Village in the City

by Michael Hankins

Alaskan Village (circa 1978)

Alaskan Village (circa 1978)

The serenity of living in a rural Alaska village is something I’d love to experience.

It seems a subsistence lifestyle has distinct advantages. Hunting and fishing to stay alive makes a person stronger both physically and mentally. Clean water and air untainted by pesticides and smog can only be healthy.

One of several Webster’s definitions for village is:

“A self-contained district or community within a town or city, regarded as having features characteristic of village life.”

For a tad over 4 years, I lived in such a place within the city. Village residents habituated as close as thirteen feet away. We made weekly trips outside the village confines for food.

Recreational play and sporting events were held in the street. The place I refer to is rarely mentioned these days. A problematic stigma still exists for many people having lived there.

In 1966, before leaving Texas for Alaska, dad informed us we’d be moving to a village. At twelve years of age I didn’t know the true meaning of such. I envisioned living like my childhood heroes Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett in a log cabin. Dad stretched things a bit. He’d secured a space at Alaskan Village Trailer Court in Anchorage, Alaska. That’s where we were to park our 10 × 55 foot mobile home.

My father was a military man serving in the United States Air Force. Just like clockwork, every 3 years we’d move. Dad deemed it financially prudent for us to live in a trailer. With his meager government salary, any means to possibly stretch a dollar was taken.

Our vagabond life began at George Air Force Base in Adelanto, California. From there, dad pulled our little home on wheels to Craig A.F.B. in Selma, Alabama. Brooks A.F.B. in San Antonio and Reese A.F.B. in Lubbock, Texas came next. Ultimately, Elmendorf A.F.B. in Anchorage was dad’s final assignment. I’m sure some folks referred to us as trailer trash, although I don’t recall hearing the derogatory term. If anything, it was spoken behind turned backs.

Our journey to Alaska was an adventure in itself.

Breaking a trailer hitch on the rough and tumble ALCAN Highway meant a full day of repairs in Fort Nelson, British Columbia (Canada). Coming across the narrow Matanuska River Bridge in Palmer, Alaska – dad got a bit too close, leaving a bright-green stripe on the rusty steel beams.

The morning we rolled into Anchorage was overcast and wet. Misty cold rain helped wash layers of dust from the car, truck, and trailer. Our first meal was hamburgers and fries at the Lucky Wishbone restaurant. We spent the night at Mush-Inn Motel on Concrete Street.

Early the next morning, dad backed our sun-faded New Moon trailer into Space #299–7800 DeBarr Road. I was happy to see kids playing. At our previous home in Texas, my brother Jim and I had to depend on pets for companionship. I sensed this trailer park was going to be different!

Our first week at the new residence was spent ‘skirting’. That was something new to me. Skirting meant taking plywood and insulation, then using it to build a mini-wall completely around the bottom of the mobile home. Not doing so resulted in frozen pipes and a cold floor come winter. I witnessed more than a few people make that mistake. By November, most of those procrastinators were outside with saws and hammers. Yellow sawdust sat prominent on fresh white snow. Jim and I became good at skirting and leveling trailers. Our talents were called upon numerous times to help neighbors.

There were many brands of mobile homes within Alaskan Village. Some of the names were most unusual: Schult, New Moon, York, Vagabond, Nashua, and Marlette to name a few. Residents of the park would actually argue what trailer was best. To this day, the name Vagabond conjures up gypsies, tramps, and thieves much like the song by Cher.

A fence separated our trailer court from split-level homes. A few homeowners forbid their children from walking to “The Village”. That’s what some people called the place. Mom joked those parents probably thought their kids would never be seen again.

I knew one boy trying to woo a gal from the other side. The girl initially took an interest in him, but soon after the budding relationship fell apart. I believe it had to do with concerned parents not wanting their daughter socializing with presumed ‘Po Folk’.

My brother and I had paper routes for several years. We delivered both The Anchorage Times and Anchorage Daily News. There were winter days when the temperature plummeted well below zero. That could last for weeks. Large bundles of papers were dropped off at the Alaskan Village office. Right outside the office was a small block structure housing a large water pump. An electric heater inside kept the pipes from freezing. Water piped throughout the park was supposedly Artesian. To this day, I’ve never tasted sweeter.

