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Carolyn Turkington

Carolyn Turkington spoke on April 27, 1996 at the Land's End Resort in Homer, Alaska for a Communities of Memory meeting where people told stories about life in Homer. In this recording, Carolyn talks about trying to get to Homer before the road was built, living in a Wanigan when they first arrived, starting their businesses, and what Homer was like in the early days. 

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2012-19-01

Project: Homer Communities of Memory
Date of Interview: Apr 27, 1996
Narrator(s): Carolyn Turkington
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Humanities Forum
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Coming to Homer

Getting a vehicle to Homer before the road

Living in a wanigan

Moving into town

Owned taxi and school bus business

First drug store in Homer


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CAROLYN TURKINGTON: Bob came to Alaska in 1946, I believe.

When the AlCan first opened up, he and his cousin came up in Model-T? A?

One of those cars, and spent the summer up here. And his cousin ended up in Fairbanks, but Bob ended up on a tender out of Seldovia and came into Homer.

And that's what brought Homer to his mind.

And we corresponded during this time, and when he came home he knew well enough there weren't enough women up here to find a bride, so I was elected.

And then I said, “don't mention anything about Alaska to me”, and within a few months of our marriage, Alaska was strongly mentioned, and I had no choice.

I mean, it was either come with him or stay home.

So he and his cousin and two other fellows and a dog came in two Model-As or Ts or whatever and got to Alaska.

We all got to Anchorage with no problem --well, we had problems, I won't even go into the problems. They were terrible.

But we got to Anchorage and tried to find a way to get down to Homer, and there really wasn't much way to come in those days.

The railroad wasn't, oh, dear, I keep losing it, Bob. How'd you get here? The railroad --

BOB TURKINGTON: We come down on the barge.

CAROLYN TURKINGTON: You came down -- no, your first time down.

BOB TURKINGTON: Well, we got down to the railroad to Moose Pass and -- CAROLYN TURKINGTON: Moose Pass -- the railroad, yeah.

BOB TURKINGTON: -- drove the Model-A on over to Kenai.

CAROLYN TURKINGTON: And then they bought a skiff, and got to Homer.

I mean, they got out on shore one day and thought it was the largest outhouse they'd ever seen, and it was somebody's salmon smoking.

But Bob came back to Anchorage -- Bob and our friend, Ross, who had come down with the Fellows -- a couple that we'd met on the highway.

And came back and worked in Anchorage to get enough money to get our vehicles down to Homer.

Which we finally did, along with another couple. There were three families, so to speak, that had vehicles on this barge.

And the man that brought us down, he was just great.

He was wonderful, so accommodating to a bunch of broke people, for one thing.

And we got to Homer and Clyde Wythe was the harbormaster at the time, and he wouldn't let us land without paying a fee.

Well, we didn't have the fee, and so the harbormaster -- the fellow that had the barge, said, "I'll wait the tide out and put you off on shore."

Which was really not a good thing for him to do. He was taking just a little bit of a chance doing it.

But, anyhow, he did that. Bless his heart, and we got to Homer.

And the fellows that were left here, one of them had already -- he'd found a job, he was going out on a fishing boat.

But we were to go to 8 Mile to work for Tex Harrison, who was building a night club.

And so we went up there and Tex had a great big tent and we immediately built a small 8 by 10 wanigan type affair to live in.

And we'd brought a stove with us. The stove was almost as big as the tent. It never got hot.

The only time it ever got warm -- I couldn't even open it up and put popcorn to pop inside the fire.

I opened the oven door one day to dry some crepe sole shoes, and that's the day it took off and melted the soles of my shoes.

But we had brought a sawmill, and that's what Tex Harrison wanted from us, was the saw mill -- which, and I was the official log peeler. I did a lot of log peeling, but I was also pregnant at the time.

So leaning over doing logs was not a real fun thing to do.

But we did it, and got the place opened up. And, oh, there's lots of stories there, too.

But we went on from there to a - I went to Connecticut to have our first son, Allen, and Tex was to give us our pay, which there was none of.

We never got paid for anything. He did feed us, but he didn't pay us anything.

And by the time I came back, Bob had moved into town and was working as a cab driver.

And we ended up buying the taxi business, and we had that wonderful telephone line all through town, that the moose took apart about every time you turned around.

And we had one gossipy person who was on the line who answered anybody's rings, saying they were hers.

And she was kind of malicious. She started rumors in town that weren't very nice, so just for the heck of it one day I started one about her and let it go through the phone system.

It was real good by the time it ended up.

But eventually we got real phones, so that went fine.

And from there we went into the school buses, and we had school buses for 20 years, starting out with our taxicabs, which went up on the hills.

And the old bus called Sookanook (ph) that we bought from -- it was ancient, absolutely ancient.

And then built up into regular...

BOB TURKINGTON: It was fairly new, it was only 1929...

CAROLYN TURKINGTON: Oh, was that what it was?

So anyhow, it made it.

And we have pictures of the cabs when the kids had to step out of the cabs on the West Hill and up six feet to get up on top.

I mean, they plowed the roads out like that, and there was just one shot at it, and that was it.

But we always made it.

And Bob was the first fire chief in Homer.

And he was much more active in things than I ever was.

I got to be president of the American Legion Auxiliary one year, and I never did like the way the meetings were conducted because everybody was so long winded,

that I chopped the meetings down to very short ones, so I wasn't too popular, and that ended my career as a club woman.

But -- oh, another thing we did was, or I helped stock -- we build the first drug store in Homer.

Vern Myhill -- Vern Myhill -- Vern Mutch.

BOB TURKINGTON: Howard Myhill.

CAROLYN TURKINGTON: Howard Myhill. Yeah, I know, I'm just getting rattled.

And we weren't paid in money for that, but we were paid in ham, cheese, all very useful things at that time.

And then we -- Rosemary and Ross Bennett were there.

Rosie was one of the local nurses.

We helped stock the new drug store.

Actually, Howard was the physician of the day, then.

He took care of everything, coming to stitch -- stitch up heads.

And -- or to notify you that the first doctor that I remember in town, Dr. Armstrong, wouldn't be available for my delivery because he was not well.

Well, he was not well because he'd gotten drunk.

And I should maybe go to Seward for attention.

But I didn't. I waited for him.

And, well, life has been good.

Actually, we're happy to have raised our children here, without a doubt, and they are -- all went out to various schooling or whatever.

And everyone of them realized that they were always going to be able to eat in Homer and they all trotted right back here.

So, we have all of our family and 10 grandchildren and we're happy to be here. Thank you.