Name: Viola White Petersen
Your history in Issaquah/How long lived here, etc.:
Most of my life – from toddler to old age.
Issaquah or area school(s) attended:
Issaquah Grade School, Issaquah High School
Family History in Issaquah:
Maternal grandparents settled here during the 1920’s.
If truth be known, my true name is Helia Viola Reini White Petersen
Education—Coming of Age
What are your memories of Issaquah High School? Which teachers were influential?
During the forties, there were approximately 200 students in the four classes attending the old “high school on the hilltop.” On sunny days, groups of students would sit out on the lawn while they ate their lunch and the streets downtown were full of school kids buying a coke or candy bar at lunchtime.
Life was pretty simple. School plays and dances were big events for us. The Girls Club had functions such as a Mothers Day tea with a style show featuring fashions made in the Home Ec class, and the “annual smoker” was put on by the Boys Club. The boys’ teams competed in the Lakeside League, and in the fall of 1943 were league football champions. The girls played intra-mural volleyball, basketball and softball.
A tragic accident happened in the fall of 1941, when “Ike” Dilley, Class of “1942″, suffered a paralyzing injury during a practice football scrimmage, and succumbed Christmas week. Of course, the whole school mourned.
Not very many of us had cars, or could even drive, and with gas rationing during the war years, it was special when one of your friends “got the car.”
A lot of us worked after school to earn our spending money. I worked at the dime store. Some of the older boys went to school during the day and worked nights at places like the shipyard. As the war went on, more and more young men quit school to join the service. Some teachers joined up, too.
George Morgan, football coach, was certainly memorable. Kirkland High School was our bitter enemy, because their student body had grown so much bigger than any of the rest of the schools in the conference, due to the wartime shipyard there. Mr. Morgan gave the speech of his life at the pep assembly saying; “the bigger they are, the harder they fall,” and our inspired football team beat them! Mr. Seaman, English, was a terrific pianist who played on Muzzy Marcellino’s hit record “I’m Not Asleep, I’m Just Dreaming.” Miss. Tarr, Biology, was beautiful and wowed the student body with her singing. Miss Hunt, Typing, was memorable for the number of trips she made down the hall gravitating towards Mr. Frohs’ classroom. She joined the WAVEs, and we later heard that she had broken a bone falling out of her bunk.
Forty-four of us graduated June 1, 1944, wearing white formal dresses and suits. Not too long after, a group of us wore them again to the Olympic Ballroom in Seattle, where we had a going-away party for some of the boys entering the service. We pooled our money, and eight of us split a bottle of champagne.
What memories do you have of Minnie Schomber, or another favorite teacher?
My only connection with Minnie Schomber was through Camp Fire. I believe she started Issaquah’s first group. She was an honored guest at our Grand Council Fire in the 1960s.
Miss Alice Armstrong, our 6th grade teacher, was my all-time favorite because she was such a warm, fun-loving person. She started Camp Fire Girls in Issaquah again during the 1940s.
Were you affected by earthquake damage to the schools in 1949 or 1965?
No problem in 1949. I was pregnant, preparing for a baby shower at Marilyn (Bush) Foley’s place in North Bend and we both ran out of the house to check on the fallen chimney, forgetting, for the moment, that little Dick was still in the house.
No problem in 1965 either, but I got all shook up in the shakiest building at the Renton Boeing plant.
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?
George Reini, my uncle, was involved with the town football team in the thirties, and I sold tickets at the gate for many of the games.
I appeared in several high school plays, and played the leading role in “Here Comes Charlie,” our Junior Class Play. (In the fall of 1944, Bruce Barlow and I were drama majors at the U of W. My freshman year was my last at the U, but Bruce graduated and went on to a career in the theater.)
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?
Well, I read a lot and collected stamps. Friday night movies at the Issaquah Theatre were a regular thing. Walen’s field, behind our neighborhood, was where we played games like baseball and “run sheep run.” In the summertime, we’d swim in the Issaquah Creek there, too. Punky Watkins used to catch crawdads and try to cook them, much to my disgust.
