My snowy driveway one winter morning, near Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

My snowy driveway one winter morning, near Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Pioneer Potluck: Frigid days and a broken arm

North Kenai, now Nikiski

1967 to January 1969

Chapter One

We moved from a cold, cold large trailer house in a trailer court behind M and M Market, in North Kenai (now Nikiski) —where the bed sheets and blankets froze to the outer walls, and the windows and doors froze shut each night — to a house on Daniels Lake in January of 1968.

To get out of the trailer door to go to work and get the kids to school, I had to take a kitchen knife and chunk away the ice on the frozen, ice-covered aluminum door to get out.

The trailer, actually a very nice 14-by-72, was built in California. That should tell you that it had hardly any insulation at all, and the furnace was itty bitty. Big, single pane windows in a tip-out and large single pane windows in the kitchen. The floors were even colder!

The kids and I went to bed in our coats and wool socks and I even put a stocking hat on my head. Oh my! We were cold.

The house on Daniels Lake was a small travel trailer with a big wannagan or “built-on large 24-by-42 room,” with a bedroom at one end, a small bedroom at the other end and an entry way. A great big fuel oil-fired stove in the middle of the room. We were warm! No bedclothes sticking to the walls and the door actually opened and shut when you went in or out.

It had great big double-pane winterized windows across the front overlooking the lake, so we could see the kids playing and learning to ski and skate on Daniels Lake

They would sled down our steep-curved, tree-lined driveway.

No little plastic sleds — just plastic garbage bags, plastic sheeting, garbage pail lids, anything that was flat and would move fast on the hard ice-covered snow. We had one wooden sled — the old-fashioned kind with the steering in the front so you could (should) sit on it and guide yourself away from trees, bushes, cars and buildings. My one warning to all the kids was: DO NOT go down the hill head first! You will hit a tree and kill yourself!

After a day of sledding, it was time to eat. I called everyone in to undress and hang the coats, gloves and hats beside the stove, and pull the liners out of the boots.

David complained that his arm hurt.

I was busy getting supper on the table, and I said, “Go wash your hands and eat.” He sat at the table and ate with his right hand — first clue I missed (he is left-handed). The second clue was “my hand hurts” before he went to bed. My reply was “Get your jammies on. Go to bed. It will feel better in the morning. Good Night! Love ya.”

Off he went to bed, just like he was told. About 2 o’clock in the morning, here was this little boy beside my bed, with tears running down his cheeks, “MOM my arm hurts really bad.”

I took one look at his arm — it had swollen to double its size. I knew it was broken — I had seen it many times when I worked in the hospital in Colorado.

I felt so bad.

No phones to call a doctor, about 20 miles away in Kenai. I gave him a half aspirin and I put cold and hot compresses on it, until eight in the morning arrived.

We started into town in the Ford four-wheel-drive pickup to get his arm fixed. We arrived at nine, just as Dr. Pete Hansen was opening up his office. The kindly doctor took one look, said, “It’s broken, but it is swollen so we will have to let the swelling go down before I put a cast on it. When did this happen?”

I felt so guilty when I said, “Last night.”

He never said a word, just turned around and got the gauze and splint and had his arm in good shape in no time. We had to go back and get a cast on it later.

I never got over the fact that I ignored my son with a broken arm!

But on the other hand, he did not kill himself going down the hill either! Yup! He had hit the big cottonwood tree with his hand, going down the hill head first!!



4 medium chicken breasts

4 slices of Swiss cheese

4 slices of ham thin sliced

1/4 cup fresh chopped basil

1 cup dry breadcrumbs — flavored (optional)

Cut a pocket in largest part of breast.

Fold Swiss cheese and ham in two and push into the pocket.

Place a teaspoon of basil on top of ham. Secure with toothpick or skewer.

Roll in olive oil, then breadcrumbs. Place on oiled 8-by-8 pan. Sprinkle more breadcrumbs on top and sprinkle with pepper. Bake in 425 degrees oven for 25 minutes until juices run clear.

Remove and let stand 10 minutes.

Place on warm serving platter. Just serve with a salad.


Moose sausage, kielbasa, or other flavorful sausage can go in this good hearty Alaskan soup, cooked on the wood stove. It is just waiting for us when we come in from splitting and stacking our supply of wood for the winter. And if you are in a hurry — two cans of Great Northern beans, drained will be sufficient. OH! If you do not have a wood stove, use your crock pot!!

Same amount of time, about 6 hours on low. Start in the morning, done by supper time.

2 cups of dry Great Northern Beans.

Water to cover or use chicken broth to cover.

Set on wood stove to cook for about 3 hours if you are using dry beans.

Then add the following:

1 cup, cut-up Kielbasa or moose sausage

1 cup onions, diced

1/2 cup celery, sliced

1 cup carrots, sliced

1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

A pinch of red pepper (cayenne)

Let cook another 3 hours. Mash slightly and simmer until thick.

Serve with crackers, sourdough bread or garlic sour dough toast.


Makes 12 — or double the recipe and freeze 12.

Have all the ingredients at room temperature — the dough rises faster. I set mixing bowls in warm water to keep warm.

Butter a 13 x 17 cookie sheet.

In a small bowl dissolve in:

1/4 cup warm water

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

Set bowl in warm water and add a pinch of

sugar. Let rise to foamy, while you mix the following:

1 egg

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cups vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups of buttermilk at room temperature

Mix until sugar is dissolved and add the yeast. Mix well.

Add about 6 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time until well mixed and smooth. Dough should be soft. I use a wooden spoon to mix. You will have to use your hands with the last cup of flour.

Turn out on floured board and knead for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Place in large oiled bowl and cover with saran and place in a warm place to rise to double. (Place in sink of warm water to keep warm while rising.)

Punch dough down and place on lightly floured board, pat out to a rectangle 20 inches long and about 1/2 inch thick. Spread with warm or melted butter and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle 1 cup of Craisins over top. 1/2 cup walnuts if desired. Roll long way into a long log. Pinch seam shut. Find middle of dough with knife — Find middle of one half and the middle of other half. Cut three rolls from each part. You should have 12 large rolls.

Place on oiled cookie sheet and space them apart on sheet. Cover with towel and let rise until doubled and the spaces have filled up on cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 18 to 22 minutes. Let cool and frost.


4 ounces cream cheese

1 tablespoon milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup powdered sugar

Mix with small mixer and frost when rolls have cooled for 20 minutes. ENJOY.

This column originally ran in the January 2012 edition of the Clarion.

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