Thursday, January 30, 2014

Robert Crawford Shipyard

When you walk along the working waterfront in Gig Harbor do you ever think about all those who helped make it a working waterfront?  Most of the families involved were living on the westside or at the head of the harbor, and their names are more familiar.  But some of those people actually lived on the east side of the harbor and one of those men was Robert Crawford.  He came to Gig Harbor in 1918 when he moved from Tacoma to Sunrise Beach in Gig Harbor.  Robert Crawford, a Quebecois, started his Gig Harbor operations in Sunrise Beach, but later moved further in , but continued to stay on the eastside.

The Robert Crawford Shipyard was alive and well in Gig Harbor between 1918 and 1931 and for a small operations such as his shipyard, building three seiner a year was all he could manage which he did in 1929. But this lesser known shipbuilder built the following fishing boats between 1918 and 1931:  

  • Abe, 44 foot Seiner, 1918
  • Advocator, 65 foot Seiner, 1930, owner - Lee Makovich and Ronald Finkbonner
  • Caroline, 50 foot Seiner, 1931, owner - J. M. Eliot
  • Emblem, 50 foot Seiner, 1929, owner - Pete and Nick Marinkovich purchased by Nancy Jerkovich in the early 1990s and renamed it “Legend”
  • Emperor, 68 foot Seiner, 1927, owner -Skaponi and Naterlin
  • Flying Fish,  50 foot Seiner, 1929, owner - Frank Beritich and J. Gamulin, lated purchased by Nick Jurlin and renamed Nicole Marie
  • Memento, 56 (50) foot Seiner, 1929, owner - Marco Markovich and Mary Vukuvich
  • Reliance, 65 foot Seiner, 1930, owner - Frank Semitovich
  • Rolling Wave, 44 foot Seiner, 1931, Robert Crawford (spec)

Robert first became known as a master builder of clinker built skiffs.  Note: Clinker built (also known as lapstrake)[1] is a method of boat building where the edges of hull planks overlap, called a "land" or "landing." In craft of any size planks are also joined end to end into a strake. The technique developed in northern Europe and was successfully used by the Vikings and typical for the Hanseatic cog.  (

And it was due to word getting around about his skills evidenced in these skiffs that fishermen asked him to build their seiners and other fishing boats.  There are many in the maritime world that felt his boats were more advanced and were of superior designs to many of the other seiners being built at that time.

In 1914, before moving to Gig Harbor, Robert built a 43-foot tug, known as Foss #12, and entered into service in 1914.  Foss #12 was the first vessel that Foss had built solely for towing.  It was so efficient and handled so well that Foss also used #12 as a steamer assist vessel and it became the area’s first motorized fireboat.  Foss #12 was in active service from 1914 until 1966.

But now let’s talk about those boats listed above that played a role in Gig Harbor’s shipbuilding history.  His first commercial venture in Gig Harbor was Abe, built for James Jones. It was launched right off the beach at Sunrise Beach where he lived.  It was powered by a 12 hp. gasoline engine, and the boat was operated for 22 years until it hit a rock and sank on November 24, 1940 in Oysterville, Washington.

The Emperor was powered by a 3-cylinder 100 hp Atlas Imperial engine (we have one in the Marine Gallery at the Harbor History Museum).  This boat had dual operations:  one as a herring seiner in Alaska and second, as a sardine seiner along the California coast.  Unfortunately it caught fire and was totaled off the coast of Santa Barbara, California.

The Emblem had a smaller 50 hp Frisco Standard gasoline engine.  Eventually Pete and Nick Marinkovich sold the boat to the Borovinas family in Everett.  However in 1993/1994, the Emblem was returned to Gig Harbor when Nancy Jerkovich bought it.  Nancy renamed the boat Legend.  Nancy tells me that after she sold it, it was involved in a fire and was a total loss.  Putting on my detective hat I was able to discovered that the fire was not that long ago.  On July 11, 2011 KOMO reported that the Legend still based in Gig Harbor had run aground and caught fire.  The US Coast Guard reported that the boat was beached on Gravina Island, that the five people aboard had been rescued and taken to a nearby fishing boat.  Unfortunately they lost 2000 pounds of salmon; but the good news was that although there was 700 gallons of diesel on board only a minor oil sheen was found at the scene.

