Shirly Giles was interviewed on August 17, 2015 by Jan Yaeger at the Seldovia Museum in Seldovia, Alaska. In this interview, Shirly talks about arriving in Seldovia, the 1964 Earthquake and the subsequent changes that occured in the community. She also talks about working at the library, getting a new school built with a swimming pool, and how Seldovia celebrates Fourth of July. In her discussion of community change, Shirly mentions introduction of cars, the role of the school, businesses that have come and gone, and wintertime activities.
Digital Asset Information
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Personal background and arriving in Seldovia in 1963
Life in Seldovia during the boardwalk days
Experiencing the 1964 Alaska Earthquake
Changes in Seldovia after the earthquake with canneries moving out and Urban Renewal
People that have influenced the community of Seldovia
Working at Seldovia's library and its different locations
Hospital and doctors in Seldovia
Change in the community with introduction of cars
Road to Red Mountain
New school construction
Swimming pool at the school, and teaching swim lessons and home-ec classes
School as center of the community
Fourth of July celebration
Old bars in Seldovia
Change in the business community
Changes in wintertime activities
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JAN YAEGER: It is Monday, August 17th (2015). This is Jan Yaeger speaking with Shirly Giles at 10:15 in the morning at the Seldovia Museum. And this is a recording for Project Jukebox, In Our Own Words -- the Seldovia Project Jukebox.
And, Shirly, you said you’ve been in Seldovia about fifty years?
SHIRLY GILES: I arrived April of 1963. I think it was fifty-two years this last April, or would that make it fifty-one?
JAN YAEGER: Oh, you’re going to ask me to do math now. That would be fifty-two years.
SHIRLY GILES: It was last April. It would have been fifty-two years. Yes, the year before the big earthquake.
JAN YAEGER: So you just kinda had time to get to know Seldovia one way and then everything changed.
SHIRLY GILES: Right. It was quite an experience for a young gal from the Midwest, I’ll tell you. ‘Cause that earthquake was a big one, as everyone knows.
JAN YAEGER: Where in the Midwest were you from? SHIRLY GILES: Illinois.
JAN YAEGER: And can you talk about what your first impressions of Seldovia were? Obviously, it was a very different place than Illinois.
SHIRLY GILES: I liked the looks of it, naturally. And I was prepared.
The man I was married to was -- had been living up here for quite a few years. And he came out to Illinois where his family was from and he was visiting. We met, dated for quite a few months, got married, and he brought me up here.
So I was a bit prepared for what to expect. But the whole town was built on a boardwalk. And that was very different, but it was very nice.
I -- it was just so different. And I have to admit, I was a bit homesick for a while.
And then I -- we had a three-and-a-half-month-old little girl when we came up here. I got pregnant again, and after I had -- I had a little boy, and then I got pregnant again.
While I was pregnant the third time, I went out to Illinois and spent quite a few months, and my third child was born out there. And I was so anxious to get home, and after that I was never homesick again.
I really had fallen in love with Alaska. As I found out most people do. A small percentage can’t handle it, but most of us love it.
JAN YAEGER: And you mentioned the boardwalk being really wonderful. What was --?
SHIRLY GILES: Well, the town had a closeness then. And, of course, the town is so small that it’s still close, but things have really changed.
And -- like one woman made the comment to me once that you used to walk down that boardwalk in the middle of the afternoon and you’d see someone and say, “Gee, we’re gonna -- I’m gonna cook some moose steaks later. Why don’t you come over and have some?”
And she jokingly said, “Now you have to receive an engraved invitation.” Or send an engraved invitation to invite people over. And, of course, it’s not that extreme, but it shows that Seldovia’s changed like every other place.
So -- and there were four canneries here, I believe. I think I -- my memory’s a little shaky at times too, but I think there were four canneries here when I moved here.
And if I remember it correctly, there was a shrimp plant, a crab plant, and two salmon. Or was it two crab, a salmon and a shrimp? I get them mixed up anymore.
Wakefield’s was the -- the -- one of the -- the crab plants. And you could -- you’d have to go do some more research to get the rest of the names correct.
Some of them are in my head, but I don’t know if I have them all straight or not anymore, but --
JAN YAEGER: And did you ever work in the canneries?
SHIRLY GILES: No, I didn’t. I was a stay-at-home mother those years. I was young and having children --
JAN YAEGER: Three little ones, I suppose that would make it difficult.
SHIRLY GILES: Three little ones and my -- my oldest little girl was a handicapped little child. And so she was a beautiful little girl, but -- so, yeah, I was busy -- busy.
JAN YAEGER: And then were you here when the earthquake hit?
SHIRLY GILES: Yes, I was.
JAN YAEGER: What was that experience like?
SHIRLY GILES: It’s hard to explain, and I -- I -- we were getting ready to go out to a family’s house for dinner, a friend’s house for dinner. It was Good Friday. And my son was about five weeks old. JAN YAEGER: Oh my.
SHIRLY GILES: So I just had the two -- I had the two children then. I hadn’t had the third one.
And my husband was in the shower and I was sitting on our couch, I remember. And I just -- the house just -- I felt like it was just starting to rock and roll, and I thought, my lord, the washing machine’s out of balance.
And then I realized the washing machine wasn’t running, and I thought it wouldn’t have been -- it would have been not quite that bad anyway, so.
