A Mirror into Ken's Past -- Early Alaska

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One of the things I've noticed over the years is a tendency to not really think much about the tourist attactions and sites and such when you live in a place (unless you're playing tour guide for someone).

Alaska is one of those places that must be one of, if not the, most beautiful in the world. And yet during the many years I lived there, there were a lot of places I never managed to get to. (On the other hand, due to the orchestra and symphony trips I went on, I think I may have seen places most Alaskans don't, so perhaps I didn't do too badly ...) Denali (Mt. McKinley) was one of them. You could see it from Anchorage, you could see it from Fairbanks, if you drove from Anchorage to Fairbanks (or vice versa) you drove past the park - you had no choice. Yet I never managed to get into Denali National Park, during the 15 years or so I lived in Alaska ...

Anchorage itself is nestled between the Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet, and the Chugach Mountains. Actually, what you see are the foothills, but Anchorage is right up against them, and some folk live on these hills. It's gorgeous. You have mountains, you have water. From various places in Anchorage, on a clear day, you can see Denali (Mt. McKinley). If that's not good enough for you, you can drive out the Seward Highway a short distance (south, down the Cook Inlet and Turnagain Arm) and see INCREDIBLE scenery. You can drive east (and optionally then north on the Glenallen Freeway) and see astounding scenery.

Fairbanks isn't quite as scenic -- it's in the largest valley I've ever seen -- the Tanana (Taa-na-naw -- not pronounced like "Banana") Valley. You can't really see the mountains that define it on either side. And that's on a clear day! However, on a good day you CAN see Denali. I shared an office at the University Computer Network (UACN) that you could see that mountain from. Other than that, it's sort of dull, but you can drive a short distance and again start seeing some beautiful stuff.

Juneau is one of the most stunning places in Alaska, a state with incredible scenery just out your back door. It's in the panhandle part of the state (the part that goes down alongside the Yukon Territories of Canada). It's rainforest country. The amount of rain is amazing, but everywhere you look there are trees, mountains, water, and bald eagles. Absolutely gorgeous.

There are places in the Pribilof Islands that are breath-taking. I've been to Kodiak Island and it was stunning. The drive to Valdez (Val-deez, not the Spanish pronunciation) is gorgeous ... Driving to Cordova you can see some incredible scenery. At Homer the Katchimak bay is amazing. Whales and dolphins, and some of the best halibut fishing in the world (I'm not a hunter or fisher, but I can enjoy the results of the labors of those that are). There are places I wish I'd visited while I lived there.

Why am I ranting about all this? Just to let you know that I really did, and still do appreciate Alaska. I may not live there now, and I may never live there again. But every time I fly into Anchorage over the Chugach Mountains, my heart jumps into my throat, and part of me just says "this place is home". I wish I had more photos of my own that I could post for people to get a feel for it. I always enjoy visiting, unfortunately the times I get up there to see folk are fewer, as I have other places to go, see, do ... and as time moves on friendships evolve. The old bit about "absence makes the heart grow fonder" is only good for awhile. After some time, while you hopefully have good memories of your friends, people change, you change, and even when you do see those old friends, most of the time things just will never be the same again.

I heartily recommend to people that they try to visit at least once in their lives.

I'm inserting something here that John McKay (an old friend of mine from after graduating High School) said in an email to me about Alaska -- it's important for some of what happens throughout the Alaska Years here (and it sums up something I have never been able to put into words) ...:

"All Alaska is a small town. Alaska is such a huge place that most people do not realize how small the population base is. And because the whole place is isolated, everyone knows each other. When most people hear that there are a half million people in the state, they compare that to a medium size city somewhere. That is wrong. Those medium sized cities have small cities around them and other medium sized cities near by. Someone living in Tacoma (a city of about half million) actually has over ten million people living within day-trip distance. In Alaska, that half million is it. The point is that in Alaska the old six points of separation is rarely more than three points."

Early December, 1971/1972 -- Moving to Alaska, and Back to Junior High School
In the middle of the school year of my ninth-grade year we moved to Alaska. In Oregon I was in "Middle High School" (the school was simply 9-10th grades, with High School being 11-12). In Alaska Junior High was grades 7 through 9. This was annoying to me at the time, because I felt I was out of Junior High, and then it felt like I was stepping backward to go back to Jr. High.

Mom and dad bought a double-wide mobile home and that was moved to Alaska with all of our furniture in it later. Dad drove up the Al-Can (Alaska-Canada) highway with the camp trailer. He took Tim with him for the trip. They took the camp trailer with the idea that he would save a bundle on the trip by sleeping in the trailer. Somewhere in Canada a rock hit the gas main on the trailer, and cut off the gas lines. The trailer froze up. He and Tim ended up sleeping in hotels the rest of the trip.

Apparently (I don't remember this) Dad and Tim flew back from Alaska for Thanksgiving, so we could be together for that holiday. Part of what kept us from moving was selling the house in Medford. Once it was sold, the rest of us left in early December. Before we left, Wendy (a friend who mom and dad took in because she needed help), David, Mom and I slept on the floor in sleeping bags, because all of the furniture had been taken to Seattle to be put on a barge with the mobile home.

I don't remember that I ever flew anywhere before going to Alaska. It was an adventure, just flying in a plane. (When you're that young, a lot of things turn into adventures -- these days flying is something I do, and sometimes enjoy, but it's not such a big deal in my life.)

When we got there, we all moved into the camp trailer for a short while, because the mobile home wasn't set up yet. This included the dog, two cats, a bird, my mother, father, two brothers and Wendy. The heater failed in the trailer, and we ended up living in a friend's unfinished basement of their house for a few weeks waiting for the mobile home to arrive.

The mobile home got set up in a mobile home park on or near St. Boniface avenue. Double-wide meant we had four bedrooms (three kids and the master bedroom), it was close to being a real house, except for the fact that it was a trailer; had a seam down the middle (which wasn't sealed right -- if it got below zero we often had a bit of frost on the carpet through that part of the trailer ...), and so on. We also had to sometimes shovel snow off the roof -- the angle on the roof wasn't really as sharp as it should have been, and snow is heavy. You don't want to have your roof collapse.

