Thursday, March 22, 2018

Clarence John Fuchek

Clarence John Fuchek 

Once again we are attempting to reconstruct the little known story of a man during the early days of the 20th century.  I have a feeling that one of our readers will be able to fill in some of the background on this man.

Clarence’s father, John Edward,  was born in Czechoslovakia but his family immigrated and arrived in Wisconsin in 1875.  Little is known although I did not review all the US Census reports until his family tree on tells us he is living in Pierce County, Washington as a single man.  Since his occupation is listed as a stationary engineer, I am assuming (bad thing to do especially in history) that he is working with the railroad.  John, age 32, meets Rose Kocourek, age 18, another Czechoslovakian and they married in 1898.

The following year they are living in Boisfort and PeEll Precincts, Washington, where Clarence is born.  By 1903 the family has moved to Tacoma; and lived in the Oakland Addition on Center Street.  This is where his sister Alice Florence Marie is born in 1903.  The family grows with twin boys in 1905, a daughter in 1907 and again in 1909 and twin boys again 1909, a son in 1912, another son 1919 and a daughter in 1917.  (  
Fuchek Girls (Clarence's sisters)

Fuchek Children

Clarence recorded an oral history for the Gig Harbor Peninsula Historical Society on October 7th, 1987 and he died the following year at age 88.  The oral history jumps around not only in topic but also years and is somewhat difficult to follow.  But we’ll do our best to piece it together.  Wish us luck!

When Clarence was 22 he married Marigold Lenaeux, also 22, and in 1927 they moved to Gig Harbor, Washington.  In the very beginning in 1927 they lived several months near the Community Hall (Crescent Valley School/Community Hall/Masonic Temple/City of Gig Harbor Park).  They then moved to a small cabin along the shore of Puget Sound called Nesika.  (Nesika starts at the southside of the mouth of Gig Harbor’s harbor and goes along the shoreline behind Heron’s Key and Dolphins Reach; the cabins remaining use a street address of Craig Lane.)  Unfortunately they couldn’t live there for long because vandals would throw rocks at it, breaking the windows and stealing their things, making it impossible for them to live there.  

Then in 1929, Mitchell arranged it so Clarence was able to rent Joe Skansie’s house next to the Shell Station.  He was living there on June 10, 1929 when the Gig Harbor hull burned and sunk.

Clarence goes to work for Mitchell Skansie in the Skansie Shipyard, and worked on both the Skansonia and its twin sister, Defiance.  (The Skansonia is now a stationary wedding and event center on Lake Washington.  (  Mitchell then employs Clarence as purser on the ferries.  
Clarence Fuchek, Purser on Skansie Ferries

I was unable to find Marigold’s date of death, or if they divorced.  But in 1933, Clarence marries Frank Samuelson’s daughter, Violet Ethel (1908-1980).  
Anna, Violet and Flora with cousin at O. W. Samuelson Fram, Warren, WA about 1920

In 1938 construction started on the first Narrows Bridge and Clarence was supposed to get a job on the project.  The State contractors called him, he worked four days or possibly five days and then they fired him.  He was angry and you couldn’t blame him so he took a job at the Bremerton Naval Shipyard.   One of Mitchell Skansie’s employees or perhaps Mitchell himself called Clarence and asked that he come back to help work on the ferries.  They offered him $80 per month, more than he was making at the Naval Shipyard but Clarence refused.  He finally had a steady job, working the swing shift and the war was on.  

Then in 1945 with the war over, the Navy stopped the swing shift for the workers and put all the guys on day shift.  This was the perfect opportunity for Clarence to get back into music.

Oh, yes, we haven’t mentioned that Clarence was a drummer and worked on and off with numerous bands in Pierce County have we?  This is where finding information on the bands themselves becomes difficult.  But Clarence and Vic Kiefer, another local musician, put together an orchestra and played during 1948-1949.  Clarence’s last gig was New Years Eve 1949.  