Knowing how to slyly get inside that locked structure was taught to us by a previous paperboy. A screwdriver hid inside a cracked cinder block was the key. These toasty confines saved our butts numerous times when the temps were frigid, and papers were late. Having 2 paper routes at the same time during school months was not conductive to good grades. My Clark Junior High report cards are a testament to such.

Since there was no playground, village kids hung out in the street. It wasn’t unusual to see them playing baseball or badminton. Jump rope was another favorite activity. The speed limit was 5 MPH, so vehicle danger was of little concern. During winter months, those fortunate enough to own snow machines drove them for transportation. My brother and I used ours to deliver papers. Of course, with it being noisy, we didn’t fire things up on the morning route.

Some of the names I remember from my paper route days are: Sanborn, Cloud, Rooks, Malone, Staley, Leland, Jones, Bingaman, LaCau, Greene, Maya, Kunda, Northcutt, McElveen, Roberts, Clapp, Giland, Rich, Dyer, Fostervole, Collyer, Martinez, Wardlaw, Vincent, Giradet, Kennedy, Fisher, Chron, Hahn, and Zobel.

Hooky bobbing was a common village activity during winter. If a car drove past with snow on the back window, it was easy to run up and grab the rear bumper. With slick icy streets, a kid could get pulled quite a distance without the driver knowing. As dangerous as it sounds, I do not remember anyone getting hurt.

There was an ongoing rivalry between trailer courts. Rangeview Mobile Home Park was approximately 3/4 mile down Muldoon Road. There were guys from Rangeview who liked to bully Alaskan Village kids; vice versa. One of the Rangeview clan wore a thick metal chain around his waist. He had a reputation for being tough. There came a day that my brother went berserk, tired of this fellow’s pushing and shoving. We had to pull Jim off the boy after so many lashings. Bullying ceased; at least from that fellow it did. I wouldn’t call such gang activity, but it was definitely a turf war.

We moved out of Alaskan Village in 1970. Within 10 years, the park started going downhill. The trailer court originator and developer Roy Metcalfe died. Kids called him “Old Man” Metcalfe. Mr. Metcalfe took pride in his sprawling endeavor. He’d cruise slowly through it each evening in a blue Ford Thunderbird. A detailed park map tacked to his office wall had a cluster of trailer spaces circled in pencil. Mr. Metcalfe deemed this ‘the trouble zone’. Space #299 was smack dab in the middle. I only knew this because a friend’s mom worked there as a secretary.

There were close to 400 trailer spaces by the time Roy Metcalfe passed away. Infamous real estate developer Pete Zamarello purchased the facility soon afterward. He let things quickly slide into decay. By the time Zamarello died, the village resembled a war zone. Burnt and unoccupied trailers were everywhere. Crime was rampant. City officials, including most people living in the area, were glad to see the village closed.

Today, very little remains of my old haunt. Walgreen’s occupies a portion of the grounds as well as Begich Middle School. A new fire station takes up a small spot of land. Townhouses have been constructed with more development planned. A Krispy Kreme Donuts, Body Renew Gym, and BurgerFi Restaurant now occupy the general area where the block well-house once stood. I’m certain that the Artesian stream still flows unobstructed many feet below the structures.

For the most part, the kids I grew up with in Alaskan Village turned out to be successful. They enjoyed careers in business, education, management, ministry, law enforcement, construction, military, and health care. One lucky fellow went on to fly 747’s.

In another 30-years undoubtedly all memory of Alaskan Village Trailer Park will be erased. The majority of folks having lived there will be history as well.

I doubt there will never be another place like it.

Trailer parks are quickly becoming extinct. In 1966, had the choice been mine, I would've chosen a rural Alaska village to live in. There’s no doubt Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone would do the same. Fate placed me in this village in the city. It was still an Alaskan adventure; an experience that I’m thankful to be part of!


Roy Metcalfe created and developed the Alaskan Village trailer park.

Kids who lived in Alaskan Village called him “old man Metcalfe”.

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Alaskan Village Space #126
by: Jocelyn Waldo Juul

My family moved up from El Paso TX in November 1963.

My dad had come up earlier and bought our 10 X 55, then put it in space 126 in Alaskan Village, right on the creek.

Dad (Bill Waldo), was the heavy equipment operator who helped put the boards in on the "new" part of the park across the creek.

