Jack (Jake) Dominick Bujacich, Jr. (December 12, 1926 - Present)
On December 12, 2016 we will celebrate Jake’s 90th birthday.
In advance of his birthday I thought I would share a little of his family history; a little because I could not find an oral history for him. When I ask a few years back, he said he didn’t have time to do on, and besides everyone else was either writing one or asking him to do one.
|Peninsula Gateway newspaper article|
Jake’s love of the town where he was born, grew up, and has lived all his life has helped him enrich Gig Harbor for all of us who live here. He was born into one of the prominent fishing families and his love of fishing is evident today in many ways and forms.
Jake’s father, Jack Sr. (1894-1970), left his home in Premuda, Jugoslavia at age 13 to come to America. Like many Croatians, he found himself in Colorado, some of whom like he worked in mines. (My grandfather also worked in the gold mines in Cripple Creek, Colorado as a young man.) In the mid to late teens, Jack Sr. decided to move to Gig Harbor where he joined the Croatian fishermen earning his living on the water during the summers. Come winter, he would go to Eatonville to work at Eatonville Lumber mill.
It was here in Gig Harbor that Jack met Winnifred Andrea Ross, John Ross’ young daughter. They fell in love, married and started a family. They had five children, Mary Pauline, Frances G., George Peter, Jack Dominick, Jr., and Bartmer. (ancestry.com)
In 1928, Jack, Sr. was able to launch Majestic, one of the Skansie Shipbuilding vessels. In one article I found that original appeared in the Kitsap Sun-Gig Harbor Life newspaper George is quoted as saying “I first went out with my dad on that boat when I was 8; that would have been 1933”. The same quotation appears in Gig Harbor Founding Families.
Jake (Jack Jr.) didn’t start fishing until he was 16, first with an uncle, and then with his father and his older brother George. But two years later, Jake enlisted in the US Merchant Marines. He is quoted as saying “Me and my buddies joined up together. We said we were going to win the war.” He spent two years in Korea before returning home.
His father, John Sr., was an expert at making the needles used to mend nets. All the kids in fishing families learned at an early age how to thread the needles so the cotton nets could be mended whenever they torn. “We’d go down to the docks and fill needles all day long. The faster and better you were the better they liked you. They had to be wrapped real tight.” When he returned from Korea, he took over the Majestic from his brother George (who had taken over from their father) which he ran from 1960 until 1966. He continued fishing every summer even while serving as a councilman and mayor. He is quoted as remarking “Back then, everybody helped each other out. We’d get together and make a crew, if somebody needed help. In 1967, I fished with George Ancich. In 1969 I had my own boat. In the 1970s, I ran the Shenandoah.” He went on to say that he had probably fished on at least 17 different boats. As anyone can tell you, fishing has both good and bad seasons, or as Jake put it “The first year I fished in, 1942, I didn’t even make enough to pay my union dues. 1946 was a big sockeye season. In ’47 it was a big humpy season. It was also in 1947 that the fishermen went on strike due to the low rate buyers would pay for the catch. “We needed to get 14-cents a pound for fish in order to make it work When we finally found a buyer at 14-cents, off we went.” In the winter of 1949, the harbor froze completely over. This was the year that Jake was appointed cook for the crew. “I got recipes to cook from my mom and my sister. Just about every man in this town who fished knows how to cook.” I’m told Jake still cooks, both at home and in the summer when he might go out on one of the fishing boats.
|Harbor History Museum document|
When Jake returned from military service, the local residents had been voting on whether or not the community should incorporate. The first round of votes were against incorporation. But the second vote was stronger, and incorporation won in July 1946. Among the various departments formed under the incorporation was the first complete Police Code, Ordinance No. 6, passed by full town council vote on November 15, 1946. Jake joined the early police department in 1950 when he was appointed Deputy Marshall.
In 1954, Jake was joined by Dick Allen, Adam Ross, Sr., Peter Babich when they appeared at a Town Council Meeting requesting a new commercial fishing dock from the town. The previous commercial fishing dock had deteriorated and also had been condemned. Unfortunately the Town had no funds available, and when Jerisich dock was finally approved, the grant funds were only for recreational docks, commercial boats were excluded.
