Thursday, April 27, 2017

Allyn in the 1920s

iPhone copy of picture in newspaper article reproduced below
Allyn in the 1920s or Paradise in Allyn

Once again I have come across a wonderful interview regarding life in Allyn, Mason County, Washington in the 1920s.  The article is not dated, nor is the publication shown.  However since the Harbor History Museum attempts to share the history of the greater Gig Harbor community I felt you would enjoy this as much as I did.  

But Mason County?  Yes, because if you drive State Route 302 on the Key Peninsula from Purdy just under 17 miles you will be in Allyn.  Allyn and the Key Peninsula shared a close relationship; From the 1870s to the 1920s, transportation needs for Vaughn and other communities along Case Inlet were once served by a small flotilla of steamboats. The local community based monthly newspaper called the North Bay Review, services Allyn.

Wikipedia - Images

Wikipedia - Overview of Allyn in 1920s

Early dweller finds paradise on bluff in Allyn

Allyn in the 1920s

Calk boots pound along the boardwalk down by the dock where men yelling taunts at each other unload sacks of chicken feed from a freighter.

Narrow tires on a Model-A stir up lazy eddies of dust from the dirt road running through town.  Children linger to watch in their yards, dogs lie unperturbed in the dirt.
You can almost see the phantoms in the street as Ruth Miller reminisces about the town, looking down from the window in her house overlooking present-day Allyn and Case Inlet of the timeless Puget Sound.  Ruth continues:

“My first husband, Vernon Hawk, our six-year old daughter Margaret and I came to Allyn in March, 1926 from Bellingham where I had just graduated from school.

“We came to Allyn because my brother, Prescot Kanarr, who was already teaching here, was moving to Union and they needed a teacher who could teach high school to replace him.

“I had just earned my degree and Allyn paid good wages for my past experience, $150 per month, when most of my friends in my graduating class were only getting $50 or $75 per month.

“And compared to living in Bellingham, Allyn was paradise.  It was simply beautiful to stand up on the schoolhouse porch and look across the water to Mount Rainier.

“As my brother said, ‘You get paid $200 per month, $150 in cash and $50 in scenery.  

Despite the visual pleasures, life was not all that easy for the newcomers during their first summer in the area.

After paying the rent on a house that “must have been 50 years old even back then” and buying a few chairs, Ruth and Vern had only $5 to live on till the start of the school in the fall.

Fortunately, Vern found work on the road crew for the county to tie them over until a more lucrative money source could be found.

“  (missing the first part of the sentence) husband heard that they …..building a power line road ….. above Allyn, that they …….it cleaned up, and anyone could have all the wood they wanted out there.

“So Vern borrowed a truck and drag saw and headed up there.  I helped him, too.  When I couldn’t swing an axe hard enough to split the wood, I learned to use a maul.”

Vern continued working throughout the summer for the county as a “powder monkey” while they were building the road around the head of the bay to Victor.

“We also started picking evergreen blackberries.  A truck would come through and take the berries to market in Tacoma.

“Later in the summer we began going out with a man named Luegenbill to gather cascara bark.  We’d hike up Sherwood Creek, peel the bark, dry it at home and sell it to a local buyer.

“To me this was God’s country.  Always seemed we could go out and make a living right nearby.  I had never known a place where you could come in and love life, have the people love you back, and even end up with a few extra dollars to stick away for the car we were going to buy.”

Before long, September came and Ruth started her teaching job in the schoolhouse.  

“I usually had about five in the high school and nine in the seventh, eighth and ninth grades.  Everybody helped each other; the older kids would teach the younger.  They’d hear their spelling and recitation.  Sometimes, I would just oversee the different teaching going on.

“They learned and we enjoyed life.

“We used to take the running gear of a little buggy and we’d get up on the hill leading down from the school.  One of the boys would steer with several girls and usually their teacher, me, in the back.  We’d go lickety-split down the hill right to the water’s edge.

“One time one of the girl’s mothers came to PTA and told me her daughter had given the highest compliment to me.  She said, “She sure doesn’t act like a school teacher.”

Sometimes her playfulness led to gullibility.

