Betty Johnson was born in Holy Cross, Alaska, in 1915. She left there when she was 16 to go to work. In 1942 she met and married Leonard Norman in Bethel, where he was working for M-K Construction. "Norm," as he was called, had moved up from Newberry, Michigan when he heard there was work in Alaska. He first found work in Ketchikan in 1937 and then in Bethel. They moved to Anchorage and to Glennallen in 1947.
The Normans used to fly to Boulder Point to visit Mike Demientoff. He had a plane and flew them to Daniels Lake, where they homesteaded in 1955. They also had a homesite 4-1/2 miles from the North Road out of Kenai. They lived on that homesite during breakup, as the road to the homestead was not passable. The good road ended at Jack Lewis's homestead, and they drove on the beach with a 4-wheel drive vehicle to Boulder Point.
Betty worked at Peninsula Builders for John Swanson for 7 years. Norm worked construction and then owned his own bus. He passed away in 1977.
Betty moved back to Holy Cross and married Jim Johnson. She still leads an active life in local government, is on the City Council and has served on the Iditarod School District Board. She was the only woman on the board. She died in 2009 at the age of 89.
The Norman children were Carole Vaughn, Donna Crombie, Donald Norman and Leonard Norman Jr. There are 7 grandchildren.
Betty Johnson, age 20, wearing a parka her mother made.
In 1951 my parents, Leonard and Betty Norman, and we 4 kids (Carol, Donna, Bucko, and Joey) were living in Anchorage. We had a nice, cozy, 2-story house located on 9th Ave. My parents had made lots of trips to Kenai, checking out the country, and they loved it here. Soon this would be our home, as the homesteads and homesites had opened up.
My mother's cousin, Michael Demientieff, and wife Josephine had a nice fish camp and log house at Boulder Point. Michael owned a small plane and would fly us to Boulder Point, landing on the beach, where Josephine was always waiting with open arms. Then back to Anchorage, where Michael would pick up Dad and Bucko and Joey. Josephine (Jo) would run to her garden and root cellar and in a short time would have a meal on the table "fit for a king." A great cook she is!
Later Michael and Dad would spend much time in the air, looking over the land. They soon spotted Daniels Lake, better known as Fish Lake by the Kenaitze Indians. Dad picked a nice spot on the north side of the lake. Soon this would be our homestead. My parents flew back to Anchorage and filed on a homesite and homestead. The homesite was only a few miles out of Kenai, across from Lee's Gardens.
My dad came down ahead of us seeking work. I believe his first job was at Alaska Sand and Gravel.
In Anchorage our 3-bedroom house went up for sale and Mom began packing. First, though, Mom and Dad had decided we shouldn't live on moose meat alone. Maybe a little poultry, huh? They bought 200 chicks, and had them in coops in our yard. In the meantime we made plenty of loads to Kenai, hauling all our belongings. Well, needless to say, even before we left Anchorage the dogs got into the chickens, leaving us with only 150. That's another story, huh, Ben and Sally!
On the final trip, Mom loaded up our old red and white station wagon, 150 chickens in the back, and us 4 kids in front. As I recall this was a trip and a half. Mom had just learned how to drive and it seemed like forever we took to get here, as she was a nervous wreck. I know she had to be praying all the way, because we made it to Kenai with no problems. We pulled up to the homesite, our new home -- WHAT! 2 tents! The smaller 10 by 12 tent was our kitchen. It was built up, complete floor, a table, Blazo boxes for cupboards, and a wood stove. Next to it was a huge army tent, 20 by 20, where all our belongings were, and beds.
Friends and neighbors came to help us put our frame house up, a 16 by 20. It had already snowed 5 or 6 inches before the house had been completed. The tents were nice but br-r-r, in the mornings it was cold until Dad got a good fire going. I remember the stove got so hot you coulddn't even stand close to it.
The North Road only went as far as Jack Lewis's then, but soon was pushed farther north. Dad had bought an old 4 by 4 and we soon began to haul our lumber out north to build our homestead. The 16 by 28 frame house came up fast; again our friends and neighbors helped, and we were soon living at Daniels Lake. Though there was much work, all the homesteaders would get together for a movie once a week at the Salamatof Community Hall. Or maybe a dance for us teens, well chaperoned.
Often Mom and Dad would have a few friends over for a game of pinochle while we kids whipped around the lake on our skates. Ah, those were the days, my friend, I thought would never end.
Springtime would be the homesteaders' annual get-together. The fun they had would be hard to described.
Then Kenai had only 2 grocery stores. Casey's and Piggly Wiggly. And 1 clothing store, Kenai Commercial, owned by Mrs. Helen Jones. There was also Sully's Bar and Café, better known as the Rig today. Our post office was on the bluff facing the river, no boxes, you'd only go in and ask for your mail. We only had one cop in the village, Mr. Morgan. I forget who was before him.
Later in 1959 my dad bought a Bantam with a bucket and soon enough money was made for a boom. He dug many cesspools and basements on the peninsula. My brothers Bucko and Joey helped my dad in every way they could. His business would soon be called "Norm and Sons."
Many years passed. this October 10, 1983, my family and I moved back to the homestead. It's good to be home. I try to tell my kids how it was but like everything else, it's a part of the past. I also have 4 children: Dale, Donna, Shane, and Pam, so being here on the lake is kind of like old times.
My father, Leonard J. Norman, better known as "Norm," passed away in 1977. My mother and her husband, Jim Johnson, moved to Holy Cross about 10 years ago. This is on the Yukon River. Here they built and ran their store, called "Johnson's Store." In the summer they fish, putting up all their fish into strips. A few years ago they sold the store to retire. Donna lives in Anchorage with her 2 kids, Wendy and Jeff. Joey lives here in Kenai with 1 daughter, Dana. Bucko, last I heard, was working in Homer.
- Carole Norman Vaughn, 1985