Robert Crawford built for a fisherman was in 1929 was the Flying Fish and he put a 65 hp Atlas Imperial engine in it.  Nick A. Jurlin bought the boat from Frank Beritich and J. Gamulin and renamed it Nicole Marie.
"Nicole Marie"

The most innovative seiners being built by any of the shipbuilders in 1930 were two sister ships that Robert Crawford built for Frank Semetovich (Reliance) and Lee Makovich, Sr. (Advocator).  These two boats were built for strength and craftsmanship, and the design allowed enough room that there could be a workable galley allowing the crew room to cook and sit to enjoy their meals.  Previously in the galleys there was only room for a stove and cooking area.  Instead of being sharp at the bow and rounded narrow sterns, Crawford’s were beamy from the bow all the way to the stern, where the beam tapered just a bit to make a squared stern with rounded corners.  This allowed fore room for the turntable and net.  It also prevented the boat from sinking as far into the water once the net and skiff were on board.  Both boats were equipped with 90 hp 4-cylinder Atlas Imperial; although much later it was suggested that because of the extra beam a 135 hp Atlas Imperial might have been a better choice of engine.  When you realize that these boats only cost $14,860 ($6,000 for the engine alone) going to the bigger engine would have increased the cost dramatically during the Depression.  Both boats were still operating in 1994.

The last boat Robert Crawford built was the Rolling Wave which he built for himself and as a speculation.  It was much smaller, only 44 feet and powered by a 30 hp Palmer gasoline engine.  Unfortunately she came to a sad end on April 2, 1953 when she burned at the Thomas Basin in Ketchikan.  After this Robert Crawford continued to do some repair work, but gradually faded into the sunset.

And so my trail ends, with Robert Crawford living in Gig Harbor and two of his sons, Lincoln and Robert, Jr. following in his footsteps as ship builders; his youngest son William was only 15 and still in school.

NOTE:  Thanks to Lee Makovich for his article on Robert Crawford Shipyard in The Fishermen’s News, September 1994

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Emmett Hunt's Diary January 31, 1883

Little snow in morning but stopped and we had a pretty fair day.  Cut wood and wood up for a touring trip tomorrow perhaps.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Native Plants of the Peninsula and Their Uses through History

May I introduce to you to another wonderful presentation at the December Tea and Tour Presentation:  Dr. Dave Martin

Native Plants of the Peninsula and Their Uses through History
By Dr. Dave Martin, December 19, 2013, Tea & Tour at the Harbor History Museum

Greetings!   We live in a wonderful plant-filled environment here in the Pacific Northwest.  Plants have served us well to clothe, feed, house, and medicate us over the years.  A description of the early use of native plants tells us a wonderful story of what it may have been like without a supermarket or clothes store nearby.    The first human dwellers of this region were without such amenities.  So what did they do to survive, given the trees, shrubs, berries, and herbs found nearby?   

Native Americans, like the Puyallup, Chehalis, Quileute, Skokomish, and other tribes have told their stories to ethnobotanists who study the traditional uses of plants by cultural groups.  Such information is available in publications like “Ethnobotany of Western Washington,” by Erna Gunther, and “Native American Food Plants,” by Daniel Moerman.  These books along with my experience with recipes of plant use has helped serve as a guide for my talk today. 

Gig Harbor and the surrounding Peninsula were first inhabited by Native Americans, primarily the Puyallup Tribe, who also passed this information about plant use to early settlers who depended on the natural world to supply them with food and shelter.  You see wonderful evidence of several uses in our museum as you look at woven baskets, early utensils, and canoes.  Let us take a look at a few of the most common plants that you probably have already encountered in your daily life.

Sword fern is common on the floor of our forests and has starch-rich root bodies known as rhizomes that can serve as food.  The root bodies were roasted then peeled to eat.  The leaves were used by coastal Indians as a protective layer in baskets and for bedding and flooring.  Young Indian boys would play a game with the fronds by holding one end and taking the opposite hand to pull off each “petal” on the stem while holding their breath to show their bravery and manhood. 

Maidenhair fern is a delicate beauty with slender black stems that are used along with its roots for basket weaving.  You can look for these examples in the small baskets along the hall display in the museum. 