“After school had been going on for at least a month, three of the boys I taught came to me on a Saturday and wanted to know if I’d like to go fishing with them.

“Vern had gone to work and Margaret was over at someone else’s house, so I said “Sure.”

“They took me up Sherwood Creek and we were fishing with three long poles that had sharp things on the end of them.  After watching how the boys did it, I waded out in the water and waited for a big one to swim by, then I whopped it.

“The boys stuffed it in a gunnysack and gave me another one to take home.  So I hung the fish up out in the front yard until I had a chance to clean them.

“When Vern got home from work he wanted to know what those were, and I said, “Why those are fish I caught.”

“‘Caught,’ he said.  ‘Why that’s gaffing.  You all could have gone to jail.  

“Well, that was the first I had ever heard about it; I didn’t know it was illegal, but it was fun.  I think I might have gone even if I had known it was wrong.”

Although open to new blood, Allyn was the classic American town centered around the school, church and several small businesses.

“When we came here in 1926 there were two boardwalks in Allyn.

“One went to the little post office which was run by a man named Nelson.  He lived across the bay on the Victor side, but he had a cot, small stove and some dishes on this side in a lean-to on the back of the post office.

“Of course all our mail, groceries, furnishings and gas were brought by freight boat.  It carried passengers, too.  A man named She;gren was the pilot of the boat.

“The highway through town wasn’t much of one, just a narrow dirt road with some gravel.  And running along the north side of it was the second boardwalk.  

“There were also two docks.  For the Allyn dock the tide could be quite high.  Then there was Pa Peebles’ low dock.  He had all kinds of sheds down there and would buy everything from a needle to a threshing machine.

“All total there were three stores in town.  Fred Budding’s, Raisoni’s and Peebles.

“Mother Raisoni was a sweet and religious woman, not fanatical but down to earth.  And Pa Peebles was a rather large man who seldom said much, but when he did it was usually pretty sharp and full of pepper.

“We have religious services down in the white church.  They were sponsored by the Plymouth Congregational Church in Seattle.  They would send the minister out by ferry on Saturday afternoon and somebody would meet him, keep him all night and take him back to the dock Sunday afternoon.”

Although the road around to Victor was not yet finished, the two towns kept close, if not sometimes wild, contact.

“Edith and Graham Skeen lived across the bay and ran sort of a health resort for boys.  She was a registered nurse and he was a jack-of-all-trades and they got boys from Seattle who needed country life:  swimming, milking cows, putting up hay, and so on.

“Two of those boys would row across the bay each day and ….(missing)

“Pa Raisoni was quite old and he used to talk of the earliest Allyn.  He’d tell about the guys on this side of the bay would drink and have a good time while the guys on the other side did likewise.  Pretty soon they’d start taking potshots at each other across the water.  The more they drank, the more they shot.”

One of the town’s foremost institutions was the owner of Budding’s Store.

“Fred Budding always was chewing on a cigar in his mouth and he talked a mile a minute.  He was always running for some office and I don’t think he ever made one of them.  But he had stories to tell.

“He used to tell how when …..(missing) pet bear.  He and that bear used to have the time of their lives wrestling.

“One time Fred went out into the woods to pick huckleberries.  He was picking away and he turned around and there was his bear.  He said, ‘Well, you came all the way out here to have a tussle, did you?’ and he put his pail down and started wrestling the bear.  

“He was having a pretty rough time of it; the bear seemed to be getting kind of rough.  Too rough, so he backed off and grabbed his pail and made for home.  And there was his bear still tied to a tree.”

Rather than wrestling with wild animals, most people in Allyn chose to relax by conversing with slightly more tame friends.

“There weren’t too many of us around but we had a good time together.  The Weserlings who lived near Sherwood Creek built a new chicken house and we had a big dance there before it was turned over to the chickens.

“My husband used to play the piano for the silent movies when we were back in Boise Valley, Ida., so he provided the music along with Les Baker who played the violin.

“We used to go into Shelton about once a week, and when they finished the road to Bremerton we would go to a show once in awhile.  I remember seeing “The Jazz Singer” in Bremerton.

