Thursday, May 30, 2013



"The schoolhouse was a one-room unpainted building just the right height for the pupils to play "Anti-i-over" at noon and recess. It was built by the beach on an old Indian camp ground. The children would often find beads and agate arrow heads. The number of pupils ranged from twenty to twenty-five, in grades from one to eight. It must have been a real challenge to the young teachers who were sent to the country schools for their first year of teaching.

Arletta Schoolhouse
 "Our drinking water came from a flowing creek on what later became known as the Warren place. It was an honor to be allowed to go for water. It took two to carry the big wooden bucket. We all drank from a long handled tin dipper which didn't worry us as germs had not been introduced to the innocent public.

"Most of the pupils walked from one to three miles. I walked about a mile and a half. I walked along the beach when the tide was low and along a cow trail when the tide was high. Two families lived on Fox Island. The older children could row across the channel, but when it was stormy their fathers brought and came for them.

"It must have been a poor school district because at first school was held only four or six months. Later it lengthened to nine months. We had to buy our own books and we carried our lunch in lard buckets - no wax paper.

"There wasn't a church at Arletta. One was built at Sylvan across on Fox Island and on Sunday morning the church bells sounded beautiful across the three miles of water to where I lived.  There was a church at Rosedale. No doubt, perhaps there are those who know the dates of building.

"Orchards produced an abundance of fruit and there were various kinds of berries that were picked and sent to Tacoma for sale. Pickers received 25 cents for a 24-box crate of strawberries or raspberries.

Orchards and farming provided income
"Mother Powell ran the Arletta post office for many years, also a small store. Salesmen or anyone passing through that area could always get meals and a night's lodging at the Powell home. About twice a year two Syrian peddlers with huge packs would come that way. They were most interesting and the opening of their packs was a never forgotten thrill. To my young eyes everything was beautiful, I was usually give a new hair ribbon. Small things were greatly appreciated by children when I was young.

"In the early part of the new century an unusual character appeared on the scene. A man from Missouri arrived one evening from Tacoma. His name was Ide Neff, bachelor about forty, tall, slender, with dark hair and eyes and a small dark bread. He was a soft voiced, quiet type of person and had written a small book wherein he referred to himself as "Nobody's darling." How or why he came to Arletta, I can't remember. The Powells let him stay at our house until he could get a small shack like home for himself on the far side of Horsehead Bay. For years he was the only inhabitant of that beautiful little bay. There was a log cabin on the opposite side from him where a family had lived before his arrival. It had fallen into disuse and bears would sometimes hole up there. Billy Singleton was the name of the man who built it.

"The name Horsehead Bay brings memories of Fourth of July picnics held at the head of the Bay. The first excitement of the Fourth was getting a new dress to wear to the picnic. The men would get together - clear out underbrush and build a long table. The women would really bake up a big feed. There would be games and a ball game - if the tide was out, fireworks in the evening. Later years we went to Tacoma to the big celebrations.

Arletta baseball team
"Christmas would be another big excitement. Often it was a community affair. There was a large building in the cove of what became the Shaw property.  A huge tree was set up in this building and candy and small gifts were given out to the children by a regular fat Santa Claus. There were small candles all over the tree. One Christmas Santa Claus caught on fire. It was so long ago I can't remember if he was badly burned.

"The first owners of what is now the Shaw home, were people named McCoy, then a poor family lived there for a while named Dow, then a couple named Warren bought it. No relation to the other Warrens, this man's name was Ed, he worked on the Panama Canal for a year or so when it was building. On one of his trips home, he brought marshmallows, the first we had seen.  He paid one dollar a pound for them which to us was exorbitant.

"In the early 1900's a colony of people considered "radical" settled near Lake Bay. They named their place "Home Colony."  It was rumored that they practiced "free love" and they were ostracized by the established local residents. We young people were warned against becoming acquainted with them. As time went on they became infiltrated with the I.W.W's - International Workers of the World.  The colony only lasted a few years then gradually dwindled away.

"On cold, stormy nights when I was fifteen or sixteen, a group of people consisting of about five families, arrived from Tacoma. They were from Colorado. I believe they were miners and had gone through financial difficulties there. They had few belongings and the men were in their shirt sleeves. The Powells took them in and kept them a few days until they made a start for themselves on Horsehead Bay. Ide Neff's shack was there and the old log cabin. They fixed up these two places for the families with the most children and started other houses. They were hard working honest people, anxious to better their lot. Alva McKinley was one of them and has, perhaps, told in his writings how and why they came to that particular location.

"The Ramsdales were another family of the early Hales Passage days. There were numerous children. They lived in a decrepit house next to the little schoolhouse.  Eventually, Mr. Lotz bought the house and property and lived there until his demise. The house has undergone much renovation and modernization and is now the attractive and comfortable home of Mrs. Grace Woodruff, his eldest daughter.
Arletta residents
"Honesty was the accepted way of life. Regardless of the financial status of anyone - money was scarce for everyone, theft just wasn't heard of.  Doors were never locked.  In times of trouble neighbors helped one another.  "Public Welfare" was never heard of.  There was independence and pride of achievement.

"The present generation is scornful of the expression, "The good old days," but there were many "good" things about the old days that will never come again.  I wouldn't want to go back to kerosene lamps, washboards and hauling water from a well with a pail, but I have many pleasant memories of childhood and growing up days at Arletta. I married and left there in 1912.

"I haven't traveled extensively, but have seen quite a bit of the United States - both East and West coasts. I am sure there is not a more beautiful region anywhere than the Bay Island country of Puget Sound."

This excellent remembrance was written by Aura May Mitchell. Unfortunately she did not date the document.  Even so, I believe if you close your eyes you will be able to see Arletta as it was at the turn of the 20th century.

NOTE: There was a footnote added to this document stating that the little schoolhouse next to the Ramsdale's home became Mrs. Woodruff's garage in 1905 when a new school was built near the Arletta crossroads across from the Arletta store. 

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