Licorice fern is appropriately named for the anise taste of its rhizome (root body) which is imbedded in moss along the bark of bigleaf maple trees.  You can chew on the rhizome, which will be bitter at first then give way to a sweet taste, just as our early Americans did.  They used this for colds and sore throats too.  

Horsetail may be a weed in your yard, but to the Native Americans and settlers, this plant was very useful as an emery cloth or scouring rush for polishing wood or cleaning pots and pans.  The fine silica particles in the stem make it an ideal fine-grit sander.  The fertile heads of horsetail were used by some tribes to eradicate diarrhea.

Huckleberries are the prima donna of the edible plant world.  We have twelve species in the northwest that are found in the lowlands to mountains.  Two kinds in our sea level woods are the red huckleberry and evergreen huckleberry, both a delight to the taste buds.  A written account of Anna Jerisich, a Vancouver Island Indian married to Sam Jerisich, describes her gathering the many wild berries and drying the excess for use later in the year.  

Salmonberries & Thimbleberries are found in damper areas of our forests and often streamside.  They provided a mainstay for the Native Americans who made pemmican, a dried mix of berries, often eaten with salmon.  Settlers followed the example of what berries to eat when seeing these abundant and valuable shrubs in fruit.  The young stems were often used as a steamed vegetable as well. 

Kinnikinnick is a trailing plant with small evergreen leaves and bright red berries that is found circumpolar as a food source for the Inuit to Laplanders to our Northwest Indians.  The berries store well and are often found in winter when other berries are not seen.  The Chehalis, Quinault, and Clallam peoples smoked the leaves as a tobacco substitute. 

Willow trees are common along our waterways and were important for basketry and string from the bark.  Harpoon lines were made from the stringy bark by the Snohomish and Quinault.  Rough furniture, like chairs and stools, was woven with the pliable branches by early settlers.  The inner bark and leaves of willow have salicylic acid in them, a natural form of aspirin, and of course, used to treat pain and headache.

Red alder trees are common as fast growing stems in cutover of burned areas.  It is the favored wood for smoking salmon.  The wood has been used to make spoons, bowls, and other implements.  The bark was used to dye materials red to orange.  

Western or Pacific yew is a scruffy small tree with flat needles that grows well in shade.  Its red berries (arils) are toxic as well are the leaves and bark.  Yet it is a source of cancer medicine, taxol.  The strong and pliable wood of the branches were used for making bows, clubs, paddles, wedges, and pegs.

Skunk cabbage is a beautiful plant often seen in standing water in early spring.  The roots were used as a good starch source and the leaves are used as a drying liner for baskets and drying racks, a “wax paper,” for drying berries and salmon.  The leaves are also used as a poultice over open sores or areas of the body that ache.  There is a Cathlamet legend about how the salmon was introduced to streams and rivers of the Northwest by the skunk cabbage people.  The salmon were so happy to find the clear waters of the NW that they gave a bright yellow cape and a war club to the skunk cabbage that you see today. 

Western redcedar was the most important tree to the Northwest Indians.   It provided planks for shelter, logs for canoes, poles for totems, boards for containers, plates, utensils, paddles, arrow shafts, harpoons and bentwood boxes, and, bark and roots for clothing.  The bark was stripped from the standing tree beaten into fine strands and used along with root threads to weave mats, baskets, and clothing.  The peaked rain hat was a good object made from the woven bark.   Many Indian groups revered the redcedar so much that they believed if they could stand next to it with their back touching the trunk, they could derive great strength from it.  

Ocean spray shrubs have very straight and strong wood, ideal for arrow shafts, consequently its other common names of arrow wood and ironwood.  The stems were heated over fire, and then polished with horsetail stems to be made into digging sticks, harpoon shafts, and arrows.   The dry fruit cluster was boiled in water to treat diarrhea. 

Nettle or stinging nettle is a plant you don’t want to touch because of the microscopic spines that break on contact and release formic acid that causes the rash.  Makah Indians would rub this plant on their bodies to keep them awake at night when seal hunting.  The Squaxin crushed the leaves and put them in water to give to a woman having trouble with childbirth, “to scare the baby out.”  The plant is made harmless after a short time in boiling water and is used as a good source of nutrients.  It is rich in protein.  The stems are fibrous and have been used to make fishing line and fine string. 