My Uncle George and I listened to all of the Rainier baseball games on a big, old Philco radio in the front room, and he took me to one of their games at Sick Stadium in Seattle. I was a big fan of all of the radio shows like “I Love a Mystery,” “Amos and Andy,” and “The Shadow.”
Now and then, we did skip school and catch the early bus to Seattle to wander the streets and go to a movie. Those were the days of Alice Faye movies, and girls “swooning” over Frank Sinatra. Some of my partners in crime were Clark Darst, Alfie Sutter, Bruce Barlow, Marilyn Bush, and Elmer Watson.
The only time I can remember getting into trouble for skipping school was one time when students were ordered not to attend a football game in Bothell, due to gas rationing. Rex Seil was home on leave from the Navy, and his sister, Mabel, and I rode to the game with him anyway. Of course we were seen and were called into Mr. Mykland’s office the next day to be reprimanded.
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?
Bookter’s Bakery, where I worked one summer, was between the Log Tavern and the Grand Central Hotel on Sunset. As I remember, the dime store started in that building, and, later Fasanos opened their restaurant there.
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?
Axel Johnson, whose shop was connected to the H & H Tavern, plus Paul Benson and Dave Lewis on Sunset, were popular barbers of the 40’s.
Visits to a beauty shop were few and far between, but getting hooked up to that electrical monster called a permanent-wave machine wasn’t comfortable, nor was it a pretty sight!
What is memorable about Lewis Hardware? What items did you purchase there?
Between the Lewis and Wold Hardware stores, they had just about every kind of hardware, sporting goods, or home maintenance supplies you needed.
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?
There were a lot of grocery stores in town; Barney White’s, Moneysavers, and the Red and White. We bought most of our groceries at Tony and Johnnie’s Corner Market. I can remember the wooden barrel filled with lutefisk in front of the store. They were both friends of my Uncle George’s, so they kidded me a lot.
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?
We had a frozen food locker there in later years.
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?
Gert Chevalier’s Bizzy Bee Café was a popular place to eat.
My favorite soda shop was the Honeysuckle. Mr. Drylie was such a character; he always wore the tip of his tie tucked into his shirtfront, military style. He served the best lemon phosphates, green rivers, cherry cokes, tulip sundaes and milkshakes you’ve ever tasted. He sold candy too, and had his own lending library.
Did you go to Boehm’s Candies? What candies were your favorites?
Divinity has always been our favorite candy, but those Victoria Creams were special too. I’ll always remember Julius Boehm teaching swimming lessons to the kids.
What saloons or local bars did you and your friends frequent?
My husband would surely say that the Union Tavern was his favorite “saloon,” and Marge Doherty his favorite barmaid.
What do you remember about Grange Supply?
We’re long-time members of the co-op, and they delivered heating oil to us for years.
What do you recall about Mayor Stella Alexander, the first female mayor of Issaquah (elected in 1933)? Were there any other local politicians or political activities that drew scandalous attention?
I was too young to remember her, but I’ve been told that she lived here in our house at one time.
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?
Ordinance No. 752? I always thought the street names were changed every time some “new guy” got on the city council. The sewer used to be at the end of our street, so we always called it Sewer Avenue, even though we actually lived at the corner of Jones and Cooper. Later, another “new guy” decided that it would be better for our streets to be renames 12th Avenue North and Alder. When we finally got used to those names, a new “new guy,” who was probably a friend of the “not-so-new guy,” came up with the brilliant idea to rename the streets again, so we now reside at 1st Avenue Northwest and Northwest Alder Place, never having moved!
Pity the stranger who comes into town and asks for help looking for an address, because I believe very few citizens know the current street names, except for the ones in their own neighborhood.
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?