But yeah, it was -- it was an experience.
JAN YAEGER: And then how about the aftermath? I know a lot of people went up to the school and took shelter up there.
SHIRLY GILES: We did. Yeah, we -- we went up there. And some people were up high. They could stay in their homes and -- but we were up there for quite a few hours.
And I do -- when that big surge hit -- there was a tidal wave and our tide was out when it hit our harbor.
And I do believe -- I can’t say for sure -- but everyone -- a lot of people said that if the tide had been in, we may have lost our harbor like Kodiak did and Valdez was -- and Seward -- they were hit very hard.
And the whole downtown of Kodiak, I guess, was rearranged, so --
And I don’t have all the facts and figures, but I believe our land sunk a few feet and that caused quite a few problems.
JAN YAEGER: And did you live right on the boardwalk?
SHIRLY GILES: No, no. I didn’t live on the boardwalk. During the spring of the year and the fall of the year, you have these really high tides.
And if there’s a lot of wind behind them, they’re even higher and some of the water would come up over the boardwalk and into some of the buildings along the boardwalk.
JAN YAEGER: Before the earthquake or after the earthquake?
SHIRLY GILES: No, this was after that this happened.
And then I don’t know exactly when the canneries started moving out, but eventually we were left with just one and that was Wakefield’s.
And then, of course, they -- they took -- I don’t know if it was in ‘64 or ’65, they started taking -- revamping part of the town. Urban Renewal did, so --
JAN YAEGER: And what was that process like? Watching the town kinda be taken apart.
SHIRLY GILES: Well, it was -- that was also very interesting and in some ways it was very sad.
And, boy, there it caused a lot of animosity. People that had been friends for years became bitter enemies for a while and, you know, because some people felt that Urban Renewal should not come in and do anything and others said it has -- you know, they have to come in and do something.
And -- right now, I don’t know what to tell you. If it benefited or not. I thought maybe in some ways it did, you know.
Where I live? That area over there if I’m facing right. Do you know where my house is?
Well, this area right here where the Mad Fish Restaurant and all the houses. Andy Anderson. I live next door to Andy Anderson.
And that whole area. Geagel’s, Smith’s. That was a hill, Cap’s Hill.
And Urban Renewal project took that hill for fill for other parts of the town. And then for a long time it just was one big flat area.
And then people finally started selling the lots and people started building there.
JAN YAEGER: That kind of took well into the ‘70s, I think, didn’t it? SHIRLY GILES: Oh, yeah. Right. Yeah. Yes.
JAN YAEGER: I know Hugh Smith, I think he came in 1973 and he said it kinda looked like a parking lot in the middle of town when he first came.
SHIRLY GILES: Yeah. And now with all the houses -- like I used to call it Seldovia subdivision. It’s right smack in the middle of Seldovia.
JAN YAEGER: So that’s certainly a change if that used to be kind of on the edge?
SHIRLY GILES: Yeah, it -- yeah, and it -- well, I don’t know if it was so much the edge of town, but it was just a big hill, you know.
And it was -- to take that out, you know, it's -- I don’t know.
In the long run, I don’t -- I really do not know if the town is better off. It -- the town was a fishing village. I still call it a fishing village and it isn’t anymore. I know that.
And that’s what sustained the town, and they lost all of that.
But that’s change. I mean, that’s -- that's the cycle of life. And there’s --
I call Seldovia a bedroom community, like you have a lot of them out -- outside, outside the cities, but it’s just not on the road system. That’s just my description.
JAN YAEGER: But you obviously chose to stay.
SHIRLY GILES: Yeah, yeah. I’ve had -- I’ve raised my children here. I’ve had four children all together, raised them all here.
And Seldovia is a beautiful place. It really is. And interesting people moved to Seldovia, and I think a sharp group of people have moved here off and on through the years.
We’ve had people that are interested in improving the town and they’re just sharp, good people, you know.
JAN YAEGER: Who are some of the people that really stand out in your memory from the different ages of Seldovia that you’ve experienced?
SHIRLY GILES: Well, I guess Susan and Jack English, ‘cause they -- you know, Susan was from here and Jack was from Canada, and they had a business here. A newsstand.
And she was the postmaster for years and years and they were -- they were very active in the community. They would be one couple.
Oh gosh, who else? A man who is no longer with us, and his name was Steve Zawistowski. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard his name.
JAN YAEGER: I have heard his name because I think he worked a lot with Frederica De Laguna?
SHIRLY GILES: Well, you know, I don’t know because -- JAN YAEGER: And I believe his house is still there.
SHIRLY GILES: Oh, yes. That house, you know, that house is a Sears house. And people are real surprised when they hear. I was surprised. And yeah, it’s still here.
JAN YAEGER: Yeah, and I’ve heard his name a lot, but I haven’t heard much about him or anyone that really knew him. So if you have any --
SHIRLY GILES: Well, you know, Esther Int-Hout knew him very, very well and my husband, Leslie, knew him quite well. And Pierre did and -- and --
But Steve was quite the storyteller and he -- and he -- they said he always seemed to know when a woman was taking a pie out of the oven.
‘Cause he was tall and skinny and he loved to eat. And so when he came by the house you always offered him something, but they -- he just had a knack. He knew when you had just taken a cake or a pie or cookies out of your oven, you know.
