Colony House Museum June 27th, 2009

Categories: History

The Colony House Museum is run by the Palmer Historical Society. It’s located on Elmwood Ave, across from the big, white borough building. The home belonged to Irene and Oscar Beylund, two original colonists of the Matanuska colony.  It was turned over to the Palmer Historical Society in 1998 to maintain and operate it. Children of the original colonists give tours Tuesday through Saturday, from 10-4.

The price for a tour is $2 for adults, $1 for children. I paid the $2 yesterday and entered for the first time. Apparently, if you’ve gone through elementary school here in Palmer, you’ve visited. But I was homeschooled till highschool, so this was my first.

Upon entering, one of the proprietors greeted me and showed me maps of the divided homesteads, each of 40 acres. She pointed to one, #189 and told me that was her family’s homestead, out near the butte. It was larger than 40 acres because some of it was unuseable. The ARRC (Alaska Rural Rehabilitation Corp) wanted each family to have 40 acres of workable land for agriculture. She also showed me a poster-size photo of Palmer taken in 1938. It was a lot more spread out then!

The living room is decorated with donated furniture from the 30’s and 40’s era and some original to the home. A large, upright piano takes up one wall. Each colonist family was allowed to bring 2,000 lbs of goods and personal items to Alaska with them. So, the owners of the piano lifted up the top lid and filled it full of clothes; they didn’t have any suitcases.

The kitchen is cheery with yellow cabinetry and a huge stove/oven sits opposite. The back entry has a milk separator in one corner; for separating the cream from the milk after milking the cows morning and evening. There are 3 bedrooms and a washroom. Old books, games and photos are found throughout the home, each donated by the families of original colonists.

I really appreciated the opportunity to look back into what life may have been like in my own town +70 years ago. The proprietor was full of humorous and interesting stories of life back then. She was just three when her family moved here. It was really neat to hear first-person what that life was like, and how people lived.

I definitely encourage you to go and visit the Colony House Museum. It’s worth far more than just $2 dollars; it’s our history, our heritage.

Photo 1 is a plaque recognizing Palmer’s outstanding seniors, class of ’38. Photo 2 is a nurse’s uniform worn by one of the nurses at the first clinic in Palmer. Photo 3 is of the Colony House’s kitchen. Photo 4 is of the child’s room. All photos are expandable if clicked on.

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Walk around Palmer Pt. 1 June 26th, 2009

Categories: Around Palmer, History


Have you ever driven or walked through Palmer, and wondered what all those old buildings were, and if they are still used? Have you ever been to the Colony House Museum? Have you ever wondered why there was a fenced-in bell near the library?

Today I walked around Palmer and photographed many of those buildings, as well as inquired of their history. Here is what I saw and learned.
All photos are expandable if clicked on.

Palmer DepotPalmer DepotPalmer Depot

                          1                                                     2                                             3
UAF Ag ResearchPalmer Pre-Trial FacilityPalmer Water Tower
                          4                                                     5                                             6

Photo 1: Palmer Train Depot
Photo 2:
Borough Green, Old Mat. Colony Trading Post (Now home of The Red Beet), Palmer Water Tower in Background
Photo 3: Colony Inn and Restaurant
Photo 4: UAF Agriculture Research in the Matanuska Valley
Photo 5: Palmer Courthouse/Pre-Trial Facility
Photo 6: Palmer Water Tower, Old Matanuska Maid buildings
Borough Building - FrontBorough Building - BackBorough Gym
                          7                                                     8                                             9

Photo 7: Front of Borough Building
Photo 8:
Back of Borough Building, Lazy Mountain to the left, Byers Peak in the center.
Photo 3: Borough Gym

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Palmer: Friends when you need them most June 20th, 2009

Categories: Around Palmer, Palmer People

Today I headed out to the Friday Fling again. As I drove down Colony Way looking for a parking space (the library and visitors center parking lots as well as the streets were full) with my window down, a lady standing in front of her vehicle called out to me.