When we were in Oregon we had a college girl living with us named Wendy. I cannot remember the rest of her name. The only thing I remember clearly is that she really bothered me, she was very self-centered, and made my brothers and I a bit crazy. Mom notes that she was socially retarded, which fits what I remember. She moved to Alaska with us. She married a friend of dad's named Fred Deer and moved to Fairbanks. When that happened my brothers finally got their own rooms. There were some perks to being the oldest, and having my own bedroom (even if it was next to mom and dad's) was the biggie.

That trailer was home right up until the point when I left in my senior year of High School.

We tried to find a church that we felt comfortable with. Anchorage has several Southern Baptist Churches, the largest of which is Anchorage Baptist Temple. We eventually ended up there but tried several of the smaller churches in town first. I was not comfortable there. It wasn't the church I grew up with, and I had no friends. That church left me cold in a lot of ways, but mom and dad liked it, and slipped right into the social environment there. I think even at the time I was seeing a lot of hypocrisy in that church: a difference between what was practiced by the leaders and what they preached. I definitely noticed it later when I was in High School and was examining religion a bit more closely.

I went back to school in January (we spent Christmas moving, adjusting to winter in Anchorage, etc.). In Oregon we always wore nice clothes to school ("school clothes" as opposed to "play clothes"). Try walking around in dress shoes on ice and snow ... not a fun thing to do. At least not until you get used to it, and even then it's not all that fun. One weird factor -- the cold in Anchorage, despite being right there on the water, is dry, or at least a LOT drier than Oregon. During my first winter in Alaska I had a lot of nosebleeds because the inside of my noise was drying out - if I touched my nose and it was that dry it would start bleeding. I actually got accused by dad several times of 'picking' my nose. Sigh. That wasn't fun, but at least I seem to have acclimated, as I never had that problem again after that first year.

Problem: Romig Junior High didn't offer German, but West Anchorage High School next door did. Next door? It was a quarter mile or more (actually I know it was less, but in the dead of winter it felt like much bigger distance -- this was before the library annex was built between the two schools). Every day I trudged over to the high school for German. It was actually kind of fun once I got to the school, and the instructor was great.

The big drawback was that in Winter, in dress shoes trudging through snow and some snow storms was VERY tough. After that first year I was allowed to wear boots and jeans to school. That helped a huge amount.

I was in the orchestra, but this orchestra was small. I think we had a total of fifteen to twenty people in it, all strings. In Oregon we had a full symphony, and it was huge -- I think the two violin sections had at least 30 or more students.

This was a breakout year for me. Up until this time I had been very much an internal kind of person. I didn't socialize except in the Boy Scouts and the church group, and even in the Boy Scouts I was not really all that sure of myself (although by the time I left Oregon I was a 'First Class' scout - a rank about halfway to Eagle, and was a patrol leader for my own patrol). In school I was a loner -- always had been.

I decided I was going to change my life. I don't think it was truly a conscious decision. I just wasn't happy, so I decided I was going to BE happy. Since I wasn't having any fun at church in the social group there, I decided to do something about it in school, instead.

The first thing that caused the change? I saw this little tiny guy (Nathaniel Rose) being picked on by another member of the orchestra (Scott Hardin). I told him to stop. I was just enough bigger than Scott that it seemed to be enough. I felt I had accomplished something, and oddly enough I made friends with both of them. Scott helped me move out of the house in my senior year.

I started doing more. I started pulling out of my shell. It was slow, but at least it was a beginning.

We also found a Boy Scout troop near to where we lived. Dad eventually became Scoutmaster, I don't think that happened immediately. I got involved there, and became a member of the Order of the Arrow very shortly after (this is an "elite" organization inside the Scouts -- without all the details -- it was an honor to be "tapped out" to join). I made it through Star and Life ranks in the Boy Scouts ("Life" is the rank just before "Eagle", the top award you can attain), had a bunch of merit badges. In 1972 and 1973 I worked at the Scout Camp as a staff member (six weeks each year away from dad!!!). I eventually became the Senior Patrol Leader -- the scout in the troop with the most 'authority'.

Being on Scout Camp staff was great for my personal growth, as I found I had a lot of fun doing it, and the other kids looked up to me. That's pretty special. The second year I was on the waterfront staff, and that was even better. Those summers at scout camp were also great because I was away from my father -- he had NO control over me at all. I tried smoking the second year (didn't like it and never tried it again as I didn't see a need) -- dad would have had a cow if he had known. One of the advisors to the staff taught me how to shave (I needed it as I was getting pretty fuzzy) one summer. One of those years for Christmas mom and dad had bought me one of the big brimmed Boy Scout hats (similar to what you see on the Canadian Mounties). I wore that at camp when I was on staff, and one year there were two guys named Ken, so I went by the nickname "Smokie" (as in "Smokie the Bear", who, if you will recall also wore a hat of that type). I added some extra color to the hat (a couple of feathers, that kind of thing) -- when dad came up to the camp one week he was really upset that I had those in the hat, and made me remove them. As soon as he left, they were back. I must have done something right, because I remember being approached in stores and such for a few years after I stopped doing Scout Camp by kids who remembered me as "Smokie" -- had to explain that to the friends I was with. But it felt good knowing I'd made a positive impact on them.

In general the Boy Scouts were good for me in here. I am not so sure about the organization now, but then it was something that helped me a lot. I regret that I never made Eagle Scout, because at that point in time it still meant something. These days it's not something you hear much about. But I learned a lot in the Boy Scouts, including some skills I still carry with me. I remember some training sessions on leadership, some of which my father didn't go to or help with, although I am sure he encouraged me to go to them. All of it added up over the years.

1972-73 School Year (Sophomore)
This was the year that I was really in High School. I was taking orchestra (the instructor, Mrs. Leffingwell, from Romig Junior High came over to the High School). The orchestra wasn't huge, and I was good enough that I was in the first violin section. The orchestra had a total of maybe 15 people in it, all string instruments.

