Autumn-frosted leaf

A few Alaska links

This article in the Alaska Dispatch News on Attu Island (site of the only WWII fighting on American soil) is worth it for the slideshow of the island's fascinating post-apocalyptic wilderness. Well, I guess some people's "fascinating post-apocalyptic" is someone else's "appalling environmental horrors", but I thought it was interesting to see what 70 years of Aleutian weather looks like on buildings, fuel tanks, and other war debris, with its own kind of weird, terrible beauty.

In other Alaska-related linkage, I recently fell down the nostalgia pit at this site: Growing up in Anchorage. A lot of the posts on the site are before my time, since I was born in the '70s, but the part of the site that really sent me down the nostalgia hole was the memories of the owner/founder of Chilkoot Charlie's, a notorious bar in a notorious part of Anchorage where I lived, at various times, off and on through the '80s and early '90s.

My childhood was largely spent in Bush Alaska in a cabin off the road system, but my parents were separated and my dad lived in Anchorage, invariably in the worst parts of Anchorage since he could never afford rent and was perpetually getting evicted from various apartments and trailers; so I spent quite a bit of time there, especially after I started having chronic health problems when I was around 8 or 9 and therefore needed to be in town a lot. A number of those apartments were in Spenard, an Anchorage neighborhood which had cheap rent because it was, well, terrible.

... or at least very unique. It's gentrified somewhat over the last couple of decades, but when I was there, it was full of low-rent motels, biker bars, strip clubs, and X-rated bookstores, as well as a lot of strip malls with more normal sorts of business, such as Anchorage's only comic store (a favorite haunt of mine as a kid) and Blaine's, the local art supply store. At one time we lived just a couple of blocks from Chilkoot Charlie's, just behind its famous windmill. The comic store was across the street and I used to walk past the bar to get there.

A few select posts from the Chilkoot Charlie's guy: trying not to get murdered by bikers (the bit about the guy with the shotgun on the roof, good lord); Anchorage's second gay bar (burned down by the owner of Anchorage's first gay bar); a somewhat less censored version of the windmill story linked at the ADN site above (and now I know why there used to be a two-headed pig on the old Chilkoot Charlie's sign; somehow people never seem to talk about these things with 10-year-olds).

... Anchorage in the '80s, man. I think it was just in the last few years that I realized how different the '80s were in Alaska than everywhere else in the country. The 1980s in most of the U.S.: hair bands, bubblegum pop, and multicolored leg warmers. The 1980s in Alaska: recession, concrete architecture, unemployment, and strippers.

This entry is also posted at with comment count unavailable comments.
Tags: ,
Attu Island looks amazing, though the black ooze looks horrible. Maybe they should clear that up, but leave the other rusting things? Because they do have a certain beauty to them and historic interest.

Spenard sounds like a 'lively' place, to say the least! The windmill looks good, shame if they sell it - I'm all in favour of keeping local landmarks if possible!
I guess it's a tricky question: when does trash become valuable ruins? :D
interesting collection of links. I would have to agree by your assessment of how Alaska was different than the rest of the country in the 80s
My childhood was split between two places, Anchorage and Healy, two very different areas. In Healy we lived kind of like wild children LOL. We roamed the hills and woods and left the house at sunup and only came in when it was bedtime, except for dinner and homework when we weren't in school. It was an amazing way to grow up. We would slide down the roadhill on whatever we had on hand which was car hoods, bar stools, plastic bags, skis and even real sleds (you'd have thought that'd be the primary but we loved to improvise apparently). There was one light by the hotel so you'd see the sparks from the metal runner striking rocks that would stick up out of the ice and snow.

We fished, skated, built igloos and forts into the snowpiles the plows made. God it was great. In Anchorage it was a little more civilized by we would still play endlessly in the snowpiles and we would still stay out for all hours of the day. But there we had malls. *v* And TV channels that actually got reception. My friend and I lived on the southeast of Anchorage in the Oceanview (her) Rabbit Creek (me) area so the Dimond Center was our main mall. I didn't really noticed the things happening like the recession, maybe just a bit too young, I was 8 in 1980 and wasn't big on news. But I do know that my step dad's trucking company was going under because Prudhoe Bay was not the lucrative machine it had been.

We still had woods to roam. And we would be late for school because of moose in the trail.

I really look forward to moving back home. I do remember Chilikoot Charlies but obviously never went there LOL. My Dad being the railroad man we were often down in the 4th Ave. area, near the depot, but not very often. Back then it was a pit but they've spruced it up a lot. What's funny is I've been getting back home a lot lately and while there are changes, there is still a lot that is the same.

My Dad has some tales though. He grew up in Talkneetna in the 30's in a one room schoolhouse with a coal stove. I'm happy those days were long gone by the time I went to school! I just got pictures of my old school in Healy, Tri Valley. It's the exact same building but it's definitely showing its age.
Sure, I know where Tri Valley is -- if it's the building I'm thinking of, it's on the highway so you drive past it on the way to Anchorage.

And I forgot it was Healy where you guys lived (for some reason I thought it was around Talkeetna -- maybe you'd mentioned your dad was from there). Yeah, we had a similar split in the places we lived, although for us, it was usually when we were in town that we had the least supervision and the ability to run around and do whatever we wanted. At the cabin we were under the eye of my mom, who was a stay-at-home mom and VERY attentive to what her offspring were up to. With my dad, though, since he worked and we were home-schooled and therefore at loose ends all day, it was kind of just, "Here's some money, see you this evening". XD My sister apparently looks back on it as neglect, but I thought it was GREAT. We'd take the bus to the Dimond Center and bum around all day, or wander the bike paths and parks that go back from the Spenard area into Turnagain and the Coastal Trail. Good times. :D
Cool. My great uncle served as a weather guy for the Air Force during WWII - somewhere in northern Alaska. I wonder if he was on that island at all (he died just before I was born so can't really ask him). Those photos are great
Thanks! :D He probably wasn't on Attu if he was in northern Alaska (Attu is south and west of the mainland, and it's WAY out there) but who knows, it's always possible, and that's neat that he was stationed up here.
I think you are thinking about the Hotel which was moved to the highway back after they shut down the railroad part of Healy which is so depressing but that was in the early 80s and instead of tearing down the hotel they moved it to the Richardson HWY. Tri-Valley you actually have to turn off the highway and go down the road a bit.

It is so funny to think we were growing up in the same areas at some of the same time frames and would meet each other though the internet when we live thousands of miles away. Life is weird! :)

We didn't venture to far out of neighborhoods in Anchorage so most of our roaming was in the Oceanview area and the Turnaginview neighborhood though we did take the bus once to Dimond by ourselves and one time even walked it.

When we move up there we'll be looking for homes either in that side of Anchorage or in Eagle River I think. Most of the properties in Anchorage are so packed together and we've had such a big property for so long now that it's going to be hard to adjust if we don't find something with a little bit of room. You guys definitely don't have that issue where you are at!

Ahhh, my mistake on the building!

We will definitely need to meet up once you're back in Alaska. :D I have family in Wasilla and friends in Eagle River and Anchorage, so I'm down there a couple times a year. And yeah, one of the reasons why I like living up here (Fairbanks, as opposed to Anchorage) is because the lots are bigger and it's much less crowded. I hope you're able to find something you like! If job proximity isn't an issue, you could always consider living out in the Valley ... though, of course, if you're trying to be close to your or your husband's workplace, that wouldn't do.
TYK for this glimpse into a part of the U.S. that's so distant from me (I'm in the Midwest) and for sharing a bit of your childhood.