Vintage Ouzinkie: Photos from the Forties

 

 

Introduction:  This photo essay makes use of scrapbooks provided by Miss Rold and Miss Jean Lund, who were house parents at Baker Cottage (“The Mission”) in the 1940s.  Dad (Rev. Norman Smith) began photographing Ouzinkie in 1952, and we have an extensive collection of photos from then on, most of which have been used in other articles on this site.  But photos from before that time are extremely rare, so we are very fortunate that the scrapbooks were unearthed and that I was able to scan and preserve these wonderful photos.  As always, corrections and clarifications are welcome.  I was not always able to identify buildings, and any assistance in that regard is appreciated.  There’s a section of people shots midway through the article, and if anyone can help to identify people in those photos, that would be great.  So come along to view a world that for the most part no longer exists, a small village in remote Alaska, before satellites, phones, roads, and even running water and regular electricity.  It was a place that a lot of terrific people called home.  And still do!  --Timothy Smith, web author (and photo restorer), March, 2008

 

First we pay tribute to one of the primary photographers, Miss Pearl Rold, shown here standing in front of the “fat tree,” down the trail from the Mission, circa 1943.

 

The other photographer, Miss Jean Othelia Lund, served at Baker Cottage for only ten months, from 1945 to 1946, but documented almost everything she saw.  Here she is on the famed Otherside rock.

 

Photos of the Village and Cannery in the 1940s

This slightly blurry photo taken from a seiner shows the Grimes Packing Company sign on one of the old cannery buildings.  By the mid-1950s, it was known as Ouzinkie Packing Company, but many of the local seiners still had their old Grimes designations: GPC 18, GPC 21, etc.  I used to know each boat by number and each family that ran it, and even what the original numbers were after the seiners were renamed.  The Ouzinkie seiners of my youth, Betts, Bonnie, and Judy M all started as GPC boats, and I think the Fortune and Cape Cheerful did as well.

 

A view from around 1950 shows the Paramount (one of Grimes’ tenders) and an unidentified seiner at the Grimes Packing Company dock.

 

The village from the dock, winter 1946 (Lund) shows a home on the beach below the church, and the pool hall with boat ramps (so people could arrive by skiff?)

 

Miss Rold’s summer photo (from nearly the same angle) shows more detail to the left, including the edge of the cannery superintendent’s house, and the boat ramp “ways”.

 

Miss Lund’s photo, from the same part of the dock, shows the walkway (with Arthur Haakanson in the foreground), the store (center) and the old school above it and to the left.  That building was torn down around 1960, and the store disappeared with the Tidal Wave.  The superintendent’s house had a nice covered porch running its entire length when I lived in Ouzinkie.  The building survived the Tidal Wave of 1964, and was finally torn down some time after I left the village in the late 1970s.

 

For the sake of reference, this 1940s photo of the Alaska Steamship SS Cordova at the face of the Grimes Packing Company dock was taken from a point about where Arthur is standing in the previous photo.  This shot is also featured in another article at this site.  Photos of the Grimes cannery are extremely rare, and this one has the quality of an old painting, thanks to the impressive sky, the dad and kid walking toward the boat, and the skill of the Alaska Steamship photographer.

 

This panorama of two photos shows the cannery from the shore, with the walkway of the previous photos covered in nets to the left.  A corner of the farthest left cannery building is just visible in the previous shot.  (KBM collection)

 

Taken at ninety degrees to the right of the previous photo, this shot shows the trail to the west end of town, near where the row of cottonwood trees still stand. (KBM collection)

 

Almost 180 degrees to the left of the above photo, and a few feet down the trail, was the company store and post office. The Grimes Packing Company store operated much as other company stores in isolated areas: purchasers were allowed credit, deducted from their future fishing earnings.  It had a little bit of everything, including dry goods, canned goods, work clothes, hardware, tools and sundries.  It even sold records and perfume from time to time! This is the only photo of the village side of the store, and was taken in the early 1940s.  The store looked roughly the same (with a few add-ons to the left and out into the bay) into the 1960s, but it was severely damaged and then demolished as a result of the Tidal Wave.  Just visible beyond the store is the superintendent’s house.

 

Just around the corner from the previous photo, on the other side of the store (looking east) is the Holy Nativity Russian Orthodox Church, built in 1906.  It is still a prominent feature on that hill in the 2000’s. This is the clearer of the two 1940s photos I found from this angle.  Note that there are no spruce trees to the right of the church, and that there is no bell tower.  Also note how much farther the church hill extends toward the beach!   The home to the right was long gone by the time we moved to Ouzinkie in 1958, but the home on the left (whose clapboard siding hid its log walls) was still at least partially standing in 1996.  A satellite dish stands on its site now. (KBM collection)

 

This photo by Jean Lund was taken from the ramp leading to the church (in the center of the previous picture) and shows the boat ramp (“ways”) and the house in the foreground.  The building to the far right is the cannery superintendent’s home.

 

This is the earliest photo of the Russian Orthodox Church in the collection, taken shortly after it was built, and featuring a large bell tower that was long gone by the 1940s. (photographer unknown)

 

In all the other photos in this collection, the church appears like this.  Note the bell hanging from the side of the porch.  By the time I moved to Ouzinkie in the late 1950s, there was a combination bell tower and gateway which still stands in the same spot as the gate in the above photos.

 

The church cemetery as it looked in 1946 (Lund)

 

A mid-40s Rold photo shows the interior of the church (notice the Christmas tree to the left).

 

Worshippers leave church in the fall of 1945. (Lund photo)

 

Miss Lund’s photo of the school shows a building little changed from 1946 (when this was taken) and the 1960s, when I attended there.  The fence to the right was gone, as was the backboard, replaced with the famous “platform” where kids could play above the muddy schoolyard.

