Big welcome to small-town life — Ninilchik’s 2nd teacher learns hospitality firsthand

Photo courtesy of Clark Fair. The Russian Orthodox Church in Ninilchik.

Photo courtesy of Clark Fair. The Russian Orthodox Church in Ninilchik.

By Brent Johnson

For the Redoubt Reporter

We return to Enid Stryker, 23, arriving in Ninilchik in August 1920 aboard the Solo by a Capt. Myers, and settling into her new role as teacher in Ninilchik, as related through her diary entries. (Editor’s note, the first installment of this story was published in the Dec. 4 Redoubt Reporter and is available online at www.redoubtreporter.wordpress.com.)

“Sept.  6. Vacation — Glad. Cleaned stove a.m. Fanny Kelly, Claudia, Martha, Groonia Kvasnikhoff, Nastia and Parascovia took me hunting blueberries 2 p.m. Walked to flatlands, all mossy. Covered in heavy moss. Blueberries few — grow on very low bush almost like moss. Didn’t get enough for pie. Very windy. Came home 6 p.m., then studied until 12:30 a.m. Read. Heard dogs howl.”

By the census, Fanny Kelly was the 16-year-old daughter of James A. and Irene Kelly. Claudia was Fanny’s 3-year-old sister and Martha was her 9-year-old sister. Gronie Kvasnikoff was the 10-year-old daughter of John and Theressie Kvasnikoff, and Nastia was her 13-year-old sister. Pariskovia was Gronie’s 8-year-old sister.

“Sept. 17. After school — Solo in. Mr. Meyrs brought up two women. He said he had to inspect freight, wanted me to see about it before it got off. Went down — who should I find but Dad with Bag and Baggage? Come to stay. He sure looked good to me. Had Mr. Meyrs, Dad, Mrs. Murry, Mrs. Peterson to dinner. Then dance in evening.

“The ladies stayed all night. Some crowd but everybody happy — most excitement in weeks.”

What a change for Enid! After three weeks without family or friend, her dad had come to live with her.

“Sept. 18. Saturday. Put away new supplies. Got Dad settled. Tried to entertain ladies. Then 4 a.m. Solo left. We saw them load fish before sailing. Ladies seemed to like Ninilchik. No time for washing today. Dad made frame for his bed. Meeting of school board. Busy — my middle name today.”

It would have been wonderful if Enid had named the members of the school board, but no such lock. And apparently, the Solo left without Mrs. Peterson and Mrs. Murry.

“Oct. 3. Sunday. Wonderful day. Finished pictures of mountains and interested in another sketch. Then in came Nastia Kavasnikhoff, wanted me to make her a dress. Consequently rushed today finished it at 10 p.m.”

“Oct. 6. Weds. Getting along famously until 11 a.m. and Mrs. A. visited school all p.m., consequently was upset by 4 p.m. by few remarks made. P.M. went to a dance to forget my troubles — could I? — for awhile.”

Mrs. A. appears to be Alyce Anderson, who was the teacher at Ninilchik from 1911 supposedly through the 1919-20 school year. However, she was the census taker at Chignik, Perryville, Ugashik and vicinity during January, March and May, 1920. So her exact time teaching at Ninilchik is unclear. There seems to be friction between the former teacher and the new one.

“Oct. 7. Thursday. My nightmare arriving at 9 a.m. and remaining until 10 a.m. Lost 15 min of valuable school time and she a school mar’m.”

“Oct. 8. Elmer Kelly came up in evening and we played rummy until 12:30.”

Elmer was the 20-year-old son of James and Irene Kvasnikoff Kelly. James was born in Canada and had English-Canadian parents. James and Irene appeared in the 1900 census at Kasilof, where James was the cook at a cannery. At that time, Irene was 18 and the Kellys had John Kvasnikoff, Irene’s 55-year-old father, living with them. So Elmer was half English, as well as a mix of Russian-Alaskan Native.

“Oct. 12. This morning 6 inches snow on ground and it’s still on. Turning cold tonight. In here Dad and I spent the evening. He had an unsuccessful moose hunt today. No Solo yet.”

“Oct. 15. Friday. At noon Mrs. Anderson came to visit again. Stayed all p.m. A little excitement at 2:30 — a boat in sight but proved to be Salmo. Not Simeon’s or Mr. Meyrs.

“Oct. 18. Monday. Those who have been in Alaska any length of time surely know the sensation one feels when a boat leaves in sight or the disappointment when one does not come. The children and I have organized two armies and have been having heaps of fun making our forts out of snow. … . Dad is rather homesick and lonesome tonight.”

