By Christina Whiting
Monday marks the 50-year anniversary of the incorporation of the City of Homer. The Homer Elks is hosting a celebration and the community is invited to gather from late afternoon through the evening.
City council member Francie Roberts will be on hand, along with Mr. Homer, and the Pratt Museum’s historic photographs and memorabilia will be on display. Festivities will include a social hour, barbecue, live entertainment and storytelling of what life was like in Homer in the early days, as shared by long time Homer residents, including members of the Pioneers of Alaska, residents of the Homer Senior Center, and Mary Epperson, Lorraine Haas, Stan Harrington, Roy Kranich, Wilma Williams and Paul Hodgdon.
By incorporating the City of Homer was established as a first class municipality with an appointed city manager and an elected city council form of government. Prior to incorporation, the City operated under the Kenai Peninsula Public Utility District number 1, with a board of directors. Plans for the incorporation of Homer had been underway prior to the Good Friday earthquake and were completed less than a week after the earthquake. Being incorporated allowed the city to get state and federal funding to help with recovery efforts.
Paul Hodgdon moved his family to Homer from Anchorage in 1975 to take a job as an equipment operator with the City.
“I was getting tired of the noise and with how wild Anchorage was,” Hodgdon said. “My wife saw an ad that they City of Homer was looking for an equipment operator and asked me what I thought. When she mentioned it to me, I didn’t even know where Homer was.”
When Hodgdon looked Homer up on a map, his interest was piqued and he flew to Homer the next day. At city hall, he was met by the City Clerk/Treasurer Mary Epperson.
“Little Mary Epperson came out, shook my hand and told me that the City Manager would hire me right then and there,” he said. “When I told her that I just came down to check out the job and the town, she told me that I’d like it here and that I’d fit right in. So, I took the job and the rest is history.”
Hodgdon recalls those days when there was no Best Western Bidarka Inn, no Safeway, no Petro Marine gas station and no bypass road.
“All the equipment coming into Homer went down Pioneer Avenue, through our one flashing light and out to the Spit,” he said. “There wasn’t much of a community back then, just a few buildings and all the roads were gravel.”
While Hodgdon was immediately impressed with the natural beauty of Kachemak Bay, what impressed him most were the people and the strong sense of community.
“I liked the view, but I really took the job because everyone was so nice,” he said. “Lots of things have changed about Homer, but that hasn’t. If anything goes wrong, everybody is willing to donate time or money to a spaghetti feed or to build a new house. There are lots of people here who really care for other people, even if they don’t really know the other people. I’ve seen people live here just a short time and then they pass away and a hundred people show up at the memorial service to help the family.”
Homer’s homesteaders will share stories and community members are invited to tell their own tales.
“Everyone is invited to share his or her memories. If you have a story to tell, come out and tell it,” said Dax Radtke.
Radtke is a long time Homer resident and is organizing the anniversary event.
“I thought this anniversary was worth celebrating and when I found out that the City of Homer and the Homer Chamber of Commerce weren’t planning any activities, I decided to take on the task myself,” he said.
Radtke approached the Homer Elks as a venue to host the gathering because of their commitment to connecting with the community and his idea was met with enthusiasm.
Marlena (Mo) Hodgdon has been with the Homer Elks, as a member for seven years, a bartender for four, an officer for one and this year, as the incoming Exalted Ruler, overseeing all activities.
“Homer Elks is an all-volunteer, family friendly, non-profit organization,” she said. “We’re a private club, but membership is open to everyone 21 and older. We are very active in the community, from hosting the Share the Spirit spaghetti feed to our 4th of July community pig roast to the scholarships we offer Homer High School students. When Dax brought this idea to me, I didn’t hesitate. The 50th anniversary of Homer’s incorporation is a great thing to celebrate.”
The Homer Elks invite the public to share in a fun, interesting and educational evening of history, as told by Homer residents who have lived it. Doors open to the community at 4 p.m. on Monday, March 31 with a social hour, including a cash bar and music by Connie Cordova. At 5 p.m., the Homer Emblem Club serves up a barbecue feast of hamburgers, hotdogs, coleslaw and beans for a $10 donation. Homesteaders share their stories 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., followed by birthday cake and live entertainment to round out the evening.
For more information, contact Dax at 299-0319 or the Homer Elks at 235-2127.
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