the case were muddled enough to generate doubt.
One problem was a lack of witnesses. Grissom, after all, was dead. Watson’s 65-year-old wife, Elizabeth, had been on the premises when the killing occurred, but she claimed to remember nothing. Watson himself provided the only firsthand testimony.
For members of the public — and for attorneys at the 1962 trial — the decision concerning whom and what to believe seemed to boil down to a matter of character.
Marion Grissom, by all accounts, was a poorly educated, hard-working man who liked to drink. The accounts were more mixed when it came to his behavior while intoxicated. Defense attorney Peter B. Walton described an intoxicated Grissom as a “savage beast,” and said that Watson’s fear of this beast played a part in the shooting.
On the other hand, Warren Wright, a former employee at Watson’s motel, testified that Grissom was “playful” when drinking, and his depiction was echoed by Frank Mullen, owner of a local laundromat, who added that Grissom was “boisterous” when intoxicated. Bar owner Maxine Bear testified that Grissom was “a working man … a happy-go-lucky type of guy … very friendly.” Bear said that she’d never seen Grissom display his anger when intoxicated.
But Elizabeth Watson, who was originally from San Francisco and had married Watson in Las Vegas in 1959, offered a contrary and more damning view. She testified that Grissom was a strong man who, “Couldn’t think for himself,” and, “Always had a bottle hid around on the job.” She also recalled an incident from the previous October during which Grissom had brutally mistreated the Watson family dog. Another time, she said, Grissom, “Started grabbing me and pushing me around.”