Looking back: Homer celebrates 50 years of incorporation

Bill Langley-Photo by McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News

It was a packed house at the Homer Elks Lodge on Monday, as residents gathered to wish the city a happy 50th birthday.

Stories of the community’s early days preceding incorporation, personal memories of arriving and growing up in the area, the reliance early residents had on each other, changes that have taken place, the difference the 1964 earthquake made and much more drew laughs, questions and more stories as emcee Dax Radtke passed the microphone among the crowd.

Following are comments made by some in attendance as they related their personal experiences.

Homer resident Kerry Plant: To me, it’s not about the city itself. It’s about the old timers. There’s a lot of them sitting here that have made Homer what it is today. … Thank you.


Mary Epperson, former Homer City clerk: I told (Homer’s first city clerk) Nelda Calhoun that I was looking for a temporary job. That was the day of Homer’s incorporation. She said I could start the next day. I said I only wanted a temporary job. It lasted 18 years.


Paul Hodgdon, former city of Homer Public Works employee: Everything I built got buried. Water lines, covered them up. Sewer lines, covered them up.


Steve Walli, recalling the test he took for his first driver’s license around 1950: I drove up to Sam Pratt to take my test for a driver’s license. He said, ‘How’d you get here.’ I said, ‘I drove.’ He said, ‘Well, that’s a test.’


Tepa Hansen Rogers, when asked how it was she could drive taxi for her father when she was 12 years old: It was just around town.


Lorraine Haas, looking at an ad for her dance studio in the first volume of “In Those Days, Alaska Pioneers of the Lower Kenai Peninsula:” I just love it here.


Ray Kranich, recalling his childhood in Homer: When you live in heaven … I would certainly not want to grow up anywhere else.


Bill Langley, who recently returned to Homer after being gone for 22 years, and found a 1980 photo of himself in a Homer High School yearbook: I came back home because I missed it.


Homer area residents will have an opportunity to hear more firsthand accounts of Homer’s history at “Meet the People,” at the Homer Senior Center today at 5 p.m. The event features pioneer role models Tepa Hansen Rogers, Joan Gordon Edens, Laura Lofgren Barton and Wilma Shelford Williams.

Copies of “In Those Days, Alaska Pioneers of the Lower Kenai Peninsula” will be available for sale.


City of Homer Incorporation

Dec. 30, 1963: 

Homer Civic Group holds a meeting to discuss incorporation.

Jan. 24, 1964:

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Ralph Moody ruled that an election for incorporating the city of Homer could be held March 10. Walt Thomas, O.O. Gerbitz, Jack Willis and Alfred Anderson were appointed as election judges. The deadline for city council candidates to file is 5 p.m. March 9. Candidates can file by petition and must have at least 20 signatures.

An Alaska State Police official said the city
could contract for state police protection for $3,000 a year.

March 10: 

The vote to incorporate passes, with 258 voting for and 141 against. Seventeen candidates run for city council, with the top seven winning. The results are: 1) Leo Rhode, 262 votes; 2) John Fenger, 257; 3) Thomas Shelford, 211; 4) Ralph Cowles, 190 votes; 5) Thomas Crosby, 188; 6) Robert Kranich, 160; 7) O.O. Gerbitz, 156; 8) Marion Franklin, 153; 9) Howard Myhill, 149; 10) Eugene Browning, 134; 11) John Pate, 126; 12) G.G. Sewell, 111; 13) Homer Thompson, 100; 14) Emil Hudec, 91; 15) B.E. Uminski, 90; 16) E.T. Langsdale, 46; 17) Harry Ramsey, 11.

March 25: 

The last meeting of the Public Utility District is held. The P.U.D. was the organization that owned and managed the city hospital, the dock and the small boat harbor. Those assets will be transferred to the new city.

Under a bill introduced by Rep. Clem Tillion, R-Halibut Cove, incorporated cities will receive title to surrounding tidelands. If the Superior Court certifies the incorporation election by April 1, Homer will receive title to the tidelands.

March 31, 1964: 

The Superior Court certifies the incorporation election and the first Homer City Council meets. The council consists of O.O. Gerbitz, Robert Kranich, Dr. John Fenger, Leo Rhode, Tom Shelford, Tom Crosby, and Ralph Cowles. The council unanimously elects Cowles as Homer’s first mayor and selects Nelda Calhoun as city clerk.

Mary Epperson-Photo by McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News

Ray Kranich-Photo by McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News

Emcee Dax Radke interviews former Homer Winter Carnival Queen Shelly Ericksen.-Photo by McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News

Tepa Rogers-Photo by McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News