“Also, the schoolhouse was a much more of a social center back then.  We had school parties at least once a month in my home.  Everybody would come over to our house and anyone who could play would bring his instrument and we’d have a dance.

“During our first summer in Allyn, I remember the Dempsey-Tunney fight took place.  We had a radio, so Vern put it in the window and all the young people came and sat on the bluff and listened to the fight.”

Before coming to the Northwest, Ruth had lived in Idaho.  She was born in Pennsylvania in 1901 and was raised with three brothers and one sister.  

“My father was a preacher and if things got to hot we moved on.  We did quite a bit of traveling.

“I lived in Bisbee, Ariz. when they had the big fire there in 1908.  And we moved to California and finally to Middleton, Ida.  I left to go to school in McMinnville, Ore. and returned after a year and a half.”

Ruth married her first husband, Vernon, in 1918 and they settled in Boise Valley, Ida.  

“He had just gotten back from service; they had just turned the boys loose.

“In 1920 we lost our home in a fire.  I had to jump from an upstairs window with my baby in my arms.  We tore hop vines and chicken wire down as we went, and that was all that was saved from our house.

“A little while later we built a new house, but then my husband got sick and we lost the house and surrounding 40 acres.  He couldn’t work and I had the year and a half of college in McMinnville, so I went and got my three-year teaching certificate.

“In town they had a one-room school where the teacher couldn’t hack it — she couldn’t keep order — so when I started the sheriff said he would come and sit in the back to help out.

“So I went down to the schoolhouse and I came, I saw, and I conquered.

“Then I got a job in the adjoining district in a two-room school, teaching the first four grades.  The the next year I got a job near my home teaching fourth grade; the net, fifth; then sixth, and so on.

“The parents wanted me to keep teaching their kids, so I just moved up through the eighth grade with them.  The next year I was supposed to become principal.

“Well, I wanted a higher certificate if I was going to be principal, so I went to Bellingham.

“I hadn’t planned to stay but a few months, but they made it a requirement that you had to stay for a year on the campus to get a certificate.

“Then my brother asked me to come to Allyn and once I came and saw how beautiful it was, I signed a contract right away.

After her third year teaching in Allyn, many of the local families moved away when the area was logged off.  Ruth left and taught in Middle Skokomish for 17 years at Simpson Camp 3 and the Indian reservation.

Then she taught junior high in Aberdeen for one year, before returning to live again on her bluff overlooking Allyn in 1947.  For the next 12 years she taught in east Port Orchard.

“Teaching at Camp 3 was especially wonderful.  The first year we had no schoolhouse so we met in the filing shed which had three walls and a ceiling made of glass.

“Allyn and the Indian reservation were also special places for me.”

Ruth has known her share of sorrow, having lost three husbands over the years, though it has no left her bitter.

“All along, I have had good pals.  This is my fourth husband; I have buried three.

“My first husband died in 1954 of cancer.  We had been married 37 years.

“I married my second husband in 1955, Louis Dowie, a businessman from Brooklyn, N.Y.  Pop Dowie and I were married about nine years.  He was 84 when we got married and I wasn’t yet 54, but he was a spry, active man.

“The house I now live in belonged to Frank Thomas, my third husband.  We had been neighbors for more than 15 years and Frank’s wife died two years before.

“After Frank died I married Alva Miller in 1971.  He used to live at Lake Devereaux and we belonged to the same church and the Young at Heart Club.  His wife had died several years earlier.

“All my husbands have been special pals.  Not the kind of partners you are always hearing about, always needling you.  If they had’a been i’d of lammed on them.

“This marriage business is a 50-50 deal, but you want to be careful where you put the 50.

“All my husbands have been Christians but not the fanatical kind.  Once in a while I like to say ‘damn’ or throw something.  I’m no angel and I’m no saint, but I do love people.

“If everyone could enjoy life and their job as much as I have, then there wouldn’t be so much hurting.”

Unknown newspaper article
Wikipedia - Pictures - Overhead of Allyn, WA; Entry Sign
WA State Dept. of Archaeology & Historic Preservation (DAHP)


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