But when and where did he start?  I don’t really know but most likely following his high school graduation.  He played, over the years, in Longbranch, Harmony Hall in Home, Washington, Lake Bay, Horseshoe Lake, Gig Harbor and Tacoma.  Clarence worked out of the Union Hall in Tacoma during his early band days for a while but didn’t like the way the Union Hall worked with the musicians.  Some of the band names he played with were:  Black Cats (4-piece dance band); Big Keeper (last place they played was Point Villa Hotel in Tacoma in 1949/50 on New Years Ice; and Silver Glide dances in Gig Harbor as well as Barn & Bell in Tacoma.

The principal players he played with were:  Vic Kiefer, saxophone; Garnet West who later became Garnet West Sheler, piano; Earl Webber, also a drummer; and Benny Dudary and his wife, Ruth.  Oh, let’s not forget his playing with Rueben Berkheimer. 
Rehn Motors "Chevy Dealership Dance, Point Fosdick
Unknown Instrument and Individual - Is this also Clarence?  Clarence was a drummer, but could he have also played this combination guitar and cello?

Clarence’s wife Violet Samuelson Fuchek died October 26, 1980 and her obituary indicates that she was a homemaker and member of the Peninsula Lutheran Church. Her family had purchased their property in Cromwell, Washington in 1892 and she had lived her entire life in the Gig Harbor area.  Clarence died December 13, 1988 at the Cottesmore Nursing Home.  He and Violet had lived in their property on Reid Road for over 47 years.  He asked that remembrances, if any, be made to the John Paul Jones Scholarship Fund.


  • Tacoma Public Library, Northwest Room
  • The Peninsula Gateway/Tacoma News Tribune
  • Harbor History Museum Research Files

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Emmett Hunt Diary - Wednesday December 11, 1889

Cool and cloudy with some rain  Took wood to yard this morn then lay by it till nearly noon then took scow back to woodpile and came to town and went on the beach to repair leaky cinders and bent rudder.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Emmett Hunt Diary - Wednesday December 4, 1889

Gloomy morn but very fine later with bright moonlight and a N. wind at night.  Lay around and wrote a letter while waiting for the scow and at 4:20 pm pulled out but the breeze becoming strong we anchored at east Tacoma.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Old Town Historic Doctor’s home still stands on harbor’s east shore by Gladys Para

Old Town
Historic Doctor’s home still stands on harbor’s east shore
by Gladys Para
Wednesday, October 9, 1985

When a man builds a house to shelter his late years and that house continues to get refuge to his descendants down to his grandson’s children, his house speaks to them for him.  His person can be felt even by those of his family who never met him.

Hiram Herbert Rust, M. D., built such a house in 1915 on the east shore of Gig Harbor’s head, and named it Rhododendron Terrace.  The house stands on today’s Randall Drive between Vernhardson and 89th, one of the few early homes remaining along the waterfront.

Dr. H. and Estella Rust home built in 1915. The Rusts returned from Enumclaw (1896-1915) and built this home (8912 Randall Dr. Nw) on property in East Gig Harbor. 
The home still needs railings on front porch and windows in front dormer. This area was called the sleeping porch.
The floor had a slight slant to front so when rains came, the water could run out from floor to roof.

It is owned by Mabel Wiggin Johnston, widow of Dr. Rust’s grandchild, Herbert B. Johnston.  The couple’s daughter, Arveida Johnston Livingston, Gig Harbor, has continued the family Fourth of July picnics her mother began long ago, when visiting with Wiggin relatives was an important weekend activity.  This year, 76 guests gathered at the old house where she grew up.

Like their father before them, Arveida and her three brothers grew up playing daily on the beach and attending Crescent Valley school.  And at home they were surrounded by the doctor’s old books and belongings and by respect for the family possessions.

There was much to remind them.  The families were savers and writers.  The diaries of great-grandparents Dr. Rust and his wife Estella, and of grandmother Etta Sheldon Johnston, Estella’s daughter, are filled with Gig Harbor names and instructive glimpses of the community’s lifestyle, covering the period 1891 through 1927.

