780 AM | 96.1 FM | “Yours for Western Alaska”

Alumni Memories: First Impressions, by Betsy Brennan

KNOM Radio Mission stands on the shoulders of all the volunteers that have come before. For one, two or three years they give of their time and talents to enrich the airwaves and the mission of KNOM Radio. As they move on, volunteers take with them a wealth of experiences, memories, and relationships.

Former volunteer Betsy Brennan shares memories of her first few days in Nome:

In August, it will be 24 years since I first arrived in Nome to work at KNOM as a volunteer. Some of the current KNOM volunteers were only a few years old then. Perhaps one or two were not even born at that time! Ok, enough dwelling on that fact…

I have vivid memories of my arrival into Nome and the first few days that followed. It was a windy, rainy, foggy day in Western Alaska. As the pilots prepared to land the airplane, they told us over the intercom that we may have to turn around and fly back to Anchorage. The person sitting next to me turned and said “Welcome to Nome!” As we made the approach, it felt like I was on a rollercoaster ride. I looked out the windows trying to get a first glimpse of what Nome looked like. I did not see the runway until we were just about to touchdown. Not much was visible of town or the general area because of the fog. My first impression of Nome was flat and grey. I thought “what have I gotten myself into for the next year?”

I awoke the next day to a totally different scenario. The sun was out, I could see mountains in the distance, and there was a huge ocean in front of town. All this beauty had been hidden the night before due to the fog and rain. The tundra was green with the beginning of fall colors. The current volunteers took us on a drive out of town to see the countryside the first few days. I discovered low bush blueberries everywhere we walked. We picked handful of berries and ate them on the spot. There were small birds, ducks and geese around every bend of the small rivers we came upon. We spotted a moose in the distance. There were a few unwanted mosquitoes, but the light breeze kept them at bay for the most part. We walked the beach and found sea glass.

My greatest surprise came from walking around town and having total strangers greet me. They looked me in the eye, smiled and said hi. I grew up on the East Coast and this was not an experience I had before.

Nome and my work at KNOM took me by surprise that first week. And what a wonderful surprise it has been. Almost 24 years later, I continue to live in Nome. There have been a few changes: life long friends, marriage, kids and dogs just to name a few. Six years ago, I found myself once again working at KNOM, this time part time in the business office.

While I was a volunteer for 2 years, I tended to focus on the immediate radio work I needed to do and did not think as much about the presence the station had in the day to day life of those that live in Western Alaska. After my volunteer time was over, I was a listener and enjoyed the inspiration, entertainment and information KNOM provided. I feel I have come full circle now that I once again work at KNOM. I talk to our donors on the phone when they call and read the notes they send with their monthly donation. It is amazing to see the commitment and dedication to our mission from so many that will never hear our radio signal. I realize this mission has always been a part of the reason KNOM will hold a special place in my heart.     — Betsy Brennan