“Hello, do you have a cell-phone? I have locked myself out of my car!” I told her yeah, I just needed to pull over. I found a parking space in front of the Colony Inn and walked back to the woman. “My babies are in the car. I put the stroller in the back, with the keys in it, closed the hatch and somehow my two year old pushed the lock button and locked me out!” Sure enough, I looked and there was a cute little two  year old boy scrambling around in the van pushing buttons just for fun. A little 3 month old slept unknowingly in his car carrier in the back seat.

I handed the lady my cellphone and waited as she called the 1-800 number on the car door for assistance. Her oldest completely ignored me as I tapped on the window, trying to get his attention. The roadside service told the woman they would call the police and have them send an officer.

Not one, not two, but three officers showed up in two cop cars. They walked over and talked with the woman, each trying to get the two year old inside to hit the Unlock button. One of the officers pulled out some badge stickers and tried to coerce him to come to the door.  The closest they got was for him to hit the Lock button. Again.

Three women walked by and saw what was going on. One of them had just bought finger puppets at one of the booths at the Friday Fling. She handed two to the poor woman. “Put these on and try to get his attention,” she told her. No go. Another one of the three grabbed her bag of kettle corn she had got at the Kettle Corn booth and tried to bribe the boy with that. That didn’t work either. Finally the woman with the finger puppets told the woman with the van to keep them, and the ladies wished her good luck and left.

Next a man came by, noticed the problem, went back to his truck and returned with a metal coat hanger. He bent it different ways and then attempted to stick it down the window. He worked at it for a couple minutes and gave up saying “these newer cars were made just so you couldn’t do this.” Meanwhile, the two year old found a book inside the diaper bag on the front seat and proceeded to read it, oblivious to the six or seven adults surrounding the car.

Finally the officers gave the woman two options: let them break the window or call a locksmith/taxi. Taxis, they said, often have locksmith tools/abilities. She opted for the taxi service because they would probably cheaper. She called her husband once more with my cellphone and thanked me thoroughly for my help.

I left, came back a half hour later and saw the van was gone.

Palmer may be growing population-wise, but its peoples hearts are growing along with the town. People truly care about one another and help each other out, even total strangers.

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Alaskana Books In Palmer Alaska June 18th, 2009

Categories: Businesses


I made a visit during Colony Days to Alaskana Books
at 564 S Denali in Palmer, Alaska. This is probably my favorite bookstore in the whole state. If you want to read about Alaska this is the place to go. It is one of the temptations in Palmer for me. I can’t seem to go in that store without spending money. They have shelves and shelves of Alaskan books. Most of the books are used, some are extremely old, some are pretty obscure, all are very interesting.

Alaskana Books is owned and operated by Lorie Kirker
She is a long time Alaskan, having spent much of her life teaching in bush Alaska. She spent a lot of time in places like King Cove and Dutch Harbor. She is helped in the store by her good friend Lynette Lehn whom she met in college. Lynette talked Lorie into coming to Alaska with her husband and now they are both retired teachers working together in the store.

The entry way is currently set up on a Colony Days theme with Palmer especially featured. Inside are books arranged in all sorts of Alaskan themes. There are shelves on Russian America, Gold Rush, South East, Interior, First Citizens, Aviation, The Iditarod Race, Bears, Wolves, and on and on. If you are looking for a book on canoeing the Yukon River, they have it. If you want something about early Palmer, they certainly have it. If by some amazing chance they don’t have a book, they will do the research to find it.

Alaskana Books hours are as unique as the store itself. They are open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from noon-5:30. Stop by this weekend.

By Marty Van Diest

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Matsu Transit June 18th, 2009

Categories: Businesses

Matsu Transit provides transportation by bus all around the Valley, to Anchorage, out to Houston and soon out to the Knik area. Commuter buses go to and from Anchorage during the average commute times: early morning, late morning, and early evening.

Matsu Transit buses also make flag stops by phoned-in requests, but you need to call in at least 1 hour before the requested time. I have never ridden the buses in the Valley, but several of my friends have and they think it’s great! The system is really helpful for those without cars, teens with working parents, and those who just want to help the environment.

General one-way rides cost $2.50, and a day pass is $6.00. The commuting fare is $3.00 each direction. Kids under 6 ride free.

For more information about the Valley’s Transit system and its schedules, visit

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