March 27, 2014
There were premonitions. On Oct. 27, 1962, two months after moving back to Alaska, Alice felt the “sharpest” earthquake so far. Her husband, Bob, was working on the roof and her first thought was that he had fallen. Bob thought the house was shaking because Alice had done something wrong with the washing machine. But the house kept rocking. The quake was strong enough to knock a few items off shelves.
Alice and Bob Arwezon were in their early 30s. Bob was a big strapping fellow, a former Olympic-level swimmer who had served in the U.S. Army a couple of years. Alice was stick-thin but never one to shy from an adventure. After graduating from college she had worked in Peru. After returning to Michigan, she drove up the Alaska Highway with her cousin Polly DeLong in 1955. She met Bob, who was stationed on Fort Richardson, in Anchorage. They were married a year later in Massachusetts.
The couple returned to Alaska in August 1962 and purchased a small home made of cinder blocks. The house was on Mercedes Lane on Anchorage’s Hillside, near the northern end of what became Goldenview Drive. It was about 1,800 square feet. About a third of that was the attached garage, which they turned into a storeroom and workshop. According to Alice, Bob wouldn’t call their new home a basement because it wasn’t underground. He preferred “a flat-roofed ranch.” With the house came five acres of land “and a couple of hundred miles of view.”
The Arwezons embraced Alaska like most newcomers, perhaps with a little more gusto. They attended the Matanuska Valley Fair in September to pay their respects to the prize-winning cabbage, which weighed 48 pounds. A couple of months later, two neighbors shot moose in their backyards. Bob came home later than usual, covered in blood from “chin to toes, front and back,” after helping field dress one. Living on the Hillside was more challenging in the early 1960s. Some neighbors were still proving up on homesteads. The Arwezons were on a 10-party telephone line, which was common outside the city limits of Anchorage.
By January 1963, Alice was describing Alaska as “The Great Land” in a letter to her mother because “that’s what we natives call it.” A week later, while writing to her mother again, Alice felt another large tremor. She noted the exact time in her letter, admitting “I get the shakes every time.”