Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Day of Giving Thanks

Has the fourth Thursday of November become lost amidst the the rabid rush with the commercialization of the holiday season?  Black Friday, as the day after Thanksgiving Day is now encroaching on Thanksgiving Day.  Some merchants being fined if they choose to close on the Day of Giving Thanks, otherwise known as Thanksgiving, rather that to remain open.  Employees are also upset over the move to open on Thanksgiving as well Black Friday.   

So, maybe a look back at the historical significant of the day would be helpful.  Truly, it only became a federal holiday on October 3, 1863 with Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation asking Americans to observe this, the last Thursday in November, as a day of thanksgiving. 

President Lincoln acted on the establishment of a specific day for the celebration of thanksgiving following receipt of a letter from Sarah J. Hale, Editress of the “Lady’s Book”.  Ms. Hale had been working for 15 years towards recognition of a permanent day for the entire country to hold their annual day of thanksgiving.

And so, President Lincoln wrote in Proclamation No. 9, October 3, 1863 “I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”  (Library of Congress)

How was this day of thanks and praise celebrated and how did it gain acceptance throughout the country before, and after, the President’s action?

In 18th century and the early part of the 19th century it appears that the only universal civic holidays celebrated by everyone except the Native Americans and the enslaved Black African Americans were Independence Day (July 4) and Washington’s birthday (February 22).  Although Presidents Washington, Adams and Madison declared days of Thanksgiving during their presidencies with the day differing from year to year and it was not declared annually.  (Jefferson did not declare Thanksgiving Day.)

Some people felt discomfort in changing the holiday to a day of national observation because the primary way of celebration was — eating.  They felt “a day supposed to promote praise and thanksgiving to the Almighty to be spent on gluttony was bothersome”.  Imagine what those people would think of including an entire day of football and shopping thrown in with the food and drink.

While we are on the topic of food, what do you think would be on the tables?  Fowl such as ducks, geese, pigeons, possibly swans and wild turkeys (not domesticated ones like today); venison; fish and seafood like oysters and lobsters if they lived near the ocean; corn for porridge and grits (think polenta) and wild berries.  Depending upon the family’s wealth there might also be Madeira, a fortified wine, or beer, or homemade rum made from molasses.  Of course, as the country grew and prospered, the menu start to include dishes from the various homelands of the immigrants.  It also changed by included new vegetables and fruits.  While some of the dishes still appear, new ones come and some disappear.  

In  the days preceding 1939 following the President’s annually declaration of the Thanksgiving Proclamation, most governors followed suit proclaiming the same day to be celebrated in their state.  But in 1939, November had five Thursdays and FDR declared the fourth Thursday as Thanksgiving rather than the fifth or last Thursday.  Not all accepted this change to Lincoln’s original proclamation so some states celebrated both days as Thanksgiving, some (23) went with FDR and some (22) did not.  To end the confusion both houses of the US Congress passed a joint resolution on October 6, 1941 that beginning in 1942 Thanksgiving would be the last Thursday of November But the Senate passed an amendment in December 1941 amending the resolution requiring that Thanksgiving be observed annually on the fourth Thursday of November (which is the last Thursday in some years).  The amendment was passed and on December 26, 1941 FDR signed the bill.

Tradition plays a big part in celebrations and Thanksgiving is no exception.  We no longer celebrate for three days but the foods still tend to include some, if not all, of the foods associated with that first celebration observed by the Pilgrims.  Various Fall vegetables especially squash and pumpkin,  berries (cranberries), potatoes both sweet and white, and turkey, although today’s turkeys are much larger and fatter than the wild turkeys of the 17th century.  The nearest today’s turkeys come to the original ones would still be a wild turkey, or perhaps a heritage turkey, still fatter, but closer in a gamy taste.
Photo of Pheasants "an hour of shooting on the hills around the Powell house" in Arletta (HHM Collections)

Tradition enters the picture again with the practice of giving thanks.  Thanksgiving was originally founded as a religious observation for the community to thank God for a common purpose.  Today that tradition varies from attendance at a religious services, saying a prayer before the meal or having each diner express a specific reason why or what they are thankful for during the year.  