Oregon grape is an evergreen plant with spiny pinnate leaves, a cluster of yellow flowers, and dark blue berries in summer.   The young leaves, flowers and berries were eaten by Native Americans; the berries being acrid were often mixed with other berries.  The shredded bark of roots and stems produces a yellow dye. 

Indian plum is a favorite fruit of birds and is difficult to find as a mature fruit because birds beat you to the punch.  It is a small drupe that is blue when ripe and was eaten by most western Washington Indians.  The bark was boiled and used as a medicine for purgative to free the bowels. 

Poison hemlock is a plant to know because of its extreme toxicity and is found easily along roadways, fields, and ditches.  It has killed people and livestock with even small doses.  So in this world of edible wild plants it is one to consider.  It is tall up to 3 7 feet tall when full grown, purple blotches on the stem, and lacy leaves.  It resembles a larger version of Queen Anne’s Lace which has no purple blotches and has a somewhat hairy stem.

Wild rose certainly is a nice flower to see in the landscape.  Its leaves and petals have been used as a tea by settlers.  The fruit which is a rose “hip” is rich in vitamin C and has long been eaten by Native Americans.  The Samish combine the hip with dried salmon eggs for a meal.   A fine jelly or wine can be made from the hips. 

Fireweed is common on cutover land and is a showy red to pink flower on a vertical stem.   The fluffy seeds have been used to stuff pads and blankets by the Haida and Salish.  The inner stem has been a food source and the outer stem as a fiber for cord.

Salal is a very common evergreen shrub desired by florists today.  The “hairy” berries were prized food and eaten by most Indian groups and settlers.  They can be substituted for blueberries in recipes.  The Quileute and Makah dried and pulverized the leaves for smoking.  

Cattail is a very important plant with flat long leaves ideal for weaving.  Mats and baskets woven from the leaves served useful for bedding, ground cover, and carrying packs respectively.  An example can be seen in the hallway of the museum.  The roots and fresh stems, when peeled were used as a food source. 

Sitka spruce is a coastal tree with bluish, sharp pointed needle-like leaves.  The pitch and buds were chewed for sore throats and coughs by coastal Indians who also wove baskets and tight rain hats from the smaller peeled roots.  Spruce pitch was also used to caulk the canoes.  Ceremonial dances were carried on with the sharp leaved branches to scare away the evil spirits. 

Western hemlock bark was used to make a reddish dye on spears, fish nets, and paddles to preserve the wood, and also to attract salmon.  The boiled bark has long been used by Indians and settlers for tanning hide.  The Quinault hollowed out a small section of a hemlock log and place objects in it to manipulate it with the desire to cause a storm by magic. 

Douglas-fir is the most common tree of the Peninsula region and has been the source of early prosperity for the settlers and lumbermen.  The wood is strong, and with care long lasting.  It has been used in ship building as the primary wood.  The pitch was put on sores by Cowlitz, Quinault, and Skagit.  The leaves were used as a tonic tea, which is now known to be a good source of vitamin C.  

So with that explanation, enjoy your tea and try some Doug-fir tea, and look for evidence in museum of Native American uses of plants! 
© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Emmett Hunt's Diary Wednesday January 24, 1883

Pleasant day.  Cut wood and wooded, clean out boiler, .... it full of water.  water boat & fire a ... today.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

George Borgen

For many years when a resident needed hardware, or lumber,  building advice, or maybe just a good laugh and smile they would find themselves at the intersection of Harborview Drive and North Harborview Drive.  There they would find themselves at Borgen Building Supply located what is now know as Donkey Creek Park, across the street from the Peninsula Light Company (now Harbor History Museum).
Borgen's Building Supply, Inc.

George Borgen and his wife, Patricia, purchased the existing lumber company there in the mid-60s after a long and successful career in the construction industry.