I’m sure that my grandparents felt the hardship, but I didn’t know the difference. The fish stew we ate was probably made with salmon poached from the creek, and we were able to eat “filia” every morning for breakfast because Jake Dorman brought us milk, thick with cream, from his Pine lake farm.
The thing that I didn’t have, and coveted most, was a bicycle. Helia Huovar broke my heart when she wouldn’t let Alan lend me his bike anymore, probably because I asked for it too many times.
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?
High School students were excused from class to man the aircraft warning tower on top of the Fire Hall. I remember blackouts, shortages, war bonds, rationing, and classmates quitting school to enter the service.
After graduation from high school, I got a job as a mechanic at Boeing Aircraft. There were lots of women working in war plants but, considering my mechanical skills and for the good of the country, that fall I left to go to school at the U of W.
People on the home front corresponded with loved ones and friends in the service; sending care packages filled with toiletries, cookies, hand-knit scarves, etc., and writing lots of letters. The letters from overseas were called V-Mails, smaller and weighing less.
Just about every able-bodied man was in the service. Families proudly displayed a blue star in their window to show that a son, daughter, or husband was in the service. Sad to say, a gold star meant that the serviceman had been killed in action.
We were fortunate that more servicemen and women from our town weren’t killed in action. The Class of 1944 lost Joe Tondreau, a star athlete, and my husband lost his brother. Louis Petersen, Class of 1936, over Belgium. They were just two of the many that we lost from this area.
During those war years, we can remember with great pride the patriotic spirit that flowed throughout our country.
How did the Japanese Internment affect Issaquah? Did you know men and women who were taken to Internment Camps?
We had only one Japanese family in the area, the Kobukatas, with three children, Yuri, Ken and Ume, attending Issaquah High School at the time. All of them were well liked, sharp as a whip and school leaders. Yuri was editor of the 1941 Sammamish, and I always thought that Ume could very well have been valedictorian of our class. It must have been a terrible thing for them to be told they must leave everything and go to internment camps, because I believe they considered themselves Americans. As a matter of fact, Ken fought with the U.S. Army in Italy.
It was our loss as well as theirs. It’s heartening to know that they have done well with their lives elsewhere.
Issaquah Round-Up—Salmon Days—Labor Day Celebrations
What do you remember about Labor Day Celebrations or Salmon Days?
In the thirties, every kid got a dime reward for being in the parade. Then there were all sorts of races in the ballpark, and if you were fast enough, you could win more dimes. Of course, the carnival had come to town and they were very happy to see you spending your dimes on their rides.
The parade grew bigger and better in later years. The Labor Day Queen earned the title by selling the most raffle tickets, and our next-door neighbor, Bev Wright, won one year, so she and her court rode on their special float. The high school band usually played, and various marching units would come every year. The Eagles’ hillbilly band was always a big hit.
They still had some fun contests in the ballpark. One year, my husband, Jerry, won the “greased pig” contest, and, farm boy that he is raised it for meat.
The big dance was at the VFD hall, with Les LaBrie and Bonnie Guitar playing many times.
Sorry, but Salmon Days is too big for me. Too many people. Too many dogs. Too many booths. Too expensive. To tell the truth, the only thing that might tempt me to fight my way through the crowd is for one of Boehm’s Dilly Bars, but that line’s probably too long, anyway.
Was there any year that these celebrations were especially memorable to you?
Our family had a great time at kiddies parades during the 1950’s when the kids had floats decorated as “The King and I,” “Fiesta in Italy,” and “1890 Duryea.” It was a lot of fun for all of us, but now I rarely go downtown to watch the parade.
What special activities were there at Labor Day Celebrations, or at Salmon Days? How has Salmon Days changed over time?
It’s gone from small-town friendliness to big-time mobs.
What are your memories of the Rodeo?
I don’t remember a rodeo, but I vaguely recall motorcycles racing through rings of fire in the ballpark.
Did you spend a lot of your free time outside? What do you remember about fishing, hunting, or hiking in the area? What was your favorite hiking trail?