“Oct. 24. Monday. P.M. Capt. Anderson arrived. Stayed all night. Went to Seldovia about 8 a.m. He says he is planning on coming up here for Thanksgiving and take me down to Seldovia for the hunt with Jettie and Allan. I have my doubts, for the weather is uncertain.”

Jettie and Allan Petersen are Enid’s sister and brother-in-law.

“Oct. 25. Tuesday. Mr. Henderson arrived 4 p.m., just before I let the children out. We were having sewing and manual training. He seemed well pleased with my work. Settled all my problems so that I hope the winter will pass more pleasantly than the past two months, which have been nightmare as far as the school question is concerned. P.M. Was all in after the excitement. Mr. Harrington and Mr. Patterson were also in and took dinner with us.”

Lester D. Henderson was the first Commissioner of Education for Territorial schools, serving May 10, 1917, to June 30, 1929.

“Oct. 31. Sunday. The big party. Priest very kindly held services at 4 p.m. to allow me privilege of having my party. 27 present. Were having heap of fun. At 9:35 Mrs. Anderson informed me most of girls had to leave. Thus my party was broken up at 10, the end of many long hours of work. Never again. Dad and I had the cleaning up to do after everyone had gone. Some job.”

“Nov. 23. My 24th birthday. Mama had little dinner for me. Simeon invited. Had birthday cake, ice cream. Then in evening Alex Oskolkoff came up and played cards until 11:30.”

Simeon is George and Matrona Oskolkoff’s 20-year-old son. Alex Oskolkoff is Simeon’s 27-year-old brother.

“Nov. 24. Victor Kelly’s name day. He invited Mama, Dad and I to ‘birthday dinner at 6.’ Had good time. Talk about Eats. Table loaded. School p.m. had party to celebrate Victor’s birthday, Thanksgiving and my birthday. Had lots of fun, let out around 3:30.”

Enid’s diary entries become less frequent. We can see her mother has joined them.

“Nov. 25. Thanksgiving. Very quiet day. Had dinner by ourselves. Then good hand Dad mama’s stunt of playing (cribbage).

“Nov. 26. Sketched and worked on school, work. Same old routine. Will it ever stop? Not in this place.”

“Nov. 27. Mamma and I walked to Deep Creek. Brisk walk — strong wind and cold. Dance that night but had enough exercise from our walk. Found out later glad we didn’t go because there was lots of Sour Dough.”

This is one of several references Enid makes to “sourdoughs,” apparently some less-desirable old timers? Or possibly it refers to booze?

“Nov. 29. 11:30 tonight had a regular earthquake lasted about 2 minutes. Nothing escaped the rattle once we thought the house would tip over. Two chimneys were broken down in the Village. We recovered little sleep this time. Dad and Mama went for a long walk.”

“Nov. 30. Hard day after vacation and earthquake. Everyone restless in school. Glad when day was over.”

“Dec. 5. Six below zero — cold. 12:00 a.m. am just ready to take my first dog team ride. 1:30 have returned from ride, certainly most exciting ride I’ve had. Two dogs — big sled went up on river for about three miles. Came back my feet nearly frozen. Am anxious for another ride.”

The Sunday, Dec. 5, entry is the last comment in Enid’s diary while at Ninilchik.

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Brent Johnson, of Clam Gulch, is a former president of the Kenai Peninsula Historical Association.

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2 Comments

Filed under Almanac, education, Ninilchik

2 responses to “Big welcome to small-town life — Ninilchik’s 2nd teacher learns hospitality firsthand

  1. Karen Covey

    Hey Brent, we have really appreciated the diary entries by Ms Stryker. It is very interesting and enjoyable reading. I bet she was just too tuckered out to continue w the diary. Hard times.

  2. Bev Kaiser

    Wonderful diary entries by Enid Stryker. No wonder they named a building at the Kenai Penninsula College after her. She was a wonderful lady. When I first came Kenai in 1977 I needed a place to live. So I made a deal with Enid and her sister Jettie. If I could live in their old house I would drive them where ever they needed to go. Enid & Jettie had quit driving by then. So we went to a lot of senior citizen functions & did a lot of things together. I always enjoyed going grocery shopping for them and I think they enjoyed it too because I would always add a few more new items for them to try. They were like family to me. Brent your article brought a lot of good memory’s back. Thank you.

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