Monthly Archives: December 2015

Of Bloody Marys, sequoias and ninjas — 10 things we learned in Bremerton in 2015

The ships that came and went in 2015.

As we reach the end of 2015, it’s time to reflect on our year in Bremerton. One of the joys of my job is that, each day, I learn something new and fascinating about the town in which we live. In painstaking fashion, I have whittled down the most fascinating things I learned in Bremerton this year to 10. Enjoy!

The secret to filling up downtown Bremerton? Astronomers 


Never mind a grocery store. Plop 300 of the brightest minds in astronomy in downtown Bremerton and you get packed restaurants and bars, night after night. I am oversimplifying a bit, but the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope conference in Bremerton in August was by all accounts a smashing success.

None of this would have happened without the efforts of Bob Abel, an Olympic College physics professor. He convinced the powers-that-be, who work on this very special telescope, that not only should they come to Bremerton, they should also share their knowledge free of charge with the community events all week long.

We found out why that guy carries around an AK-47 

For months, I had heard about a guy walking around town with a rifle over his shoulder. Who was he? And why did he feel it necessary to openly carry such a weapon?

Larry Steagall photo.

In my mind, it cried out for a story and I contemplated how I would get in touch with him. After a post ran on our Facebook page, Kyle Davis actually reached out to us. So I spent a couple days getting to know him, even following him on his morning commute across the Warren Avenue Bridge.

Davis told me he carries the gun to protect his family. He also hoped that it would serve as an inspiration to others.

The Bremerton Ninja awakens 

I’d challenge you to go elsewhere in America and find the mesmerizing entertainment you get, almost daily, at the corner of 11th Street and Warren Avenue. There, the man known as the Bremerton Ninja has transformed a rake handle into a staff and twirls it with the grace and dexterity ready for a Vegas stage.

I myself felt inspired the day I spent with Brandon Duran at the intersection. His motivation for enduring the elements to entertain drivers was to, “Build self-confidence,” he told me.

Safe to say he’s done so: He’s still going, and his Facebook page is up to 861 followers.

They let the garbage bill slide in 2015 (but they won’t in 2016)

Meegan Reid photo.
Meegan Reid photo.

Waste Management pays the city of Bremerton $125,000 for the privilege of picking up garbage from the city’s residents. And, due to the public health risks festering trash could pose, the company has been picking up the garbage here regardless of whether or not the customer has paid.

Roughly one in five customers in Bremerton is now behind on their garbage bill. Coincidence? In consultation with the city, Waste Management will be cutting off customers starting in 2016. Should the garbage pile up, the city could levy fines on customers. We’ll see in the coming months how this goes.

Navy Yard City: the city that is no city at all 

Since I started covering Bremerton, one thing I’ve found truly perplexing is how this city zigzags like a bad game of Tetris. I wonder about the inefficiencies of delivering government services, whether you’re in neighboring Kitsap County or the in city.

Kicking off what I hope to be a series of stories examining those zigzags, I tackled in 2015 Navy Yard City — a neighborhood that in the county. The area has long been home to residents who feel taxes and regulations will increase if they become part of the city. But the area is planned to become Bremerton under the state’s Growth Management Act, so county officials aren’t exactly thinking of this portion of their territory as a long-term relationship.

In 2016, I hope to tackle similar areas like Rocky Point and West Hills.

Solving some — but not all — of the mysteries behind Bremerton’s famed Sequoias 


Bremerton is full of beautiful conifers, but the two most iconic are on Veneta Avenue, between Fourth and Fifth streets. They’ve stood tall there for decades, and are so beloved that most people I’ve spoken to prefer a future where the trees’ roots slowly destroy and shut the adjacent road.

But how did they get there? I have two theories.

The first is that Sero Migliavacca, a prominent Bremerton banker in the early 20th century (and the city’s first millionaire) helped plant them. He was from California, home to redwood country, and in 1910 built the fanciest home in all of the city at the corner of Fourth and Veneta. It’s still there today.

The second theory is that they are relatives of the sequoia inside the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Around 1900, someone gave a sequoia to the commanding officer of the shipyard as a gift — and the tree still stands, less than 1/3 of a mile from the Veneta trees. It may be as simple as a bird somehow relocating a sequoia cone a little north.

But the exact answer? We may never know.

The Navy’s best kept and most decorated secret is buried in Bremerton

Every time I walk by the submarine sail that sits in the concrete at the entrance of the Harborside Fountain Park, I think of the daring missions its crew completed.