In the spring, the kids in our neighborhood, usually led by Ethylmarie Watkins, with Punky, Cappy and me in tow, and anyone else who wanted to come, picked trilliums in the woods across from what is now Issaquah Valley Elementary. Sometimes I’d hike with school friends up to Round Lake and Lake Tradition, but the big question was, do we dare walk the trestle?
The fishing derby was lots of fun for kids like my son, and he still loves to fish.
What are your memories of Vasa Park? What did you do while there?
Originally, Pinko Brolio and Earl Paulsen used the VFD hall for roller-skating, but later they moved down to Vasa Park. The Swedes still had their Midsummer Festival there, but the hall became Lakeview Skating Rink for many years, the name changing to Vasa Roller Rink by 1944.
It was very popular, but a lot harder to get there. Earl would pick kids up on his way through town, but you had to be there when he came by, or no skating that night. Everyone had to ride back to town with him, too. One time he had twelve kids packed in the car.
The rink joined the RSROA, which had certain skating standards, and some of the younger, talented skaters were entering competitions. Shoe skates had wooden wheels in those days, and we’d glide around and around to Laverne Little’s beautiful music on the Hammond organ.
It was a lot of fun for couples to skate the circle waltz and other dances. There were never enough skating partners to go around during the war, so lots of times I found myself skating the fella’s part, and I have the scars to prove it.
Did you go swimming in the local lakes in the summer? Or ice-skating at the Horrock’s Farm in the winter?
I didn’t get to go to the lake very much (it was that car thing again), but I do remember Red Cross swim lessons at Alexander’s Beach one summer. My Uncle George (Reini) was the instructor and town kids rode to the park in the back of a big, old truck for lessons.
Oh, do I remember skating at Horrock’s Pond! I borrowed some skates to try ice- skating for the first time, but, unfortunately, Bruce Barlow and I fell through the ice. Luckily the pond wasn’t very deep, so we were able to get out okay. I was afraid to tell my grandma, so when, I got home, I hid my wet clothes. I do believe that my cousin Janis squealed on me, because my grandma met me the next day at lunch, in front of The Honeysuckle, and read me the riot act.
Logging and Sawmills
How did the logging industry affect Issaquah? How did it change? Did you work in logging? For what logging camp or sawmill? What do you remember of your logging days? What type of machines did you use for logging? How did you transport logs? How large were these logs?
My husband’s family owned Petersen Brothers, a large logging company in the area during the twenties. At one time they owned fifteen miles of track, two locomotives and logged large, old growth timber with steam logging machines.
I’m sure that in the early years, my grandfather, Matt Reini, and Uncle Louie worked in the woods, too.
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?
During the forties, my husband and his father, Louis E. Petersen, contract logged many years for Preston Mill. They also sold logs to Red Hall and the High Point Mill.
The Petersens were an old-time logging family living at Coalfield. In fact, my husband was only fourteen years old when he learned to high climb.
Did you travel frequently into Seattle? How did you get there? What did you do while in Seattle?
Going to Seattle was a long trip through Renton, but every Decoration Day, my grandma Reini and I rode the bus to Seattle to decorate my mother and Aunt Helia’s graves at Mount Pleasant Cemetery on Queen Anne Hill. The day before, we picked flowers from our yard, keeping them fresh in a tub of water overnight. The next morning w wrapped them in newspapers and took them with us on the bus to Seattle.
The route it took was via the Sunset Highway, through Renton, and then followed Empire Way to Rainier into town. We had to transfer to a Queen Anne bus, which took us up to the graveyard, where we covered the two graves with the flowers we’d brought. We reversed the sequence to go home, so it was a long day.
How did the construction of I-90 change life in Issaquah?
Who would have thought how our lovely, peaceful valley would be so drastically changed by one little floating bridge and a highway? Droves of people have come, and our little town is lost forever.
