When my Grandpa, Hunter Lee Fisher (really. His name was Hunter Fisher.) moved his family up the Alcan to Alaska in 1962, they settled in a ramshackle house on 26th Ave in not quite, but almost, the heart of Spenard. Grandpa Fish worked as a Civil Service Investigator, but he was also an artist, a poet, and above all, a fisherman. It was while living in Spenard the Fisher Family weathered the 1964 earthquake. Grandpa Fish was actually down in Kodiak on government business, and it was days before anyone heard from him. Grandma calmly held down the fort with the kids. My mom Mindy was in the basement during the quake, and recalls the washer and dryer banging together loudly, seemingly marching around the room; a terrifying sight for any child. It was also on this stretch of road, between a laundromat and a bar, that Grandpa Fish started to hone his taxidermy skills. Hunter never intended to create fish mounts commercially, but the talent was there, clients were pleased, word of mouth spread, and all the sudden there was fish in the bathtub and ice chest, and even on the roof in winter. Spenard was where the Fishers made their home, started their business, went fishing, and grew up.
Fast forward a couple decades…
When I started shopping for condos in my early twenties, there was only one neighborhood I seriously considered: the heart of Spenard. Sure, it might be a hard road to “ho” but, the extra charm-or is that grit-mixed with nostalgia and family history lured me in. I finally settled into a little place off, yup, you guessed it, 26th Ave-not even a block from where my mom grew up back in the 60’s. The Laundromat is now a tattoo parlor and the bar is now another bar. The Fisher house was torn down years ago and turned into a parking lot. Still, there is something comforting about living on the same stretch of road as my grade school mom did-just a couple decades apart. The bigger Anchorage gets, the smaller it seems sometimes.
My mom just finished up her 49th year in the 49th state. While I still have twenty-two more years to go to meet that benchmark, I like to imagine I’ll still be in Spenard. I could tell you stories about the wild nights, the best people watching locations, the sounds of sirens and ice cream trucks, or those friendly ladies on the corner. But, really, Spenard is mostly the story of ordinary folks and long time Alaskan families growing up, growing old, and trying to live well.