And, Jake followed that early governmental position as policeman by later running for and being elected to serve as a councilman in 1955. He was appointed Mayor Pro Ten in 1967 when Mayor Secor became ill and unable to perform his duties, and then in 1969, appointed as Mayor to fill the unexpired term of Mayor Secor. He then served mayor until 1978 at which time he resigned to run for Pierce County Commissioner He went on to serve as Pierce County Commissioner/Council member from 1981 until 1986.
|Jack (Jake) D. Bujacich, Jr. Mayor May 1969-November 1978|
Another issue that Jake took on was the construction of a sewer system. According to to An Excellent Little Bay, Changing Times as early as 1946 when the town was incorporated the need for a sewer system was made known. In 1961 the Gig Harbor Town Council approved Resolution No. 22 appealing to the Federal Government for $90,000 towards the construction of sewers, but it was voted down by the residents. In 1962 the then mayor, George R. Gilbert tried again with the same result when the voters went to the polls. So, in 1969, Jake is now the mayor. He knows personally the needs of the growing community, not only as a resident but also as a fisherman, Gig Harbor needed a functioning sewer system. The vote failed once again, but the State stepped in threatening injunctive action but still the next ballot vote came up short. It was not until 1973 that construction finally started on the sewer system.
Jake decided Gig Harbor needed it’s own planning department; true it already had a planning commission in place. But Jake felt the town needed more professional oversight on land use, regulations, codes and ordinances. It was probably influenced by Pierce County first Comprehensive Land Use Plan adopted in 1962. It designated the Gig Harbor Peninsula as “Suburban Residential”. The plan established zoning districts dictating the appropriate location for commercial and residential. But the plan didn’t offer much protection against incompatible uses or recognize the unique individuality of the various communities. Jake wanted the planning within the Town of Gig Harbor to be under the oversight of the town council and mayor so that they could control development and make the decisions, not the County.
For example, by 1960 traffic on the Narrows Bridge averaged 6,218 vehicles a day so when the citizens and politicians started talking about removing the tolls Jake got concerned. The local Gig Harbor infrastructure couldn’t support the traffic; SR 16 was under construction to widen the highway slowing down the traffic at Olympic Drive exit. But this was an argument Jake lost when in 1965 the State Legislature passed a bill removing the tolls. Perhaps this was just one of the many things that convinced Jake to run for town councilman.
Without tolls on the Narrows Bridge the population of Gig Harbor started experiencing more growth. Summer Residents became full time residents, new people arrived finding the quaint village on the harbor enchanting and moved here. In 1960 the population in Gig Harbor was 1,094, by 1970 it was 1,657, a 51.5% increase over what the community growth had been in previous years.
The growth Gig Harbor was experienced became quite evident when steps to install either school crossing guards back in 1977. As mentioned in An Excellent Little Bay, Changing Times, the traffic monitoring showed that “some 10,000 cars per day were zipping through the intersection of Pioneer Way and Grandview Drive, some at speeds as high as 50 miles per hour. Large numbers of children from the school were crossing at the same intersection, and the potential for a tragedy was growing.” I went back to look at the City Council Meeting minutes and discovered and discovered that at first, City Council explored the possibility of using school crossing guards, where either the children accompanied by a teacher, act as the crossing guards. This was vetoed by the Peninsula School District. Next the Council researched a street light. Due to the cost, a flashing red on Grandview Drive and a flashing yellow on Pioneer Way was considered. But the final decision was for a red, amber and green light be purchased and installed. And, so the first street light in Gig Harbor came into being. Others followed with the flashing light at Grandview Drive and Soundview Drive and at the foot of Pioneer Way and Harborview Drive.
This are just a few of the things that Jake accomplished during his active political life. It would be impossible to list all his accomplishment. But if you have one that you consider invaluable, please hit “Comment” at the bottom of this blog, and enter it.
Today, in 2016, Jake is still very active in community affairs-nothing gets by him. He has the ability wanting in so many people, and that is being able to bring people together and getting them to compromise despite their disagreements at the beginning.
|The Peninsula Gateway newspaper article|
Most of all, join me and the Harbor History Museum in wishing Jake a most happy birthday on the occasion of his birth!
- Ancestry.com Jack Bujacich (Naputi Family Tree)
- Gig Harbor History, Founding Families - Bujacich
- Wikipedia - Gig Harbor, Washington
- Kitsap Sun-Gig Harbor Living - The Bujacich Brothers-Gig Harbor Fishing Community
- City of Gig Harbor Archives 1968-1983
- An Excellent Little Bay, Changing Times - Pg 270-71; Pg 289
- City of Gig Harbor “History of the City of Gig Harbor-Incorporation 1946 through July 2006
- Tacoma Narrows Bridge-Bridge Connections - 1950 Present (WDOT)