Our family lived in Alaskan Village until 1971 when we moved our trailer out and put it on a lot in south Anchorage on Abbott Road.

Some good memories living there, it sure was a unique experience for a kid.

Living in a Marlette Trailer
by: Ginger Horner

This is a great article and sure brought back some memories.

My husband and I bought a Marlette 10 by 55 foot trailer with a tip out in 1965, and we lived in it for 7 years before buying a house.

It was in a trailer park on 4225 Spenard Road.

My husband added on a room to this trailer a couple of years before we sold it in 1972.

At times, it seems like yesterday.

Muldoon, Part of the Royal Coachman's Team
by: Pat Parnell

Having been introduced to Frank Mangio who lived in a small trailer in Muldoon, with his wife Angie, and little Ronnie their cute little son, I had no idea he would later become my Program Director at a radio station in California.

It was in the Rock and Roll Era with songs like Hit The Road Jack by Ray Charles and Kansas City by Wilbur Harrison.

The Mangios were service connected by Frank in the Army, as was I.

He learned of my going to Don Martin Broadcasting school and of my interest in being a DJ. This was a direct result of us serving in Alaska (Anchorage Ft. Rich) and my being encouraged by way of The Royal Coachman (Ron Moore, Anchorage broadcaster.)

I took the job and our two sons were born in the town of Hanford, where our station's offices were located. Our sons were also baptized in Hanford, giving Thelma’s sister Sue and her husband Jack from Visalia an opportunity to be Sponsors.

Much later, in campaigns for public office, I would spend many weekends, afternoons and nights knocking on doors in Muldoon.

I am delighted to share about a part of Anchorage that is such a significant part of our lives.

Alaskan Village
by: Bob Troutman

We moved into Alaskan village in 1961.

We were the 9th trailer to move in.

My brother started the paper route in the village and I took it over a couple of years later. I handed the reins to Mike Lozano around 1967.

Mike Gravel (ran for president) was the trailer court manager. He and his wife lived across from us on Anagoc Ave.

My parents bought a house on Old Harbor Road off of Muldoon in 1963.

There were a few school teachers from East High living in Alaskan Village. Mr. Shumway, Mr Himelgrin, and Mrs Cato.

My friend, Doug Abbas was with me as I finished delivering newspapers on March 27, 1964. The earthquake made Muldoon road look like ribbon candy as it turned into waves of undulating asphalt.

Doug's parents owned a small grocery store just South of the Debarr/Muldoon intersection. We ran to the store to find everything including shelving scattered on the floor. What a mess.

Mr. Girardet had a gunsmith shop in the north end of the building. Guns were strewn all over his floor as well. It was sad to see the Village sold and turned into a condo complex and shopping area.

A sign of the times I suppose.

Great Article
by: Former Anchorageite

Great article.

I had some friends who lived in Alaskan Village when I lived in the Muldoon area.

Some folks looked down on the people in this and other trailer parks, and it was true that Alaskan Village started to decay in the late 1970s.

But what you write about here about hooky bobbing and playing in the streets reminds me of playing with friends all over Anchorage.

It was a great time to grow up in Anchorage, and this brought back great memories.

by: Anonymous

I lived in "the Village" until 1971 I believe it was.

You are a gifted storyteller and enjoyed your article very much.

Alaska Village
by: Robert

We lived in Rangeview #128 for a number of years and had a new mobile home set up in Alaska village #430.

Really enjoyed the years spent there as it was peaceful and quiet.

Your description brought back good memories.

I no longer live in Alaska but wish that I did.

Thank you

Memories of Alaskan Village
by: Judy W.

I lived in the houses behind the Alaskan Village trailer court in the 70s.

I had several friends in the court. My father was also in the Air force at Elmendorf AFB.

I would go there daily after school or ride my snowmobile over the creek to get there. I lived in Alaska 38 years.

And I remember them closing the Alaskan Village and telling everyone to move. Then they started building on the land.

This story was awesome and brought back lots of memories to me! Thank you

Hill Top Trailer Park 1957-1960
by: Christine Larkin

Great times were had by all the children of the Alaska or Bust parents who first landed at Hill Top at the crossroads of the Old Seward Hwy and Dowling Roads int the ‘50s!

