Pioneer Potluck: Tying up loose ends at the end of the year

  • Tuesday, January 2, 2018 1:17pm
  • LifeFood

This year has we have seen lots of changes and lots of different outcomes. Bob and I worked hard at making our life easier around here this summer and succeeded to a degree — although we caused more work than we planned on. Only for the better, I might add.

We renovated and improved our bathroom by taking out an old iron tub and replacing it with a shower. We replaced a sliding glass door with a great wooden door with glass insert. Thanks to King and Bernie, we now have a solid wood door that opens quickly and shuts on its own with out pushing or shoving. The sliding glass door served us well for many years and met its demise by way of a rock thrown while grass cutting.

We wanted to make our each day easier as we gradually get older. There is no nicer, greater place than right here and we took steps to make it more “old people” friendly.

We enjoyed our visit with my Timnath High School friends, each of us graduating within a year of each other. Marian, Donna and Kay were welcome guests from Wyoming, Colorado and Anchorage. A wonderful time we had that brought a happy ending to a very stressful at times renovation. We had so much fun in such a short time that it now seems like a dream. Thank you gals and Jim too.

Bob’s daughter Daphene and Jeff Goff brought son, Trey and daughter, Astin up to visit and play rounds and rounds of darts. The competition was fun at all times with laughter and companionship for Grandpa Bob.

Two more visits from Daphene and Jeff as they helped out Jeff’s dad, Jim, in his chemo appointments. Sadly Jim lost his brave fight with cancer last week. He was a true legend around this area with his forever smile and stories. He was the one who hooked up my long awaited phone (and many others) in Nikiski, many years ago. He never forgot who you were and always took time to talk. On Bob and my many trips to Captain Cook Park in the summer, the three or four men standing on the Swanson River Bridge fishing, one was Jim with his fishing pole in hand, gabbing to his friends. We never left the bridge without a fish as he offered the one he caught or he would offer one of his buddies’ fish. We always left smiling whenever we saw and talked to Jim Goff. I would meet Rita and him several times when I went to town, setting at the Safeway tables enjoying lunch. I never go in there without thinking of them and how pleasant it was to stop and talk. We will forever have pleasant memories about our neighbors “down the street.”

Early in March my best friend, Leatha Earll called me to say her oldest son had died unexpectedly. “Little Gene” with a big heart, brings back memories of his family’s arrival in Nikiski in 1968 and all the good times we had snow machining, picnicking or butchering moose. Skating on Daniels Lake, firecrackers and laughter are just a few great memories of a good friend to my kids and me.

In August we had a wonderful short visit from new friends from Sonora, California, Jim and Ronnie Childers and their guests. I appreciated their short visit and Bob remarked that he wished he could have had time to talk longer with them.

We celebrated Thanksgiving at Porter and Susan’s home as guests along with Joey, David and Ky. We left as usual with tummies full.

The M&M Christmas party hosted by Felix and Pam was lots of fun this year with great food, and tons of laughter exchanging gifts at the annual Chinese auction. We left there with grins on our faces. Thanks!

Our Christmas Eve super was supper fun with grandson Grey and girlfriend Shawnee, Gail and her grandkids (what fun those two little ones are!) Susan, Porter and son Joe, and my son David and Ky. We ate Grandma McClure’s noodle soup, a recipe I hold dear, although I did not slave at making the noodles as Mom did, clam chowder, buttermilk bread slathered with butter — most enjoyed by great-grandson Bralyn — but not to be out done by sister Braleigh! Their Dad, Arleigh is on the North Slope building the ice road for future oil development. We are proud of him and his sacrifice at this time of year to provide for his family.

Also on the menu was baked ham and cheese sandwiches on Hawaiian rolls. We topped it off with dessert of cookies and Bernie’s special pumpkin roll. What better way to end the year than with the people you love.

Visits from Jeff who is still here helping out mother Rita, while Daphene flew home to be with their family at Christmas. Dan Fenton, our neighbor, Larry our other neighbor and Bernie and King and a short visit from Marty and John rounded out our Christmas holiday.

New Year’s is always quiet at the Ricks Ranch. I try to stay up to watch for fireworks the light up the sky from Kenai. Grandsons Arleigh and Grey have moved on with their lives and it is super quiet around here without the booming of fireworks over the lake. We like that memory!

