Lola Harvey was Kodiak; is Kodiak; will forever be Kodiak to me.
They say that once you visit Alaska you can truly never fully leave. I can certainly say that Kodiak has had affect on me — and I knew it would be my pleasant fate the moment I was introduced to Lola Harvey.
I met her soon after coming on board as the KICVB’s new executive director in 1987. Physically I towered over the feisty, diminutive, kamlaika-clad tour guide, but in reality I joined the ranks of countless others who humbly stood in her ebullient glow. I learned much about Kodiak from this walking, laughing, ever-pleasant historian of the Emerald Isle. More than any other fledging tourism operation on the island at that time, she waved the Kodiak banner proudly — always the hostess extraordinaire whenever we conducted fam’ trips for visiting press, big shots in the industry, as well as every client on her sought-after town tours.
One especially vivid picture I have of her is from our celebration, in 1992, of the bicentennial of the founding of Kodiak. It was a grand weeklong affair culminating in a huge celebration at one of the buildings at the city dock.
The afternoon of the final day I was to meet Lola outside the Baranov Museum. She drove up behind the wheel of her Island Terrific Tours van and swung the door open. Before she let one passenger exit, she took advantage of one last chance to grab the attention of her obligingly captive audience. She reached into a bag on the dash and, with the aplomb of a carnival barker, she keyed the microphone.
“Don’t forget to buy your bicentennial buttons,” she said as she reached without pause down into a box behind her seat and pulled out a huge volume. “I also have autographed copies of my book, Derevnia’s Daughters,” she shouted. And then faster than a gunslinger can draw his Colt, she whipped out a CD from a carton at her feet, “My nephew’s band is playing in the program this afternoon, I have his CD for sale, too!” she said waving the disc over her head as she glanced into the rearview mirror.
She made an impression on my stepdaughter, too. We had arranged to take Lola to the airport and bring her touring van back into town. On the return, just as I rounded Dead Man’s Curve, Angelique asked if she could “conduct” a tour. I handed her the microphone and continued on into town.
“And on your right,” she began, “is the Kalakala, it’s a big ferry boat from Seattle. That building at the other end of the bay is the BioDry plant. … and that smell? That’s the smell of money!” — all delivered in her best Lola Harvey imitation from what she had remembered from tagging along on several tours.
Ah, yes, Lola Harvey was a grand lady, the Grand Dame of Kodiak and a good friend. She is firmly in my most fondest memories of The Rock. She definitely added a never-ending shine to the gem we all know and love as the Emerald Isle.