With a little block of "woods", playground, wash/shower house and a circular drive through, we sledded, inner tubed, chased, hop skipped, jumped rope, played king of the hill, put on little shows, had clubhouses, snuck down to the new paved Lake Otis Road, made up scary stories about everything and anything and generally had rip-roaring fun from sun up to sun down until our moms yelled for us to come in for dinner.

Summer before third grade through the end of fifth.

Each in different grade schools.

Loved It!
by: Dorene Wilhoit

We lived there in the 60s.

My dad paved the original court.

I believe we lived in space 513... not sure. We double shifted school after the earthquake. We went in the afternoon, so we had fun before school started.

Later, we moved to Jessieland trailer court during junior high.

Four Seasons Trailer Park
by: Linda

Great story Mike, thank you!

My memories are much the same in our trailer park near yours. We had three Elmendorf tours And only lived on base once.

Anchorage Trailer Courts
by: Anonymous

We lived in two trailer courts, one in Spenard and then Rangeview.

Two different rotations to Elmendorf.

Left there in 1966. Great place as a kid. Lot of friends.

Loved living in Alaska.

"Mobile Home"
by: Bob Yates

Another great article, Michael.

As newlyweds, our first "home" was at 705 Muldoon Road, Space 215,a 10 X 46' 2-bedroom mobile home we bought from the owners of Rangeview Trailer Court.

If I remember correctly, a couple of brothers owned the court back in 1963.

A few years later, we sold it back to them after buying a house in Eagle River.

It WAS like a village, and we met some very nice folks there.

We were living there and had just got home when the big quake hit in 1964.

When it was over, not a drop of water was left in the toilet, so we thought the pipes busted. Nope, just shook all the water out.

Still remember an incident with my neighbor on the right, who was practicing quick draw with his 22 pistol and holster. Ended up taking him to the Elmendorf hospital to treat a bullet wound.

Ah, the good ol' days.

Newspaper Customers
by: Anonymous

I wonder if you delivered papers to my uncle Virgil Chron?

He was pastor of Muldoon Road Baptist Church, and they lived on Old Harbor Road.

My Family Lived in an Anchorage Trailer Court
by: Anonymous

My family also lived in a trailer court on
Chugach drive.

We were there from 1952 through 1956.

We had a very good time there with friends that were forever.

Great Story
by: B.Carol Lewis

Loved this story.

It brought back some great memories.

We moved to Anchorage in 1967, (dad was stationed at Elmendorf AFB), and we moved into a duplex apartment 2 blocks from Turnagain Elementary School.

We kids were ever bored.

Always outside until the streetlights came on and then in winter, longer than that because snow kept it well lit outside.

I will never forget.

Childhood Memories
by: Cody

I was a resident of space 551, from 81-89.

That was a great community.

Alaska Trailer Village
by: Anonymous

I lived in space 240 from 1969 to 1974.

I always liked living there.

We were military as most residents were. Still have dear friends who lived there at the same time.

Left Alaska in 2003.

Loved your article.

I was Nearby
by: Anonymous

Growing up in the same area, I had good friends at Rangeview and Alaska Village and visited often.

We attended Clark in '66. If you delivered papers to the Chron house you likely delivered to my house as well.

Thanks for your story.

Thank You
by: Karen

What a great memory you have of these early days in Anchorage.

The "Alaska Village" was well known, and a lot of the names might have been when I was at Clark Junior High.

I read a couple of other comments from people who remembered living in those trailers when the military didn’t provide much housing assistance like they do now.

It sounds like all of you kids had some wonderful times together. If you have more stories, I’d sure like to read them.

I Remember
by: Marci

I had friends who lived there and visited often.

What a wonderful, descriptive narration.

Thank you for adding the photos.

Former Resident of Space 432
by: Angie

I have been trying to find out what happened to the Alaskan Village trailer court.

Thanks for writing this story.

My family lived there from 1968-1973, also Air Force. Finally, getting back there soon to visit my nephew who will be stationed there.

Looking forward to it.

Navy Wife in New Moon
by: Carol

Being a Navy wife with 2 small children we purchase our 1963 10 x 55 New Moon in Meridian Mississippi for $5,000.

It had a front kitchen, living room and 3 bedrooms in a row. Moved it to Memphis, TN; then Sanford, FL; and finally Milton, FL in 1968 where we sold it and moved into government quarters. It saved us a lot of money during those years.

