Meanwhile, Back at the McKinley Farm…

by | Family, Living Well

When my Grandfather moved to Alaska in the 40s, he needed to find a house big enough to hold his wife and seven children, and pronto. The Matanuska Valley had been colonized in the 30s as part of the New Deal. My Grandfather bought a nice little Colony House on a hefty bit of acreage from a family that just wasn’t able to cut it as colonists (nothing against that poor family, but winters in Alaska were probably a bit more than they had bargained for).

Then he set about expanding the house to make it big enough to fit his kids.

McKinley Farm in Alaska

It turned out plenty big.

McKinley Family Farm house in Palmer, Alaska


McKinley Farm

Lee (Doc) McKinley and Family at the farm


The picture above shows my Grandparents and mom with her brothers and sister. Notice the airplane out the window to the left. Grandpa was a dentist and he used that to commute to work in Anchorage. He would also fly out to the bush villages to treat the villagers, often for free.

The fireplace was built with river rocks. The second floor windows on either side of the chimney (below) were close enough to reach out and get a good toe hold on the chimney, yet far enough away that falling was a very real possibility. Of course, I know nothing of this because I would never consider sneaking out of the house.

Doc McKinley farm in Palmer, Alaska

The lower roof, right above the ground on the picture above, covered the cold room. Aside from being a dentist and a politician, my grandfather was also a very skillful butcher (that’s how he worked his way through college.) We didn’t just have a cooler for keeping meat, we had an entire 400+ square foot cold room. We didn’t mess around when it came to meat.

slide and swing set at the McKinley farm

In my mind, the crowing jewel of this home was the swing set.

It was the reason my friends came to play at my house. And on hot summer days, we would drag a water hose to the top of the slide and turn it in to a water slide.

(That’s me in front with the braids)

slide and swing set at the McKinley farm

My Dad took the following pictures from the top of the slide, then pasted them together. The two little buildings behind the van were very important as well. The white building was the chicken coop and the little log building beyond that was the pig pen.

McKinley Farm in Palmer, Alaska

I lived in that house for most of my childhood. It was a pain to clean, we lived in the delta between two glacier fed rivers so the fine dust of glacier silt was always passing through the walls. Vacuuming and dusting were never ending chores. As was mowing the lawn.

And lest you think it was a mansion of some kind, I want to be clear that the bedroom walls were plywood, and we woke up many times to find frost on the inside of our bedroom walls. Oh, and the roof leaked so much when it rained or the snow melted that walking down the hall was an obstacle course of buckets and drips. I miss that house.

My family sold the house a few years back and since then it has fallen into disrepair. It looks so sad now.

broken down farm house


Judy Schwartz Haley


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