Life in the Pedestrian Lane: Catching up with ‘the kids’

This Fall and Winter have been out of the ordinary for Hubby and me. Our regular schedule and commitments have gone by the wayside while other more pressing, albeit temporary, appointments took our time.

But in February, like the groundhog, we poked our heads above the slowly shrinking list of time-consuming errands and saw the end of our own personal winter. Finally, time again for what we wanted to do.

So with that in view, we celebrated with the Lunch Bunch. Time to catch up on what’s been going on and how everyone has fared the winter. We learned one had been out to visit her mom and is going again soon, one couple spent a few weeks in Oregon, someone else had eye surgery, no one likes the presidential campaign regardless of party affiliation (or not) and in general, things are going pretty well with everyone which is always great to hear at any time, but especially when your peer group is in the Golden Years. And it was fun to be part of our regular small community again.

We returned to our “meetings” and were greeted like the Prodigal son, which always makes you feel good, but also makes you wonder what you got appointed to while you were absent. It was during one of said meetings that we learned of a new group forming on the Central Peninsula. Currently, they call themselves “A Work In Progress: Growing Up On the Kenai” and consists of the kids of the people who came to the area in the early days to homestead, with the military, in the oilfields, or were already here because the Kenai was their traditional home.

These “kids,” some of whom are pushing 60, got together on Facebook (finally, a good reason to indulge in social media) and others joined until they have quite a community of “youngsters” remembering-when that comes in from all over Alaska and the other 49. They have since decided to write a book: a sequel to “Once Upon the Kenai,” the book compiled and published by the Kenai Historical Society in 1984 that chronicles the incoming population at statehood and before. It has been through at least three printings. For anyone who hasn’t read it, it is available at the Kenai Library and the Historical Society still a few for sale.

After the initial “Hey! Remember the time …” stories, and there are several most mothers don’t want to read, the group has settled into reminiscing about how it was to grow up on the Kenai in “the old days.” Many have submitted old pictures of Kenai and the vicinity as they remember teachers, storekeepers, celebrations, bus rides, accidents, and in general all it takes to be a kid anywhere — but how it was different for them because they were here. They have a massive project ahead, but lots of help. It will be fun to see what comes from a really auspicious beginning.

The point being, I guess, is that we make our own communities, and sometimes they grow up around us without our noticing until we are separated from them for a time. I’m sure many in the “Work in Progress” group couldn’t wait to get off the peninsula, maybe out of Alaska, to “start life.” But each has described how glad they were to find the group on Facebook and to meet up again, even virtually, with friends they think about with nostalgia, to share a laugh (or in some cases a tear) over a shared memory. And more than one has said “It takes a village …”

And then, lo and behold, we discovered that a Civics class at KCHS — the next generation from “A Work In Progress” — is collecting recipes from “old Kenai” to make a book for the Old-timers Luncheon that occurs in late summer. If you were here and have recipes from between 1930-50 you can drop them off with Carol Bannock at the Kenai Senior Center for collection by the students in the near future.

So two generations are harking back to “the old days.” The Lunch Bunch all laughed and said “We are the old days” and started the remember when Kenai didn’t have a stop light, or a bridge over the river, or regular TV and then it got nostalgic because we all are of the generation that couldn’t wait to get away from home, wherever that was, and pretty soon the conversation turned to how it was on the farm, or summers in Texas or going to prom with a logger.

Maybe the most important lesson to come from the “kids” and their books-to-be is community is where you make it, and who you make it with, even a civics class. Especially in Alaska.

Virginia Walters lives in Kenai. Email her at vewalters@gci.net.

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