Great story, you should continue writing.

I read your story because I know your Aunt Wava and used to work with her in Kansas. Now living in a condo in the high desert of Southern California as a great-grandmother of 4 little boys.

Excellent Story
by: Candy Baca

Your story brought back fond memories of our move to Valdez, Alaska in 1976.

Thank You for your Story
by: Lisa Stroman

This is what we are missing in life anymore, the passing on of stories...storytelling.

Thank you for sharing your memories Mike, they are very precious to those of us that remember life in a simpler time. Not that there wasn't problems or heartache, but our focus was on the good parts of life.

Please continue your work (pleasure, I am sure) as a storyteller...the world needs more.

Love Your Story
by: Anonymous

We also moved to AK because of the military, and our first home was in Glenn Caren on Muldoon.

Many fond memories living there until there was enough space for us to move on base. Thank you for the walk down memory lane through your tales.

Alaska is still my home to this day, and we truly miss having you as a neighbor. I love being able to read anything you write.

The Good Old Days
by: Fred Salter

We moved to Alaska in 1962 from Pennsylvania and also lived in a trailer court.

Ours was in Juneau, Alaska but our experiences were similar to Mike and his family. Well written article about the history of Anchorage from a personal level which is much more interesting to read than a matter-of-fact account without the heart Mike puts into it.

Thanks from one Alaskan to another.

Great Story
by: Glenda Turner

I enjoyed the story! Mike, your memories are amazing.

Village in the City
by: J Beckman

Awesome story of growing up.

I felt I grew up right down the street. You have a great way of portraying your childhood. We did not buy our fun, we made it.

So different from the kids growing up today.

Great job Mike

Great Story and Memories
by: Gunnar

This is a great story Mike.

Would have loved to have seen village life first hand. I'm sure you have a lot more good memories and great stories from that place.

Thanks for the read.

by: Anonymous

I really enjoyed this article as it brought back a few memories of my own.

I lived in another trailer park in Anchorage (Four Seasons), for a time, after first moving to Anchorage. Like the author's father, I did so to save money to buy my first house.

Your article brings back visions of life in such a "village"

Love the Shared Memories
by: Kay Farrell

Awesome memories and so well written that I felt like I was walking the journey.

Thank you to you and your family for your service to our great country. We must never forget all the reasons we continue to have freedom and your story is another great reminder.

Again, thanks for sharing your great story.

Memory Lane
by: Carla

Mike and I bought a mobile home in 1976 from one of the last dealers in Alaska. We put it in the "village" on Boniface.

Great article Mike. Could easily picture the "old" Anchorage.

Great Job
by: Janice Cross

Great job Mike, I learned a lot about how things were (in Anchorage) before we got here.

Fun Times
by: Bob Malone

Growing up there was a lot of fun for sure.

Thanks for Sharing your Childhood
by: Ali Judd Elder

I've never been to Alaska or lived in the snow but through your story I could see the kids in the street playing and laughing.

You were helping out your neighbors, I could feel the snow, and it's bite and I could taste the sweet artisan water that ran beneath the ground of your childhood home.

Best Memories
by: Nancy

What a time we had running the streets in AV (Alaskan Village). Memories made and friends that have lasted over 60 years. Thanks, Mike

Love Your Story
by: Britt

This reminds me of the stories from when my great-grandparents "settled" Chugiak and Palmer.

And the stories from when my mom moved up as a little girl. It's the little details that pack a big punch here.

Great work, Mike. I can put myself there.

Alaskan Village Trailer Court
by: Barbara Williams

I loved living in Alaskan village.

My dad was in the Air Force, and we lived there from 1968-1971. We moved there when I was 11. We lived in space 282. I remember that there were lots of kids there, and we all ran wild and had great times.

Past Memories but not Forgotten
by: JSH

I remember this trailer park, we lived in the new section for three years. This article brought back some fond memories of being a resident here. Thanks, Mike

Great Story
by: Jeff Thimsen

Had many friends from there. Lonnie Wick was one.

Walk Down Memory Lane
by: Anonymous

Thanks for the story!

I grew up around the area. So much has changed and continues to change every time I get to visit.

It's nice to be able to visualize how things used to be aka the good ol' days!

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