Palmer: Flowers, a Colony & Tsunamis...

This welcoming town is the home of the Alaska State Fair which we will be attending 13 days from now. We came early just to check things out. We were impressed.

Palmer is one of the only Alaska communities to stem from an agricultural lifestyle. Established in 1916 for the Alaska Railroad's branch line to the Chickaloon coal mines, little development occurred here until 1935, when 203 families reeling from the Great Depression were relocated to Alaska with the promise of a better life (more about that below).
Since the weather has been a bit drab, I was very taken with the flowers blooming in the Matanuska Valley Agricultural Showcase Garden, which is home to hundreds of perennials and vegetables on display. We try to find color anywhere we can.

I learned about places like the Matanuska Colony (Palmer) by reading a book set in one titled Dead End in Norvelt. I was very intrigued by the concept then and even more so now, due to actually being in one. Wow. The Colony was one of more than 100 New Deal projects created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in an attempt to end nationwide unemployment and help Americans rebuild their lives.  Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan were chosen to be part of this project because it was felt they most closely resembled the climate in Alaska, and because they had an extremely high percentage of residents on social assistance programs.
To learn more, I visited the Colony House Museum, one of the original farm homes built by the pioneers. My docent was born in the Colony with her parents being on the first boat load of colonists. She was a wealth of knowledge.

A common question that people have when looking back at a project such as this is "Was it a success?" There is no clear answer, but there is no doubt that the project gave Alaska a profile that it had not enjoyed for many years, and it would be difficult to measure the impact that it had on not only the colonists (both those who stayed, and those who left), but others who chose to come North as a result of the excitement that the project caused, and the dreams that it sparked in others.
We plan to attend the Alaska State Fair where Palmer's agricultural spirit lives on. This is where fun, family farm rivalries and giant veggies attract huge crowds. We can't wait. While it doesn't start until the 24th, we came to get our camping pass and the lay of the land.
Our final stop was incredibly interesting. When we read about the Friday tours at the National Tsunami Warning Center, we knew we had to go. One of only two such centers in the US, it was established in 1967 as a direct result of the great Alaskan earthquake that occurred in Prince William Sound on March 27, 1964 (Good Friday). This earthquake alerted State and Federal officials that a facility was necessary to provide timely and effective tsunami warnings and earthquake information to the coastal areas of Alaska. Over the years it was greatly enlarged to include the issuing of tsunami warnings to California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Atlantic coast of Canada for potential tsunamigenic earthquakes occurring in their coastal areas. So scary!
And in case you don't know about the 1964 Alaskan earthquake, it lasted four minutes and thirty-eight seconds, with a magnitude 9.2 megathrust, the most powerful recorded in North American history, and the second most powerful recorded in world history. Across south-central Alaska, ground fissures, collapsing structures, and tsunamis resulting from the earthquake caused about 139 deaths. The videos and images found online are frightening.
There is a team of at least two scientists on duty here, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.That is comforting.
We took a lot away from the informative and concise video showing the quake and explaining how it all happened. Steve and I left this amazing place so thankful that it exists. We also left even more educated about tsunamis and how to survive them. Let's just hope we don't have to ever put that knowledge to use.

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Cyndy Brown said...

I can't even imagine the horror of a 9.2
Bet Bob S. is envious of all the flowers pics!

Karen Booth said...

Glad the flowers brightened your day. I loved the log cabin syrup tin. I grew up near maple syrup country and the tin brings back memories.

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