What was your first car? Did you buy it from Hepler Ford Motors, Stonebridge Chevrolet, or the Kaiser-Frazier dealership?
Our first car was a used 1930 model A coupe, which cost a total of $60.00.
Fraternal Organizations—Local Halls
What are your memories of the fraternal organizations? Did you belong to the Elks Lodge, or Lions Club, etc?
I was a Rainbow Girl for a couple of years. My grandfather was a member of the Oddfellow’s Lodge and The Finnish National Club.
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 Camp Fire Girls earned money for a trip by selling hamburgers and home-baked goodies when the club had their turkey shoots.
What types of events did you attend at the Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) Hall? Did you use the shooting range located in the basement?
We went to many Saturday night dances, the annual men’s and women’s bowling league parties, and roller-skating at the Fire Hall.
It was a lot of fun during the sixties when the Couples Club got together at the Grange Hall every month for cocktails, dinner and dancing. Each month’s committee planned the theme, decorations, food, did the clean up, and everyone had a good time.
Do you have any memories of Issaquah’s mining days? Were you involved in mining?
My grandpa Reini worked in the mines, and spent many years in the sanitarium at Georgetown with “black lung.”
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?
The Brunsbergs owned the theater and movies cost a dime. “Mama” (my grandmother) seemed to always have a dime for me, so I went to a movie almost every Friday night. One time she came with me and we saw a Gene Autry movie. She really liked to hear him sing “South of the Border.” I can remember the newsreels, serials, and singing along to the bouncing ball.
When “Gone With the Wind” came to our theater, the price had gone up, but I went to a special showing about 9 a.m. one Saturday, and spent the whole morning watching the movie. Then I walked up to Drylie’s, checked out the book, and took it home to read. That was a GWTW marathon.
I used to be able to close my eyes and name the old Front Street Businesses, but those memories are fading.
I remember, though, that Ai Garner was always good for a wiener at Fischer’s.
Mr. Cussac had a musty, old shoe store and lived upstairs over the store with his wife and White Bull Terrier dogs. He taught baton twirling. One time he dressed up for a parade as a majorette, strutting and twirling his way down the street. He was great!
Miss. Eaves had a dress shop, which she sold to Doreen Dalbotten and Maxine Maulsby. It was renamed DorMax, and I worked there in 1946. The two sisters and their mother, Mrs. Gregg, were always good to me.
Pretty much all through high school, I worked after-school at the Issaquah 10 Cent Store owned by the Maulsbys. Maxine never did find out that Midge Spagel and I soaped the store windows one Halloween. I felt guilty when she cleaned them the next day, but not guilty enough to ‘fess up.
The Morgans lived upstairs over the old bank, in an apartment next to the telephone office. Annie Morgan and Suzie Krall were the telephone operators.
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?
I went to Sunday School at the Issaquah Baptist Church in its old location behind the Alpine Dairy plant (now Darigold). It’s a small world, but in recent years we’ve become friends with Ed Doty from California, who, it turns out, is Pastor Umberger’s grandson.
My claim to fame is that I’ve outlived everybody in this neighborhood. The old neighbors are all gone.
The Watkins family lived across the street to the south, and they were a lively bunch. Ethylmarie treated me like a little sister. They had more money than we did, because they always looked like fashion plates on Easter Sunday. I think Punky and Cappy were the only kids in the neighborhood to have fireworks for the Fourth of July; luckily, we got to watch the show.
The Johnsons lived right next door. Bill Johnson used to tease me with ditties such as “Viola bumbola teealagafola teelegged toelegged bowlegged Viola.”
The Chalfas lived across the street to the east. Jack was in my class. The twins, Donna and Dulcie, ushered at the theatre.
The Talus family lived kitty-corner from us, and their buildings covered the north end of the block. Sometimes mama took me over to use their sauna.
Years later, Ross and Saima (Talus) Wright lived in the Johnson house next door, and we became good friends. Saima and I were card-playing buddies.