During all the time I was in school from fourth grade on I had private violin lessons. Some of these instructors were pretty good, but they never drilled out of me a posture error in holding the instrument. This hampered my ever attaining a true vibrato. Once you have something like that it's really tough to break the habit. I had lessons weekly until I moved out from home. This did help my violin work, even if I didn't practice as often as I should have at home.

I continued with German. I met some of the folk who had a bigger impact in my last couple of years of school that year (looking at the yearbook for that year). I remember having a blast in Geometry class -- something about it just really appealed to me. I just noticed in my yearbook that the instructor's first name was Merlyn (Gruhn). Hmm. I don't know if I ever noticed that before.

Reading through some of the things people wrote in my yearbook, I find I met Jody Bochenek, who became my first girlfriend (in my Junior year). I met Karl and Adrian that year as well. I had a crush on a girl named Anita Seversen, I found a photo I had taken in the yearbook near where she signed it ... (the photo wasn't an official part of the yearbook, I just inserted an 8x10 ...). It was from the photography class I was taking that year. Nothing happened there, but she was a lovely girl, and very sweet.

The Sophomore year at West Anchorage High used to be rough, because there was "Senior Privilege", meaning they could make you do things to embarass you. There was a ritual called "thumbditties" -- you had to stand on your toes with your thumb on the top of your head and yell out whatever they told you to. They could also gang up on you and throw you in the senior "pool" (a small pond, really) in the "Senior Court" out by the cafeteria. (I never had that one happen, thank goodness!) I don't know if they still do that, but it would be to the Freshmen now, as the school was changed over to 9-12 grades, rather than 10-12 when I was there. I was pretty lucky -- most of the time no one bothered me.

In the middle of the first semester, one senior tried to haze me. He asked if I was a Sophomore, and I told him I wasn't (how was he to know?). He wasn't sure he believed me, and backed me up against a locker. At that point a guy from my German class -- Dean Marshall -- a big black football player took the Senior to task. When the senior asked what army was going to keep him from doing what he wanted, he found out -- one black student looking angry always brought a bunch of other black students out, and some of them were also on the football team. I never got picked on again after that. I don't know if I ever thanked Dean, but it sure was appreciated. I don't remember much about him except for that, and hearing that he was accepted to West Point, which always impressed me. I had no interest in the military myself, but West Point Academy ... wow.

I also had a crush on Vera Phillips, whom I mention at other points later in this bio. She was one of those good looking, very sweet, smart, and outgoing girls, who everyone liked. Nothing ever happened there, although I always appreciated it when she took the time to talk to me. We had fun in German Club (and German class), pulling some odd hi-jinks. There was a train trip to Palmer in February of that year, and I remember Vera was there, and we had some fun with that. It was for a basketball game, and was a one-day trip, but I vaguely remember it. (The receipt for it is in my year book ... one keeps the oddest memorabilia ...) Thinking back, I think Vera helped me a lot, because she made sure I was invited to parties and things -- mostly she just made me feel welcome. Vera rose above a birth defect -- she had a back problem that meant that she sometimes had to wear a brace to school (I never remember what that kind of thing is called -- medical conditions go in one ear and out the other unless they affect me or someone I'm really close to). Despite that she was one of the nicest girls in the school ... you have to admire people that just decide that a problem like that is not going to slow them down.

I was in the Anchorage Youth Symphony, and that year Carmen Dragon (a famous conductor, and father of Darrel Dragon of "The Captain and Teniel") was a guest conductor. He was pretty funny, and had a great way with us. It was a good concert except for one of the French Horns blowing a solo bit in "The Unfinished Symphony" (oddly enough I can still hear that in my head ... not the rest of the concert, just that little bit where the horn starts on the wrong note). I used to have a tape of the concert that I think my father or brother did with a small portable recorder, but it's disappeared over the years.

I sort of wish I'd gotten involved in the choir. I never had any real vocal training, and while I guess I have an acceptable singing voice, it could be a lot better. The choir always seemed to have a lot of fun, the instructor was a great woman that everyone (even those of us who didn't have classes with her) really loved.

1973-74 School Year (Junior)
I did camp staff for the Boy Scouts this year, which I mentioned earlier in the bio. That was a pretty good year for me.

1973 was also a National Scout Jamboree year. I was a Life scout, and I applied to be a staff member for the Jamboree after reading an ad in Boy's Life, the Boy Scout monthly magazine. I was accepted! Wow! I don't remember a LOT, but I do remember having fun. I was unique on the staff of several thousand as the ONLY staff member from Alaska. I think that year was the first year that the Scouts did a split Jamboree. It was held in both Idaho (Farragut State Park), and on the east coast somewhere. My father was scoutmaster for a troop made up of scouts from all over the Anchorage area, and they went to the one in the east. I remember I flew by myself somewhere for the first time, and I spent a MONTH in Idaho. That was so cool. I was "Alaska" to everyone that knew me. The staff position I held was in the trading post. The thing is, there were FOUR (or more?) trading posts, and each was the size of a circus tent (literally!). I was at Trading Post "B" (home of the "Buzzards"). There was a concoction of chocolate milk and Mountain Dew that someone came up with called "Buzzard's Milk", only available from our Trading Post -- I don't recommend it now, but when I was 16 it was kind of good. I also remember hearing Harry Nilsson on the PA a lot -- someone in the Trading Post had some of his albums. I fell in love with the man's voice and music. I used to have some photos from the Jamboree -- staff group-shot, overhead shots of the area, that kind of thing, but like the rest of my memorabilia from that time, it's gone.

The fall of 1973 began my junior year of high school. Jody Bochenek and I started dating, but we had a weird relationship. She was a beautiful, thin redhead, with long legs ... We were both very shy. This made things hard because we found it hard to talk to each other. We liked each other, we were attracted to each eother, but we couldn't talk. We passed notes a lot. Odd, but true. We never got beyond the hand-holding stage. I don't think I ever kissed her. Unfortunately the only photos I have of her are in the yearbook. I had the notes from her for a couple of years after we broke up. But before I moved to college (if not earlier) I got rid of them all.

