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Oktoberfest Draws Guests to Pioneers' Home
By Nancy Coggins


November 07, 2005

Ketchikan, Alaska - What a warm welcome!

The lighted sign at the Ketchikan Pioneers' Home greeted the residents' guests arriving for the first Family dinner of the 2005-06 season on October 20, 2005. Once inside the lobby, the inviting, bright colors of the fish tank and the comfy chairs made them feel right at home for the event that was about to unfold: A celebration of "Family" with an Oktoberfest flair.

jpg Pioneers' Home

Ketchikan Pioneers' Home (KPH) sign greets guests.
Photo by Nancy Coggins

On their way down the hall to the residents' Great Room for dinner, everyone passed a table resplendent with about 36 numbered items for the Chinese Auction. And at the sign-in table, a door prize of an orange and brown deep glass dish full of candy-winner's choice, regular or sugar-free.

The dining room looked very festive with its cloth-covered pre-set tables decorated with a little pumpkin and a plate of edible purple grapes and yellow and orange cubed cheese. You're seated at your table with the Pioneers' Home resident who invited you, and what an unexpected joy--real cloth napkins! Troop #4 Boy Scouts from the Holy Name Catholic Church, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and other servers circulated, taking and filling drink orders from water to hot coffee or tea to iced tea to cold non-alcoholic beer.

jpg dining room

Dining room scene with balloons, guests and two Boy Scouts using
pitchers to collect dollars from diners.
Photo by (KPHAD): Bett, Beth, Jenny and April

As the whole room slowly filled, it seemed to take on a glow that comes from such special gatherings of good friends. You sensed the distinct, underlying philosophy that defines this residence for seniors: Everyone is treated as a human being. Then, as if by magic, the fresh salad and hot rolls appeared at the table.

Just knowing the menu offered roast pork with gravy, braised red cabbage, German potato salad, and steamed green beans, the food already tasted delicious, and, indeed, everyone did find it extremely well seasoned and flavorful. Accordionist Jay Snodderly (former cook at George Inlet) treated the diners to one tune after another. You heard repeated clanking of forks from his listeners putting them down on their plates so they could clap after each piece. Is music good for digestion? You bet.

And following that delicious entrée, along came a big piece of Black Forest cake. After the cake had been served the Chinese Auction began.

If you question what a Chinese Auction really is, ask any of the attendees, or, if you are ever at one and don't know the procedure, you can simply learn as you go. Just make sure to take the number of dollar bills you want to contribute to the cause-in this case, hurricane Katrina relief.

jpg Bob Sivertsen...

Chinese Auction M/C Bob Sivertsen (Maggie Sivertsen's son) pauses
and Accordionist Jay Snodderly waits to be served.
Photo by KPH Activity Department (KPHAD): Bett, Beth, Jenny and April

Auctioneer Bob Sivertsen coordinated the bidding and dollar collecting for each item held up by a young child (one of Maggie Sivertsen's three great-grandchildren who participated - Kelsey, Kirstan and Ally) who then walked around among the tables to show it to the prospective winners. Whenever a dinner attendee waved his or her dollar in the air, it was picked up by a server who dropped it into his plastic pitcher. After the donation of each dollar, Bob would call out the sequence number of that bill, saying "one" for the first person's bill, "two" for the second person's bill, and so forth. As soon as the maximum number of dollars for an item had been reached, the bidding stopped. If the maximum bid had been set at ten dollars, then Bob would say, "ten, stop" or "ten wins," and the tenth bidder would get the item.

jpg bidder Shirley Carlin

Auction bidder Shirley Carlin holds up a dollar that turns out to be a winner.
Photo by (KPHAD): Bett, Beth, Jenny and April

The bidding and collecting procedure was repeated until all the items had been won.

You may wonder what determined the bidding stopping point? This bidder figured that each pre-numbered item's maximum bid might have been some pre-determined arbitrary amount. During the bidding, that elusive number certainly kept you wondering and trying to guess when the bidding would stop. Administrative Assistant Patti Bishop kept her item bid list carefully shielded!

jpg Chinese auction

Administrative Assistant Patti Bishop and M/C Bob Sivertsen team up for Chinese Auction,
while Activities Director Bett Jakubek looks on from the left."
Photo by (KPHAD): Bett, Beth, Jenny and April

Bidding only a dollar at a time sure was a fun way to try to win these items. Bottom line: You never had to come up with the whole amount of money for each desired item. Even if you did win the item, you would not have paid more than a dollar for it or, at most, two. Throughout the night, $274.00 was raised for the Katrina relief effort, specifically to aid residents of another assisted-living home in Louisiana.

The Pioneers' Home Resident Council (President Betty Streeper, Vice President Maggie Sivertsen, Elsie Gudmundson, Stella Mackie and others) had done a bang-up job, planning the whole enjoyable event for all 43 seniors living there and their 91 invited guests. Volunteers Juanita Diamond and Marie Smith had assisted in the collection of the donated treasures. And this meal was only one Pioneers' Home activity because, besides a monthly family dinner, there's a full calendar program of activities: Exercises, newspaper readings, bingo, and other outside activities such as swimming, water coloring, and church that are all accessible via one of the three senior vans, and on and on. This special family-sharing meal may have been considered October's highlight.

jpg dinner

Marie Smith, Barbara Johansen and Doris Daly have a good time at dinner while Accordionist Jay Snodderly (shown in background) plays familiar tunes.
Photo by Nancy Coggins

During and after dinner, the people at the table mentioned how much they appreciated the cooks. The primary cooks for the meal were Grace Carlin and Ann Stout, and assisting with various parts of the meal were Kitchen Manager Andrea Rusch, Shin Berkey, and Tony Rowan. Even though the cooks did not physically emerge from behind the scenes to receive a well-deserved round of applause, they probably sensed how much everyone had enjoyed the food. You could tell that the cooks had given a lot of love energy in their preparation and arrangement of the very tasty food that looked so colorful for the Oktoberfest Family Dinner.



Nancy Coggins is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.

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