OUR HOUSE AND FAMILY:
Tour guides used to show our house to people during their historic house tours, because it’s supposed to be one of the oldest houses in Issaquah. Unfortunately, it no longer looks the same, because there’s very little left of the original house, unless you count the square nails in the attic and center ridge.
My maternal grandparents were Matt and Matilda Reini. I don’t know when the Reini family first came to Issaquah, but, judging by school records, they were here from 1920-1924. I believe they moved away for a time, returned, and moved into this house in 1926. The family has lived here ever since.
The Reinis came from Finland, and neither one of them was able to speak or write much English. They had many friends in the Finnish community. Of course, Finnish was spoken at home and, in my younger days, I was able to speak it a little, and could even read some of the Finnish newspaper.
I spent a lot of time with my grandparents as a toddler, but moved to my mother’s in Seattle to start school. When my mother, Miriam, only 26 years old, died in 1936, I moved here for good.
It seems like my grandpa was in the sanitarium in Georgetown most of the time after I moved here. He did come home for a short time, and when he tried to talk to me in Finn, I’m ashamed to say that I insisted he speak English to me. This was during the war, and I used patriotism as my excuse, but I regret it to this day. He died in 1944.
Because my mother died so young, my grandmother became “mama” to me, and I loved her dearly. She died in 1950.
Jerry Petersen and I were married in 1946 and we’ve lived in this house most of our married life.
I graduated from Issaquah High School in 1944 and Jerry in 1943. All of our children went to school here; David (66), Dana (67), Darcy (72), and Dara (75).
CLASS OF 1944…..Do You Remember?
We were born before television, before penicillin, before polio shots, frozen dinners, Xerox, plastic, contact lenses, Frisbees, and the pill. We were before radar, credit cards, split atoms, laser beams, ball point pens, before pantyhose, dishwashers, clothes dryers, electric blankets, air conditioners, drip-dry clothes, and before man walked on the moon. We got married first and then lived together. How quaint can you be?
In our time, closets were for clothes, not for “coming out of.” Bunnies were small rabbits and rabbits were not Volkswagens. Designer jeans were scheming girls named Jean, and having a meaningful relationship meant getting along well with a family member.
We though fast food was what you ate during Lent, and Outer Space was the school playground. We were before house-husbands, gay rights, dual careers, and commuter marriages. We were before day-care centers, group therapy, and nursing homes. We never heard of FM radio, tape decks, CDs, electric typewriters, artificial hearts, yogurt, and guys wearing earrings. For us, time-sharing meant togetherness, not sharing vacation time in a condominium, and whoever heard of a condo either? We were before word processors or computer dating; a chip meant a piece of food; hardware meant hardware and software wasn’t even a word.
In 1944 the term “making out” referred to how you did on your exam. Pizzas, McDonald’s, instant coffee and lattes were unheard of. We hit the scene when there were 5 and 10 cent stores, where you bought things for 5 and 10 cents. The Honeysuckle sold ice cream cones for a nickel or a dime (one scoop or two?). For one nickel you could ride a Seattle street car, make a phone call, buy a Pepsi, or enough stamps to mail one letter or two postcards. You could buy a new Chevy coupe for $600.00, but who could afford one, a pity too, because gas was 11 cents a gallon!
In our day, cigarette smoking was fashionable; “grass” was mowed, “coke” was a cold drink, and “pot” was something you cooked in. “Rock” music was a grandma’s lullaby, and “aids” were helpers in the principal’s office.
We were certainly not before the differences between the sexes was discovered, but we were surely before the sex change; we made do with what we had. And, we were the last generation that was so dumb we actually thought you needed a husband to have a baby!
No wonder we are so confused, and there is such a generation gap today…but we survived! What better reason to celebrate.
(This is not an original piece, but we copied and revised it a little for 50th class reunion.)
AUTHOR of THIS MEMORY BOOK (signature and date)
Viola Petersen March 31, 2001