Morning for Sokroshera Chapter Twenty

By Timothy Smith, 2020

Morning for Sokroshera Chapter 20

Tim’s novel of Russian America (Kodiak Island area)

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May: Marla graduates as the only eighth grader – a portion of her speech in the newly-restored original cannery mess hall. (Edited to minimize “spoilers)

Good Evening, I am Marla Selivanoff, and I am Sokroshera Cove’s own biggest Beatles fan, as you all know full well. You called on me, so I’m sending this along ‘With Love From Me To You.’ These are serious times, but I can’t bring myself to get all somber, so please forgive me if this is not as... formal as you would expect from a distinguished graduate like myself.

I am happy to say that I graduated at the top of my class, and the bottom of my class, and the middle of my class, too. But just finishing is a real miracle for me. After planning on killing Mr. Hansen in his sleep before I even met him, I have changed into someone who not only loves learning, but someone who feels like she could take on any challenge. And I will try to explain why this is.

After watching Mr. Hansen as he built a school out of an old mess hall—make that two old mess halls, treated a kid who tried to burn down the school just like any other student, jumped between our fights, patiently taught all the kids that the other teachers would regularly ignore, and... calmly waited for a tidal wave to go down so he could drive through the dip in that old cow pie-colored fire truck, I realized life really is what you’re willing to make it.


Mr. Hansen, I remember the first thing I said when I met you. I remember because I had practiced it in my head for days. I was hoping to scare you away. I said, “I’m Marla and I hate it here. I hate school, too. I’ll be your whole eighth-grade class.” And by the way, Mr. Hansen, it was Max Factor I was wearing that day, thanks for asking. I have no idea what this stuff on my face tonight is; I got it from (I think) six different purses. And that’s what I’m talking about. Look at what a family we’ve become! (There’s more; read it all!)

June 1964: A new school arrives on a barge, and the workers struggle to live like the villagers have been living!

…the new school arrived. It showed up on a landing barge in the form of stacks of lumber and a collection of tractors, cranes, scaffolds, ladders, and power tools. Naturally, the workers showed up too, and just as naturally, the Seattle contractor folks who sent them had not made any advance preparation for their sleep arrangements. They somehow assumed there’d be a Holiday Inn with a coffee shop within an offramp or two of the build site, and this from a village that had just lost all but a handful of buildings in a major disaster. So Mr. Faltrip arranged for the workers to use the big tents the villagers had recently vacated. He pitched them near the rebuilt mess hall, almost exactly where the kids’ makeshift gravel playing field had been.

After telling the construction foreman what the village had just been through, Faltrip remarked, “You may as well learn to live like a local while you’re here.” A bit later, after observing the workers’ shock at their accommodations, Herman called Mr. Faltrip aside to tell him in his slowest, old-man Alaskan accent, “Shoulda puttum up there on the hill in the bunker, like we had to do… Then they’d like the tents, haw?” Owen laughed and nodded; people like these didn’t really belong in a village like Sokroshera Cove. Every moment they were here, they put it down for not being someplace else!  

However, Owen did put Betty to work cooking three squares a day for the workers in the lovely refurbished mess hall. If they had sense, they’d know they were being fed like kings. Herman, apparently determined to practice his newly revealed pointed sense of humor, asked Betty in his best old man voice, “So why don’t you give them those nice cans of Lima Beans and Ham with Applesauce for breakfast like you gave us?” She punched him in the ribs and laughed. “I’ll never live that down, and it wasn’t even my fault!” Mr. Faltrip had the tents put up alongside the new mess hall, and left the door unlocked so they could use the ‘john’ inside when they needed to. And no, none of the kids snuck in and locked the outside door, but boy did they think about it!

After only a week of intense living (it didn’t help that it rained, too), the construction foreman got the Kodiak Island Borough School District to spring for several temporary trailers, and it all worked out. Mr. Faltrip just looked amused at their struggles in the frightful Alaskan wilderness.



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