Walya Hobson First Saw Santa Claus When She Was Seven Years Old At School

"We Used To Order Things In Catalogs" Walya Hobson was born so long ago in the wilds of Alaska that she had one of those pretty, R...

"We Used To Order Things In Catalogs"

Walya Hobson was born so long ago in the wilds of Alaska that she had one of those pretty, Russian names –"Walya" – that was still popular back then in the Copper River Valley.  Some Ahtna children got names like Basille, Sophia and Walya in a nod to the old days of Russian influence along the coast of Alaska when the Ahtna people took furs to Nuchek or Knik's Russian trading posts. 

Walya grew up to marry Frank Hobson, a man who was extremely good at woodworking.  In Chitina, Frank built a home for his family out of railroad ties from the Copper River and Northwestern Railway. Frank Hobson was an accomplished violin maker and was known statewide for his skill in turning Alaskan birch trees into prized musical instruments. 

When Walya was young, the stores and commerce in the region were not in Glennallen, but in Chitina. Her family's move to Glennallen took them somewhat off the grid. It seemed more exciting when she was young to go up to Gulkana.  "Santa Claus Lodge," a large former log complex on the banks of the Gulkana River, was an Orr Stage Line transfer station. Santa Claus Lodge had a fox farm, and even hosted territory-wide dog races that drew mushers from all over Alaska.

Walya spent her last years living in a small home on the outskirts of Glennallen. A beautiful woman, even into her older days, she retained a keen interest in life. This is a look at her childhood and Christmas experiences, as told to the Country Journal on December 19th, 1996:

Walya Hobson (Journal file photo)

"We moved up to Glennallen from Chitina in '43, in August. My husband built a cabin in Glennallen. That old building by Moose Creek. Then we moved here because I inherited the land here. Vince Joy used to come up and have services in our house in Glennallen. They were still living at Copper Center. I had a good-sized living room. Wednesdays they used to come up and have meetings at our place.

"When I was little, the first time I saw Santa Claus I was about 7 years old – when I went to school. I got some presents. We had a program, a Christmas School pageant. It was nice.

"We were so poor. It was wartime. Sometimes we made things – food. Things that didn't cost so much. Then we moved up here, away from stores. We used to order things in catalogs. We had good times in Glennallen, though.

"Vince Joy had a meeting up at Santa Claus Lodge. We had a big meeting there. And then the church was built later on..."





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