Thursday, September 13, 2018

Down Memory Lane Part 4

After exiting Denali Park, we continued up the Parks Highway to Fairbanks. It was near dinnertime when we drove into town. The first sight we saw was the University of Alaska, where I met my husband in 1964. It has grown so big we almost didn't recognize it. And the Parks Highway turned into a four-lane bypass through Fairbanks. That had not been there when we last visited there in 2003.

University of Alaska Fairbanks Courtesy
We finally arrived at our long-time friends' home just off the Steese Highway north of Fairbanks. Bob had gone to high school with Ted and Elizabeth Baker, and I met them in college. We attended the same church. Elizabeth's parents were Alaska missionaries and had visited in my parents in Seward while I was in high school, but she wasn't with them. My mother and her mother had gone to Bible school together. I actually met Ted and Elizabeth for the first time at their wedding when my parents drove me up to the university for the first time.

The Bakers when they visited us last fall.
The Bakers took us to the Turtle Club, a popular restaurant near their home, for a delicious prime rib dinner. I ate halibut. I can get prime rib at home but not fresh Alaska halibut!

The next morning the Bakers served us homemade sourdough pancakes made from starter that had been in their family a long time. And I did a taste test to compare Maine and Alaskan blueberry jams. Alaskan blueberries won--so flavorful. No comparison!

Elizabeth's sister, Gwen, came by after breakfast. We visited all morning. Then we headed out to explore Fairbanks and the university. The area had changed so much that we actually had to use GPS to find our way around the city we'd lived in for so long. Driving around the main part of the campus is no longer possible. Some of the buildings are  no longer there. Others have been added. We drove past the cafeteria and reminisced about how we had met in the upstairs lounge for the first time at an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship meeting. Two-and-a-half years later in the same room, Bob asked me to marry him.

In Alaska it is said that there are two seasons: winter and construction. Several of the roads on campus were closed for reconstruction, so we were not able to get near the first dorm I had lived in--Skarland Hall, opened my first year at UAF.

My first dorm--Skarland Hall Courtesy
Next, we looked for our first home after we got married. It had been located at 16th and Stacia Streets in downtown Fairbanks, but it was gone. We couldn't even determine where it had been. We'd only lived in it for two months before we got flooded out of it in the worst flood of the Chena River (1967).

Our first home--after the flood it was unlivable
The next day, Sunday, we attended services at Fairbanks First Assembly of God, the church I had gone to throughout my college years, renamed True North Church. The old sanctuary is now the fellowship hall. We reconnected with several friends from years gone by and made several new ones.
After church, the Bakers took us to a scrumptious buffet at a restaurant along the Chena River. From our window seats we watched people canoeing and a variety of birds floating on the water.

Sunday afternoon, we visited the Fairbanks Visitor Information Center which featured wonderful dioramas of the seasons of the Interior of Alaska in this land between the mountains. Three life-sized dioramas depict the seasons. Summer features a fish camp and a view of the place where the Yukon and Tanana Rivers meet. In fall, a grizzly digs for ground squirrels, and a hunting camp shows the connection the people have with the land. The winter diorama is a view from inside the warmth of a public use cabin. A moose peers in through the window as northern lights dance across the sky above. In Elder's Hall are displays of the Athabascan culture and historic and contemporary art and tools. There, we met more friends from years gone by.

Monday morning, we drove to North Pole, Alaska, about 15 miles south to visit KJNP, a Christian radio station in North Pole, Alaska. The station had opened the summer we got married, and I knew the current CEO, Bonnie Carriker, since my childhood days in Juneau. I also knew the founders, Don and Gen Nelson. Bob had had classes at UAF with their daughter. After 51 years, the station had to replace the broadcast tower this summer. The buildings that house KJNP are log cabins with sod roofs, a true Alaskan motif.
That afternoon, we toured the ultra-modern Museum of the North at the University of Alaska for a history of Alaska. Well worth the visit!

Courtesy Google,.com
One of the displays in the Museum of the North Courtesy
Tuesday, we visited Pioneer Park, formerly know as the Alaska Centennial Exposition, where I worked as a ticket taker and cashier the summer we got married. Located on the Chena River, it was flooded out in the recording-breaking flood in August of 1967.

One of the cabins like I worked in.
Many original log cabins from the early days of Fairbanks had been moved to this location to recreate a pioneer village. I had worked in one of them, but they all looked so much alike, I couldn't remember which one was my office.

We rode the train around the site, saw the old stern wheeler that had been floated in after the flood, viewed "The Big Stampede" murals painted by Rusty Heurlin and narrated by Ruben Gaines, and visited the Pioneer Museum.

Every morning and evening over delicious home-cooked meals, we talked for hours.The Bakers were wonderful hosts. We wished we could stay longer, but Wednesday it was time to head south. I'll tell you about that segment of our trip next week.

If I have whet your appetite about Alaska, you can read more about it in my books. See my website:

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