Click here to listen to [ntoalaska.mid ]
Click here to listen to [North to Alaska.mid]

Memories of Ninilchik

My first recollection of Ninilchik is when I am approximately five years old. There were no roads. A small aircraft or a boat was the only means of access to the village. The plane landed on the beach by Bertha Kvasnikoff's house. We crossed the old narrow bridge and ambled to the Kelly house where my mother planned to spend the summer. It was a peculiar experience for a young child. The entire village was painted yellow with dandelions. The hill behind the village was covered with lupine and wild geranium. A majestic white building stood on the hill above the village. The was one small store which carried very little merchandise. When you were thirsty you took fifteen cents to Marian Hostetter and she sold you delicious homemade root beer in a brown bottle. If you were in need of bread, you took fifty cents to Malina's house. Kenny Kvasnikoff and I were the same age so we promptly became companions. Kenny had no fear of that old rickety bridge between his house on the beach and my great-grandmother's house in the village and he scampered across it quite easily. I huddled in fear at the mere mention of crossing the bridge. I recall the cracks on the old weather beaten monstrosity with a bit of exaggeration. They were one or two inch spaces between large planks but I remember them as being wide enough to slip through. I could see the raging river through the crevices and hear the bridge groan and creak. I was certain this bridge would cause my demise as slid through the cracks into the swift current (the river is actually rather peaceful). Kenny of course wanted to play on the beach and would frolic back and forth trying to coax me across. as I gingerly attempted to crawl across on my hands and knees. Eventually Deanie (William Dean Kvasnikoff), who being just a few years older came, started laughing and carried me across the bridge. After that the older Kvasnikoff boys became my means of transportation across that monstrous graying old edifice. I don't know if his mother told him to fetch me, Kenny cajoled him or he was just a wonderful young man. I only know I didn't walk across that bridge the entire time we were in Ninilchik that year.

I believe a person could find many root cellars on Ninilchik hill if they cared to research the terrain. Kenny and I explored the old root cellar behind Victor Kelly's house. The homemade simplicity of this tiny plank door standing upright, covered with sod, dirt and grass inconspicuously nested in the side of the hill is vivid in my mind. The door opened into the hillside allowing one to enter the mysterious dark and musty smelling cellar. We would find a padlock securing the cellar and all it's contents from the eyes of curious children. These root cellars were dug into the ground and supported with wooden beams. They often had shelves or bins for storing food. Potatoes and carrots did not freeze during the winter nor would supplies become overly hot in the summer due to natural insulation provided by nature. In the ranch house the cellar was hidden under the floor of the Kalyeedor (porch). The odd locations of the cellars would indicate the necessity of hiding food from others to prevent theft. (There are signs of several cellars still available for viewing in the village but on several occasions I have looked for Uncle Victor's cellar to no avail.)

There was always a wonderful smell coming from the coal stoves in the homes of Ninilchik people. One winter when I was young, Abe Kvasnikoff, took me across the frozen river to his mother, Mary's house. Crossing the river was a delightfully scary experience because we were not allowed to go out on the ice. With each creaking step I was certain the ice was cracking and I would meet my demise in the Ninilchik River. Gingerly and cautiously I followed Abe on that endless trek. (In reality it is only a short distance). When we arrived I was cold and hungry. Masha (Abe's Mother) was standing by the coal stove. She was rather petite and she barely seemed able to reach up to stir a large pot of the most tempting Moose soup I have ever smelled. In the tradition of Ninilchik people, as young as I was, I was a guest and she served me a bowl of soup with homemade bread. It had a rich broth made from moose meat. There was no carrots, tomatoes or other fancy ingredients but it was and is to this day the best soup I have tasted.

Background is Mt. Redoubt. This mountain has an active volcano. Other Photographs are the property of Erling Kvasnikoff. Photo 1 is Kenny Kvasnikoff as a child. Photo 2 is Freddy Landers, Emil Jeske, Erling Kvasnikoff and Abe Kvasnikoff. Photo 3 is Bill Kvasnikoff and Fred Kvasnikoff standing in front of their fur harvest.

Copyright 1995 and 2000

Return to stories