Feb. 10, 2003 -- Adrian's email (mentioned later in the autobiography) made me remember one point, probably in the spring before we broke up, where apparently Jody was frustrated (not surprisingly) with the way the relationship had been going. Adrian (according to Jody) told her that she should seduce me. Unfortunately Jody didn't know what that meant, and frankly I'm not sure either of us would have known what to do. I remember a note that Jody had written me about that ... it's pretty funny in hindsight.

Jody also got me out of the house. I went to some parties. Jody was in the Russian Club and I spent a lot of time with that group, even though I wasn't taking Russian. The Russian club was full of an interesting mix of people -- some of them were Thespians, some of them were photographers, and some were a mix of both.

I went to the Senior Prom that year as a photographer for the yearbook, but since I didn't have a flash unit I wasn't able to get any good photos. Oh well, I got in free, so I had some fun. Since I didn't go to the Junior Ball that helped a bit.

My brother Tim was in the school that year, but we really didn't see all that much of each other except on the bus to and from school.

Some of the photographers for the yearbook wrote the following as a collective effort over a few days. It was written on the wall in the darkroom. Someone wrote the first line, and then someone else wrote the second, etc. Usually one of the first things we did was check to see if a new line had been added before we started working on our photos. I found I had a copy of it scribbled out on a piece of paper in a folder of odd things I've saved over the years. I know Karl Jacobs, Brian McClaskey, Eric Johnson and I were involved in this silliness:

The Photographer's Prayer
(By a bunch of loonies)

Our Processor who art in Rochester
Hallowed by thy monopoly
Thy Kodochrome come,
Thy film be done,
On earth as it is in dektol.
Give us this day our daily lens
And forgive us our fingerprints
As we forgive our fingerprinters.
Lead us not unto Agfachrome
And deliver us from Spottone
For thine are the darkrooms
The electricity and the chemicals
Forever. Amen

Being on yearbook staff meant that we could wander the halls with our cameras and not be pestered by the security folk. That was kind of cool. Unfortunately it meant we had "assignments", so we had to go to games (none of our crowd were into sports, and the yearbook was a bit light on sports photos that year), and do specific assignments, but that was the price we paid. It was a lot of fun ...

Brian McClaskey was also in the Thespians, as was his girlfriend Claire. I remember her because she wore this perfume that was lemon scented, and something about it made me really wish she wasn't dating Brian. Oof. It reached right past the brainstem and right into the male hormones. She was also a lovely and very funny girl, but I mostly remember that perfume.

I was still in the Anchorage Youth Symphony, and that year my stand-mate was Greg Gadberry, who came to be my best friend for several years, even though there was a two year age difference (and at that time of life, two years is a big difference!).

In the high school orchestra I was the concert master that year. My stand-mate (Laura Lindemuth) was a much better violinist than I was, but she was a Sophomore. She probably could have challenged me for the position, but I don't think her confidence was that high. The next year she got the first-chair position, which was actually ok by me ...

This was the year I learned to drive. I was 16 after all. Dad tried to teach me, but he had NO patience. Mom ended up teaching me to drive in her father's old van (not exactly sure when we had acquired it -- it was before he died). I learned to drive in early winter, and got my license then. This meant that I definitely learned how to drive on snow and ice. Living in California I am still (after all these years) appalled at the things some drivers do -- driving like that in Alaska would get some of them killed. Dad traded the van in for a Gremlin shortly after I got my license. Too bad, the van was kinda fun. (On the other hand, if the accident mentioned in the next paragraph had happened in the van, I probably wouldn't be here ...)

About a week or so before Christmas, my first car accident happened -- luckily I wasn't at fault. I was going downtown to get mom from work (it was the evening of the High School Christmas Concert, so I was dressed in my outfit for the concert), and some bozo from Los Angeles who had never driven in Alaska before, in rush hour traffic ended up in my lane. Since it was rush hour I had nowhere to go, and she hit me head on at speed (35+ miles an hour). This totalled the car, and did serious damage to her Mustang (I am pretty sure that was the outline of the car). I woke up over the steering wheel with my glasses on the floor (I found them by groping around). Had a helluva headache from that, but it appears I passed out before impact and that was why I was unconcious. I hadn't hit my head on the steering wheel, which was the obvious assumption. The whole thing messed me up mentally, as I knew it was my fault (heck, at 16 everything is your fault). Of course, this wasn't true, but ... I missed the concert as mom and dad insisted I go to the hospital. Tim somehow (a neighbor I think) made it to the concert, told everyone why I wasn't there, etc.

My mother notes: "I would like to tell you what I remember. It was scary for all of us. I was waiting at J.C. Penneys for you after work and when you did not get there at a reasonable time, I called home. Bill got in the suburban and as he drove along and saw the accident. He was sure you were involved. When he came up, the police officer said to him immediately that this accident was not your fault. Wasn't that a great thing for him to do? You might have had a concussion. We had to take you to the doctor. But he said to just watch you every hour. You insisted that you had to go to the concert. We got there a little late but you ran the show, headache and all. You were first chair. You had to do it. If it wasn't perfect nobody knew. You were really beat when you came home. I had to keep waking you up every hour to shine a light in your eyes to check you were all right. You had quite a headache. You were much better the next day."

For accuracy's sake, the photo in the yearbook of the orchestra for that concert shows an empty chair, and I'm not there ... I am quite sure that Laura filled in for the first chair position, and that I didn't perform that evening. I remember meeting up with some of the folk in the Orchestra after and telling them all about it.

