Thursday, December 11, 2014

Vivian Eide Lewis 1929-2014

In late October this year, one of Harbor History Museum members asked me if I had seen Vivian Eide Lewis’ obituary.  I hadn’t and so a few weeks later she dropped a copy off for me.  For many, unless you knew her and/or her mother you probably would be unaware of the part her family place in the early Rosedale area and its growth.  But then again, if you knew about a few of the online exhibitions on the Harbor History Museum’s internet site, perhaps you read about Vera Eide under the selection of Women of the Peninsula.  Here is that piece.

Owner of Eide’s Store from 1946 to 1988

Vera Eide (1903 - 1997)

The road to Rosedale starts in downtown Gig Harbor and goes directly to the little store with the gas pumps. From the day John and Vera Eide opened the store in 1946, it has been the hub and the business district of the community.

Many people called her "Eide" without the "Mrs." New residents to the community continued the custom and were embarrassed to learn "Eide" wasn't her first name. Eide had sharp eyes and a sharp voice that scared children and terrified salesmen, until they found her out. Her brusque demeanor concealed a caring individual who looked after the whole neighborhood. Delivery people came to her for directions. She knew where everyone lived and the best way to get there.

Eide knew everything about everybody. She knew the senior citizens and those who were too ill to come to the store. They phoned in their orders and Eide personally delivered the groceries to their homes. She loved kids and kept a box of penny candy ready for them.

She hated daylight savings time and refused to change her clock. Tiring of customers commenting on the discrepancy between their time (daylight savings) and her time (standard) she posted a large sign on the clock saying, "EIDE'S TIME." The sign is still there.

Eide ran the store on her own after her husband died in 1970. In 1988, at the age of 85, Mrs. Eide sold her store and retired.  (Reproduced from Harbor History Museum On-Line Exhibitions)

Vera’s maiden name was Degenaar - her father was Dutch and her mother German. Vera’s children were all born in a small town, Watertown rather than Hayti where they lived, in South Dakota:  Nona Jean (1928), Darrell (1934), and Vivian (1929).  Hayti is still a small town; their 2012 population was estimated at 380.  Their father, John B. Eide was, as Vivian recalled in her oral history, manager of a grocery store in Hayti, a small farming community.  John’s mother, Marie Eide, lived in Arletta, and so in 1935 the family moved west to be with her.  She lived about half way between the waterfront and the Arletta store, and they family stayed with her for two years while her father built their house in Rosedale where they moved in later 1936, early 1937.

Vivian talks about being related to the Arne family as well as the Dulin family.  John Dulin owned a grocery store in Arletta and I found a picture of him in 1905 hauling feed at the MOHAI digital collections, University of Washington.   

Due to the Depression and the war in Europe, money was tight and so were jobs.  Vivian’s father did what most men did at that time, working at whatever jobs were available -WPA (Work Progress Administration) - PWA (Public Works Administration) programs started under FDR’s New Deal government agency designed to get people back into the workforce.  

Finally, in 1946 WWII ended, Nona Jean graduated from high school, Vivian was a junior and the family was able to open their grocery store.  Vivian was in the last class to graduate from Gig Harbor High School (Union High School) as Peninsula High School was completed and opened that fall.

Much of Vivian’s oral history surrounds the activities she and her siblings shared with their friends around the water, Rosedale School and park.  Her father, John, was always away from home trying to earn a livelihood for the family.  Although at one time he spent a long time at the VA hospital on American Lake.  He had fought in WWI and was badly wounded, and of course, because of that his health suffered.  Her mother works as janitor for the Rosedale School for several years.

But after graduation, Vivian spent most of her time working to save money for college and going to school.  As she puts it “I had a very checked college career.  I started at Washington State.  I was only there for one semester.  Then I went to UPS-CPS (University of Puget Sound-College of Puget Sound) for a semester.  Then I was out of school for a time.  My parents were not in favor of me going to school so I was having to work my way through and I didn’t have any more money.  I stopped school for a while to get some money so I could go back.”  Her sister, Nona Jean, had graduated from secretarial college and living in Seattle, so Vivian moved in with her.

Vivian then attended Olympic Junior College as did her friend from Gig Harbor, Yvonne Lewis.  By the time she had taken all the classes she could at Olympic Junior College, she transferred to University of Washington (UW).  It was there that she and Yvonne’s brother, Henry William (Bill) Lewis renewed and built on their high school acquaintance.  They were married in 1953 and lived in Seattle.  

Bill graduated from UW with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, and Vivian with a degree in Home Economics.  Following graduation, Bill work at UW in their Applied Physics Laboratory.  

Bill and Vivian had two children, a boy and a girl.  Irene became a nurse and her brother Bob (Robert) is a school teacher.

To learn even more about Vivian and Bill Lewis, you can stop in at the Harbor History Museum on Thursday mornings when the Research Room is open and ask to read their Oral Biographies.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

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