Their family diaries were as familiar to the Johnston children as were their other playthings in the sloping upstairs closets, the content’s of Great Grandmother’s trunks and of Great-Grandfather’s many glass-doored bookcases.  Grandmother Etta gave away old furniture; their mother Mabel discarded all the dead medicine bottles she found when cleaning.  But no one, of the four generations that have lived in the house, has cast out the doctor’s top hat, his seashells and original landscapes, nor changed the character of the home that still shows his version of The Good Life in Gig Harbor.
Herbert B. Johnston, age 18, 1924

Rhododendron Terrace, named for the sweep of land around which Dr. Rust and patients drove their buggies to arrive at his office door, was his third house constructed on the beachfront acreage he purchased in 1891.  A year after William R. Rust arrived from Ellenburg Depot, New York, he brought his wife and two stepchildren, Fred and Etta Sheldon, and moved into a roomy but plain dwelling of a style then common to local farms.  

It stood on the site now owned by Tom Wagner until 1935, when neighbor John Wheeler tore it down for its lumber.  The second house, called “Wild Rose Cabin,” was used as a summer home by the Rusts during the years they were away developing business property in Enumclaw.  Daughter Etta and husband Arthur E. Johnston later rented it out for $3 cash to summer campers during the hard, slow years of the Depression.
Dr. H. H. Rust and family

It was his 1915-modern, three bedroom home, completed seven years before his death at age 85, that expressed Dr. Rust’s achievements and the tastes he had formed.  It had a kitchen that stretched from the back entry to the front of the house, where, glassed on three sides, it gave a view of the bay.  It had a second-story sleeping porch, closed only by canvas, and a Delco electric power plant.

The doctor was not wealthy, but comfortable, and was what was then called “a man of many parts.”  He pursued many private interests, yet moved in Progressive Party political circles and among local decision-makers.  When the new Community Hall was being built, and when school district matters needed attention, he was part of it.

The nine-foot-high living room, fashionably finished with dark woodwork and a local stone fireplace, was the evening setting for reading Shakespeare and listening to music from the piano and the “graphophone.”   At all times of the day there was visiting, with friends and patients who came calling.  The house, while not large, was made with rooms that could be closed off from the passages connecting them, allowing hallways and stair landings that today would be considered waste space by any builder.  However, the pleasure of ascending a staircase having two landings, with window-light from two levels and space enough to sit on the steps with a book, if one wished, perhaps offset the waste.

The old house, while retaining its own integrity, has been the scene of social shifts as well as change in the lives of its owners.  From a gracious doctor’s residence it became a farmhouse for the Arthur Johnston’ small dairy.  It was the final haven of son Herbert Johnston, a qualified Chief Engineer on local boats before his early death in 1939; and during Mabel Johnston’s long life there since, it has been the focal point for family members who love to return there.

The diaries arising out of this home place will be given by the family in duplicate form to the Peninsula Historical Society, where they will be available to researchers in local history.

Construction of waterfront home of Dr. and Mrs. Estelle Rust (now 8912 Randall Dr. NW). Built in 1914 named "Rhododendom Terrace". 
Dr. Rust on crutches = fell down elevator shaft at Washington Hardware n Tacoma Hardware while buying andirons for home.


The Peninsula Gateway  

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Emmett Hunt Diary - Wednesday November 27, 1889

Calm and mild - no sun - no rain  Steamed out to Clay Works with scow then up to Collyer Yard to find the scow still loading so came away and played the "seaside" a small joke on the way down - there toward piledriver from Old Town to draw and quiet satisfied.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Emmett Hunt Diary - Wednesday November 20, 1889

Rainy windy and billowy with hail thrown in PM  Pulled around to clay works this morn at 5 o'c. then steamed to Marble Ark Yard and lay till 1:45pm then towed the Anderson No. 7 with 90 M brick to town.  Bed at 8

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Christian Friedrich Pfundt 26 December 1848-27 May 1936

Christian Friedrich Pfundt
26 December 1848-27 May 1936

In our last blog there was a picture of people picnicking at Friedrich Pfundt property.  In the newspaper article it indicated that Pfundt was a fisherman.  Since the name Pfundt was not familiar to me, and I don’t recall any German fisherman listed in the archives I thought a little search was in order.  The the caption of the photo also mentioned that “Pfundt, his wife and five children lived at the mouth of Wollochet Bay on thew Cromwell side in 1888.  They moved away to Hood Canal very soon after.”