But he was -- he was an interesting person.
JAN YAEGER: How long was he -- I don’t know how long he lived or when he passed away?
SHIRLY GILES: You know, I do not know how long he was here, because he was living here -- he and his wife were living here when I moved here.
And they spent their winters, they would drive Outside and -- most of their winters down below and they would come back, you know, for the spring and summer. And he fished.
But what year he came up here, I do not know. You’d have to talk to some other people that would -- Darlene Crawford might know. Johnny? Exactly when he came.
JAN YAEGAR: Johnny Gruber? SHIRLY GILES: Well, Johnny might, but Johnny Crawford. JAN YAEGAR: Oh, Johnny Crawford, okay.
SHIRLY GILES: Yeah. Um -- God, there’s so many people that are gone.
I do not know if he lived -- I don’t think he lived in Halibut Cove. I don’t know if he -- fox farming and Steve's go together in my mind, but I can’t go beyond that because I’m afraid if I start talking, I’ll tell you some things that aren’t really facts.
But -- but he was very interesting, and if you could find someone that could tell you more about him, I think it would be worth listening to them.
JAN YAEGER: Okay. How about some of the other folks that you remember?
SHIRLY GILES: That lived here? Well, there was a family. One of the -- the first family I met probably were Luned and Dick Inglima.
And I don’t know if anybody’s mentioned them to you or not?
JAN YAEGER: I know their names. SHIRLY GILES: Right. And her -- her parents were from Wales. JAN YAEGER: Oh, really? Okay.
SHIRLY GILES: And she -- they had a grocery store here. And Dick she met at college. He was from New York and they met at UAF, I do believe. I’m not sure if it was UAF or a school Outside -- Gonzaga maybe? I don’t know, because I think they went to both.
But, yeah, they made me feel very, very welcome. They eventually -- after the earthquake they moved to Homer and had a grocery business over there, also. They’re both gone also now, but very nice family.
And another man -- and his wife is still living -- she’s in Anchorage -- Chuck and Candy Hendrix. And he’s from Illinois. He was a friend of Pierre’s and Tuggle Int-Hout’s.
She’s from the state of Washington, I believe. He’s no longer living. But he was the superintendent of Wakefield’s cannery when I moved here.
And I do not -- I never knew her real well. I vaguely remember Elsa Pedersen, who was the bookkeeper at Wakefield’s cannery at the time. And I do not know if you’ve been -- if anyone’s mentioned Elsa Pedersen to you. She wrote and published children’s books.
JAN YAEGER: And I think we have her that “House Upon a Rock.” I think it is? I think we’ve got that in our library.
SHIRLY GILES: We have quite a few in our library -- most of them.
So -- oh, in your library here you mean.
JAN YAEGER: Yeah, the museum library.
Well, in speaking of the library. Susan English is associated very strongly with the Seldovia library, but you also ran the library for a long time, I think, right?
SHIRLY GILES: Well, yes, I did. When I moved here in ’63, one of the first things I did was I knew they had a library. It was open two hours a week. One night.
And so the first week I was here I went and found it in this little hole in the wall, you know, and --
JAN YAEGER: And where was that?
SHIRLY GILES: Well, it was just off the boardwalk, and the building itself, I cannot remember for sure, but I think it -- upstairs it might‘ve housed the city offices and I think the morgue was in that building, also.
You know, they had to have a place when somebody passed away to store a body before they could take it out of town. And, but I --
JAN YAEGER: Was that the building that I think Jack English may have had his offices in it? SHIRLY GILES: No. JAN YAEGER: Okay.
SHIRLY GILES: That was the -- the only -- the building I remember was the one that -- over now that’s parked -- that’s over in back of Diane and Johnny’s house, but it was in a different spot and they moved it.
JAN YAEGER: For Jack’s office, you mean? SHIRLY GILES: Yeah, yeah.
Where were we on this? JAN YAEGER: Uh, the library when you first came.
SHIRLY GILES: Oh, the library. So anyway, I -- yeah. ‘Cause I’ve always been -- I’ve -- I -- I worked in a children’s department part-time when I was nineteen, but -- of a library in a town I lived in. But I’ve always been a reader ever since I learned to read, and so I gravitate towards libraries.
And I got pretty well acquainted with Susan and I don’t know how long I lived here, probably a few years, a couple years, and she asked if I’d like to help her once in a while in the library.
And that’s how my volunteer work started. And, of course, it was just once a week. And I can’t even remember if I went every week.
And then the earthquake occurred. The land sunk and the boardwalk’s taken out and there was no library for quite a while because they had to move it.
Well, no, they did move it to a different location. And I can’t remember if it was open more than one night a week at that point either, but I was doing more and more for Susan.
And this is mid to late ‘60s. And I was -- then I became a member of the board and that would be in the ‘70s.
And I just became more and more involved and helped her.
And she did -- she did a good job. And, of course, there was no technology then. But she did pretty fair job.
She always had a really good selection of books in that small, small place. Quite an inventory. And a very good Alaskana section, and it’s gotten better through the years.
In 1979, we moved into what we are in now. That section of that whole building was the only one that was there. And it was built with a library -- a small library grant.
