Anchorage Centennial Kids: Life in 1915

Parents and kids love the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous Frostbite Footrace! Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Parents and kids love the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous Frostbite Footrace! Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

 

The annual Fur Rendezvous festival begins this weekend, and like many other Anchorage residents, we’re working on costumes for our favorite event, the Frostbite Footrace.

2015 marks the centennial year for Anchorage, a former tent city initially developed as the site of a railroad down on lazy Ship Creek. Now Alaska’s largest city and the center of much of the state’s commerce and government, Anchorage is the place many people begin or end their Alaska vacation.

“Fur Rondy” as it’s called by many an Anchorage resident is celebrating the community’s centennial by creating a theme of the same name. After all, turning 100 is a big deal!

Fur Rondy is a time to celebrate all things winter! Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Fur Rondy is a time to celebrate all things winter! Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

AK Dad, Kid, and I will be dressing up for the Frostbite Footrace, a 2-kilometer run, jog, walk, or stroll around downtown Anchorage. People usually go a little crazy at this race; we’ve seen guys running in long underwear, a dad dressed as a superhero pulling a sled full of kids, and many, many people wearing their XtraTuf rubber boots.

We’ve chosen to partner with one of our sponsors, AAA Alaska, and will be dressed as 1915 tourists. This idea led to lots of searching for clothing kids wore back then, and that led to more investigating into lives of boys and girls living in Anchorage when it was a little tow,n unknown by many other people in the world.

AK Kid tossed me some questions the other day as he looked at the collection of photos I found, and you might be interested, too. 

 

A sample of the clothing that Anchorage kids might have worn in 1915. blog.familytreemagazine.com

A sample of the clothing that Anchorage kids might have worn in 1915. blog.familytreemagazine.com

What did kids wear? Kids wore what their moms made them, or what their parents could afford in the local store. Sometimes parents would order from the Sears Roebuck catalog, a big deal because it only came every so often and the delivered packages felt like Christmas, any time of year. Boys wore knickers or long pants made of wool or cotton, flannel shirts, coats made of wool or heavy “duck cloth” (much like our Carhartts of today), and caps in the summer. Winter meant warm hats, more layers of wool, and leather boots. Girls had it a little tougher; dresses and skirts were the daily wear in Anchorage, but some parents allowed their girls to wear overalls like the boys while at home, helping with the many chores to be done. Sundays or school days, of course, meant dressing up, for this was a special occasion!

 

Anchorage was a small but busy place in 1915. Lots of tents made up the first homes. Alaska Pacific University photo archives.

Anchorage was a small but busy place in 1915. Lots of tents made up the first homes. Alaska Pacific University photo archives.

Chores? What chores? Yes, kids in 1915 had a lot of chores, from helping in the kitchen to chopping wood and hauling water. There were no microwave ovens, fancy stoves, or Costco stores. Kids had to pitch in and help the family “team,” or things would never get done. Older kids also helped a lot with watching younger brothers or sisters, and learned to cook, sew, and use axes, guns, and other tools from a pretty early age.

 

The Anchorage Pioneer Schoolhouse served many children in the town's early years. Look at it then, and now (below). Anchoragecentennial.org

The Anchorage Pioneer Schoolhouse served many children in the town’s early years. Look at it then, and now (below). Anchoragecentennial.org

The Pioneer Schoolhouse, today, used primarily for meetings and rentals. locationlibrary.com

The Pioneer Schoolhouse, today, used primarily for meetings and rentals. locationlibrary.com

What about school? Anchorage had school, that’s for sure. The Pioneer School House on 3rd Avenue in downtown Anchorage served about 90 students of a wide age range in 1915. Kids sat in desks, in rows, and learned the basics, known as the “3 R’s.” This “reading, riting’ and ‘arithmetic” sort of idea was well-used for years. In fact, many of your grandparents probably learned how to read, write simple stories, and do sums (math) this way. Oh, and speaking of math; kids learned rows and rows of addition, subtraction, and such in their heads! Kids also walked to school, sometimes for a mile or more, in all kinds of weather. No snow days, here!

 

Kids would hitch up their dogs for a ride around downtown in 1915. Anchorage Museum archives.

Kids would hitch up their dogs for a ride around downtown in 1915. Anchorage Museum archives.

 

While this is after 1915, the photo shows the fun many Anchorage kids were able to have, fishing, hunting, camping, and playing. Griffith family photos, from anchoragecentennial.org site.

While this is after 1915, the photo shows the fun many Anchorage kids were able to have, fishing, hunting, camping, and playing. Griffith family photos, from anchoragecentennial.org site.

How did kids back then have fun? It must have been a wonderful place for adventures in Anchorage. Kids and their playmates spent lots and lots of their free time outside, playing baseball, tag, and many of the games you still play today. But kids also had a lot more freedom to explore back then. I had one man tell me his mother used to whistle him home for dinner after he’d been out and about all day! Creeks were full of fish, wildlife could be hunted, and trees could be climbed. Fairs and festivals were important to the town, too. Alaska was a long way from other family members and friends Outside (anywhere not in Alaska), so kids looked forward to the picnics, ball games, parades, and dances. Everyone was welcome, and everyone participated.

 

Stop by Fur Rendezvous headquarters on 4th Avenue for the best in Anchorage family fun!

Stop by Fur Rendezvous headquarters on 4th Avenue for the best in Anchorage family fun! Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Fur Rendezvous started in 1935 with kids in mind. A bonfire, ball game, dog races, and other community parties started it all, and it’s still going strong. Be sure to take your parents downtown to enjoy the fun, and we’ll look for you on Saturday morning at the race and parade immediately following!

 

 

Posted in Kids' Corner and tagged , , , .