Ouzinkie Photo Album PEOPLE
A Ouzinkie Photo Album 1960 to 1974
PART TWO: Some Wonderful People
Introduction to Parts Two, Three and Four:
In part one of my Ouzinkie Photo Album: Daily Life in Ouzinkie 1965 to 1974, the focus was on the rebuilding of Ouzinkie. The next three parts focus on people, the many good folks of Ouzinkie who found themselves on the other end of my camera (and I never went anywhere without my camera). On a recent visit home, someone mistook me for my brother Kelly. I pointed to the new Nikon SLR around my neck and said, "Which Smith always walked around with a camera?" "Oh, hi, Timmy!" he laughed. I was in grade school in Ouzinkie during the mid-to-late 60s, and I also took up darkroom photography during that time, so I have a ton of photos to use to chronicle the major events and milestones.
(The author) Tim Smith with a camera of course, wearing a Ouzinkie sweatshirt. Yule Chaffin photo,1968.
I had to move away from Ouzinkie to go to high school in the fall of 1968 (as all secondary students did in those days) but I was home for many weekends, holidays and part of the summer until the mid-1970s, taking pictures almost daily! I really wish I had more “people shots,” but here are some of the ones I have hanging around after all these years. You never know what you might find here, and of course there is no official story line here, so a lot of the story is missing, but I’m glad to share what I do have. Like part one, these are photo albums with commentary, arranged by topic, so skip around to what interests you. Most all of the black and white photos are mine, which I developed in the little darkroom in the Mission's basement. I have scanned and restored them as best I could for inclusion in these articles. The color photos come from slides taken by Rev. Norman Smith (my Dad).
Some Wonderful Ouzinkie People
This section of my internet photo album features photos of some of the favorite adults of my growing-up years. Many, if not most of these people have since passed on, but I am blessed to have these photos to share with you. Occasionally I will stop and tell some of the stories that I associate with various people, and at other times, the pictures of the events themselves include a lot of good people. So here is Ouzinkie in action, with a lot of great folks from my growing-up years.
Larry and Katie Ellanak, in front of their house, 1968. Larry was the Lay Reader at the Russian Orthodox Church, and ministered to the faithful in the village. He helped to keep the traditions and ceremonies of the Russian-language liturgy alive for more than three generations of villagers. He was a gentle and kindly man, deeply spiritual, and often worshipped with us in our Protestant Christmas and Holy Week services. As for Katie, well her smile tells it all. I never knew anybody who didn’t just love her, and her neighbors and extended family in the village remember a warm, wise and wonderful person.
Here are Katie and Larry Ellanak at a village wedding in the mid-1960s. It is a tradition at the village that any couple at a wedding reception can be asked to kiss each other whenever someone calls to them and shouts “Gorka!” So this is Katie and Larry’s “Gorka!” moment.
Philip and Alexandra Katelnikoff, 1969. Did anyone have as infectious a smile as she did?
Philip gathers some firewood, 1971
Ernest Laschinsky, 1968, Claudia Torsen’s dad. He came to Alaska from Latvia in the 1920, and made his home in Ouzinkie. The last names of the citizens of Ouzinkie reflect its varied heritage, including a grand legacy of immigrants such as Ernest. The predominantly Russian names, imposed on the Native people by their colonial overseers two centuries ago, are joined by names like Opheim and Torsen (Norway) and Anderson (Danish) and even two unrelated families of Smiths, all of whom were welcomed into the culture of the village.
Johnny and Verna Panamarioff, with Joan in the middle, 1969. The “Pans” as they are affectionately called, lived down the trail from us, near the beach. They had 9 kids, and there are lots of good photos of some of them in the article called “Kids Around Town.” Johnny was one of the many adults in town who really loved kids, and he was always friendly to me. We had an old joke (the setup escapes me at the moment) that every time he saw me, he would start singing Elvis’ “It’s Now or Never,” and I was supposed to respond with the next line. I never could remember it, so I resorted to “dee dee dee dee…” People like that make it fun to be a kid! Johnny and I watched the first wave of the 1964 tsunami come in from the hill above his beach, and their family stayed with us that night. (More about that time in the article: Tidal Wave Memories 1964).
Johnny Pan fixes his tractor as kids look on. It was always fun to hitch a ride! 1966
“Wasca” (Bill) Boskofsky, 1968. He was the patriarch of a family of fourteen children, many of whom still live in the village with their own families. I was closest in age to “Robin” (Zack) and Chris, with whom I graduated from eighth grade in 1967.