I have a theory that may be close, but of course it may mean nothing, regarding my passing out: This was a no-win situation. I couldn't avoid the collision, and I think my subconscious mind just took over, and made me go to sleep, so I wasn't awake for the accident. I do remember waking up over the steering wheel (with no bump on my head, I don't think I hit the wheel, or at least not hard), lights reflected on the inside of the windshield from the fire truck, ambulance, police cars, whatever else was there. I remember being asked if I wanted to go to the hospital and telling them "No, I have to get to the concert." I remember picking my classes up off the floor of the car. The next day (or a few days later, whatever it was), dad and I went to the junk yard to get my keys, and I couldn't put the clutch down (the engine block had shifted ...), and I couldn't do anything with the stick shift -- the stick which had been on the column was now on the floor ... We recovered the rest of my keys, and the CB (Citizen's Band) radio from the car, as it was totalled.

During the Christmas holiday I had a visit from a policeman with a subpoena! I called dad, he called his insurance company, who called hers (the woman who caused the accident). It turns out she wanted me to testify on her behalf in the trial over the accident. She nearly killed me and she wanted me to testify for her? Dad worked things out and I didn't have to go to court. That was nerve-wracking all on its own! It took me awhile to get the nerve up to drive after the accident, but dad forced me to, which was really the right thing to have done.

I applied to and was accepted to to the All-State Symphony. This meant spending a week in Fairbanks at the University campus. It was fun. I don't remember the concert, or much about the experience, except that I stayed in the dorms and ate at the commons -- that all rushed back to me when I went to college there. I never got the patch for that, which miffed me. There were others wandering around with patches from All-State Choir or Band or Symphony, but not me. Oh well. I was in the second violin section, up near the front. This is important for when I got to College ...

1974 was a continuation. Jody and I broke up toward the end of our Junior year, but I think we were still friendly. My yearbook has comments from a couple of folk about the guy Jody started dating (Bob Burns) and I fighting over her. I really don't remember that. It must have happened, but ... Jody and I had a lot of friends in common, so it's as well that we stayed friendly. Some of those friends got me thinking about life, the universe, church (gasp!), and so on. I started having serious second thoughts about religion.

Mom notes that 1974 was a bad year for the family. Dad came down with arthritis, mom had to have surgery and lost her job. Dad became more demanding ...

I joined the Thespians in the spring. The secretary for the Thespians lost my paperwork so it wasn't on file with the national organization. I never got the usual pins and such from that, and I was really miffed about that for awhile. (I think this and a few other things are part of what have lead me to always try to make sure I give credit where it's due when others help me with things.)

The play Jody got me to try out for "The Death and Life of Sneaky Fitch" was pretty silly, but it was fun. This was the only play dad came to see. He saw the theatre as frivolous and not worth his, or my, time. He felt I was wasting my time doing it. I have a couple of slides somewhere that dad took of the play. If I find them, I'll try to scan them ...

Somewhere in here I made friends with Mary Helms and her boyfriend Martin Cose, who were seniors. This is important later, as Mary and Martin helped me out before I went to College, and also got me into the SCA -- but that's three years off. We weren't close friends, but ...

That summer my parents decided I needed a job. I was also still in the Boy Scouts, so I had that to keep me busy (didn't go to camp that year). Tim and David (my brothers) were also in the scouts at that point. I wasn't involved in the church youth group. My brothers were, particularly Tim. I got a job at McDonald's that summer. Actually, the job was good for me. Up until then I had tried some other things (mom tried to get me selling Amway -- that was a real bust! and I had been a paper delivery person, but really didn't like doing that), but nothing really stuck.

Working at McDonald's had some advantages as well as the money (ok, minimum wage, but it was something), which I'll mention later. The money was nice, because I could buy a stereo (okay, it was CHEAP, but it worked) and I could buy some records of my own. I had my own room, so I could hide away in there sometimes and play my own music (when I wasn't being forced to "socialize" with the family and watch TV). I finally started discovering rock music (mostly what was on the pop charts, but it was a start). I also fell in love with the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien. Dad had a copy of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, with that really cool cover that was taken from one painting and split over the cover of the trilogy. I went out and found a copy of the poster of that and had it over my bed. I don't think dad knew what to think about this. I don't think I really started reading a lot of fantasy and science fiction at this point, although I knew what it was.

Since I had money I was also doing things like buying comic books. Dad hated the idea I was wasting my money that way. He would take them from me, read them, and then throw them away. Hmmph. I was also buying Wizard of Id and B.C. collections. Dad yelled at me for wasting my money on those, too, but he would read those and give them back. I knew he was reading them because late at night I could hear him laughing uproariously in his bedroom. I still have those. Collections of cartoons like this have helped me out over the years. Later I started collecting Doonesbury books, and still have those, and while in College Bloom County, then Calvin and Hobbes started. I loved Berkely Breathed and Bill Watterson's stuff. I have all of those books. (One shelf unit of the many in the house I currently live in is full of these, and a few more get added periodically ...) Anyway, somewhere in there I bought a footlocker (which I still have) and a master lock and started putting things like that in the footlocker. It meant dad couldn't steal them from me (and at the time I did see it as stealing them).

Various other folk who came and went:
Mary Gamble -- one of the varsity cheerleaders was a cute girl who sat next to me in one of the speech classes, and I think one of the other english classes I took. She was beautiful, and very blonde. She enjoyed my sense of humor, which was always fun -- she loved the fact that in speech class I always found something funny to do, rather than most people's speeches which tended to be serious (since much of the time they didn't understand the content, I often wondered why they were doing these super-serious pieces). In the yearbook I think she signed every photo she was in. For some reason I never really developed a crush on her, although I always liked her, probably because she never let the fact that she was one of the "beautiful people" get in the way of being friendly to the rest of us.
Bob Smart -- he comes up later on in my Senior year, hung out with Karl and Adrian and that crowd. Nice enough guy but a bit self-centered.
Laura Imlach -- was in one of the plays (Curious Savage, she was "Fairy May"). I think I had a small crush on her, which is why I mention her here. She was nice to me, but lived in her own little world ...
Colin Maynard -- a viola player who I met in the Boy Scouts at camp. He and I were friends, but never really close friends. He was one of those "over-achievers" -- by that I mean he was into everything, chess club, all kinds of stuff. It was hard to keep up with him. Don't get me wrong, I always liked Colin, but somehow always felt inferior around him (among other things he made it to Eagle Scout, which I never did, was a top student -- honor roll, etc.). He became a civil engineer, I think, later on in life.
Allen Levy -- I met him either in orchestra, the Thespians or the Russian Club (who I was hanging out with, and helping raise money to go to Russia) -- our interests overlapped in all of these areas. He was a real cutup, a pretty good folk singer, and an interesting guy all around. We were never real close, but we were friends.
Laurel Pfanmiller -- a senior, and a lovely girl. I remember she was around the next year a few times, and I think (looking back -- 20/20 hindsight is totally useless most of the time, but ...) that she made at least one pass at me, which I missed completely at the time (slapping forehead with hand). She was always very sweet and charming, always had a smile.