The early celebration changed in 1920 when the NFL (National Football League) was formed.  It began the tradition of football games on Thanksgiving.  For colleges and universities, Thanksgiving games represent the last game of their season; here in Washington it is the Apple Cup when eastern Washington (WSU) meets western Washington (UW).  Other sports also are involved in games on Thanksgiving.  There is a annual Turkey Trot held in many communities throughout the country.  Gig Harbor’ s Turkey Trot starts at 8 AM on November 27, 2014, and includes 5K, 10K runs and a 5K walk.  This year, all proceeds are going to FISH food bank, a local organization called Food Backpacks 4 Kids, the Bischoff food bank, and local high school scholarships.

However you celebrate, or don’t, celebrate the fourth Thursday of November, remember to give thanks.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Emmett Hunt's diary entry Wednesday, December 12, 1883

Quite rainy & disagreeable so took a run over to Henderson & spent the day with Mr. B

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Freeman “Free” Sutherland (1901-1988)

When talking about Gig Harbor’s history most people talk about the farms, the merchants and  doctors or the fishermen. But when logging is mentioned, it is most likely revolving about the early settlers clearing their own property.  Occasionally, commercial logging comes up, and then just as likely quickly forgotten. 

The Gig Harbor Harbor History Museum has an exhibit of early logging equipment on display but it the mural of Adolph Schmel resting in the undercut of a giant fir tree during a logging operation in Rosedale c. 1915 that catch most people’s eye.  Schmel’s axe and springboard lay nearby.
HHM Permanent Gallery-Logging

But what about the life the men lived who were involved in commercial logging?  They spent days, weeks and sometimes month gone from their families.  

Gladys Para wrote her “Old Town” feature piece in the September 25, 1985 on one such man, Freeman “Free” Sutherland.  The subtitle was “Logger recalls unfair labor practices”.  After reading Free’s oral history and Gladys’ article I thought perhaps you too might enjoy hearing a crusty old man’s history of a different place and a different time in Gig Harbor’s history.  And, no doubt about it, it was a hard life.

Free Sutherland was born in Clark County, Wisconsin on August 17, 1901.  His mother’s brother, Frederick McIntyre had moved west and were living in Rosedale.  So Free’s parents Walter and Frona Sutherland packed up the family and came out to Rosedale too sometime around 1908-9.  Free was the youngest of 7 children, and once here, started school at age 8 and leaving after he finished the eighth grade.  It was not uncommon for people to left school after graduating from the eighth grade.  This was especially true in the 19-teens when Europe was being ravaged in WWI, and then following the US joining with their allies ion April 6, 1917, 2 1/2 years after the start of the war.

At age 15 he left home for Hoquiam where he went to work for Polson Logging Company at Camp III. right above Humptulips in Aberdeen.  He worked for Polson for 5 years and 2 months.  There were 110 men in the camp.  He doesn’t mention his superintendent’s name but he says that the superintendent basically acted as his financial adviser handling his paycheck by sending $75 to his mother and father each month, putting the rest in the bank for him, and when Free came home for Christmas the superintendent kept $3 for himself.  (Polson Logging Company would eventually become the best established logging barons in the Hoquiam area, owning two sawmills, a shingle mill, two mansions (one for each brother), 12 logging camps and 100 miles of logging railroad.)
Logs being hoisted onto coney engine in back (HHM Collection)

Oxen team pulling logs out of forest (HHM Collection)

Free’s oral history sates he was in Aberdeen when the Wooblies (IWW) stuck on behalf the Forest and Lumber Workers.  But the strike occurred on March 4, 1912 when Free was only 11 years old.  However there might have still been so ramifications from the strike 4 years later when he did arrive.  I can’t be clear on that.

