Pioneer Potluck: About Birthday Presents

Ann “Grannie Annie” Berg

Ann “Grannie Annie” Berg

Happy Birthday to Grandson Arleigh Bacarella. Born Jan. 6, 1986.

We cannot believe it was 33 years ago that he was born in Soldotna, after his mother, Gail, drove herself out to the highway from the Homestead at Boulder Point, to where his dad, Gary, was working, so he could take her to the hospital.

I arrived at the hospital a little later, learning that they were taking baby Bacarella to the neonatal unit at Providence Hospital in Anchorage by helicopter.

He spent 27 days in Anchorage, which had the most awesome setup for premature babies! The nurses were wonderful and caring. He was tiny, tiny when he was finally taken home, and spent most of a year on a monitor. He spent 5 years on the Homestead and then they moved to be closer to schools.

Fast forward to today, from 1-6-86 to 1-6-2019! Lots of history, lots of prayers and look what he has grown to be!

A nice young man who came down last night to see if these old people, his grandparents, me and Bob, needed any help! He has a nice house he worked very hard to have built. He has two of the cutest little kids I have every seen. (YUP, I am biased!) And a good job on the North Slope.

He has survived through some pretty tough times in the past three years, but he is tough and he will succeed in whatever endeavor he sets out to accomplish. We are so proud of you, Arleigh Bacarella!

The following is a story I wrote a few years ago about Gail, my daughter and Arleigh’s mother, before Arleigh was born.

It also described my two other grandsons Joe and Mike and their mother Susan. We had fun — read below!!

Around 1984-85 Nikiski, Alaska

Boulder Point Homestead

“How in the world are you going to haul a pig?” Bob asked me with a puzzled look.

“Besides, Susan and her boys were coming from Fairbanks to help celebrate Gail’s birthday.”

“I’ll just put it in the car, take out the backseat and put in a box for the pig and two milk crates for the boys to sit on.”

I will never be able to describe the look on his face! If I would have said a chicken or a rabbit or a duck, a cat or dog… BUT A PIG!!

I went to pick Susan and the boys up at the airport.

But first I had to take the backseat out of my old green LTD. I struggled, tugged, pulled and pushed and finally got the huge backseat out, got in my car and headed for the airport in Kenai. I had the foresight to put the milk crates in the back for the boys to sit on, in the absence of a backseat.

Joe and Mike, ages 7 and 4, came running out of the airport to greet their grandma. When I explained they had to sit on milk crates in the seat-less backseat because we were going to Sterling to pick up a pig for Gail’s birthday, Joey looked at me with great suspicion, and with eyebrows raised, looked right in his mom’s eyes and said, “Dad’s not going to like this!”

I was so glad to see Susan and the boys and was so busy jabbering, that I did not pay much attention to the total disgust of two little boys that had lived in the city all their lives, dressed in nice slacks and cute shirts with perfect manners, being pushed into the bare cavern of a back seat.

Then, their Grandma telling them: “Just sit on the milk crates. We are going to go to Sterling and pick up a pig for Gail’s birthday. But first we have to pick up pig feed at Cadres in Soldotna.”

Again, total silence. Off we went — stopping to pick up a bag of pig feed, and then drove on out to Sterling to pick up the little birthday piggy!

We picked out the little pig, but there was a problem! The two milk crates, the bag of pig feed, and the box for the piggy to live in, did not all fit in the back of the car.

So this old Grandma in all her wisdom took out one of the milk crates, parked Mike on one crate and told Joey to sit on the bag of pig feed next to the little pig in the box!

Off down the road we went to deliver the birthday pig! But not before I heard Joey tell Mike, “Dad really is not going to like this!”

We delivered the little piggy to Gail, who lived back at Boulder point on a homestead.

To get there, we had to drive about a 2-mile rutted, dusty trail that sometimes had big holes full of standing water. So the trip was most difficult, I am sure, for two little boys trying to sit on a sack of pig feed and a milk crate.

Gail was totally surprised. The pig was happy to be out of the box. The boys were very happy to run around looking at all the animals Gail had in her yard. It soon came to an end. They had to climb back in the seat-less backseat, get back up on their milk crates for a ride to grandma’s place.

Back then in the days of “do what you can to get by” we had to make do. But in today’s world, I would have been put in jail for child endangerment and animal cruelty!

This story has been told many, many times in our family, and was requested by friends and family for me to write. And, yes, it’s a true story!

This is a recipe from my good friend and neighbor Shirley DeVault. We miss her! I found the recipe in a book “Golden Agers Cookbook” published in 1980.


1 loaf of French or sourdough bread — cut in half, lengthwise.

1 1/2 pounds of ground beef

3/4 cup undiluted canned milk

1 1/2 cup cracker meal

1 egg

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

3/4 teaspoon Accent

Pepper to taste

Combine all and spread on cut loaf of bread that has been cut in half lengthwise. Spread evenly on both halves and wrap in foil around the crust side of each half. Leave the top open and uncovered. Place on cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Garnish with:

2 cups of grated cheese

Bake another 5 minutes until cheese melts.

To serve cut slices across diagonally.



From the same cookbook, “Golden Agers”

Remove bones and skin and dark pieces from canned salmon.

Add salmon and liquid to:

1 can of cream of mushroom soup

Season with salt and pepper. Heat and stir constantly until piping hot.

Spoon over sourdough toast, hot biscuits or homemade bread, toasted.

I eat this on rice.


If you knew Shirley de Vault, she shared this recipe at potlucks, family and friend gatherings. This is the first recipe she gave me. It is in the “Golden Agers Cookbook.”

1 pound of ground beef

3/4 cups chopped onion

1 1/2 teaspoons salt and dash of pepper

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon each oregano and thyme

2 cups stewed tomatoes

1 can mushroom soup

1 cup minute rice

1/2 bay leaf

Brown meat. Pour off grease, add onion and cook until tender

Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Put in baking dish, bake at 350 degrees for 1- minutes.

Add grated Longhorn cheese over top.

Serve when cheese is melted and bubbly. This even better warmed up the next day.

• By Ann “Grannie Annie” Berg

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