The USS Parche is the most decorated vessel in Navy history — and for good reason. While many of its missions are still classified, the book “Blind Man’s Bluff” claims the boat wandered into the lion’s den of the Soviet Union — our Cold War enemy’s most secure waters — and tapped into communication cables chock full of Soviet secrets. Every sailor aboard was prepared to die had the vessel been discovered.

It’s an amazing piece of history that we’re lucky to have in Bremerton.

We learned a lot about the Roxy’s past — and discovered something about its future 

Bremerton’s Roxy Theater, which opened in 1941, is steeped in history. But it has been closed for a few years now after a church vacated it. Many of you toured it with me in July as part of a Story Walk, and witnessed the opening night newsreel that recently surfaced.

But the big news came in November, with the announcement that Sound West Group had signed up to purchase the art deco theater. They plan to reopen it for events, and I know many of you are excited for that to occur.

 It was a great year to watch giant military ships sail to and from Bremerton

If you like watching mammoth ships come and go from Bremerton, 2015 was a banner year. Two aircraft carriers, the Constellation and Ranger, both left the mothball fleet for good. The Stennis made repeated trips out to sea for training. And the Nimitz was towed here to start 2015 (and will stick around).

Boat-watching wasn’t so bad either: Bremerton’s namesake submarine made a stop here and many others came to the shipyard and to Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton. That includes the Seawolf and the Connecticut, the two subs that are home-ported here.

There’s something about (Bloody) Marys in Bremerton

Aside from being one heck of a bartender, Annie Herinckx is also a marketing genius. The manager of The Garage Bar & Grill on Kitsap Way created a menu of Bloody Marys and the buzz reached epic proportions in 2015. Each menu items includes not only the ingredients of the iconic drink but also: Burgers, shrimp, grilled cheese, and pretty much anything else you can attach to a glass without it falling over.

This is a far cry from the bar I had written about a few years ago — one with the distinction of having more drunk drivers caught leaving it than any other in the state. Its metamorphosis into The Garage is quite the success story.

It also made for one of the more awkward phone conversations I had this year. Speaking with owner Jack Johnson about their successes, he sprung a question I hadn’t expected:

“Remember the article you wrote that killed my bar?” he asked.

How does one answer that?

“Umm, yes?” I replied.

He went on to tell me about all of the changes they had made to their establishment. I’ve witnessed them myself, and if you haven’t gone to The Garage for breakfast, or any other meal recently, you are seriously missing out.

This year’s honorable mentions: 

The Motel 6 explosion (or why gas lines should not be used as ladders

The quonset hut that inspired a baker 

The Bremerton park inspired by Seattle’s worlds fair

East High School’s rotting carcass (and what to do about it)

The time zombies invaded the Turner Joy  

The parks department has an $80,000 lawnmower 

Norm Hall, a mailman who loves his job 

Got goats?

Happy new year, Bremerton! Oh — and if you made it this far, here’s the 10 things we learned in 2014.

Beat blast: 5 things you’ve gotta know in Bremerton this week

What city’s now a two-carrier town? You guessed it: Bremerton. Lots of stories to catch you up on this week in the above video, including:

This historic vessel’s $1.2 million overhaul — if someone will foot the bill
A bookstore that will stay in Bremerton longer than its pop-up phase
The garbage company’s coming crackdown on delinquent payers
A brand new ferry that will be ready to go in 2018

And of course, the news of the Nimitz.

Feedback? Yes please.


The Washington State auto ferry Kaleetan passes the USS John C. Stennis on Friday. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN
The Washington State auto ferry Kaleetan passes the USS John C. Stennis on Friday. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN

‘Z Nation’ Finale featuring Bremerton airs tonight

Keith Allan, who plays Murphy on the show "Z Nation," gets his makeup done aboard the Turner Joy in September. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN
Keith Allan, who plays Murphy on the show “Z Nation,” gets his makeup done aboard the Turner Joy in September. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN

Remember when zombies invaded the Turner Joy a few months backTonight, we’ll finally get to see the episode of “Z Nation” featuring the vessel and Bremerton as its backdrop.

The show, in its second season, will air its finale tonight at 10 p.m. on the SyFy Channel. The Horse & Cow Bar and Grill, 536 Fourth Street, will host a viewing party tonight as it airs for the first time.

I’ve been working my way through all the episodes, and can tell you that this bloody and campy zombie apocalypse romp is quite entertaining. The show is based around a character named Murphy, played by actor Keith Allan. He’s the first known half-man, half-zombie, and his colleagues will stop at nothing to get him to a lab to see if he can help find a cure for the zombie virus.

