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Sandy Miller

Sandy Miller 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, she talks about many of the panel of people present during the Homer Communities of Memory gathering. She talks about how her first memories of each person and how they've shaped the community. She also talks about her family, traveling outside for the winter, the road to Anchorage and the wonderful people in Homer.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2012-19-03

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

Lance and Barb Petersen

Don Ronda

Bob Moore

Brad Hughes

Gary Lyon

Ralph Broshes

Victoria Wilson

Mark Marette

1964 Earthquake occured when they were in Nebraska

Paved road to Anchorage

Eventually falling in love with Homer

Generosity of the community

Church gatherings

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SANDY MILLER: In 1956, along with the Rondas the same year, my parents, Ralph and Betty Miller came to Homer.

And I'm thinking I just live here. I don't have stories. I'm a divorced mother of two children.

But I have come to believe sitting here today -- and I hope I don't get emotional about it --

I'm very grateful for the legacy and the friendship and the rich camaraderie that is inter-meshed in all of our lives.

My stories, I guess, more relate to each one of the people that I see here.

First of all, I remember Lance Petersen. One of the -- as a kid, one of the greatest mem -- times I remember about Lance was thinking, "Man, this guy must be from Hollywood! He is so fantastic."

And that was when you did "Fiddler on the Roof," Lance, the first time you guys did that and Barb -- you know, here's Barb Petersen, this woman that was incredibly knowledgeable in the medical field -- in my mind she was this icon of a nurse.

And she put up with me as a teenager and being a nurse's aide -- we were allowed to work at the age of 14 then.

And that was back when there was only a nurse and an aide on duty at the hospital most of the time at night, and whatever came in, we had to deal with.

And Barb helped me deliver my first baby verbally, across the hall.

Her brother, Bill, was up here doing his internship, and there was a lady from Seldovia that came over, a Native lady.

And she'd been down at the old Club Bar and she came up saying, ooh, she thinks she's got a stomach ache.

Well, she had a ski jacket on -- she was a very, very tiny lady, and when the ski jacket was zipped up she didn't even really look pregnant.

But she thought she was gonna be having this baby. And there was another lady in there that was very involved in her delivery.

And so Barb says, "Well, just take her down and get her laid in there." And she and Bill were taking this other lady across the hall to the surgery to deliver hers, and this lady, she's pretty inebriated.

And Barb said we'll just let her sleep here tonight and send her back over in the morning.

And all of a sudden she's hollering down the room and she's saying "I'm gonna have this baby! I'm gonna have this baby!"

And all of a sudden she says, "I am!" And so I'm yelling, "Barb, she's gonna have this baby!" And I'm, like, 14 years old.

And she says, "Well, now you can do it. You can do it," in her very peaceful manner.

"Just open the bottom drawer; there's a full kit in there." And so I proceeded to help this lady deliver her baby.

So those are the memories that I have of Barb and Lance that really stick out in my mind.

You know, Barb was, Barb was perfect white. You know, her uniforms were perfect, and everything. And Lance was just this eccentric director from Hollywood. And I mean, this was as a child.

And then I remember Don Ronda. Now, he was the principal for me, you know, most of the time.

And I -- I never remember visiting with Don personally the way a number of my friends did, but Don had a very special personal reminder that he had in his office.

And it was about this long, and he ruled with a lot of respect from that.

And now the one thing I remember a lot about Don is that he not only was respected highly -- which breaks my heart. I don't think I hear much respect from my children at all about their teachers today.

But Don Ronda was respected just incredibly, as Bob Moore.

And they weren't -- they weren't just teachers and instructors or leaders, they were friends. They genuinely cared.

Bob Moore -- you know, Victoria was talking about times that you look back and you've treated people, you wonder how you've treated them.

Well, at one point in time, we were living out by Anchor Point and our kids went to Nikolaevsk school, and it was when things were getting real rocky, before our divorce.