The last play of the year was "The Curious Savage". I remember being involved. I must have just been crew for that one, looking at the photos and description of the show in the yearbook.

Toward the end of the year (May 16-18!) the Orchestra went to Kodiak. That was a weird trip. We did a bunch of small performances, spent the night, and came back ... it's definitely a blur. I seem to remember visiting some old WW II cement bunkers on the island, but we didn't get to see a lot of it.

Senior Year of High School -- 1974
Most kids go through a lot in High School, although some more than others. I am sure that there are some who went through a LOT more than I did, but I don't think there were many. That summer I didn't go to scout camp. I worked all summer at McDonald's.

When school started up, I kept the job, and offered to work on Sundays, Wednesday nights and Friday nights. This meant I was managing to have valid reasons to NOT go to church or youth group gatherings. My mother was really distressed by this, but I just wasn't happy at church and was having a lot of serious doubts about it all (the doctrine). I lied and told her my manager was assigning me those times because they needed someone reliable. I was really very specifically choosing/volunteering to work at those times. (Now the truth is out.)

This is the year that tension between my father and I got really bad. It had been building, but this school year it peaked. Things reached a point where my mother was buying the most potent over-the-counter tranquilizers she could get for me. I literally would have shaking hands when I was at home, and all of it because of my father. I don't really feel a need to get into this in more depth than I already have.

My father wasn't running the scout troop, even though he was scoutmaster. I don't recall that there was an Assistant Scoutmaster who did anything. As Senior Patrol Leader, I was actually running meetings. When we went camping (if he went), dad took the camp trailer we had, and he stayed in that, while the scouts all camped in tents. It was weird. Tensions were really bad at this point.

I was starting to rebel. Most of my rebellion was passive-agressive. I won't go into all of it ... no need. We all rebel in some fashion or other. Some of the ways I rebelled included avoiding the church at all cost. Some of my friends in school (Karl, Adrian, that crowd) had me thinking a lot about religion, and I was having very strong doubts ...

Other forms of rebellion included being a theatre student. I was having a BALL on the stage, behind the stage, just hanging out with the other thespian wackos. I was supposed to practice on the violin each evening, I hardly ever did, unless one of my parents were home. Otherwise I would lie on my bed listening to music and read or just stare at the ceiling and let my thoughts run rampant for awhile. I started to grow a mustache, which I know made my father a bit crazy. Okay, I did have some hobbies, and worked on some leatherwork, I had been building a plastic model ship of the Golden Hind, but one of our cats killed it (knocked it off the desk, then landed on it in one of those truly "graceful" moments some cats have), and so on. I have never been one for just "idle" time, although every kid needs time to just stare at the ceiling (as it were). I don't think dad ever understood that.

I was also discovering, because of some of my friends (probably Ted, Allen, et al), commedians like George Carlin, Cheech and Chong, and The Firesign Theatre. Another sanity place for me -- I could listen to records of these guys and laugh my ass off, and forget about my problems. Since I was working I had some money, and I bought albums. I also learned a lot about the things I'd missed in the 60s and into the 70s from these records. It's an odd way to do it, but it helped. I got cultural references figured out and that helped a lot. I also got to understand a lot about the drug culture, as a lot of the humor had at least some of that as it's basis. I still wasn't interested in doing drugs, but understanding something about the culture didn't hurt.

Because I was getting out to parties sometimes, I actually got a bit into popular music. I was still missing a lot of what was happening. It didn't help that none of the big popular bands were playing Anchorage. Oh, we got Chuck Berry, and Iron Butterfly (and if you know much about the music of the era, you realize that what a joke they were -- had one "good" song in them, and they played it to death ...), but ... I was mostly listening to what was on pop radio. I also wasn't paying that much attention to who the performers were, so when I wanted to buy an album I had to hunt. Oh well. The music I was really getting into was: "American Pie" - Don McClean; "Days of Future Passed" and "Seventh Sojourn" - Moody Blues; "Hot August Night" - Neil Diamond (for awhile I had nearly every album he ever made, but this one sort of sums up the best of his work ...); "Dark Side of the Moon" - Pink Floyd (I think this was required listening for all kids of the era, and it is still one of the top selling albums of all time); Elton John (anything of his); and various of this type of music. I wasn't into Led Zeppelin, yet ... I didn't discover a lot of the "heavier" rock bands and performers until later. By the time I graduated I had discovered Mike Oldfield. Greg introduced me to Rick Wakeman (which of course led to "Yes", and so on) ... wow.

That year I started to really notice girls -- I had been very interested the year before, but with my problems with Jody I was sort of stuck in a "don't know what to do" mode. Looking back there were probably several that were interested in me that I can think of, but I was also quite oblivious, and my low self-image led me to feel that the girls I thought were interesting couldn't possibly be interested in me. This wasn't a case of self-loathing but I didn't think I was very attractive (thanks, dad).

I remember that they screwed up my senior yearbook photo early in the school year. I was thrilled. I had started to grow a mustache (which made my father nuts -- probably why I did it). I really preferred that photo over the original. Looking back at it now, the mustache was a bit thin, but oh well ... I remembered that I had gotten wire-frame glasses by this point, but I guess not (looking at the photo).