George was born in 1926 in Baker, Oregon, and he was always proud to call Baker his hometown. I can see why, because it appears quite similar to Gig Harbor in its small town historic atmosphere. He went through school in Baker and attended Oregon State College.  George was elected Citizen of the Year 1955 by the Baker Oregon Junior Chamber of Commerce.  Just one of the many honors he received during his long career of volunteerism and community involvement.  During his college years, he paid his way by building houses.  After graduation and home building, he managed he managed a lumber supply company for 13 years.  He was also worked as a design engineer for Powder River Inc., a steel company that manufactured and built ranch equipment.  He designed cattle chutes for Carnation Farms and various rodeo grounds. While working for the steel company he had to travel extensively and felt that his family life was more meaningful.  So George moved the family to Alaska and George returned to work he knew and loved.  Once again he took over the management of a lumber yard.  He also spent more time perfecting his carpentry skills which he loved.  But as his children neared school age he started to worry that perhaps Alaska wash’t the best place to raise a family.  He also wanted to own his own business.  

During World War II George served in the US Navy, and then during the Korean Conflict  he served in the US Army.  (I believe the US Military has now changed the name to Korean War however when my father served there during the early ’50s it was referred to as a military conflict.)  George was a Second Lieutenant and he coordinated very successful educational and rehabilitation programs for the military prisoners housed at the federal penitentiary at Lompac, California.   To quote George  “We were actually educating people, they weren’t just putting in time.”

While in Alaska, at his request, his salesmen began to keep an eye out for a small lumber yard for him to purchase.  One of his salesmen told him about a small yard in Gig Harbor.  George had never heard of our town.  But when he and his wife, Patricia, came down to check out the lumber yard and the town, it was love at first sight.  

George sold everything, bought the lumber yard and started the business from scratch.  He worried about being able to support his wife and five children and about being able to build up the business.  But like any new business after the first couple years struggling things started picking up.   To his benefit, George was a skilled manager and leader which helped him as he became familiar with Gig Harbor.

And Gig Harbor was very taken with George.  He was a citizen who helped his new community in oh so many ways.  These are just a few of George’s activities on behalf of our town: Gig Harbor Councilman, Peninsula Light Company Board President, Gig Harbor Land Use Planning, Peninsula School District - too many committees to list, Greater Gig Harbor Business Association President, Gig Harbor Lions Club (1994 Annual Roast Honoree) , Gig Harbor Peninsula Area Chamber of Commerce (1993 Citizen of the Year), Gig Harbor Rotary (1996 Citizen of the Year), and Volunteer Teacher.  George taught a woodworking class at one of Gig Harbor’s middle schools claiming he was a frustrated shop teacher.  I know I have missed several other areas of George’s commitment to Gig Harbor.
Peninsula Gateway Photo/Kevin Parks, October  20, 1993

But one that can never be forgotten was his sense of humor, and his wanting to make people smile.  He was a humorist - I think of Will Rogers and Mark Twain - but George was right up there at the top filled with mirth and merriment.  And then there were his jokes.  As Glen Stenbak said “He was just kind of a family to everybody.  He wasn’t just a businessman or just a person or just George, he was like Dad or an uncle or whatever.”  And most of all, George was generous, and especially with his time.

He even founded a club that had over 2000 members in 1995:  The Norwegian Army Knife Club.  This wasn’t a pricey club - membership only required the purchase of a $6.50 knife.  What was so unique about this particular knife?  Well, according to the story, George was away and one of the employees agreed to accept a shipment of knives.  When George returned and saw them, he knew instinctively they would never be about to sell the knives.  So George put on his marketing cap and formed the Norwegian Army Knife Club.
Peninsula Gateway File Photo, December 4, 1996

Another one was the “free latex thinner, quantities unlimited” and the poor man totally taken in by the possibility of getting something for nothing.  The poor guy showed up with a pickup full of bottles to get his free thinner.  And when George took out back of the store and handed him a water hose, he didn’t catch on that you thin latex paint with water; he got angry.  

Or, the forks - no one every knew whether they would suddenly find a spoon in their pocket or not when having lunch with George.  It was just one of his favorite ways of getting a laugh out of someone - sneaking a spoon in a jacket pocket of the unknowing unaware.  But Del Stutz got even with him on the spoon tricks.  Del was at a store having a special on used silverware so he bought 8-10 spoons, drilled holes in them, and tied them on a piece of string.  George was supposed to be in a community parade that was coming up ; Del slipped the spoons around George’s neck telling him that it was his badge for the parade.  George, true to his nature, proudly wore the spoon necklace in the parade and later into a restaurant.   One of the waitresses got angry thinking he had stolen the spoons and then ruining them by drilling holes in them.  I’m sure before it was over, both George and the waitress were laughing about it.