And I just started working more and more, and then Susan became quite ill as the years went by and I just slowly took over and people were happy with me, so --
And it’s been at least six, seven years since I turned over the directorship to somebody else. At least that. This is 2015? I don’t know if it was 2008, 2009. I just don’t remember for sure. I’d have to go back and check myself.
JAN YAEGER: But you ran it for quite a number of years?
SHIRLY GILES: Oh, yes. Yes, I did. And I’m still on the board and keep my hand in a little bit.
JAN YAEGER: So where was the library between post-earthquake and pre-current location?
SHIRLY GILES: There was a building and it was called the Lipke building. And there was a man -- Adam -- Miss Tyndle Lipke, she had a notions store. She had a few clothes, she had buttons and thread and all that sort of stuff.
JAN YAEGER: So not Alice Lipke? This was a different --?
SHIRLY GILES: Tyndle Lipke. JAN YAEGER: So a different person?
SHIRLY GILES: Yeah. And the one side -- one side of it, the city -- I don’t know if they took over this building -- and they had to move it back a little bit.
And it was where the clinic is right now, but facing Front Street or facing Main Street.
You know, everything was so different. You think back, it’s hard to remember how it was.
And the one side was used for the library and the other side was used for the council meetings. And this is during the whole Urban Renewal process, you know, and then the town was being revamped and --
JAN YAEGER: So that was the building that was -- you said it was moved?
SHIRLY GILES: It was moved back. It was pretty much where it was. I think it was positioned pretty much where it was positioned on the boardwalk, but I believe, if I remember correctly, it was moved back some. And then there were apartments up above.
It was, you know, the old clinic. The doctor and his wife, when they moved to town, Larry and Cheryl Reynolds, lived upstairs in the apartment.
And, of course, they were in the old hospital at that time.
That’s something else that’s interesting. My daughter Jill. Leslie’s and my daughter, Jill, was born in that hospital. JAN YAEGER: Oh, really?
SHIRLY GILES: And there were a few others a couple of years later. The next year, and the following I think that were. But she was one of the last babies born in that hospital.
JAN YAEGER: And what was the hospital like? How many patient rooms and things like that?
SHIRLY GILES: Well, there were I -- maybe were there two -- were there two patient rooms? And then, of course, the room where the babies were delivered and that sort of thing.
And then there was an examination room, and the living quarters were downstairs.
And then there was the office where the doctor would talk to you. And, but you know, I can’t remember exactly all of it anymore.
All I know, it was a very nice, quiet little place to have a baby.
JAN YAEGER: Was there a doctor here full time at that time? SHIRLY GILES: Well, Larry was here. JAN YAEGER: Oh, okay.
SHIRLY GILES: Doctor Reynolds came -- Did he come in ’74? ’73?
JAN YAEGER: Right around then, I think. And before him had there been a full-time doctor or was it -- ?
SHIRLY GILES: Off and on. There was a woman that was here for quite some time. Doctor Millie we called her.
And I do not remember her last name. Her husband was a commercial fisherman. And then we had doctors off and on.
JAN YAEGER: So that was a little bit of a change to have a doctor actually living in the community.
SHIRLY GILES: Yeah. And before I moved here there had been doctors here on a pretty steady basis, and it just didn't -- they weren’t here forever.
But to have somebody come in and stay as long as Doctor Reynolds did was really -- it was wonderful really. It was just nice.
JAN YAEGER: And so you said the living quarters were downstairs, but you also mentioned that he and Cheryl lived upstairs above the library building.
SHIRLY GILES: Yeah, they did not live down there. You know, I hadn’t really thought about that but -- because there were living quarters down there. But they had an apartment above Tyndle Lipke’s store.
JAN YAEGER: The Willards are the only people that have lived there with it as a private building, right? SHIRLY GILES: He bought the building, yes. JAN YAEGER: He bought it as a hospital and rebuilt it.
SHIRLY GILES: He bought it really to live in as a home, you know, and I -- yeah, he bought it, so --
And that family still owns it. But Jerry passed away quite a few years ago and his wife is living in Anchorage now, I do believe.
JAN YAEGER: One of the other things that I always have wondered about is how not having access to the beach -- not having the beach kinda through town -- how that has changed things? Because, of course, now the fill kinda buried the section of beach that was all along Seldovia before.
SHIRLY GILES: You know, that’s true. But I’ve never -- It did change it. But I honest -- I just couldn’t tell you just exactly how.
JAN YAEGER: Well, of course, you weren’t here that long before everything --
SHIRLY GILES: Right. Right. All I know is that there was no boardwalk there for the kids to go play under.
JAN YAEGER: Hm-mm. Yeah, I’ve heard a lot of kids say that that was really a good playground and being underneath there. Do you remember hearing kids running when you were --?
SHIRLY GILES: Oh, yeah, yeah. It was very -- it was interesting, and I’m glad they’ve been able to preserve some of the boardwalk, you know -- you know, which they have.
I do not -- in some way maybe the town did improve, and you have the ferry system coming in, and you’ve got all these cars.
See, when I moved here nobody had their -- there weren’t any vehicles here. There was one small truck that hauled oil -- to deliver oil around. ]And that -- that truck had to run on the boardwalk, so it couldn’t be very big. And I’m sure there must have been a few cars around.
And then once the boardwalk was taken out and the roads were built, then more and more vehicles started showing up. Well, look at the town now. I mean, sometimes there’s even a traffic jam at noon by the post office.