 

This Rold photo from the 40s shows the three classrooms clearly.  By the mid-60s, the school-age population had shrunk, and the rear room became the library and teachers’ work room.  But the building looked the same.  It now has the same shape, but has been repainted tan, and is in use as City Hall.  It’s a strange feeling to walk into the front room city offices in the twenty-first century and reminisce about the years I spent in the 1960s doing my assignments in that very room!

 

 

 

The new power lines head from the cannery toward the school in this photo taken from the school yard.  The old school which dated back to the turn of the century is the building directly beneath the peak of Mount Herman.

 

Even in the 1940s, Ouzinkie was famed for its boardwalks.  In the years before roads and sewer lines, the entire center of the village was crisscrossed with boardwalks.  A surviving specimen still circles the bay from below the church hill to the new boat harbor.  In the above photo, the house on the left is approximately where the post office stands today, and the house on the right is still standing, just below the church hill.  The garden occupies the site where the tribal warehouse now stands.  The home just visible above the garden, to the far left, was Jenny and Mike Chernikoff’s house, and was still standing in 2007.

 

This shot toward the bay was taken “from the Gugel’s house.”  By the time I lived in the village, a son of that family and his wife and kids lived in a house near the beach at the other end of town.  Note the mountains beyond, almost devoid of trees.  There are now tall spruce trees nearly to the summit.  Likewise, the surviving young trees in the foreground are full grown specimens now.

 

Snapshots of People in the 1940s

 

Miss Lund took this photo of some of the village girls on the Grimes dock when she left in the spring of 1946.  The funky camera technology of the day makes a few of the faces in the photo hard to see.

 

Village children play on an overturned skiff with the store and cannery walkway in the background.

 

Tim Panamarioff, Sr. holds up a large salmon he caught, in the fall of 1945.  Tim passed on in fall of 2006, in his 90s!

 

A group of village boys hike near Mahoona Lake in the fall of 1945.

 

  

David Pestrikoff in the 1940s, and in 1946 with a huge halibut (Rold, Lund)

 

Beryl Butler (Torsen), Bill Torsen, and Miss Pearl Rold (mission house parent) in the winter of 1946.

 

A man identified as George Panamarioff carries a boat knee (carved from the root of a spruce tree) past the Mission’s oil drums in the fall of 1945.  Too bad we can see only his hat!

 

Otherside Beach and Sourdough’s Flats in the 1940s

 

A vegetable cellar (potato shack) and a fenced garden at Otherside Beach in the mid-1940s

 

A group of kids sit on the fence in the left corner of the same garden at Otherside Beach (on a different day).  The photo shows a much more sloping bank and a low grassy area, as it looked before the Tidal Wave and subsidence.  These trees are fully mature now, and the bank has been worn back beyond the fence line since the mid-1940s.

 

This blurry picture, taken from below the tideline in the 1940s, shows the extensive gardens at Otherside when there was much more land along the shore than there is today.  The seaside meadows gave easy access to the kelp that was used (very effectively) as fertilizer.  The famous Otherside rock is on the beach out of frame behind the photographer.

 

The Otherside rock hosts a group of kids on a sunny afternoon in the mid-40s.

 

This photo of the “Otherside Lake Lily Pond” is from the Jean Lund scrapbook of 1945-46.

 

Here’s another photo from the same scrapbook.  This lake was my favorite ice skating site as a child in the 1960s.  Notice how small the trees are!

 

 

A skiff passes by a lupine-covered Sourdough’s Flats in this 1940s photo.  “Cat” Island (Prokoda) is to the near left, and the main island of Kodiak is beyond, all with very short trees!  Again, notice the lack of trees on the upper elevations of the mountain.  Today, the city built a nice gazebo and the school has put in a small golf course here!

 

This photo of Navy boats on patrol is a stark reminder of the world as it was in 1940s Ouzinkie.  With military installations on the north end of Spruce Island and across the channel from the village on the Kodiak side, even sleepy little Ouzinkie could not escape the effects of World War II, as this photo from October, 1945 attests.

 

Epilogue

 

Ouzinkie in the 1940s was primarily a fishing community, and that is still the major source of income in today’s time.  So I chose to end this photo essay with three photos taken on various trips to and from Ouzinkie in the mid-1940s, ending our “time machine” journey back to long-ago courtesy of these wonderful old photographs.

 

A young man takes the wheel under the watchful eye of his father on a trip to Kodiak in the 1940s.  This boat appears similar to the “Fortune,” which operated out of Ouzinkie in the 1960s.

 

On the same boat, with a different barrel, an elderly woman sleeps in an old chair, en route to Kodiak.

 

The skiff of the GPC 18 leaves a shining wake behind the seiner.  The skiff seems to be carrying lumber, plus two mysterious looking sacks.  It is a moment from long ago, frozen in time in the old bellows film camera of Miss Jean Lund.  The lighting and the blurred motion caught by the old camera evokes generations of sea voyages to Spruce Island, Alaska.  This is a place where the forests seem to rise out of the sea, and the sea is at once barrier and highway, destroyer and provider, fierce and beautiful.  The generations roll on, and thanks to these photos, many of the memories will live on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Timothy Smith, web author. See the About Me page for more information. Always feel free to send me comments, suggestions or corrected information about this article or any of the articles on this site. (Write to: Tanignak@aol.com) This article and website is © 2005 Timothy L. Smith, Tanignak Productions, 14282 Tuolumne Court, Fontana, California, 92336 (909) 428 3472. Images are credited to the photographers where known, and are from the collection of Rev. Norman L. Smith or the Timothy L. Smith collection. This material may be used for non-commercial purposes, with attribution. Please email me with any specific requests. You are welcome to link to this site.

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