Take a moment to think of about George Borgen the next time, and every time, you find yourself driving along Borgen Boulevard.  It’ll bring a smile to your face!

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Emmett Hunt's Diary Wednesday January 17, 1883

Fearful night last night.  Terrific N. wind and very cold for here.  Did 0.  At night I put a hot brick-bat into the bed as a foot warmer & set the bed on fire making a hole large enough to crawl thru before discovered.  So much for experience.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Gig Harbor Machine Works and Howard William Cox

Gig Harbor has been very lucky throughout their history to have so many talented, accomplished and innovative people living in our midst.  We made acquaintance with Alfred Erickson back ion August 2, 2012.  As a blacksmith he came up with the design and manufactured boring bit and tools that were used by ship builders during the 1940 war years up and down the west coast of the United States.

Howard Cox is another Gig Harbor resident that used his skills as a machinist to benefit not only the fishing and boat building industry but also small farmers and berry growers from 1942 forward. These two men are a reminder of how important formal or informal vocational arts and apprenticeships are in any fields. 
Howard W. Cox, June 1988

Howard was born during turbulent time - the rumors, conflicts and hostilities had erupted into World War I by the time of his birth in April 1916.  The conflicts continued until 1918 and then were followed by the forgotten depression of 1920-21
which became the Great Depression during the remainder of the 1920s into the early 1930s.  
Howard was fortunate through because his father worked for the Northern Pacific Railroad and was able to get him a four-year Machinist Apprenticeship in 1936 of 298 hours.  However the Depression only allowed him to work 2 weeks each month; as a result it took 5 1/2 years to finish the program.  During his last 3 months of apprenticeship he worked on the Round House in Lewsitown, Montana. 

Finishing his apprenticeship Howard returned to Tacoma and was able to get a job at the Coast Iron Machine Works where he worked for 3 years.  While working there he met an older man, John McConaghy,  from Gig Harbor and they had worked together.  John told him there was a machine shop in Gig Harbor for sale and asked Howard if he would like to partner and buy it.  Howard decided to check it out and after looking at the shop decided that between the two of them they could take over the Galbraith lease on the Gig Harbor Machine Works which had about 6 months remaining.  It was August, the war still on-going, and the fishing boats were back for the winter.  There wasn’t enough work for the two of them, so by year-end, Howard bought John out.  In March when the lease was up, Howard purchased the property from  Mrs. Fleuss.  Daddy O’s Skateboard shop is currently located in the  machine shop building and the small house is a rental.  

Howard had been classified 4A and deferred from military service because of his work on the fishing boats.  But all this changed when he bought the business and the fishing boats left for the season.  He had to report to Seattle to take the test for the military; he had a baby on the way, had been reclassified One A.  He passed the Army test.  As he walked down Second Avenue in Seattle he noticed the Marine Maritime Service had posted a sign “Engineers Wanted”.  Howard had had railroad experience on steam locomotives as well as a course in steam engineering at Washington State College.  He decided to stop, took their test and passed that too.  Marine Maritime Service superseded the Army.  The Commander told him a group of men were leaving on the following Saturday and wanted to know if he would be available to go then.  Howard said no, he had to close the machine shop, take his wife to Tacoma to her parents and wouldn’t have enough time for such a speedy departure.  He agreed to make the next trip 2 weeks later.  But before those 2 weeks were up, the atom bomb was dropped in Japan and that ended his military career.

Suddenly it was spring and he got very busy with the fishing boats, and worked on them until the very end of his life.  He also started designing and building small tractors to be used on farms 10 to 15 acres in size.  He built about 25 or 26 of the tractors.  Since both fishing and farming started in the spring, he was really pressed and so for a while he had about 6 men working for him.  He also designed and built many anchor and deck winches, masts, booms and davits - machinery on the boats necessary to catch fish.
The Peninsula Gateway August 8, 1979

The Fisherman's News, February 1, 1962
In around 1950 he started fishing in the summer months; the rest of the year he was just too busy.  The first year he went with Walt Crosby, skipper of “Mirian”; the “Mirian” sunk that year after fall fishing off the San Juan Islands.  It hid a log or other submerged object too close the the shore.  They were unable to salvage it.