And with the ferry system, you -- well, you need cars. So in that way maybe that’s improved the town. I don’t know.
JAN YAEGER: Would you say that was a gradual change as people switched from walking everywhere to cars or did that happen fairly quickly?
SHIRLY GILES: To me, it happened gradually. But then all of a sudden you wake up one day and say, “My heavens, there’s all these vehicles.”
And you know, there have been problems with people buying property over there on the slough. And people from out of town, and it’s a summer place.
And then they’re parking out right in front of their house, and some of them have wanted to close that road that goes all along the slough. Close it, make it one way. Well, that never -- that didn’t fly.
Well, those roads were walking paths at one time. They were not meant to be for cars.
So things like that. The cars coming in. Things changed.
And I don’t know how they -- the only way they could improve that is to -- people to sell their property, I guess, on the one side and make wide roads. Well, that’s not gonna happen. And it shouldn’t. You shouldn’t -- people can’t -- you can’t expect people to do that, I mean -- I’m stumbling over my words.
One interesting thing about Seldovia. Maybe a lot of small, small places. The people come in and buy some property and they have it surveyed and they realize that their property goes into the middle of the road.
And sometimes there’s not much they can do about that. Especially if it’s been a road for a hundred years, you know.
And it’s -- it’s really interesting. And you mentioned the icy conditions?
JAN YAEGER: It’s always been kind of an adventure in the winter here?
SHIRLY GILES: Oh, yes. And you know it’ll warm up some, and then the temperature drops and it ices up overnight. And, yeah, you can have some really hairy experiences.
JAN YAEGER: How about the road that used to -- until very recently you could at least go up as far as Red Mountain but up -- up until I think not too many years ago, you could actually go down, you know, out to the southern end of the southern peninsula, and just go for a Sunday drive.
I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how when that road went in and then washed out again. How did that kind of change things?
SHIRLY GILES: Well, I don’t know if it did. It just left fewer places that people were used to going to, when they couldn’t go out there anymore.
And when the logging, the logging outfits, came in, you know, years ago, you know, they -- they were used all the time, you know, and the switchbacks they were like this.
But, you know, it definitely changed things. Because you can’t go -- you can go to Red Mountain, but you can’t go much beyond that right now, can you?
JAN YAEGER: Well, you can’t even go to Red Mountain anymore, at least not on -- in a car. SHIRLY GILES: Right. Right. JAN YAEGER: You can still go -- get there by foot
SHIRLY GILES: And probably ATV? Can you? JAN YAEGER: If you’re careful. SHIRLY GILES: If you’re careful. Right. JAN YAEGER: Yeah. And skilled.
SHIRLY GILES: Yeah. Definitely.
And the population outside of Seldovia is about -- you probably know what the population is better than I do. Is it 200? JAN YAEGER: I keep hearing 150 to 170. Somewhere around there. SHIRLY GILES: Oh, Okay.
JAN YAEGER: So was it pretty common for people to use that road to just go for a drive or --?
SHIRLY GILES: Well, not years ago. But it became more and more common. Then, of course, as the years went by all the land -- people were buying land and building these homes that they would spend some of their summer months in.
And my husband and his brother have been clearing some property for the Johnson boys, their house. The Johnson property’s just a few miles out, and their -- the house burned down last year.
And Leslie and Doug are taking some of the trees down for them, and we’re using the wood. We’re taking the wood and cleaning it up.
And Leslie’s been out there getting wood this last week, and he said -- he’s been out there before doing it -- he said, but -- and I was out there the other day. The traffic!
And we just -- not living on that road we didn’t -- you don’t realize it. And when we take a ride out there, there’s traffic. But just constant chiu-chiu-chiu like a freeway. A lot -- it is a busy, busy area out there. Very busy.
JAN YAEGER: It is about 10:50 on August 17th and we are continuing our conversation with Shirly Giles.
And I wanted to ask you just a little bit about raising kids here and -- so your kids would’ve gone to Susan B. English school when it started, I think? SHIRLY GILES: Yes.
JAN YAEGER: Or soon thereafter?
SHIRLY GILES: And before that. My oldest child was a handicapped little girl and she never attended the school. But her brother and sister -- younger brother and sister did.
And the school -- the old school was still going at that time. We didn’t have the new school. But they were running out of room, and so they had these trailers that they used for -- I know first and second and possibly third and fourth grade.
And -- and then the project was on for a new school. And even the borough superintendent and people that worked with him would come down to town meetings.
And they were such a nice -- I remember two men: Walt Hartenberger was one and I can’t remember the name of the other. But they fought for Seldovia.
And there were some communities on the peninsula that the attitude was, "Why does Seldovia need a new school?" And these men really were all for us having one.
But the one thing the community wanted was a swimming pool. And they were adamant about it.
And it was gonna cost extra money, you know, of course, you have to get these grants and the funding for the school. The bond issues have to be passed.
And so what they did was they turned the gym, the existing gym, into a shop area. And that way they were able to include a pool with the -- the gym, you know.
Well, you’ve been up to the school. There’s the gym and then there’s the pool.
JAN YAEGER: Okay. SHIRLY GILES: And that’s, I think, one way they were able to afford to have a swimming pool.