One of the “Star” caroling groups in Ouzinkie was run by the Boskofsky family. This historic photo was taken by Mildred Crowell, a houseparent at Baker Cottage in January of 1956 (two winters before we moved there). Several members of the Boskofsky family, with (I think) a Chichenoff and and a couple of others I can only guess at are visible in this photo. Wasca is the last adult on the right, and to the far right is (probably) a very young “Tony” Boskofsky (now Squartsoff) who is my Mom’s next door neighbor today. When we moved to “the Mission,” we put one of the portraits of Jesus in a corner of the living room, Orthodox style, so our neighbors could have a place to point their twirling star during Russian Christmas. “Radusiya Maria…”
A beautiful corner icon display decorates the home of Jenny Chernikoff (1996 photo). The icon on the far left is of Saint Herman of Alaska, canonized in the 1970s as the first Orthodox saint of the New World. He lived and worked in Monk’s Lagoon on the opposite end of Spruce Island from Ouzinkie. The “starring” carolers traditionally face an Icon display such as this in each home, and sing carols in Russian and English. “Many, many happy New Years….”
A wedding anniversary for Peter and Mary Squartsoff, with a fine feast in their home, taken some time in the mid-60s. Who cares about the cake; I see some PEROK! (lower left). The Squartsoffs also had a large family, thirteen or fourteen kids. Herman, one of their sons, started kindergarten and grade school with me. He went on to be a lay leader in the Russian Orthodox Church and runs his own boat charter business now.
Peter Squartsoff plays Santa for the Mission Kindergarten in this “Polaroid Swinger” photo from 1968. He produced some of the best “baleek” (smoked salmon) in his little smokehouse, and often gave us some. Peter loved children, and was a great tease. He was one of my favorite people in Ouzinkie.
Ada Panamarioff stands to the left of my mom, the kindergarten teacher, in this photo of a graduation party for the kindergarten class. Ada was the Postmaster for many years in Ouzinkie, the reigning monarch of 99644, working out of a cute little shed of a building below the church hill, near the beach. Being a Postmaster in a rural village amounts to days of tedium interspersed with hours of frantic activity, when “socked in” weather suddenly clears up and allows the planes to fly again.
Here is the little post office where Ada worked. It was just up the hill from the sandy beach, the place where the seaplanes would turn around. The ladies are Kathy Arita, Diane Chestnut and Debbie Sullens (my future wife), visiting Ouzinkie in the summer of 1975.
Jenny Chernikoff tends to some of the graves that are right next to the church. Jenny was notoriously camera-shy, although she talked to me at length whenever I saw her. This shot of her back was the closest I ever came to a photo of her until over twenty-five years later! For more on the story behind this picture, go to the article called “The Art of Island Conversation,” which features a visit I had with Jenny in 1996.
Father (Archimandrite) Gerasim Schmaltz sits down to enjoy a wedding reception in 1966. Father Gerasim (1888-1969) later became the subject of two books: Abba Gerasim and His Letters to His Brotherhood, published by the Saint Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, and Father Gerasim of New Valaam, published by Saint Herman Press. The books chronicle his lifelong role in preserving and protecting the ministry and legacy of Saint Herman of Alaska, and include his spiritual writings and personal letters as well. A forthcoming article on Monk’s Lagoon will feature Miss Jean Lund’s fascinating account of a visit with Father Gerasim in the fall of 1945.
Pleasant Harbor friends:
Pleasant Harbor is a small cove (that lives up to its name) about halfway down Spruce Island, between Ouzinkie and Monk’s Lagoon. The Opheim family ran a sawmill and cattle ranch there for many years, and after the tidal wave had what amounted to a small village of parents’ and sons’ houses built high on the bluff above the bay, since their original home had nearly been washed away, and was unusable. We visited them as often as we could, and sometimes carried freight for them with the Evangel. For more on what it was like to visit the Opheims, please see the article called “The Art of Island Conversation,” and for photos of their tidal wave damage, please see the article “Tidal Wave Memories, 1964.”
My dad, Norman Smith, captured a camera-shy Anna Opheim with one of her cows, Pleasant Harbor, 1966. In the mid-60s, we talked daily to Anna via CB radio. As well as being (in my opinion) the best bread maker on Spruce Island, Anna was a great gardener, and encouraged me to start a garden in our back yard. I had one successful crop of green onions and radishes before the local cattle (not hers, but the wild ones that roamed the village) pushed open the gate and had a nice salad at my expense! I sort of gave up gardening after that.
