Name: Peechie Stefani
Birth Date or Year (optional):
Your history in Issaquah/How long lived here, etc.:
I came here from Holland when I was 3. We lived on various farms and there were 9 children in our family. I have lived in my house since 1929 when my husband and I married and had it built. I am 93 years old.
If you moved to Issaquah, why did you choose it?
My dad was sponsored by Bert Vandemere, a Dutch farmer, who moved here before we came. We came as there was not much chance of earning a living in Holland in those years.
If you have lived here all or most of your life, why did you choose to stay?
We stayed because of the opportunity to better our lives through hard work and because the valley was such a pretty place. Bessie Wilson Crane’s family built our farmhouse that we grew up in.
Issaquah or area school(s) attended:
Issaquah Grade School and a school in Hobart.
Family History in Issaquah:
We came as a family of 5 and grew to one of 11. Now there is a Bergsma family picnic we number in the 100s.
Education—Coming of Age
What are your memories of Issaquah High School? Which teachers were influential?
(Grade school) Miss Master was my first grade teacher in 1914. So many children couldn’t speak English and there were Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, and Italian. She had patience unending to teach English. One of the local Issaquah girls heard that I could sing a Dutch song and she locked me in the outdoor bathroom and wouldn’t let me out until I sang it and I thought I would miss my bus ride home. Lawrence Jensen was my bus driver. Clem Stefani was in 1st grade too, and we married in our 20s in 1929.
What memories do you have of Minnie Schomber, or another favorite teacher?
Everyone liked Minnie Wilson Schombers. Mr. Schobert was our 8th grade teacher.
Were you affected by earthquake damage to the schools in 1949 or 1965?
The earthquake in 1965 knocked some bricks off our chimney at our house, and sent the piano to the other side of the room, but that was all.
We heard the high school was damaged quite a bit.
What kind of extracurricular activities were you involved in? Did you play football or chess, or did you act in the school plays? What were memorable games or plays?
I won a race during Labor Day and won a pair of stockings for it. A man asked me to be his partner in the 3 legged sack race but I don’t remember if we won or not.
Where did you and your friends spend your free time as teenagers? What kind of mischief did you get into? How did your parents or teachers punish you when you got into trouble?
We were so busy on the farm we didn’t have free time. Milking cows, weeding and planting corn for silage, cleaning lanterns, mending socks, planting potatoes and mangles, putting up hay. There were nine kids in our family and we were always busy. We cut wood, fed cows and calves, brought in wood and kindling and washed clothes on washboards. As a teenager I danced the Charleston all the way to the barn to milk cows and my dad didn’t like me to do it because my shoes wore out too fast.
When anyone in the valley built a chicken house or a barn we would hold a big dance there before it was used. A piano would be moved in, everyone came to dance and someone, usually Albert Jenson, would play his accordion.
I don’t remember getting into any trouble.
What local businesses do you remember? What items did you purchase there? Who owned the business? Where was it located? What do you remember most about it?
Cussac’s Shoe Store on Front Street: Mr. Cussac had shoe boxes stacked to the high ceilings in row after row but it was mostly for show as half of them were empty. His wife helped him sell shoes sometimes, too. Mr. Cussac played some kind of an instrument (bag pipes maybe?) and he led the Labor Day Parade for several years. In later years he had a machine you stood on and it showed your feet in your shoes like an x-ray.
Van Winckles had a store too. Miss Eves had a dress shop on Front Street. Coutts was a store for materials and clothes. Mr. Hall had a surrey and ponies that took people for rides.
Burkes store had everything. People couldn’t speak English and would point to what they wanted and he had a tall ladder on wheels and he would move it and climb up and get the item. Mary and Eleanor, his daughters, went to school with us. He would keep a running account and you paid your bill and he would give the kids candy.
Mickey Miles ran the Red and White store on Sunset.
What barbershop or beauty shop did you frequent? What do you remember about these places? What were the popular hairdos when you frequented the beauty shop? Did you do a lot of socializing at the barber and beauty shops?
No one had money for it. In the Flapper Days, girls cut their hair really short. Later marcels were popular and it was done with a hot iron. I learned finger waving and did friends hair for them. Agnes Maroni went to beauty school in Renton and Anna Burgolis was the owner and teacher. The first perms were done with machines and hair burned easily if you weren’t careful.
What is memorable about Lewis Hardware? What items did you purchase there?
Pots and pans, meat grinders and other household items were purchased at Lewis Hardware. J. J. Lewis started it, I think. Tom went to school with us and he married my friend Reada Pickering and we visited each others homes. Reada made a great homemade bread and gave me the recipe. I still make 7 loaves every so often.
