Alaska – Palmer, the civilized city (24)

I showed Chris where to find the Palmer-Wasilla Highway. It’s not really a highway, just a substantial road (meaning two lanes with the occasional turn lane).

It was drizzling.

Palmer is really close to Wasilla. It’s a farm town, though, and was started by “the colony”. During the depression, President Roosevelt tried anything he could think of to boost the economy and called these collective stabs in the dark “The New Deal.”

Palmer was one of those deals. He persuaded a bunch of down and out farmers that Alaska couldn’t possibly be colder than the midwest in the winter, so why not go? He would give them a place to live and 40 acres for free. Remember, this was before Alaska was a state (1935). I cannot imagine why this would give the economy any kind of boost. But, hey, I wasn’t there.

A bunch of families from Minnesota in particular, and surrounding states, came up to Palmer and were housed in a tent city to await their 40 acres (no mule). This was not what they had in mind. True, the winters in Palmer were actually less cold than the winters in Minnesota. But the SUMMERS! summers are far far far less warm. So far less warm that tent living was not a pleasure.

Some of the people stayed. Many left. Palmer was peopled by folks who understood what a town was for and why it might be a good idea. Civilization was not something that the Palmer farmers were running from.

Therefore, there were houses of a certain vintage in the area. Original Colony Houses. These houses had a kind of charm that made them very distinctive in their surroundings. They would have been unremarkable if located in North Dakota or Minnesota, but architecture and homeyness was scarce in Alaska.

So, Palmer has a fairly concentrated downtown area. They boast a soda fountain, a fabric store, near the library and post office and train station

And a Carr’s grocery store and a McDonald’s across the street is around the corner.

Palmer did not have a mall, or the many big box stores that Wasilla has.

“This does look a little more like a town,” Chris admitted.

“We never came here,” I said. “I guess it was too far away, and we just didn’t have a reason. I guess I remember coming for special things, like maybe for 4-H.”

“What else is there to see here?”

“Um…” I said. “This is it.”

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