Next, he fished with Johnny Ross on “Home II” and one time when they were out they hit some rocks in the heavy pea-soup fog.  Unfortunately the guys in Anacortes shipyard couldn’t help them.  Johnny’s crew had to work on the keel and Howard brought the propeller shaft home to Gig Harbor and straightened it.  He got a new propeller made in Seattle and “Home II” was back fishing in 3 days.  Howard fished on and off for 25 years with different skippers - Don Gilich one year and several years with Frank Ivanovich on the “Equator”.  He also fished with Nick Tarabochia on the “Shenandoah” when Nick ran the boat for Tony Janovich.

In the machine shop Howard made and installed small engines, made masts, booms and winches (anchor winches, tow bit winches) and basically anything that made the boat go.  In the late 60s he even did all the refrigeration work on a boat for John Brescovich.  When it was finished, John asked Howard why didn’t he go to Alaska with them.  He went and they worked the boat as a tender and crab boat.  He did that twice.

In 1979, he and his wife sold Gig Harbor Machine Shop and the property to Mrs. Luella McGraw.  Mrs. McGraw didn’t want any of the contents so Howard built a new shop building on property he owned at 118th.  After getting it set up and a trip to California, he started operating again. But one day while working he suddenly went blind in his right eye.  Howard decided that was a clear sign he should sell the business.  He sold the shop to Lee Thrall, a California transplant, and worked with Lee for a month showing him all the equipment, how to operate and basically how to run the business.  Lee didn’t work very long, only until January. Howard could see the it wasn’t working out; the fishermen were so dissatisfied that they told Howard they wouldn’t give him any more work unless Lee left.  Howard searched again for someone to take over the business and Mike and Karen Killian purchased the business in 1988.  Mike and Karen continue to own and operate the business today.
The Peninsula State Bank - Peninsula Industry at Work
There is so much more to Howard Cox’s story, but let’s end it for now knowing that he contributed much to our community.  Howard was a member of the International Machinist & Aerospace Workers, District Lodge 160; the Gig Harbor Fishermen’s Civic Club; and a 35 year member of Gig Harbor Grange #445.  He also served on Pierce County’s Noxious Weed Control Board for 9 years.  These are just a few of Howard’s involvement in the community around him.
© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Emmett Hunt's Diary Wednesday January 10, 1883

Beautiful sunny day.  Unloaded our scow load of hay, took scow home, gave the girls a ride on the way home, I .... up the boat & packed some steam joints cut some stove wood, chaffed away the evening & now to bed.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Frances Borgen Carlson

Last week we learned quite a bit about Joe Gotchy and refreshed our memory of the first Narrows Bridge known throughout the country and beyond as Galloping Gertie.  So I thought it might be interesting to have a first hand account of the collapse by the last person to cross the bridge and pay the toll on that fateful day, November 7, 1940.

What amazes me about Frances Borgen Carlson’s recollection of that day is her total lack of fear.  Her statement in an oral interview was “And when I came down that morning, it was galloping the way it had always done just up and down.  It looked exciting.  I thought it was a lot like the opening night.  We walked over that time.”
Photogragher James Bashford, 1940 Narrows Bridge Opening

Now, be honest, would you have been afraid or a little bit nervous?  Would you have wanted to try to cross over to the other side?  I know, it is hard to anticipate a person’s reaction to a catastrophic incident but I seriously doubt that the majority were as calm as Frances.  Many people to this day are afraid to cross the bridge when there are severe winds; perhaps not as many as when we only had one span, but the fear still exists for some.

But as hinted at above, Frances’ claim to fame on that day (November 7, 1940) was according to her,  that she was the last person to cross over to Tacoma and pay the toll for using the bridge.  No one else crossed.  However according to WSDOT Weird Facts others challenge Frances:  Elbert Swinney driver for Golden Rule Bakery, Dr. Jess W. Reed & UW Engineering Professor F. Bert Farquharson.  The Gig Harbor Stage was 5 minutes behind Frances and on schedule but he didn’t try crossing.  About that time all traffic stopped. A delivery truck loaded with furniture that would have been behind her too  hesitated and the truck tipped over.  As Frances said “It didn’t get off but that wasn’t publicized too much because they said a lady was with a man she shouldn’t have been with.”  The Tacoma News Tribune interviewed WSDOT at the time of the collapse and they indicated that it was a truck from Rapid Transfer Co. and its passengers were Ruby Jacox and Walter Hagen.