Where did you go to buy your groceries? Did you go to Tony and Johnny’s, or RR Grocery on East Sunset? Do you remember your favorite clerk? Were there any items that these grocers specialized in?
Burkes when I was a child. Later we went to Tony and Johnny’s and R & R Grocery. Mostly we shopped at the Grange Mercantile. Joan Karvia was the bookkeeper and Ethel Stickney and my sister, Hettie Wiggins were clerks. Charley Chamness was the butcher. They had hams and bacons smoked and cured for you and they were good.
Did you purchase things at the Grange Mercantile Building? What type of things did you get there? Did your family rent a frozen food storage locker?
When the lockers went in we could butcher our beef and get the meat cut and wrapped in the butcher shop and rent a locker to keep it in. It was great as we had to can our meat before that.
What restaurants or soda shops did you enjoy going to? Did you go to Rena’s Café, or XXX Root beer? What was your favorite food? Were there memorable waiters or waitresses?
When we were kids in the early 1900’s we were too poor. The sidewalks were wooden and if you did have a dime and it dropped, it would go through the cracks. Mrs. Marion ran a restaurant in the Grand Central Hotel and I went to work for her. A man came in and asked for a “bucket of mud” and paid for his coffee with a hundred dollar bill. It was the first one I had ever seen. People coming from Eastern Washington stopped to rent rooms on their way to Seattle and ate there.
Did you go to Boehm’s Candies? What candies were your favorites?
My favorites were the creamy candies.
What saloons or local bars did you and your friends frequent?
I’m still waiting to go to them (and maybe that’s why I’m still living at age 93. 🙂
What do you remember about Grange Supply?
We always bought our fuel there. Sometimes we purchased garden supplies too. My husband Clem was on the Board of Directors at one time.
What do you recall about Lawill’s drug store?
Ann Lotto worked there for years.
What important local political issues of Issaquah are memorable? Do any particular politicians stand out? Why are they memorable? What did they accomplish while in office?
Stella Alexander had the whole town in an uproar but I can’t recall the details.
Do you recall Ordinance No. 752 that changed most of the street names in town? What were your feelings about this change at the time?
Not living right in town, it didn’t bother me.
The Great Depression
What are your memories of the Great Depression? Did you have a job at this time? What ways did you try to save money? What did you eat?
Lots of men stopped at our place and asked for food and we fed them all. Some chopped wood to pay for a meal. Some men were walking from Seattle to Eastern Washington to pick fruit and had no money and needed a handout. We had chickens and eggs, milk from our cow and I baked bread so we always had food. We finally asked one man why all of them stopped here and he said there was a bum camp below the school (where the skate board park is now). Next to the railroad tracks they slept and cooked and shared information about who would give them food along the way. That is how they found our house. One man was from California and hated the rain here. He was a house painter and paper hanger so we gave him a job fixing my mothers place at the Issaquah Valley Diary and when he got paid he headed back to sunny California.
One man was chopping wood outside the kitchen window one summer day and our party line phone rang. He dropped the axe and took off down the road without waiting to eat and we realized he was a fugitive evading the law.
My husband worked with his Dad at Stefani Poultry Farm during the Depression. We had food because of the chickens, our garden, canned fruit and vegetables and our milk cows, beef and pig. We even canned soup in quart jars and grew potatoes, beans and corn. Card playing with friends was our entertainment or we visited relatives. We went to Alexander’s Park for picnics.
World War II
How did World War II affect the town of Issaquah? Did you know men or women who went to fight in the war? Did you leave Issaquah to join the war efforts?
Some of our relatives joined the Army. Ruel Wiggins and Henry Lewis were in the army and both returned ok. We sent coffee and sugar to relatives in Holland that were out of everything. We grew a Victory garden and we bought war bonds. There were ration stamp books for butter, sugar, and gas. I made black-out curtains and my husband was an air raid warden. A cigarette could be hand rolled on a machine with papers and tobacco.
What kinds of jobs did the War bring to the area? Where did you work at this time?
Lots of women went to work at Boeing. Our neighbor Betty Brault became a riveter on airplane wings. Shipyard work increased.
Issaquah Round-Up—Salmon Days—Labor Day Celebrations
What do you remember about Labor Day Celebrations or Salmon Days?
There were parades, races, and rodeos.
What are your memories of the Rodeo?
Bucking horses and concessions. We sat in the grandstands and enjoyed it all.
What were some of the other memorable special events and occasions in Issaquah?
I remember the KKK burning a cross towards Monohon. Everyone in the valley could see it.
In the 1930s a big barn was built at our Issaquah Valley Dairy and a huge barn dance was held there with dancing and food enjoyed by most of the town. Another dance hall was the Shake Roof located just up the road a little from my house at 8020 Renton-Issaquah Road SE. It was built from cedar shakes and was a popular place until it burned down. Fred Case built and operated it.