Unfortunately I was unable to find very much information regarding the family.  I did not find him listed on the 1880 or 1900 US census for greater Gig Harbor.  However in 1880 he and his family were living in Lick Mountain, Conway, Arkansas.  1900 the family was living in Dewatto, Mason County, Washington.  His occupation was that of farmer, not fisherman.  He may have fished for the family dinner table, but not, that I could find, commercially.

But, what else I did find follows:

Pfundt was born in M├╝ensingen, W├╝rttemberg, Deutschland (Germany) on the day after Christmas, 1848 to Andreas Phillip Pfundt and Anna Maria Pfundt.  He was baptized on the 31st of December, 1848.

He arrived in America in 1866, met and married Katherina Jennie on March 29, 1875 in St. Louis, Missouri.  It appears they had a son and a daughter while living in St. Louis before they moved to Lick Mountain in Arkansas February 23, 1880.  They had two more sons while living in Lick Mountain, then back to Missouri for the birth of another daughter.

According to a Family History on, at age 37 (1885-1889) he was living in Dewatto, Mason County, Washington.  It was there that he homesteaded 160 acres and built a small cabin.  This entry states “Fred rowed the length of the Canal to Elliot Bay, then up the White River to Kent to take a job picking hops.”  

He and Anna had three more daughters while still living in Dewatto.  By the time he was 72, he moved to Holly, in Kitsap County, Washington and it was there he died in May, 1936.

This doesn’t reveal much about the Pfundt family, but definitely more than I knew previously.

But, if we look at Pfundt’s son, Henry born in Lick Mountain, Arkansas in 1880, we discover that he indeed was a fisherman, in fact a Deep Sea Fisherman.  Henry’s record is quite confusing however, because on a Family History it states his death as March 15, 1962, at which time he would have been 82 years of age.  

BUT, The Seattle Times, Friday, March 16, 1962 published a news piece which reads:  Auto in California Kills Blaine Man  MADERA, Calif., March 16 —(U.P.I.)  Henry Pfundt, 31, of Blaine, Wash. was stuck by a car and killed yesterday while walking across U. U. 99, two miles north of here.  The California Highway Patrol said Pfundt was hit by an automobile driven by Walter T. Harris, 77, of Fresno, Officers said Harris was traveling at 60 m.p.h. when his vehicle struck Pfundt.  

It the age shown as 31 a misprint?  Or is it the correct age?  Also, it states he is from Blaine, however he lived in Olalla, Washington.  Why was he in Madera, California?  At 81 years of age, in 1962, he would not have still been fishing commercially.  Vera, Ruby and Cecil, his children all lived in Olalla as well.  

So, is the Seattle Times death article I found on about Christian Friedrich's son, Henry, or an unrelated different Pfundt family?  Hopefully someone will be able to tell us.

The Peninsula Gateway published an Obituary for Fred Henry Pfundt on September 8, 1993.  I believe that would have been Christian Friedrich's grandson, his father being Henry mentioned above.  The obituary reads:  Fred H. Pfundt, who lived in Sedro-Wooley, died August 29 in Bellingham at age of 81.  He was born on August 28, 1912, in Olalla, the son of Henry and Melvina Pfundt. By the time he was graduated from South Kitsap High School, he had already started on what would be his lifelong career as a commercial fisherman.  He owned and skippered boats in Washington and Alaska.  Pfundt married Eva Nielsen on July 23, 1937, on Lopez Island.  He is survived by his wife, Eva; two sons, Niel and Noel of Bellingham; a sister, Vera Culver of Tacoma; a brother, Cecil, of Southworth; and four grandchildren, Susan, Adam, Joel, and Barry of Bellingham.  At his request, a private family service was to be held.
  • The Peninsula Gateway

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.