Frances was the mail carrier from Gig Harbor; it was her job was to take the mail from Gig Harbor into Tacoma’s main post office and pick up all the mail for delivery in Gig Harbor.  She always crossed the bridge at 9:30 AM.  And, of course, she was on schedule this morning as usual.  Frances recalled that the deck started twisting when she reached the middle of the bridge.  That’s when she began to become concerned.  She thought the vibrations were more severe and stronger than ever before.  It was becoming very difficult for her to steer … her wheels kept hitting the curb although she was able to stay in her lane, not crossing over into the oncoming lane.

There was another car on the bridge that morning traveling the opposite direction towards Gig Harbor.  Frances didn’t notice it until she was at the toll booth.  It was still moving and was approximately a fourth of the way to the first pier headed west.  She did not recall whose car it was.

Frances never saw the bridge fall.  She was, as mentioned previously, Gig Harbor’s mail carrier and she wanted to stay on schedule.  But imagine, the bridge is vibrating so much that any other cars would disappear from sight - it was like you were riding a roller coaster.  Surprisingly, the wind wasn’t that strong, at 7:30 AM it measured 38 MPH and 2 hours later when Frances crossed is was clocked at 42 MPH.  But near the west end the fishermen insisted it was much stronger.  By 11:10 AM, it was all over!  (South-wind events, due to funneling effects, can reach up to 100 mph in confined areas such as the Tacoma Narrows.)
Part of the bridge left after collapse From David Brenenan

Leonard Coatsworth, an editor with the Tacoma News Tribune was on his way to the family’s summer cottage on the Peninsula.  He had just passed the EastTower when the roadway tilted sideways and threw his car against the curb.  He climbed through an open window leaving the car on the bridge. But his daughter’s black spaniel “Tubby” was in the back seat and he could not get Tubby out of the car no matter what he tried. Frances saw Leonard crawling on all fours to get off the bridge because of its swaying;  he could’t maintain his balance walking. Tubby was the only loss of life in the collapse, no human life was lost.  According to one of the many weird facts on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Mr. Coatsworth had trouble getting reimbursed for the loss of his car.  He was paid $364.40 for the loss of the car’s contents but nothing for the car itself until over 6 months had passed and he wrote directly to the State Toll Bridge Authority.  Finally the WSTBA sent him a check in the amount of $450 for his car.  

As a dedicated employee of the US Postal Service, Frances continued on her way to drop off the mail at the main post office, and then met her mother.  She needed to wait for a ferry before returning home to delivery Gig Harbor’s mail.  She drove to Taylor Bay Ferry on the Nisqually Flats which took her to Longbranch and then drove home finally arriving around 5:30/6:00 PM.

Washington State DOT’s weir facts regarding the Tacoma Narrows Bridge includes this fact #5:  The name “Galloping Gertie” was first used for the Wheeling Bridge.  Charles Ellet built this 900-ft long suspension bridge in 1849 over the Ohio River at Wheeling, West Virginia.  Back then, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world.  It collapsed in a windstorm in May 1854.  On the Tacoma Narrows Bridge many of the most experienced workmen had followed bridge construction all over the country.  Called “boomers”, they formed the nucleus of the crew.  Many of them came from families where building bridges was almost a tradition.  Possibly one of their grandfathers had worked on the Wheeling Bridge.  Many had come to the Narrows project from the newly completed Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  Interestly, the Golden Gate Bridge is abbreviated “G.G.” and it had a tendency to “bounce” in the wind when it was first finished.  In early May 1940, when workers were building forms and laying concrete for the roadway, the Narrows Bridge began its soon-famous ripple.  It was probably one of the “boomers” who dubbed the bouncing span “Galloping Gertie”.  Local residents picked up the nickname and it stuck.”

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Emmett Hunt's Diary Wednesday January 3, 1883

Snow 1/2 inch this morning & still threatening.  Air cold & raw.  Find all our bolts are failures so use a thumbscrew instead & wood up as we have some scowing to do tomorrow.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.