Thursday, January 8, 2015

Gig Harbor Sand & Gravel Co.

Someone asked me a few weeks ago why there had never been a blog written on the Gig Harbor Sand & Gravel Co.  I personally knew nothing about the firm as it was tone long before I arrived in Gig Harbor back in 1977.  I checked through the research room at the Harbor History Museum, and haven’t been able to discover anything.  I’ve check the internet and again, came up empty handed.  I checked the Peninsula Gateway’s back issues and was able to find a few advertisements for the company.
Very crude drawing representing Gig Harbor Sand & Gravel Co. based upon John Platt's description of operations

But some of the limited information I discovered is below.  

We’ll start with Col. George A. McDonald’s obituary because it contains the most history I have been able to find so far, and then we will work our way backwards.

Col. George A. McDonald was attending the University of Southern California when his education was delayed while he served in the U. S. Army during World War II.  Following his discharge from the service as a colonel, he continued his education at USC and graduated.  He taught for a while at a junior college.  After teaching, he became a builder, and on May 9, 1952, opened his business, Gig Harbor Sand & Gravel Co. 
Peninsula Gateway - First advertisement for Gig Harbor Sand & Gravel Co. under Col. GeorgeA. McDonald

As his first advertisement stated:  “Now open for Business.  Gig Harbor Sand & Gravel Company, Ready Mix Concrete - Washed Sand and Gravel,  Prompt service in meeting the needs of a growing community.  Located Opposite Uddenberg Motors - Phone 4240”.

While running the business he also returned to school earning a master’s degree in Business Administration at the University of Puget Sound.
Peninsula Gateway advertisement

By July 4, 1952, his advertisement read:  “Concrete  Do you want concrete that will last?  Gig Harbor Sand & Gravel Co. uses only the best of materials and equipment.  We take pride in supply our customers with highest quality Concrete.  Prompt service.  Crushed rock for driveways.  Immediate Delivery.  Phone 4240.  Building Blocks, Pier Blocks, Brick, sewer pipe, drain tile, reinforced steel, cement, lime.”

Then, in 1969, he was reactive by the U. S. Army as a full colonel and played an important role in restricting the post-Vietnam army.

In 1978, he retired and he and his wife, Aggie, remained active in various community activities.  Col. McDonald was active in the Gig Harbor Lions Club and in the Reserve Officers Association.

He died on June 2, 1993 at age 71, and is buried at Haven of Rest.  He was survived by his wife, Aggie.

Gig Harbor Sand & Gravel Company was located at 3711 Harborview Drive (currently Eddon Park) and was quite extensive, housing not only their offices, but also an equipment shop (which the Gig Harbor Fire Department used on occasion when their own shop was unavailable).  And, of course he had the crusher on site as well. 

Well, as I said at the beginning, because I was unable to find information other than a few advertisements and Col. McDonald’s obituary, we would start there.

In checking with the Northwest Room of the Tacoma Public Library, they too came up empty handed with one exception.  The only item they could locate in their vast files were three pictures regarding a hunting trip to Chilcotin District around the Lake Williams area in British Columbia, Canada.  In one of those pictures, a member of the hunting partner was Thomas P. (Tom) Myers, owner and operator of J. P. Myers Fuel in Tacoma, Gig Harbor Sand & Gravel in Gig Harbor and Bremerton Lines (a bus service operating between Bremerton and Tacoma).  The picture was dated 11/27/1949 and published in the TNT on page B-11. 
Copyright (c) the Board of Trustees of the Tacoma Public Library.  All rights reserved, including those of publication and reproduction.
L-R Geo. Peterson, Reuben C. Carlson, Arne Strom, H. D. Maxwell, Thomas Myers and Lewis Boen

Oh, other members of the hunting party included George Peterson, Reuben C. Carlson, Arne Strom, H. D. Maxwell, and Lewis Boen.  And what a successful hunting trip it was, they bagged three moose and one deer.

So this means that Gig Harbor Sand & Gravel Co. was in business prior to Col. McDonald’s ownership and operation.  It would appear that following Col. McDonald’s discharge after the end of WWII, he purchased the business from Tom Myers.  

And, the search goes on. 

 I have discovered that Tom Myers was born approximately 1896, and died age 79, on January 27, 1976.  According to the obituary published 1/28/76, Tom was born in Orting WA and lived his entire live in the great Tacoma area.  He married Sophia Schultz, of Tacoma, and they had one son, Joseph C. Myers.  Joseph became a minister, and at the time of Tom’s death, Rev. Joseph C. Myers lived in Smith Center, Kansas.  Tom and his father, J. P. Myers, worked in the drying business and also owned harness-racing horses shown throughout the country.  In 1939 Tom and his father acquired Tacoma-Bremerton Stage Line.  He later founded J. P. Fuel Co. which was located in the Tacoma Tideflats.  Tom also owned Gig Harbor Sand & Gravel Co.  He retired in 1967, and was a member of the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce and Gloria Del Lutheran Church.

Tom’s father, J. P. Myers’ biography was published in the Wm. P. Bonney History of Pierce County, Vol. III, p.576-577.   Born in Ohio, the family moved to Nebraska , and then he moved to Orting, Washington at age 26.  Shortly thereafter he moved to Tacoma where he established J. P. Myers & Son in 1902.  The company specialized  in wood fuel; at first only forest wood and then including also planer ends and other similar wood from manufacturing concerns. J. P. and his wife, Dinah had two children:  Rebecca who died at age 8 and Thomas.   

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. Here's what little I can add to the Gig Harbor Sand & Gravel story.  Yes, it was in business before the McDonalds bought it.  In 1940, before Spadoni Bros. Inc existed, Claude Spadoni worked there.  He was driving a 2 1/2 yard concrete mixer truck for them when one of his brothers flagged him down with the news that the first Narrows bridge was falling down (Nov 1940).  Years later Spadoni Bros. bought the truck (a 1941Chevrolet -- apparently brand new when Gig harbor Sand & Gravel bought it) and converted it into a fuel oil delivery truck.

           For concrete gravel, Gig Harbor Sand & Gravel had a gravel pit just outside Gig Harbor (going north out of Gig Harbor on Burnham, turn left on 96th and go straight up the hill) where they washed the sand and gravel to make it clean enough for concrete.  (I took out the last of their old concrete rock bunkers in the late 80s or early 90s.)  The silt washed out of the gravel settled in a holding pond built into the gully on the north end of the property.  They would've bought crushed rock somewhere else; they wouldn't have had a crushing plant in that pit.  Sometime in the 1960s Spadoni Bros. bought the property, already known as Benson pit.  I don't know who Benson was; maybe an owner of an earlier concrete plant?

         When the McDonalds left Gig Harbor in the 60s, they rented out their house rather than sell it.  It was either on or near the Lybecker Road, over the hill in east Gig Harbor.   When they returned to live in the house 10 or more years later, I delivered a load of crushed rock to the house and met Mrs. McDonald.  She told me the renters had trashed the place and that they had to practically remodel it to make it liveable.  She mentioned that when they closed down Gig Harbor Sand & Gravel, Spadoni Bros. bought a lot of their shop tools, including the metal lathe that both companies used for many things.  As I recall, she was quite chatty.

    Also, it was a concrete batch plant on the waterfront site, not a rock crushing plant.