And we had decided to home school and there were other people living there, and Bob Moore took the time to come in our driveway, which was about two miles off the road and half the time you walk or snowmachine, or --

and he came in and was concerned about our kids, very much so, hoping that the home schooling situation was working out good.

It wasn't working out very good. And he was just so genuine and so caring.

I think those kind of traits are lost, very much, in our school systems today.

A lot of teachers just have a job, and that's not the way Bob was.

When our divorce came through, the thing that I remember, my kids' biggest fear in going to another school was that, "Well, Mr. Moore's not going to be there."

And he had a respect and a paternal feeling that he ingrained into my children, for which I'm very grateful.

Brad Hughes -- I had never met him personally, except for when I worked at the bank, after the divorce.

And then I became a Hospice volunteer and the name Brad Hughes always kept coming up. And I thought, "Now this is that artist that Dr. Eneboe told me one time he liked."

You know, and that's the only thing I could equate to Brad Hughes.

And then in Hospice, you know, his name would come up over and over and over and over.

And then I went to a seminar one time and it was just so incredible, that this big, talented, very, very able man, had such a warm and compassionate heart

and would give so much time and love to people in such a trauma time of their life as dying. And that impressed me a lot.

Gary Lyon, I have just always, always appreciated his work. I've worshiped at his feet and would give anything to have a print of his wolves and all the rest.

But, about -- oh, man, it must have been maybe 1980 or something, at a garage, for “50 cents”, Gary , for 50 cents in this grab bag of things, I didn't even know what it was, but it had 50 cents on it.

And I had 50 cents left in my pocket. So I took this tube home, and I have a charcoal sketch of squirrels, parky squirrels by Gary Lyon.

And Ralph Broshes, I remember when Ralph came to town.

My father, there's no way he's gonna throw good money after an animal and there was no way he'd ever pay to go --

well my mom snuck our cat to the vet a number of times.

And it was -- it was always nice to know that you could take your critter in or -- or when we lived on the ranch, how many times I called and said I've got a goat with this problem

and I live here and a nurse would give us some help and some clues as to ways we could better help whatever the situation was.

And it was just another sign of growing in our community because Howard Myhill had taken care of everything from setting broken legs on a dog to porcupine quills and giving penicillin shots in the back office and all the rest.

And I remember when -- I'm not sure who it was, somebody else and I, helped catch a dog that had gotten loose from the clinic up behind the school.

We'd been up there and somehow this big yellow dog had gotten loose and us kids were in the back all trying to find it in the woods back behind.

But -- Victoria. Now Victoria, I remember the first time I heard the DMV lady sing.

It was at a Christmas concert, and I thought, "Wow! This lady's incredible!" She has a great voice, besides being a really sweet lady. She has a fantastic voice and is a very, very talented woman.

And Mark Marette, this last summer, he really left a good impression on some people -- I was driving taxicab.

And I had to drive clear out to the end of the road. These people had come in late.

And Mark had let them off there. And all the way back in, they're dying, they're so tired, you know.

But all they could do is just have this glowing, glowing testimony of the most fantastic time they'd had. I think they had only had sunshine two days, all the rest of it it rained.

And they were from some big city back East and it was the second time, I think, that they'd been with you and said, that, oh, if they ever got the money again this is where they were gonna go.

They didn't want to go to Hawaii or anyplace else. But this is where they were coming.

And I thought, what a wonderful impression to leave on people that have been here.

To make them -- to make them feel like such a part, even in situations that most people, maybe, would find, oh, less than heart-warming. You know, being drenched on a trip where most people would think, oh, itld be nice if the sun would be shining.

But to still come through with a really good attitude. And his string of horses, I remember when they first showed up.

And I tell my daughter every year, "You know, Abby, we need to do that. We should do that this summer." We still haven't done it. Maybe this summer we'll get it done.

But other things I remember different, are during the earthquake -- during the years of 1964 to 1969, my parents went Outside to Bible college for five years. My dad got a degree.