JAN YAEGER: Okay. So that was a cost-savings? SHIRLY GILES: Because they used the existing -- what was the gym at that time for our shop.
And I can’t remember exactly what year we moved into the school, the new one, but the kids have taken such good care of it through the years. It was in the ‘70s.
JAN YAEGER: Hm-mm. I think it was 1971 or ’72.
SHIRLY GILES: That’s probably right. And I think they’ve taken very good care of that school. They’ve really been proud of it, I think, you know, and --
JAN YAEGER: Yeah, a visitor who was here last week who hadn’t seen it before said, “Oh, you have a new school!” I said, “Yes, forty years ago.” SHIRLY GILES: Yeah. Right, right. So.
JAN YAEGER: And so what was -- what was that like, the differences between the old one and the new one? I think the one before that was built in the ‘50s sometime.
SHIRLY GILES: It might have been even earlier than that, but I know there were some of the classrooms that the -- the pipes were exposed, you know.
You know, the plumbing pipes and maybe heating elements? I just don’t remember, but no, it was quite, quite different, believe me.
It was a wonderful thing to have happened to the town and we deserved it, you know.
JAN YAEGER: And so did they use the pool as part of the curriculum? Did kids have swimming lessons and --?
SHIRLY GILES: Oh, yeah. And they even had a swimming pool for a couple of years, and then they had to do some maintenance for a year, and I don’t know if -- I don’t think they ever had a swimming team after that again, but no, the pool’s been used extensively.
Because it -- the town, the people thought it was very important for the kids to learn how to swim. Very important.
JAN YAEGER: Because there had been some people lost because they didn’t know how to swim, right? In a community, of course, that’s so --
SHIRLY GILES: Not many, but it happened, yeah. JAN YAEGER: -- so water-based as this one. SHIRLY GILES: Right.
JAN YAEGER: So did the teachers teach swimming or did they bring in people or --?
SHIRLY GILES: I think that -- you know, I do not know. No, I think the gym teacher taught, and I think a lot of people in town knew how to swim, you know. Most people do know how to swim.
But I think they probably always had gym teachers that knew how to -- that I just don’t -- I don’t remember a whole lot about that.
And then there were some kids that I think learned when they went visiting, maybe grandparents. And some of the kids knew how, also.
They’d go on vacations to the lower forty-eight or somewhere or maybe to Anchorage they’d go. But some did know how to swim. So --
But the school as a whole was really good. They had a good home-ec department and some of the members of the community helped with that also, you know. A lot of seamstresses in town.
And then one year quite a few years ago, the home-ec department had me come up there one evening. I demonstrated how to -- and it wasn’t just for the kids, it was for -- I think there were adults there, too. How to set -- how to knead bread.
It’s been so long ago I barely remember that evening, but --
JAN YAEGER: Has the school always been kind of the center of the community?
SHIRLY GILES: Yes. And it was -- I think all the schools in Alaska are kind of bent that way. Became -- it becomes a community center as well as the school, you know.
And the K through -- it’s K-12.
When my -- two of my kids were, I would guess, fifth and sixth or sixth and seventh grade maybe, I think -- I could be wrong, but I think there was as many as 170, 165 –170 kids in the school.
JAN YAEGER: So that would’ve been some time in the early ‘70s probably?
SHIRLY GILES: Mid to late ‘70s, maybe? I could be wrong on the figures, but now it’s -- it’s been in the forties.
I was told recently that it might be more this year.
JAN YAEGER: Yeah, I think this year -- I think it’s going to be somewhere in the forties, but we have twelve seniors this year.
SHIRLY GILES: Wow. That’s going to be a change.
JAN YAEGER: That is gonna be a huge change. That’s, I think, the biggest class Seldovia’s seen in probably quite some time.
SHIRLY GILES: Probably a long time, yeah. The year that my son started kindergarten was the first year they had kindergarten here. JAN YAEGER: Oh, really?
SHIRLY GILES: And they had it -- there was no -- you see, they were still in the old school. And they used what was then the Methodist Church. And it’s now -- and then it became SKIAP.
And then -- you know what building I’m talking about? It’s -- a man by the name of Greg Davis owns it now.
And that’s where they had the kindergarten. There were twenty-two students in that class and there were four girls.
And there were two sets of twins in this little town, yes. That was very unusual. Very unusual.
They weren’t all here by the time they all graduated from high school, but it was a pretty big class. But twelve kids next year? Great. A lot of them are musicians, too.
JAN YAEGER: Yeah, I think Seldovia’s got a pretty good musical group for being -- SHIRLY GILES: They’re impressive. JAN YAEGER: -- young kids.
How about Fourth of July? That seems like another thing that’s been a real long tradition.
SHIRLY GILES: Always. Always. And, of course, when I moved here -- in fact, I have a snapshot of a couple of ‘em -- of my husband and two of the kids -- I just had two of them that were walking along the boardwalk on the Fourth of July. ‘Cause it took place on the boardwalk.
Then up by the old school some of the booths were. I remember that one year because I worked at one of the booths. But it’s always been a big -- a big event here.
And then I remember one year it was out -- the whole thing was on the Outside Beach. And that was a long, long, long, long time ago. So long that my kids, you know, my oldest daughter -- my youngest daughter wasn’t even in the picture. So many years ago.
