"…the state I think it's probably in now - I don't think there's anything there, other than plowing everything under and starting over and that's not gonna happen."
Why did the Children’s Home Close?
Part of it was, um, okay, by the time it closed, in the 70's, those buildings were getting on in years and standards were getting tougher as far as requirements, code requirements and stuff for buildings and it was an awful lot of work that needed to be done. Effectively, the buildings all needed to be replaced. And so they were looking at large capital expenses to bring the whole children's home up to standards. The number of children there had been diminishing. There were plans I think, kind of on the long distance drawing board, to kinda move in that direction. They started, in mind with replacing buildings, they did start on a new schoolhouse which, at the time of closing, was probably about three quarters completed, just south of the main campus, probably 300 yards or so on the tundra. And that's probably the only building that's in real good condition yet. And they had planned, eventually, to build additional cottages, to go to the cottage style, and then get rid of the girls home first because that was the original building. That dated back to the 1920's.
What inspired your parent’s to go to Alaska and work at the Children’s Home?
In that booklet I showed you earlier, Dad, he talks about that, kinda in depth. Both him and mom were influenced, it sounded like, separately, to go to Alaska. On Mom's side of the family there was a, one of her distant relatives was up in the Bethel area in the 1930's
(someone else talking - He'd actually been at, worked at the home for a while)
He was up in the Bethel area and worked at the home for a number of years and he came back telling the stories and Mom was kind of excited. She said, you know, "that's sounding neat". And they talked about, Dad went to bible school, and was working toward ordination as a minister and then him and mom got married. They went to a church service of something or another, or some missionary meetings, and there was somebody there that talked about the need, that they needed some help in Alaska bad. And the folks at that time had, a, they were asked to go up to Alaska for a two year stint at the boy's - to work as a dorm parent at the boy's home until such time as they could fill up that vacancy. Uh, 25 years later...
How did your time at the home help you as an adult?
From a career standpoint, there was, uh, career wise I ended up working for the federal government, for the Federal Aviation Association, in the maintenance half of their house and then ended up going through several levels of supervision and ended up back in D.C. in management. But anyway, there was an awful lot of hands on type of stuff to do there. Hands on maintenance. Everything from construction, repairs, maintaining everything. We had to do everything there. There was nobody you could call to fix something when it broke. We had to do it all ourselves. So it gave me a good foundation of skills and abilities that helped establish, I think, my career course. It worked out very well for me. And, uh, just a very positive environment there. And, uh, like you said, there's really nothing negative there that, you know, I look back on and they may have caused a block... there's nothing there. But for me personally, it was, the fact that I enjoyed the outdoors and I enjoyed working with my hands. I enjoyed doing the, working in the maintenance side and that kind of set me up for my career. And that worked out really well for me.
Do you think the home will ever be restored?
I would seriously doubt it. Because the condition the condition it was in the last time I saw it - from the time prior to the last time I saw it to the state I think it's probably in now - I don't think there's anything there, other than plowing everything under and starting over and that's not gonna happen. I don't think there is anything there, I don't think there is.
Other voice - The only thing, I mean, I don't know what condition the building is out on the tundra, that at one point was called Henkelman Hall, I don't know if ever got designated that officially, but it, um, but that potentially could have, because of the way it was built and all that, it could still potentially… But I don't know whether all the windows were broken or not on that. I don't know, I think they were in there when I saw it last, but I don't know
Joel - They're gone now, they're gone, I would assume, if they're knocking windows out of the chapel, which was probably the best building there, they're gonna have knocked 'em out of that building.
If you could narrow down your experience of living at the home to one word or phrase what would it be?
One word is tough. You know and probably kind of in line with what he (Jim Henkelman) was saying, perfect probably isn’t the best word… but especially from the standpoint of a kid, I don’t think I could pick any better place to grow-up. It was, you know from the standpoint of both the work and the play. Because they were so kid focused there.
From the work-standpoint it was an opportunity to develop skills as I was growing-up. It served me very well later on in life. But then, all the fun times as a kid, all the seasonal stuff. You know, I talked about all the sledding. Winters were especially fun. The river there for skating and especially up until the early 60’s we had enough dogs there for a couple of dog teams. So there were always dogs to play with. You know Saturday afternoon we had all the work done we’d go hook-up three of the dogs and hook them on to our toboggans or our little metal sleds. Man we’d have a great time! Skiing and sledding, all that kind of stuff. And even like we mentioned earlier you know with the spring flood and stuff. We always used to look forward to that too. Getting out in the water and getting wet and all the rafting, using the sections of the boardwalks as rafts because they were drifting all over the place. But, from the standpoint of a kid it was a great place to grow-up. You probably couldn’t find a place that was much more fun or much better.