What are your memories of Vasa Park? What did you do while there?
Lots of dances were held there.
Logging and Sawmills
Do you remember the Monohon Mill, the Red Hall sawmill by the fish hatchery, the High Point Mill, the Preston Mill, or the Issaquah Lumber Company Mill on Front Street South?
I remember the Monohon Mill burning down.
Farming and Dairy
Were you involved with farming in Issaquah? What farm did you work on? What was grown or raised there?
My dad had a farm and delivered milk in town, High Point and Preston. He started delivering milk to the coal mines. When he lived on Pickering Hill and worked at the mine. He put cans of milk on the buggy and took it by horse. Then he sent the horse home by itself and Mama washed the milk cans and fed the horse. Finally he delivered with a truck and then 2 trucks and the family moved to the Gordon Prentiss place and Issaquah Valley Diary was formed. All 9 kids worked on the farm and I milked cows from age 11. When my husband later asked my dad for my hand in marriage my dad said, “You are getting my best milker!” I was 21 then.
Did you travel frequently into Seattle? How did you get there? What did you do while in Seattle?
Dad brought us to Seattle when we were 14 and my sister and I were scared to death of the city. We spent most of our time walking around and around the block where the Bon Marche was. Dad was at a milk shippers meeting and we were afraid he wouldn’t find us. Later when I was older I went to Seattle with Reda Pickering and we went to dances. You drove the Sunset Highway and went through Renton.
How did the construction of I-90 change life in Issaquah?
I didn’t drive so it didn’t make much difference.
What was your first car? Did you buy it from Hepler Ford Motors, Stonebridge Chevrolet, or the Kaiser-Frazier dealership?
We bought a 1928 Ford from Hepler.
Fraternal Organizations—Local Halls
Did you attend the Sportsmen’s Club? Do you remember when it was built in 1937? What did you do at the Sportsmen’s Club?
My husband Clem belonged to the Sportsman Club. He built a big pen in our back yard and we raised pheasants and a few Golden Pheasants. When they were grown the game department boxed them up and took them to various parts of the state to “plant” them for hunting season.
He worked for them as a game warden for a while and helped organize the turkey shoots at the clubhouse too.
What types of events did you attend at the Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) Hall? Did you use the shooting range located in the basement?
I went to dances there.
Did you attend dinners, dances, banquets, or other events in the upstairs Grange Meeting Hall?
We danced there and went to dinners cooked by Grange members. Clif and Loretta Lewis did a lot of cooking there.
Do you have any memories of Issaquah’s mining days? Were you involved in mining?
My father worked in the Issaquah mine before he started the dairy.
What movies did you go to see at the Issaquah Theatre (the Old Movie House) to see? How much did movies cost? Did you ever go to the back upper corner of the theatre to kiss?
Programs were put on there too. They did a Charleston event there and had a contest on the stage. I didn’t know all the steps so wouldn’t dance in it. Saw silent movies there and thought they were terrible. The first Al Jolson movie was a talking movie and when his loud voice started I just about jumped out of my chair as it scared me so bad.
A lady played the organ during the silent movies and she really played beautiful music but I can’t remember her name.
I think it cost 25 cents to go to the show, and sometimes they gave away dishes at the movie house.
In 1910 and 11 the sidewalks were all wooden.
What church did you attend? What memories do you have of this church? Were there any pastors, reverends, or church leaders that stand out in your memory?
My mother wanted to get to church but there was no way to get to town so we didn’t go.
When I was young we brought a little money to school at Christmas so presents could be bought for everyone. I was in 2nd grade and at the party there was a tree covered with presents and a beautiful French porcelain doll at the top. We drew numbers and I won the doll and I was so happy. When I was 14 my mother made me give my doll to my younger sisters and soon she wasn’t looking very good. Her clothes were gone and her eyes were poked out and her arms and legs were in two different rooms. One day I gathered up the parts and she resides in a dresser drawer awaiting restoration.
Someone gave us a little cast iron stove that was the cutest little toy. It had pots and pans and a tiny coal bucket. One day we decided to cook so filled it with dry leaves and set them a fire. I wonder what ever became of that stove!
When we were coming home from school in our horse and buggy with my brother Art driving it, the gypsies chased us. We tried to go around them but they caught the halter of the horse and we were scared. All they wanted to know was where there was a field where they could camp and stake out their horses. We told them of a place and they let us go. We were 2nd and 3rd graders. We met our mother running towards us, afraid for us. The gypsies had been at our farm and had stolen eggs from the henhouse and milk from the milk house and she thought they might steal us too.
AUTHOR of THIS MEMORY BOOK (signature and date)
Peechie Bergsma Stefani