Ed Opheim examines one of my photos in his new home high on the ridge above Pleasant Harbor, 1967. Ed and his sons made the famous Opheim skiffs there at Pleasant Harbor for many years. In later years, Ed moved to Kodiak and took up writing, and his books are now a celebrated part of the local lore.
A thing of beauty! In the above picture from 1974, my brother Kelly checks out a nearly finished Opheim skiff in Ed Opheim’s workshop at Pleasant Harbor. From as early as I can remember, an Opheim skiff was regarded as the ultimate in small wooden boat craft for the entire Kodiak Island area. They were the Porches of wooden skiffs. Carefully handcrafted at Pleasant Harbor of mostly local cut and treated spruce, the Opheim skiff was the complement to many a local fishing boat. They were sturdy, practical, comparatively light weight, and flat bottomed, which meant that in anything other than heavy chop they were very fast. Although they could get “up on the step” and plane with even a modest outboard, the only drawback was the fact that they would pound your fillings out if the weather was a little rough! We had one in the early 1960s, which we named the “Rockin’ Robin,” much to the chagrin of my sister Robin. In the above photo, notice the trademark Opheim design features: an upturned bow, a distinctive round curve to the stern, and a little extension of the floor planking beyond the stern to assist in getting the skiff up on the step. This later model is bigger than most of the Opheim skiffs I remember, and features a well for the outboard.
Ed and Anna’s son, Chris Opheim, with his wife Bonnie, in their new home in Ouzinkie, circa 1968. Chris and Bonnie stayed with us at the Mission for some months, while their home was being built. It was almost like having them as older siblings.
Another son, David Opheim, at Pleasant Harbor with his guitar. The playing and singing of David and several of the other Opheim brothers (who could do anything by Johnny Cash, Ernest Tubb and Hank Williams) was a great influence on me. Before I heard David play his guitar, the only guitar music I had heard was in the Gugels’ Peter, Paul and Mary records, with a mostly soft style of playing. The aggressive classic Country guitar styles and straightforward vocals of local guitar pickers defined what rural music was, and formed a model for an approach to music that will stay with me forever.
A Note About My Parents, Norman and Joyce Smith
Assigned to Ouzinkie as Baptist missionaries in 1958, Norman and Joyce Smith fell in love with the people and the town, and ended up “retiring” there in 1977. In the meantime, Dad helped to write the charter for the incorporation of Ouzinkie as a city, and served on the city council for years. He helped to run the town power plant and water supply as well. Mom was the town’s kindergarten teacher for three generations of Ouzinkie kids, served on the school board, and was the first Village Health Aide, a position from which she retired. They bought Baker Cottage from the Baptists and continued to use it as a base for Christian work. In fact, Dad was still holding services there when he passed away (in the Ouzinkie Post Office after delivering the mail from the airstrip) in October of 1996. As this is being written in 2005, Mom is still holding weekly services and Bible studies, and her famous Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter programs are still well attended. In the past few years, Joyce Smith has been inducted as an honorary member of the tribe, and has frequently attended Native conferences on their behalf. She is now one of the honored senior citizens of Ouzinkie.
Rev. Norman and Joyce Smith (my parents) pause for a portrait session in the woods, in the summer of 1974. The first shot I took was formal, publicity style, and I took five or six more. By the last shot in the series we had each other laughing. I love the contrast!
Norman and Joyce in 1968, on a sunny walk through the woods to Baker Cottage from Otherside Beach.
Epilogue to Parts Two through Four:
A Home Village to Be Proud Of!
Each time I return to Ouzinkie, I am overwhelmed at how nice the people are there, and how much they feel like family. There is definitely something to be said for a close-knit community. In a small village, everybody knows everybody, and that has its up sides and down sides. Ouzinkie is the place where I am not a Californian high school English teacher, but I am Timmy, the kid they’ve known since I was “yay high,” where I am Norman and Joyce Smith’s son.
Some families in Ouzinkie still have forty-year old photos I made for them up on the walls. I can’t really claim to be an Alaskan anymore, and I certainly wouldn’t do very well trying to keep an oil stove going in mid-February, or to navigate a “kicker and dory” through choppy water, but when I am in Ouzinkie, I have a strong sense of “home,’ and that is a very good feeling indeed. Congratulations to good old Zip Code 99644 for coming through the storms of life so gracefully. I hope these photos bring back a lot of pleasant memories!
The author (looking quite serious) in the darkroom of Baker Cottage in Ouzinkie, around 1973. All of the black and white photos in this collection were developed and printed there.
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 unless otherwise listed 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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