School, Orchestra, some theatre, the Boy Scouts, and McDonalds. That was my life.

Then 1975 happened. That was a tumltuous year. Everything changed.

I really feel I ought to mention the folk who kept me sane, so I'll try to do justice to the ones I can remember. There is no real order to the way the names are being listed here -- mostly as I stumble across them in the yearbook or something sparks a memory. I do want to note that I am just trying to put the ones down who had a major impact on me, which is not to say that other folk who were friends weren't important. I stop and look at photos and have some fond memories of some of these people. Anyway, if I left someone out, and somehow you stumble across this, I apologize, but I had to draw the line somewhere.

I honestly think I've been truly blessed when it comes to friends. In general most of the folk I've chosen to "hang out with" have been really interesting people, some of whom have made me think about life (not just my own, but life in general), and so on. My parents only met a few of my friends.

When it came to girlfriends I had more crushes than anything else. I have been told that I'm pretty oblivious, and not seeing the signs that a girl was interested in me, so there may have been opportunities I never noticed. Too bad, there were some girls I was really interested in ...

Feb. 13, 2003 -- I felt like adding something that's been rumbling around in the back of my head (although I probably won't say it as well as I'd like) ... Some folk look back on their school years (particularly high school) and say "Those were the best years of my life!" Some folk claim they were the worst years of their lives. For me it was a mixed blessing, and the best parts of these years came from my friends. There were some rough parts -- specifically with/from my father. There were some really great parts -- mostly because of the friends that I had - lots of laughing, lots of fun stuff.

As noted elsewhere, you tend to take your friends for granted, until you find they're no longer there. I often regret not doing a better job of keeping up with my friends. I hope that some of this helps, at least a little ...

On a slightly different side of all of this, I sort of pity those who look back on their high school years as the best years of their lives. It means that things never got better as an adult, they never found real happiness or some sort of satisfaction in their lives. I think I've done okay on that end of things. While there were good times in school, there have been lots of good times since.

Greg Gadberry -- this guy was my best friend. I mention him in some detail later, but I wanted to point him out here. He had a fresh (to me) outlook on life, and was always interesting. He helped me a lot ... he may not have realized how much.

Jody Bochenek -- My first girlfriend. Not my first love -- that came later. Because of her I got out of the house more. I went to parties. I discovered there was more to life than going to school, going to work, doing my homework, and ... starting over. She also is the one who got me involved in theatre, something I still have a bit of passion for all these years later. She took me to the auditions for the first play I was in. She was lovely, but shy. And unfortunately that's why we broke up. A real shame there. She was truly instrumental in my becoming a real person (coming out of my shell) -- whether or not she (or I) realized it at the time.

Mary Helms and Martin Cose -- while not real influential in this part of my life, they became more so a few years later ... but I got to know them a little here. They actually graduated when I was finishing my Sophomore year (making them a couple years older than me).

Karl Jacobs and Adrian Dube -- Part of the thespian crowd, they were an interesting match. He was VERY tall and thin, she was shorter and heavier (not fat, mind you). He was a senior this year (73-74), she was a junior. Both were interesting in very different ways. They had a relationship, but I was never quite sure if I would call them boyfriend/girlfriend (I don't recall seeing them walking hand-in-hand, for example ... obviously, from Adrian's email noted below, my perception was wrong there). Karl was quiet, a photographer with a real gift (most of the "art" shots in the yearbook the year I was on staff were his), and fun to chat with. Adrian was more dynamic, outgoing ... They and some others are the ones who got me really looking at the church, life, and so on. I started to question what was happening with Anchorage Baptist Temple, and my own thoughts on religion a lot because of them.

Adrian found all of this because Eric Johnson did a search on Google for Ted's name. He told Adrian about it, and she dropped me a note February 10, 2003:
     "Karl and I have been married for 22 years and he took my last name). Karl and I are living in the house that I grew up in (I think you were here once or twice). Karl is manager at the largest custom color photo lab in Alaska - PhotoWright Labs. I own my own flower shop, Anchorage Floral, which I have had for 6 years now. Before that I was working for BP as a graphic designer, then as a systems interface designer, then as a internal business consultant to help select and implement software upgrades and new installations. Patti Irwin lives next door and she is an English teacher at Service High School."

It's Adrian's idea that additions to all of this be in a different color, to make them stand out for those who have been reading along, and come back to look at it later. Good idea. I am also trying to remember to stuff in dates of when these things were added ...

Kathy McCaw -- I was in a photography class with her. Her father travelled a lot, maybe in the military, I was never sure. I had a bit of a crush on her in my Junior year but it never amounted to anything, as she had a serious boyfriend back in the school she had been at before she moved to Anchorage. Part of the attraction was that she was just plain funny. I've always found humor to be very attractive, and she and I and a few others would sit around in that class and just laugh it up (I remember several sessions where we'd all be talking in different languages -- she knew Spanish, I knew German, etc. and trying to have a conversation -- it was silly but we had a lot of fun doing it).

Don McCauley -- I met him at Scout Camp when we were both on camp staff. When we ended up in the same High School that was a lot of fun. He was another one of those I hung around with from time to time because we laughed a lot. I can't remember much about Don but that he was funny. Don, along with Colin, was one of the only Eagle Scouts that I really knew, and really got along with. (Many of them I wasn't sure had actually earned it -- I remember one couple of twins in another troupe that were at JUST the minimum age they could be to earn Eagle, and I think that they did so because their father was Scoutmaster, and not because they really earned it -- they were really pains in the ass ...) When we graduated I never saw him again.

Linda Lockhart -- a real heartbreaker. She was a stunning girl, who after she graduated married her highschool boyfriend. Never heard much after that. She was always very sweet and kind to everyone, and was a really great student. All around a really great person, I hope her life has turned out well.