JAN YAEGER: Do you remember why they had it out there? Was that because of all the construction in town perhaps?
SHIRLY GILES: You know, I don’t even remember. And maybe it was just a nice place to have it? Which it was. But it’s always been a big event. And it’s fun.
JAN YAEGER: Yeah, I would imagine the boardwalk would be awfully crowded, trying to get a parade snaking through the people there.
SHIRLY GILES: Yeah, but they did it, you know. And then -- and it’s still -- a lot of people still show up for it, but there’ve been years there’ve been far more than -- I’ve noticed that it’s -- the amount of people has slowed down a little bit. But Seldovia’s well-known for its Fourth of July.
JAN YAEGER: Well, it seems like a lot of the events have been fairly constant.
SHIRLY GILES: Yes. Because I -- I worked at the library book sale and it was raining that day, and I went home right afterwards, and the parade usually goes in front of my house, so I just sat out on my front porch and watched the parade go by. But I never did go join in in anything this year.
And I asked somebody if they had the log rolling or the canoe jousting, and one of them they did have. Some years they’ve had both.
JAN YAEGER And what are some of the other events that you remember?
SHIRLY GILES: Well, the children’s games. And then the one thing, and I don’t think they’ve had it for quite a few years, but it’s a -- I don’t even know what you call it, but you gotta go up this pole and it’s -- what do they put on it?
JAN YAEGER: Oh, it’s like a greased pole climb. They put lard or something and maybe --
SHIRLY GILES: A greased pole thing. Yes. And they used to have that, and I don’t think they’ve had that for a few years.
And like I said there’s always the children’s games. And there’s always been a lot of food booths. And I understand there weren’t too many -- there wasn’t too many of that this year either.
So I figured the restaurants must’ve done a land office business.
But a lot of food booths. And the hot dogs were very popular. The hospital guild always sold hotdogs every Fourth of July. That was a moneymaker, the hotdogs.
But there were all kinds of food, you know. It was just a fun time. And then sometimes they would have street dances.
And so, there was a time when there were three bars in Seldovia. And I remember a Fourth of July, it fell on a weekend and so therefore it was busy from Friday, Saturday, Sunday, whatever. And there was live music in all three bars.
JAN YAEGER: Really? SHIRLY GILES: Yes. And it was quite a weekend. And it was fun, you know.
JAN YAEGER: Some of the bars that I’ve heard names of were the Knight Spot and the Polar Bar. Of course, the Linwood’s been around for a long time now.
SHIRLY GILES: Yes. The Polar Bar was here when I moved here. It was on the boardwalk. The Surf Club and the Linwood, I think they were all on the boardwalk. Was there another one besides -- there was the Surf Club, the Linwood, the Polar Bar.
I don’t know what year the Knight Spot -- I mean the lodge came along.
The Knight Spot, I don’t know what liquor license they bought. It would’ve had to have been the Polar Bar’s or the Surf Club’s or -- one of those kept passing hands, I’m sure.
But that building in the middle of town that used to be a grocery store, it’s empty now. The one end of it -- the people that bought it, that built it, that were running it, they put a restaurant and a bar at the end of it.
And the man’s name, last name, was Knight. His family. And they called the bar part the Knight Spot. And there was a restaurant with it that his brother ran.
JAN YAEGER: Do you remember the name of the restaurant?
SHIRLY GILES: It might have -- I don’t know if it was called the Knight Spot. JAN YAEGER: It may have had the same name?
SHIRLY GILES: It might’ve been, but I don’t really remember. It was open all day, and I don’t think it would be called the Knight Spot.
JAN YAEGER: And then the lodge you mentioned. Was that the Newmeyer’s place? SHIRLY GILES: Yeah, right.
JAN YAEGER: And had anyone else run that, or was that just Freddy and Millie?
SHIRLY GILES: No, I don’t remember the name of the people that bought it. They lived -- they were from Anchorage. And they had it for a while, and then there was a couple that lived here that managed it for the people that owned it. Their name was Cope. And I don’t know if they owned it -- I mean ran it one or two years.
And, of course, it was remodeled, and then it -- I do not remember if it was open for business when it burned down.
And the gentleman I mentioned earlier, Greg Davis, he owns that property. And I have no idea what he plans to do with it.
JAN YAEGER: But Freddy and Millie never actually ran it, is that right?
SHIRLY GILES: They owned it for years and years. JAN YAEGER: Yeah, I know they owned it. SHIRLY GILES: Oh, yeah. JAN YAEGER: Okay, that's what I was thinking. SHIRLY GILES: Oh, yeah, he was the cook. JAN YAEGER: That they'd been there for a long time.
I’ve heard stories about his cooking. SHIRLY GILES: Oh, I'm sure. Yeah. He cooked.
It was a popular place though, I’ll tell you. Interesting.
Now there’s one bar and then, of course, they sell liquor at the take out, too. But then I understand, and I -- there’s another bar, not a bar, a liquor store in town, isn’t there?
JAN YAEGER: One that just opened.
SHIRLY GILES: Right. Yeah. And I don’t know -- that's a -- that liquor license was -- went with the store, I think. Isn’t that the one that was bought?
JAN YAEGER: I believe so. Yes. SHIRLY GILES: Yeah. So --
JAN YAEGER: So would you say Seldovia right now is -- you know, we’ve got a couple of restaurants. You mentioned the Linwood. Obviously, the post office continues to function and the Crab Pot, which is the grocery store, and the Fuel and Lube.