The articles I wrote this year prompted many memories about washing machines and drying clothes on the line. How hard our mothers worked every day to keep us clean and fed. Right down the killing the chicken every Saturday for Sunday dinner. Raising your own turkey for Thanksgiving as my Grandpa did and all the work that went into the preparation of the meal before you could set down and eat it. Now we go to the grocery store, stock up on all the fixins’ and prepare the meal with the help of a gas or electric stove, microwave, electric mixers and of all things most important — the dishwasher.

We did not dig the spuds out of the ground, we did not pick the cherries and apples to make pies. We bought the turkey and chicken for our dinner. We did not render the fat from the pig that was killed in October, and use the lard for the delicious pie crust. We, most of the time, buy the pie crust for the pies. We open the can for the cherry and apple pie filling. We did not spend hours preparing and cranking on the ice cream machine for ice cream topping our pies. We just open the freezer, grab out the ice cream in a carton. And most of all we did not spend hours at the kitchen sink washing and drying dishes on the hand embroidered dish clothes that Mom and Grandma found time to do — in their spare time!

Great great memories of 2017.

To round out the tying up of loose ends, my brother enlightened me on the early days of Dad and Mom and their purchase of the farm in 1936 and how my dad got his start in the farming and ranching business by raising and selling hull less Japanese popcorn which was them sold to Safeway as KempKorn. This memory was prompted by a letter from Donna Thayer McCreery:

Hi Ann – Love all your stories. They all seem to have a way to “ring a bell.”

This has to do with KempKorn. The KempKorn belonged to Dick Kemp’s parents, Sam Kemp. I don’t know if Dick and Virginia had any hands on to help with it. Virginia is still living and lives near Seattle. This is where the KempKorn came in. She asked me if there was ever any history about the KempKorn in History of Larimer County. I never could find anything.

My brother John’s reply:

In 1936 our Dad and Mother worked for Sam Kemp on his farm in Weld County. The farm was located 1 ½ miles north of Observatory School on Highway 14. That year Sam Kemp made a deal with Mother and Dad to sell them the farm with payments being 10 acres of popcorn for 10 years. In 1937 Dad planted 160 acres of crops including the payment of 10 acres of Japanese hull less popcorn. In April of 1937 my sister was born and Dad told the story of going to the bank to borrow $60 to get my sister and Mother out of the hospital and the banker just laughed at him. Dad never forgot the Bast … (that is Dad’s Irish word). Anyway he borrowed the money from a relative and brought them home. Dad had a bumper crop that year and started the 10-year deal with Sam Kemp on buying the home place where all of us kids grew up. Sam’s business grew with supplying popcorn to Safeway and asked Dad to produce more corn. Dad paid the farm off in 7 years.

Sam Kemp (KempKorn) cannery was located on Shields Street just across from the cemetery. Popcorn needs a certain amount of moisture to pop is the reason for putting it into a sealed can. I can remember in the mid 40s a team of Dad’s horses pulling the corn wagon with one high side board to keep the pickers from throwing over the wagon. Dad and a couple of other pickers walked their row of corn and snapped off the ears and tossed them into the wagon. When the wagon was loaded it went to the yard and unloaded in a 20-by-60-foot shed for storage to wait processing. On a certain day later in the fall, Sam would bring his sheller (John Deere no less) to the farm and the crew would use forks to fork it out of the long narrow shed into the sheller. The small yellow kernels went into pretty white sacks to the point of approximately 80 pounds. The sacks were then loaded onto the trucks and taken to KempKorn. At the processing plant the corn went through a cleaning process and put into blue and white cans to be shipped to Safeway. I can’t remember how long KempKorn was operating, but I think Dad wasn’t growing any popcorn in the early 50s.

As I remember it 70 years ago,

John McClure

Thank you John!

May you have a Happy Healthy New Year. We are thankful for our health without to much wealth — as we trod on through the year to 2018 with much anticipation for what will be in store for us. I have lived 50 years in Alaska and Bob has lived here for 34 years. We have seen changes and we expect to see more. All our families are healthy and we thank you God. We wish you all the very best! And God bless America.

The Pioneer Potluck series is written by 50-year resident of Alaska, Ann Berg of Nikiski. Ann shares her collections of recipes from family and friends. Grannie Annie can be reached at, or look for her on Facebook at Grannie Annies COOK BOOKS, where you can find details and ordering information for her cook books.

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