Homer’s oral history: stories that built a town

• History project archives interviews in written and video form
Naomi Klouda
Homer Tribune

Reproduced with permission from Pratt Museum - The photo above is one example of the many digital photos archived under Homer in the Project Jukebox. Steven McCutcheon took the photo in 1948 on Bunnell Street. It became Duggan's Pub and now is AJ's Tavern and Steakhouse.

Reproduced with permission from Pratt Museum - The photo above is one example of the many digital photos archived under Homer in the Project Jukebox. Steven McCutcheon took the photo in 1948 on Bunnell Street. It became Duggan's Pub and now is AJ's Tavern and Steakhouse.

Don Rhonda, a man who made his mark during four decades in Homer, illustrated just how much Homer was changed by the 1964 earthquake.
Speaking at Land’s End Resort for a history project in 1996, Rhonda said “many of you people realize that after the quake, this building – not this particular room, necessarily, but this building here, was about six feet in the air?”
They had to jack up the building to get it out of the tide.
“All the ground and dirt you see here came out of that hole where the harbor now is,” he said. “That’s the reason it’s in the middle of the Spit, because we had to have some dirt to raise the Spit up, or we’d lose the whole doggone thing.”
Rhonda’s voice and memories are now archived, along with nine others from Homer, ionthe Oral History Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Dubbed the “Homer Communities of Memory Jukebox Project,” this history is now available online at http://jukebox.uaf.edu/comhomer.
This project celebrates the community and the history of Homer as seen through the eyes of those present during a series of storytelling sessions held at Land’s End Resort in April 1996. They include stories from Ralph Broshes, Marcee Gray, Mark Marette, Sandy Miller, Bob Moore, Don Ronda, Dave Seaman, Gert Seekins, Carolyn Turkington, Wilma Williams and Diana Tillion, who passed away in 2010.

Reproduced with permission from Pratt Museum - Famed Halibut Cove Artist Diana Tillion contributed her experiences to the Homer Communities of Memory Jukebox Project before her death in 2010.

Reproduced with permission from Pratt Museum - Famed Halibut Cove Artist Diana Tillion contributed her experiences to the Homer Communities of Memory Jukebox Project before her death in 2010.

The people interviewed are all remarkable contributors to local history. Famed artist Diana Tillion talks about Homer in 1942, where her family moved after finding Anchorage unpleasant for its World War II role.
Sandy Miller and author Wilma Williams were also raised in Homer, while others came here in the 1970s or 1980s. In the case of Rhonda’s stories, one hears a whole range of information from his time as a Homer High School principal and his service on the Homer City Council after the earthquake.
Themes include: coming to Homer, making a living, homesteading, commercial fishing, dealing with the natural environment, tourism, the meeting of cultures, changes in Homer and appreciation of what makes Homer special.
The purpose of Project Jukebox is to preserve and make accessible a valuable record of Alaska history and the experiences of people whose stories often are not heard outside their own community. The testimonies in this project highlight a love for Homer, and provide a living link to the nature of life in the lower Kenai Peninsula 16 years ago.
The original “Communities of Memory” project in the mid 1990s was a project funded by the Alaska Humanities Forum. It provided an opportunity for people in communities around Alaska to share their memories and to reflect on what made their community special.
Storytelling sessions were held in Juneau, Fairbanks, Nome, Unalaska, Wasilla, Homer, Kotzebue, Wasilla, Bethel and Kenai/Soldotna. All sessions were videotaped, and many of these recordings are stored at the Oral History Office in the Alaska and Polar Regions Collections at Elmer E. Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
For more information about this
project, contact: Karen Brewster (karen.brewster@alaska.edu) or Marla Statscewich (marla.stats@alaska.edu) at the Project Jukebox Office, 474-6672.

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Posted by on Jan 2nd, 2013 and filed under Headline News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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