Would you say that level of business has been fairly steady the last few years, or would you say that we’re kind of a little lower, a little higher than what you’ve seen recently or --?
SHIRLY GILES: You mean the business they take in, you mean?
JAN YAEGER: Just in terms of the number of businesses open to the public.
SHIRLY GILES: Oh, the number of businesses. Well, they’ve been -- I would say pretty much the same for a few years now.
I mean, for years we had two grocery stores. For many years.
And we had a lot more gift stores just not too long ago. And in the wintertime, I don’t think there’s any gift stores open. And I don’t even know if this one’s open, is it, in the wintertime?
JAN YAEGER: We’re open a couple days a week.
SHIRLY GILES: A couple days a week?
That’s where I see the change: the winters. And for a long time now. But the last few have been -- just even for me and I’m seventy-six years old and I like quiet and I like my solitude, but the town’s too quiet in the winters.
Thank heav -- we do have an active library, which is good, a well-equipped library. The school’s very active. And so that keeps the town --
And it is amazing the things to do around here. And I have taken part in the -- the city now owns the building that was the Boys and Girls Club, right? And that is called SOCC?
JAN YAEGER: Right. The Sea Otter Community Center.
SHIRLY GILES: Right. And they’re quite active, I understand. So for such a small, small place there is a lot going on.
JAN YAEGER: Hm-mm. And has that always been that way?
SHIRLY GILES: Yes, it has been. And then of course there’s the ladies that have the yoga classes. There’s the exercise room that -- it’s SVT or SNA?
JAN YAEGER: SVT.
SHIRLY GILES: SVT has. A person can -- doesn’t have to be completely idle, you know. If they want to get out and do things, you know.
I always -- it would be easy to stagnate -- stagnate in Seldovia. In any small place.
And I used to say, “Thank heaven I’m a reader.” Because you don’t have to stagnate no matter where you go. You don’t have to.
And then, of course, with satellite TV, everything’s out there for you. Maybe too much.
JAN YAEGER: And I know Seldovia used to have -- was it the Fuzz Ball? Was that a winter event?
SHIRLY GILES: That was a winter event. And I -- that -- what -- they didn’t always have that. And I don’t -- if that’s something that came about in the 70s. But it was really active and it was to raise money for the police department. JAN YAEGER: Right.
SHIRLY GILES: And -- a lot of the people in town took part, but they had what they called the "Not Quite Ready for Prime Time" talent show. And it was good. It was hilarious. It was funny.
And the people that took part in it -- it was just -- it was fun. And they do -- there’s a group that does a little bit in the winter anymore, but nothing that comes close to that. It went on for quite a few years.
JAN YAEGER: Who were some of the -- I’m assuming that some of the same people performed every year. Are there any that stand out for you?
SHIRLY GILES: Yeah, but they’re gone -- so many of them are gone. JAN YAEGER: Yeah.
SHIRLY GILES: And there’s one -- there’s a woman that -- that -- Pam Miller’s her name. Do you know Allison and Amanda Miller? Their mother. And, of course, you know, they lived here. She was married to Mike.
And Christine Kashevaroff. You've met -- you know Christine. They used to do a skit that was -- one of them was called "Something-or-other Slough."
And I don’t know what the other one named herself. But they were dressed up like babushkas on their head and maybe oilskins. I do not know. And they had an act with whatever.
I can’t even remember. It was just funny. And they would have the accents and the -- like, I don’t know if they were fishermen’s wives or just what they -- who they were supposed to be, but they were hilarious.
And they’re both funny anyway when they get going. They have good senses of humor.
JAN YAEGER: Any other kind of events that the town had? You know and I guess I’m especially interested in the wintertime when things were, you know, a little quieter and not as much fishing going on that people did things.
SHIRLY GILES: That’s probably the biggest thing I can remember for the wintertime. There was some --
An event that they had the last one the year before I moved here. They used to celebrate the Russian New Year’s.
And they had a costume ball. And then they would send the old year out and the new year would come in, you know, and they would do that. But I never saw that.
But I guess it was -- it was quite an event and a lot of people attended.
And the old year would be some adult member -- or the new year some adult member of the community, but he dressed in a diaper, you know, because he’s the new year.
JAN YAEGER: Any Russian traditions that you can remember happening? I know the church was probably starting to get kinda quiet around then.
SHIRLY GILES: They -- I think they still continued some as years went by, but they went around with the star.
They used to do that, too, up until -- and I don’t -- I think it’s been years and years since they’ve done that.
JAN YAEGER: But they did that when you still lived here?
SHIRLY GILES: I don’t remember if they did or not. I think -- because they had that -- the big celebration the year before I moved here was the last one, and that might’ve been the last time they went around with the star.
I think they probably in Nanwalek, and don’t they in Port Graham, they do that don't they?
JAN YAEGER: I think they still do it, yeah. Alright.
Well, thank you so much for coming to talk with me today.
SHIRLY GILES: Well, I hope I sounded intelligent enough, and --
JAN YAEGER: Well, you know, as you said you’ve got fifty-two years of experience here that no one else does, so we really appreciate you sharing it with us.
SHIRLY GILES: Well, thank you.