The IWW locals formed in 1907 in Tacoma, Aberdeen, Hoquiam, Ballard, North Bend, Vancouver and in Portland and Astoria, Oregon.  THE AWO (Agricultural Workers Organization) operated in Eastern Washington and the loggers and lumber industries there joined the AWO. They called the loggers “timber beasts” and they wanted to bring about improvements to the way the loggers lived and were treated.  As it was explained to a federal commission:  

Now the logger, he walks out in the woods and he looks around at a wilderness of trees.  He works hard in there.  And what does he get?  He gets wages that are below the dead line, I say dead line in wages means below the line necessary to keep him alive…They are being murdered on the installment plan….

“They breathe bad air in the camps.  That ruins their lungs.  They eat bad food.  That ruins their stomachs.  The foul conditions shorten their lives and makes their short lives miserable.  It rains a great deal and they work in the rain…When they come in from they camps they are wet…They go into a dark barn, not as good as where the horses are, and the only place to dry their clothes is around the hot stove… Those in the top bunk suffer from the heat; those far away, from the cold…Business is business.  And so the logger, he finds that he is nothing but a living machine.”  (Dubofsky, 128)

The IWW had asked for $2.50 per day rather than what the men were getting before the strike; but they only got a 50 cent increase in wages.  Hours were cut from 12 hours a day to 10 hours a day and 8 men to a bunkhouse rather than 20.  Most likely you are familiar with the picture of Millville’s ‘loggers row’ showing housing for the loggers.  But most loggers didn’t have housing like that; most lived in ramshackled buildings resembling slums, sleeping on the floor, bug infested, unhygienic inside and out.   But did the men ever work overtime?  According to Free, “Oh, hell yes, yes.  … I’d get a big one.  I didn’t want to … (cut?) full at that time of night, but I did. …I worked as long as 12 hours - yes.”  
iPhone picture of old newspaper photos

Four men with crosscut saws, axes & springboards (HHM Collection-Norman Kimbal collection)

Free logged solid old growth, at a time when no one would accept a second growth.  The old growth covered the forest from McCormick Woods to Point Richmond, went to Sunrise Beach and came and went out to Rosedale.  Free talks about the time he and his partner, Lawrence, were logging together on the hills around Gig Harbor.  They worked for 13 months “Furnished our own tools, done our own filing.  I can do my own filing and so can he.  It didn’t cost a lot for the files.  $83 - $83 (a) month for 13 months.”  (That works out to $2.767 per day or approx. $33/day for a 12 hour hard labor).  “One day me and Lawrence got mad and quit.” (Their pay was supposed to be determined by the estimated board feet they fell)  They refused their paycheck and Free tells the boss that he was going to have a check scaler come out and check the figures on the scale sheet against their pay.  There was an argument naturally which ended when Free and Lawrence agreed to $200 each.  The boss had told them to keep quiet about the event, and so the first thing Free did the next morning was to go up to the camp and showed every one of the other guys the check for $200.

He worked for Peninsula Light Company in his later years and then at age 60 the telephone company hired him where he worked until age 68.  Free went on to log until he was 72 years old, when he topped his last tree on Vashon Island.  

To truly understand Free Sutherland and the other men who worked in logging and the lumber industry you need to stop in the Harbor History Museum and ask to read his oral history, and/or look through some of our books on early logging.  Just a few other names you may run across in the early days of logging are Julius Spadoni, Schmel, Kimball, Fenton, Rawls, Heine, Larson, and many others.  Yes, there are sections where his words were missed, and people not clearly identified, but to read his story in his own words - it really opens your eyes to the dangers encountered in some people’s everyday life.  Those people who helped establish Gig Harbor as the best big little town around.
Books to review (HHM Research Room)

And, if you get a chance, check out one the the few annual logging show still operating.  Buckley, WA still holds a log show as does Deming (near Bellingham) WA.  Vaughn used to but I’m not sure they still do.  But check them out - it took a lot of athletic skill and strength (and know-how) to be a successful logger.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Emmett Hunt's diary entry Wednesday, December 5, 1883

Fair but breezy again.  After some busting around got up steam took our boat, lumber in tow & came home however encountered a strong head wind a weak tide & our water ran low so had to leave our tow below Pt. Fosdick.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Harbor History Museum Audio Tour

It feels like it is time to visit Harbor History Museum, especially if you haven’t been in a while. Don’t you agree? The Peninsula Art League 2014 Open Juried Art Show is closing on Saturday, November 15th.  There are some fantastic works hanging in the show and no one should be without art in their liife, even if the art is only hanging on a museum wall.