And so we would drive out the highway every September and then come back every May, and he would work construction in the summer. And we rented out our home to other people. And we would go back and forth.

And the first semester he went out, we left the winter of '64, prior to Christmas.

And come March the earthquake happened, and we were in Omaha, Nebraska.

And my mom's, like, totally freaking out with this earthquake. Everything down there was as though Alaska was gone.

I mean, there was nothing left up here. And we couldn't get through and couldn't get through, for three days on the phone.

And, somehow, a TV company, a TV station down in Omaha, found out that there were some Alaskans there. I have no idea how that happened, I was about 10.

And so out come this TV cameras and the crew and everything, and they're interviewing our family, you know, in our living room. And, I mean, we didn't even have a TV in Homer.

And we didn't have a TV down there, because my dad didn't think it was spiritual.

We got a TV in Homer when I was 17 years old, and -- he'll kill me if this ever comes out , but we couldn't have an antenna on top of our house because then everybody else would know we had a TV.

But, so, needless to say, when we were in Omaha, we didn't have a TV either, and so when the camera crew and stuff came out, you know, Dad wanted to keep it real quiet, and not tell anybody that these people were interviewing us.

And, anyway, they were very curious about Alaskans and asked, seriously asked questions like "Do you live in igloos?"

You know, and "Do you ever see the sun?" And, I mean, questions like -- we were just, like, "Where did you come from?" You know, it was totally just mind-blowing to us as kids.

But when we finally got through, Mom said she could envision this black telephone ringing out in the middle of nowhere.

But we got through, and the house only lost a couple of windows and a water system, and the oil barrel was messed up -- but not that big a deal.

I remember when a trip to Anchorage used to take about seven and a half hours. My sister and I hated to go to Anchorage. And we did it about once a year.

And when the road was finally paved, I remember my sister and I getting out down at -- it was right there by what's now about the junior high school, about that area's where the paving started. And I remember when we got out and made Dad stop so we could get out and kiss the pavement.

And he got out and very, very stoically, kind of paced across the blacktop, you know, not wanting to act like he was too pleased that it was there. But he did his little act of worship to it, too.

Oh, let's see. There's a lot of things that I just -- I guess I didn't think about stories as such, because like I said, I just live here.

You grow up here and you swear to God you're never gonna live in this hole -- as my two teenagers are doing.

And you go to college, and you come home to visit your parents. And, of course, you've gotta have spending money while you're here, so you get a job.

And then you meet someone, and, oh, you fall in love and you get married, and “what a wonderful place” to have children!

And you raise children. And then you get divorced, and you think, "Oh, God. I'm not going anyplace else with my kids. I'm gonna stay here. This is pretty safe."

And then you kind of are, like, “oh, this is nice. I like it here.” Victoria said marriage is not for happiness, it's for growing.

I kind of look at divorce as not necessarily for happiness, but for growing.

Anyway, we've experienced a house fire, in which there were a couple a thousand dollars donated by anonymous people, in a bank account for us.

There were -- we lost everything and we were given clothes and furniture, and a place to stay for a couple of months until we got re-established.

So, that is also where people reached out and touched me that I have no idea of even.

And the church has been a big part of our life, growing up here. When we were growing up, we weren't allowed to go to movies and dances and everything else, but we ate and breathed, you know, church on Sunday, Wednesday and young people's Friday night, and everything else.

So that was kind of the social life that we had as kids growing up. A lot of picnics, a lot of beach parties.

It used to always be tradition to -- for us to walk the beach on June 21, up and down. Mom would get up -- Dad thought it was stupid.

But the longest day of the year we'd always come out and whoever happened to be staying with us at the time -- we always had tons of company in the summer from Outside.

They'd come up and we'd always walk up and down the beach. And, you know, say hi to the spit and the midnight sun, and all that good stuff.

And blow fireworks on January 1st instead of July 1st, July 4th, excuse me, because you can't see them on July 4th, so that's kind of a waste of money. So we always blew our off on the first, on New Year's. So, anyway -- that's it.