Saturday, November 10, 2012

Cherish the good times-- Cupcakes and Smiles.

As this was my third Halloween in Alakanuk, I was looking forward to dressing up and seeing others' costumes and smiles. Many adults even dress up and join in on the fun at the school or while bringing their kids out trick-or-treating. I was going to be a ninja turtle, but I received a couple fine cowgirl accessories and decided to wear my new cowgirl hat and some chaps to school on Wednesday.

Mom mailed me cupcake supplies, napkins, and stuff to decorate them.
We had a cupcake decorating contest during our Halloween party.
I received a box that made it to my house after being in the mail for quite some time on that Monday. Tuesday night I made some funfetti cupcakes and the following day at lunch I made some orange frosting for them. (I actually used almost half powdered milk and powdered sugar which made it a little less sweet and delicious!) The students earned "pirate tokens" as an incentive to join the party. When it came time, I had them line up outside our classroom. We accepted the tokens and gave them a glow bracelet as they entered. The students had fun playing around for a bit before we turned the main lights back up and they got to decorate the cupcakes.
Some of the kids just loaded on the goods.

Others carefully designed and snacked while they decorated.

This one has some mini-chocolate chips for hair.

This one reminded me of one I'd see in a fancy cupcake shop.

It was costume day during our Red Ribbon Spirit Week, so I was a cowgirl.

The winners got to eat their cupcakes. :) All of them won.

A couple of my happy trick-or-treaters.

Lots of painted faces and masks with warm coats to block the 18 mph winds.

On Halloween, we had a high of 26 degrees.

It was fun seeing everyone's wigs and costumes that night.

One of my old male students with a female kaspaq and mask.

One of our students was absent with an ear infection, but Mr. Skeleton helped him out.

Many of these wonderful ladies have worked here at the school for years!

Sammy Jo was expressing her anguish that the plane for volleyball travel was on weather-hold.


  1. [part 1] Reading your blog brings back a flood of memories. I realize your postings are not recent so I don’t know if you’ll even see this comment. If you do and you want to respond, my email is
    My name is Jill Carroll. I taught Beginners [Kindergarten] and first grade in Alakanuk forty years ago. My [now ex-]husband Rick taught 3rd-5th grades. Back then, the Bureau of Indian Affairs ran all the village schools and the pipeline was just beginning. There were about 325 people in Alakanuk then and about 130 children attended our school. There had only been a school in Alakanuk since 1960.
    At the time Alakanuk had no electricity, plumbing, phones, or roads, and of course, it was before the advent of cell phones, computers, and the Internet. We lived in a section of a metal building that also housed my husband's classroom and a small storeroom. My own classroom building also housed the school kitchen where Nelly Alstrom managed to make delicious lunches from Campbell soup, Spam, powdered milk, boxed potato flakes, canned butter, etc. She baked something fresh every day. I think some of our students may have come to school just to get Nely’s lunches.
    A third building housed living quarters for the other teaching couple and her classroom, and there was a portable for his classroom. Our school went through 8th grade and those students who went on to high school had to move in with relatives in Emmonak to do so.
    We had an oil stove, an oil heater, and a small generator for the lights and the heater blower/fan. It could also handle a toaster or an electric blanket, but not much more. I had a wringer washing machine and I hung laundry to dry overnight on clotheslines in a classroom. Our water was hauled from the slough [through a hole in the ice in the winter] to a large tank in our cache where much of the sediment settled out. In the warmer months there were iridescent wriggly things swimming in it, not fish; I don't know what they were. Every weekend we spent hours boiling, filtering, aerating and treating water for the coming week. It was the color of rust with an "off" smell and taste, and had to be mixed with Tang or grape juice concentrate to be drinkable.
    Although the creature comforts weren't ideal, we fell in love with the people in our village. They made us feel welcome and accepted and I missed them tremendously when we left. Kids "visited" us nearly every day as did many of their parents.
    We introduced them to Halloween, which they had not heard about. Of course, no one had costumes or candy so there could be no trick-or-treating as we know it. But they loved scary stories. We spread the word at school that they could come over that night and we would tell them scary stories. I had ordered The Invisible Skull which was a replica of the brain in a clear plastic life-size head for my classroom. I waited until after Halloween to display it so we could use it for Halloween. We put it on a high shelf in the store room. The plan was for all of us to be in the darkened storeroom where my husband would tell a scary story, which he made up as he spoke, while I provided sound effects like rattling a chain, blowing up and popping a paper bag, moaning, etc. I also had a flashlight to shine on the Invisible Skull when he gave me the signal. We expected a dozen or so of our students would show up. To our surprise, there were over 75, including their older [teen-aged] brothers and sisters. They loved being scared and asked for another story and another. We finally called it quits as it was a school night, and they said they were too afraid to walk home in the dark. So we walked them all home, with everyone walking together, starting from the houses closest to the Yukon, walking as a group along the slough, dropping off kids as we passed their homes until we dropped off the last of them at the other end of the village.

  2. [Part 2]
    It happened that Halloween came during Freeze-up and students on the other side of the slough missed a week or so of school from the time the water was too icy to navigate by boat until the ice was thick enough to cross safely by snowmobile.
    A few days after the ice was solid, two members of the village council came to see us. The council had met and decided that we should hold Halloween again for the benefit of those on the far side of the slough who had missed their chance to join in the first time. We agreed, and to our surprise well over 100 people showed up! Not only students and older siblings from the other bank of the slough, but most of those who came the first time, and others who had heard about it, including many adults.
    With the other teachers, we decided to provide a real Thanksgiving meal as school lunch the day before Thanksgiving holiday. We got four HUGE turkeys. I cooked one in my home oven as did the other teaching couple and Nelly cooked two more in the big school ovens. Nelly also made mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, canned green beans, and pumpkin pies from canned pumpkin pie filling in her homemade piecrusts. It was a real feast. None of our students would touch the white meat. Since all the fowl they had ever eaten [swan, ptarmigan, etc.] were dark meat only, the white meat looked weird to them and they refused to try it. There was plenty of dark meat for them and the staff got to take home the white meat so we had great turkey leftovers, sandwiches and casseroles for a long time.
    I was pregnant when I left Alakanuk. I had a daughter and I now have a 4-year old granddaughter as well. After leaving, I taught on a Sioux reservation in South Dakota, then returned to California where I was a principal, director of general, special, and gifted education and a few other jobs at the school, district, county, and state level. For the last 17 years I have been a consultant in K-12 Literacy and Differentiated Instruction. I have worked in Anchorage a number of times and even worked in Bethel for a short time. I will always have a warm spot in my heart for the people of Alakunuk.