And yes, there are the history artifacts showcasing the rich, multilayer history of the greater Gig Harbor community and the settlers that made our greater community what it is today in the permanent gallery..  You might be the wrong age to attend school for a day in Midway School, but you’re never to old to visit it.

There are times when you visit museums, and this visit may be one of those times, when you want to wander through the exhibits by yourself taking your time.  You don’t need or don’t want a docent to explain an exhibit; you want to take it all in so that you can make your own interpretation of what you are seeing and understanding.  And when you see that particular early resident you want to hear a little bit more about them than what is written on the marker.  At these times, you might pick up a museum catalogue, if there is one  at the desk, when you pay admission to refer to as you wander around.  Other times, you may or may not ask the docent on duty.  

You would like a more detail explanation than what is written on the exhibit panel but you want to experience all the exhibits at your own pace, by yourself.  Maybe one exhibit jogs your memory and you want to backtrack to a previous exhibit to see the connection again.  Or you want to experience it  without having someone talking to you or distracting you from your own thoughts.  Or you just automatically hate guided tours.   You are not alone, museum audience research shows us that guided tours are not a preferred form of interpretation for many visitors.  Too many guided tours perhaps too structured, or too passionate, based upon the individual guide.  The visitor or guest value solitary and quiet communal experiences above those experienced with a guide.

Well, the Harbor History Museum, like other major museums, or history museums, or cultural centers at the National Parks Service, has an option available for you.  

Antenna Audio, the world’s leading producer of interpretative audio tours, awarded the Harbor History Museum the equipment when they emerged winner out of 20 participants, of a contest.  A great start for the new museum facility which opened in September 2010.

Jennifer Kilmer, then Executive Director, put it best when she said:  “Being interactive is very important for what we want the museum to be.  Hearing things make it come to life for people, with different voices and music.”

The actual audio program was written, recorded and edited by staff and volunteers:  Linda, Richard, and David McCowen, Karen Haas, Nicole Langlow and Warren Belfany.  Chris Ballasiotes donated a studio and his time to record a large portion of the audio.  You’re not hearing only one voice, but instead several different voices.  You also have the option to listen to the narrative more than once; you can control the volume and because the audio is directed to the ear, its easier to hear and you’re not as apt to be distracted by others in the museum..    

Gig Harbor and the Gig Harbor Peninsula’s history is fascinating with a wonderful mix of people, stories, events and neighborhoods like Cromwell, Arletta, Artondale, Raft Island, as well as Gig Harbor itself. 

The tour starts with the Native Americans who were here first, who helped the first explorers and settlers, and then move one to the communities, the industries, the settlers themselves.  Or, to put it another way, it takes you on a tour of past centuries to the present, providing interesting facts and features, heritage and history.  But if you prefer you can start with the present and go backwards in history.  The choice is yours.

Next time you visit, why not ask the front desk for the audio player; they are available with the cost of admission.  Whether you are a first-time visitor, or a frequent visitor, you might enjoy listening to the narratives.  You never know what new things about Gig Harbor you’ll learn!  Things you can share from your point of view with others.

  • Museum Audience Insight
  • Peninsula Gateway article on Antenna Audio's gift of Interpretative Audio Tours
  • Museum 2.0

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Emmett Hunt's diary entry Wednesday, November 28, 1883

Windy & cool but better than usual.  Wooded Baby, pulled a cow out the mud.  Shot a duck, etc.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Gig Harbor Lions Club

It’s really amazing when you think about the men and women of the early Gig Harbor community and the various ways they work to make this a successful and prosperous community.  They saw into the future and what could/would happen with hard work and dedication.  Many of the organizations and clubs they started are still in operation today and carrying on the work of those earl visionaries.  

