Recently Cathy Sherman penned a nice article about Cordova icon Bob Korn. Bob passed away in 1972. He was such a generous benefactor of so many local youth activities that the city swimming pool, completed in 1974, was named The Bob Korn Memorial Swimming Pool.
The inscription on the dedication plaque reads “Honoring ‘Kernel’ Bob Korn, A Quiet Cordova Merchant Whose Joy In Life Was Giving Opportunities To Others.”
Bob was a close friend of our family. Sherman’s article mentions he operated an airport limo service. One time in the mid-50s he was taking us to the Mile 13 airport in his big black four-door Cadillac. We were headed to Seattle to visit mom’s family at a dairy farm near Snohomish, Washington. It was January and snowing like crazy — a whiteout.
Unexpectedly the car came to a quiet stop, with ptarmigan bouncing off the wind shield wipers.
Bob brightly observed “Why, look at that, Don. You should have brought your shot gun!”
We were off the road stuck in a snow bank. With dad driving the car in reverse, Bob calmly pushed us back on the road. Back then the “highway” was basically gravel on top of the old railroad grade, and not elevated at all, so going off the road in a snow storm evidently was not an uncommon experience.
Of course, dad was already an expert at getting stuck with Bob. When he first came to Cordova from Seward in the early 1930s, Bob introduced him to duck hunting out on the Delta, which back then was called the “flats.” In an open skiff powered by an Elto Outboard, Bob took him down the Eyak River and all the way across the flats to a place up Tiedeman Slough called the Haystack. The goal was geese, and that was the hotspot.
It ended up being a wild goose chase. Caught out on the flats below Alaganik, on a falling tide, the duo ended up stuck for a frosty starlit night. More than once, Dad told the story about shivering up in the bow while portly Bob was calmly snoring away, with his wool jacket partly unbuttoned.
Bob had a duck cabin located about a half mile to the east of the mouth of Eyak River, up Joe Reeve Slough. It was cleverly nicknamed the Korn Hole, and was the jumping off point for many a hunting adventure.
Back then, creating nicknames was a fine art. For example, there was Digger Davidson, who was the local undertaker. How about “Long Shorty,” a fisherman who was 6’10,” wore a Stetson, plus a patch over one eye. He cut the interior door openings in his house all the way to the ceilings, but bar patrons always found it highly entertaining to watch him trying to enter pubs throughout Main Street after having a few.
For some reason Bob Korn was nicknamed “Kernel” Korn. When I was a youngster, I always assumed he was an ex-officer in the military of “colonel” in rank. Only much later did I learn that amongst the freight he ordered for his bar was a couple large bags of cracked corn that somehow made it to the Korn Hole.
It seems that the outhouse behind his cabin faced a marsh popular for geese, and Bob liked to scatter the corn to attract the birds while enjoying the morning newspaper in what turned out to be a multipurpose blind.
Bob also had a cabin on an island in Eyak Lake about four miles out Power Creek Road, now the site of Lyle Kritchen’s place. During the railroad days Power Creek Road was the longest dirt road around, and there was a popular American Legion cabin across the river near the end of the road so one can imagine the traffic along the winding byway.
One could only surmise the source of the name of Korn’s water-bound retreat, popularly nicknamed Passion Island.
I do know that when mom and dad married in 1938, they spent their honeymoon at that very cabin, thanks to Bob Korn. After all these years my sister Sharon told me that mom confided to her that dad tried to cook breakfast for her that morning, but it wasn’t very good.
Many years later, in 1975, mom and dad repeated dad’s first Korn adventure by getting stuck on a sandbar overnight on the way to our cabin at Pete Dahl. Fortunately, it was in July so the weather wasn’t cold but the bugs were out in force.
The event was memorialized by of one of my all-time favorite entries in our cabin journal. Dad fried up steaks when they finally made it to the cabin and then wrote: “As a river runner I am a very good steak cooker.”
Evidently his cooking had improved, but his navigation skills remained very “Kornesque.”