Alan Levy -- as the name implies, he's jewish, although I am not sure he was very orthodox. Alan was one of those people who was too smart for his own good. Very bright guy, but bored with people who weren't challenging him. He was a folk singer, and among other things did some really cool things with stop-action movies on a super-8 camera. He was a pretty good guitarist, and had a really goofy sense of humor.

(Feb. 10, 2003) -- Adrian (Dube) notes that Alan just got his Masters degree in Psychology and is a practicing counselor.

Greg Wolf -- he was a jock, but as jocks go he was a really pretty nice guy. He relied on me in Geometry to help him out with his grades, but I didn't buy into just giving him my homework. I think he respected that. He was also in Algebra II with me, but we sat in different parts of the class. We were always on good terms, which the jocks and theatre folk usually weren't.

Lyle Austin and Laurie Austin -- brother and sister, Lyle was in my class, Laurie was a year younger. Lyle kind of came into and out of my life for a few years. I found Laurie attractive, but she was part of the "in crowd", which I was far from. She was always nice to me when I was around, but I was never sure if there was a chance of anything happening or not. She was a stunning girl.

Vera Phillips -- a tall, thin girl, who had a back problem that required she wear a brace somedays. Despite that, she was always very nice, and very bright. On her worse days she had a smile on her face. Some people come through things like that with the greatest personalities. She was part of the "in crowd" but she never let that get in the way of being friendly to everyone. I actually saw her at the picnic for the 10 year reunion (I didn't go to the dinner, but dropped by the picnic), and she was pushing a stroller around. I had a bit of a crush on her, but I think a lot of that was just because she was always nice to me. She said some nice things in my yearbook each year, remembering things we had done. Unlike many of the things written in yearbooks that are sort of meaningless and silly, hers and few others were interesting to go back and re-read, and bring back some good memories.

Sam Rose -- he was in the class after mine -- a sophomore while I was a junior. He was a really talented guy, had a helluva singing voice, as I recall, and was a pretty good actor. One shot in the yearbook is of him from his Thespian initiation in full clown gear -- it was fun setting people up for that.

Colin Maynard -- he was a friend both from the Scouts and from orchestra. We always got along pretty well, and had some yucks. He went off to college and became an engineer of some sort. His sister Vivian (a year younger) was cute, and was also in the orchestra. Kind of like Lyle's sister Laurie above except I am not sure she was really part of the "in crowd." (Also keep in mind that in High School, a single year in age difference seemed to be a lot ...)

Mary Gamble -- she was a cheerleader who I managed to crack up in a couple of English classes we had together. She sat next to me in Speech class, which made me a bit nervous at first, because she was beautiful. She was sweet and very blonde (a real shame, that). I enjoyed her company, but there wasn't a lot we could talk about. In my yearbook she says something about my being "funny but cool". Quite a compliment from one of the cheerleaders, really.

Ted Mihajlich -- one of the folk I met in the theatre crowd, he and I got along pretty well. As a matter of fact, when I got my first apartment, he was one of my roommates (actually, he got the apartment ...). He had an old beatup VW bug that was at least as old as he was. The darn thing ran, but sometimes we wondered how. I remember we stuffed something like 14 of us into that thing once to get back to our school from an acting competition at another school. I also remember when Jane and I were together, sitting in the back of Ted's bug with her "watching" a movie at one of the drive-in theatres in Anchorage (we didn't see a lot of it).

Eric Johnson -- a photographer who was part of the yearbook staff, with Karl and I. He was a bit withdrawn ... I think it was the next year he was dating Barbara, who was ... er ... interesting. He was really a part of the Karl and Adrian crowd, which is why I remember him.

(Feb. 10, 2003) -- Eric is the one who found this by looking for Ted's name through Google, and told Adrian ... According to Adrian, he's an engineer in the Dominican Republic.

Terry Moore -- a girl who was a bit of a jock (she enjoyed hockey), but a nice person. She and I went to a party after Jody and I had broken up, and some serious kissing occurred, but nothing ever happened after that ...

A Few Photos
(These are thumbnails, click on them to see larger versions with text explaining them)

The first four photos are ones my mother sent me, some of them are original prints, and some were taken to Kinkos and copied there, so the quality isn't as good. I did the best I could with them, but I'm not very good at photo-touchup software ...

Baker, 1973

Ken and
Grandmother Baker,

Bill and Grace
Mayer, 1973

Mom and
Grandmother Baker,

Ken, 1974

Ken's Violin

Myra Haertel

From first play
Ken was in

Ken Posing in Costume

Poster From first play
Ken was in

Yearbook Photos -- 1973 Yearbook (Ken's Sophomore Year of High School).
These photos are ones that are of folk mentioned in the text above who had photos in the yearbook (not all did). There are other friends I haven't mentioned, simply because of course in anyone's life some folk have more impact than others ...

(Note: These are not thumbnails -- clicking on them won't get a larger version -- the larger versions look really bad, and these are close to the size they were in the yearbook ...)

Sophomores (Ken's class)

Jody Bochenek

Adrian Dube

Cyndy Dunham

Allen Levy

Linda Lockhart

Ken Mayer

Colin Maynard

Don McCauley

Kathy McCaw

Vera Phillips

Anita Severson

Greg Wolfe


Martin Cose

Mary Helms

Other Photos

Anita Severson
Photo Class
Assignment (Portrait)

Yearbook Photos -- 1974 Yearbook (Ken's Junior Year of High School):
These photos are ones that are of folk mentioned in the text where I have photos... (in the 1974 yearbook a lot of people didn't have photos -- I am not sure why that is).


Laurie Austin


Tim Mayer
(Yes, my brother)

Vivian Maynard

Sam Rose

Juniors (Ken's Class)

Jody Bochenek

Bob Burns

Cyndy Dunham

Allen Levy

Linda Lockhart

Don McCauley

Kathy McCaw

Anita Severson

Laurie Steele

Greg Wolfe


Myra Haertel

Brian McClaskey

Terry Moore

Laurel Pfanmiller

Anchor Staff Photos of the Photographers

Karl Jacobs

Eric Johnson, Brian McClaskey and Ken Mayer

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