What do you do with your old glass frames when you purchase a new set of glasses?  Most of us give them to the Lions Clubs, who then distribute them to the needy, the visually impaired both a home and abroad.  And, we think of the Lions and its members whenever we walked up or down on the Finholm View Climb on North Harborview Drive.  We pay attention whenever they are mentioned in the local papers about some new community project.  But what do we really know about them unless we are members or have family members or friends who are active in the club?

I thought I would share a few things I learned about  the organization.

In 1917, a 38-year old insurance agent in Chicago, Melvin Jones, came up with the idea of community service.  Was it based on his own experience in the Boy Scouts and their ideals as he was growing up?  (His father was a US Army captain who commanded a group of scouts.)  Perhaps.  Melvin joined the insurance industry after completing his education, and in 1913 formed his own agency.  As most businessmen do, he joined the local businessmen’s luncheon group to network and grow his business.  But he soon discovered that the club was mostly interested in their club’s financial success and had no other outside interests.  Melvin saw little growth and limited lifetime for the group.

He had other ideas, and decided to present it to the group to see how they accepted his idea: “what if these men who are successful because of their drive, intelligence and ambition, were to put their talents to work improving their communities?”  He issued invitations not only to the members of his group, but to all the men’s clubs in Chicago, presented his idea, and lay the groundwork for a new organization.  Lions Clubs International was born on June 7, 1917.  The name Lions was chosen by secret ballot:  Melvin believe the lion stood for strength, courage, fidelity and vital action.  (If you check out the definition, you’ll see the dictionary agrees.)  He left his insurance agency and devoted himself to promoting and leading the new organization, and to attracting new like-minded civic men to join.  His personal code drove him - “You can’t get very far until you start doing something for someone else”.

In three years the Lions became international with the first club outside the United States being established in Canada, and then in 1927, in Mexico.

Remember those glasses we give to the Lions Clubs?  Well, in 1925 Helen Keller appeared at the annual convention held in Cedar Point, Ohio.  She issued a challenge to the members, and they accepted.  The American Foundation for the Blind was only four years old in 1925.  And, Ms. Keller’s challenge:  The opportunity I bring to you, Lions, is this:  To foster and sponsor the work of the American Foundation for the Blind.  Will you not help me hasten the day when there shall be no preventable blindness; no little deaf, blind child untaught; no blind man or woman unaided?  I appeal to you Lions, you who have your sight, your hearing, you who are strong and brave and kind.  Will you not constitute yourselves Knights of the Blind in this crusade against darkness?”  The Lions accepted Ms. Keller’s challenge, which they keep to this day.

Well, the news of this organization traveled west, and those men and women seeking to improve their community heard the cry, and learned of all the good being accomplished by the Lions.  Bremerton, Washington established a club in 1925, and on September 3, 1931, the Gig Harbor Lions Club was established in our community.  The first meeting place was the community hall at the intersection go North Harborview and Vernhardson, now the Masonic Hall building.
Capture of various News Articles on the Lions Club from Peninsula Gateway via iPhone

Many of the prominent men in our community were at that meeting and joined.  Who were these men?  Most of the names are familiar but not all so with a little help of my friends and the internet (and of course the Research Room) I thought I would shine a little light on them and their main occupations again.

  • Reuben H. Berkheimer owner of Berkheimer’s Hardware Store and also had a 6-piece orchestra - installed as Charter President at that first meeting
  • Charles O. Austin owner of sawmill and lumber company
  • William Obendorfer owned Peninsula Dry Goods
  • Dr. C. I. Drummond was a general practitioner
  • P. H. Peyran owner of Hollycroft Farms
  • Hugo Finholm (son of Leander) part-owner of  Island  Empire Telephone & Telegraph Company
  • Leander Finholm owed of Inland Island Telephone & Telegraph Company
  • Fred M. Perkins owner of Perkins Funeral Home
  • Mitchell Skansie was President of WA Navigation Co., Skansie Ferry Co. and Skansie Dry Dock and Ship Building Co.
  • Pete C. Hilseth assumed management of the Peninsula Hotel in 1927 and in 1935 opened Peninsula Hotel Barbershop 
  • H. R. Thurston was Judge in Gig Harbor but also owner of Pioneer Electric Company and strong backer and organizer in starting the Peninsula Light Company
  • Dr. A. S. Monzingo was a general practitioner and owner of Monzingo Hospital
  • Bert Uddenberg was an automobile dealer and insurance agent as well as a specialist in fire fighting equipment
  • Harold E. Roby owner of Gig Harbor Motors  
  • J. C. (Jack) Payne owner of “Super Service Garage”
  • Captain Ernest N. Peacock was a ship captain
  • D. E. Edwards owner of Gig Harbor Garage 
  • R. A. Everson  (have not yet discovered)
  • I. A. Rust owned General Repair Shop and then The Tinker Shop with S. C. McLean
  • Albert H. Fleuss owner of Gig Harbor Machine Works, sold to Harold Cox
  • H. D. Graves owner of Graves Cash Grocery 
  • George Theis (have not yet discovered)
  • A. L. Hopkins was postmaster
  • Edward New was principal at Union High School and Lincoln Grade School as well as owner of Edward New Insurance

You have to remember that Gig Harbor wasn’t yet incorporated so these men had a big job ahead of them in improving, governing and growing the area which was to be incorporated as the Town of Gig Harbor in the following 15 years.  The country was just emerging from the 1929 Depression and it was easy to raise funds needed for some of their projects. Lest you think all they concentrated on in those early days were the sight-impaired, you’re wrong. Check out the following:

It was their moral and physical support used in promoting ideas such as in 1936 trying to get a bridge built across Puget Sound to more easily connect Gig Harbor to Tacoma and points east.  

When north Gig Harbor burned in 1944 they worked to spearhead a fire district to replace the early efforts of a all-volunteer fire department.  The first fire station was built on land owned and donated by Bert Uddenberg behind his dealership where the Gig Harbor Yacht Club is currently located.  Bert also arranged for the first fire truck delivery in 1946 - a 1945 Ford of course.

In July 1946 three members of the Lions Club were appointed to the first City Council:  John Finholm, Keith Uddenberg and Charles Austin who were joined by Tony Stanich (grocer), and Emmet Ross (fisherman).  The new city treasurer was Lion Leander Finholm and the City Judge Lion H. R. Thurston.

According to Gig Harbor LionsClub First Fifty Years History, their largest project for the early 1950s was to level the athletic fields for Peninsula High School.  They also built many bus shelters throughout the district for the children.

But by the late 50s Bert Uddenberg, Jr. says “…the Club took a vote to disband.  …The vote was 4 to 4 but John Insel had not voted and he was asked by Leander Finholm to weigh in.  John broke the tie by voting to continue….”

The 1960s brought a new, much larger project to their attention.  Again, as Bert Uddenberg, Jr. recalls “…the Lions were painting the old town library (you can see a plat for the library at 9104 North Harborview at foot of stairs leading up to Morso’s) across from the Shorline Restaurant and the paint brushes nearly went right through the wood siding.  Frank Van Gorder declared ‘we are going to build a new library.’”  As difficult as fund raising is, the Lions were up to the task.  Land was donated by Dr. Chuck and Ruth Bogue, Reed Hunt put up $1,000 with a matching grant from Weyerhaeuser, and then of course the community participated too by making donations of all sizes.  In 1962, the new library on Judson Street was dedicated and remained there until 1981 when Pierce County Library forced a move out of the town limits.  The building now housing the Gig Harbor Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.    

The 1990s expanded their humanitarian programs while never overlooking their contributions to the local schools needs, disaster education and traditional community services.  November is National Diabetes Awareness month, and you’ll find the Lions continuing their fund raising for this disease and educating the general public about it.

In 2010 The Gig Harbor Lions Club donated their original charter to the Harbor History Museum with the names of all those original members, and most rare of all, the signature of Melvin Jones, the founder of the Lions Clubs International.  
iPhone picture of the Peninsula Gateway presentation of the Lions Club Original Charter to the Harbor History Museum in Gig Harbor, Washington


© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Emmett Hunt's diary entry Wednesday, November 21, 1883

Too breezy again & cool.  wooded our Babe then worked some on window frames of our long neglected house.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.