The show was filmed entirely in Spokane, until they came west on a suggestion from a Bremerton City Council member. With season 2’s ending revolving around sets used in Bremerton, who knows — maybe they’ll need a similar set up to start season 3. I’ll keep you posted.


Beat Blast: 5 things you’ve gotta know in Bremerton this week

So, Washington Avenue actually reopened? Yup. That tops our list of 5 stories in this edition of the Bremerton Beat Blast. Other stories include:


  • A downtown Bremerton sushi restaurant is changing hands, and will soon close for renovations.
  • Another restaurant, inside Bremerton’s historic Bay Bowl, is closing.
  • There’s a possibility that hydroplane races could come to Sinclair Inlet next year.
  • Social media pick of the week: Rainbow caught on camera.

Hope you enjoyed this edition. We’ll be off next week but will return Dec. 28. As always, please send your comments to or post one below.

57 years ago today, one of Bremerton’s ‘greatest tragedies’


A man peers over the edge of the exposed bridge, looking into the water below. It’s a terrible scene, the aftermath of a 1957 Pontiac hardtop busting through the railing of the Warren Avenue Bridge and plunging into the Port Washington Narrows.

At the time, it was called one of the area’s “greatest tragedies” by the Bremerton Sun. On Dec. 14, 1958 — 57 years ago today — three young men fell to their deaths in that car, mere weeks after the Warren Avenue Bridge opened.

The bodies of Gary Lee Hill, 22, and Joseph E. Jenkins, Jr., 21, were recovered with the car right after it happened. But it would take almost a month more to locate the third, that of Gerald R. “Robbie” Clark, 20, who’d been driving the car.

Simply put, the crash shocked the community around the holidays in a newly made two-bridge town.


“The bridge had just opened, and everyone was regaling in it,” recalls Marlene Johnson Casmaer, a former Manette resident who was only about 10 at the time. “The Manette Bridge was kind of scary, and had a darkness to it. The new bridge was so modern looking, bright and airy.”

Only the new, $5 million bridge’s railings were clearly not made to withstand a car. Only a few years ago, the state installed concrete barriers to prevent that from happening. The bridge may be changed again soon to promote greater pedestrian access.

But mere weeks after the bridge first opened on Nov. 25, 1958, the three plunged to their deaths. There were allegations that drag racing preceded the crash. In any event, the incident also sparked an eerie quest to find Clark’s body to help bring about some closure, Johnson Casmaer said. Today, it reminds her of the movie “Stand by Me.”


“There’d be people looking all over the beach each day,” she said.  “That’s what Bremerton became like. Who would be the first to find him?

“It was beyond devastating,” she said.

From the Bremerton Sun on Jan. 19, 1959, after Clark’s body was recovered:

“The body of the handsome lad, found Saturday afternoon on the beach of Port Washington narrows below Bay Bowl, was buried near his father who died only a year ago … Terry and Mike Chandler, 14- and 10-year-old sons of Mr. and Mrs. Dale Chandler, 1303 Magnuson Way, stumbled onto the body as they were playing … ‘I thought it was Robbie Clark’s body,’ Terry said, ‘so I ran up to the Bay Bowling alley and told them.'”

Sadly, the bridge has claimed many more lives over the years since those three. Mick McKinley, a retired Bremerton assistant fire chief, recalled one time when crews were training in a boat below the bridge. A man jumped from the span not far from their boat.

“We pulled him in under 20 seconds,” he said.

If you have more information or photographs from newspaper coverage of this tragedy, please send them my way and I will update this post.


Why Bremerton weathers the storm better than the rest of Kitsap


Storm after storm has rolled into Kitsap County this fall, knocking out electricity each time to hundreds, if not thousands of people. 

Yet I struggle to recall a single time that my Bremerton home’s lost power. And I’ve heard from others, too, that while the rest of the county’s sans electricity, the lights remain on in Bremerton.

That got me curious, so I called Tom Brobst, Puget Sound Energy‘s municipal liaison manager. Tom knows Kitsap County’s electricity grid as well as anyone. There’s a variety of reasons, he told me, but the biggest one — and the most obvious — is trees.

John Kaster from Kitsap County Public Works places hazard cones on the Seabeck Highway across from the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club on Tuesday. Downed trees pulled down power lines. (LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN)
Downed lines on Seabeck Highway. (LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN)

“Bremerton is urban,” Brobst said. “It doesn’t have the amount of trees that you have in say, Hansville or Holly.”

Trees cause so many more outages than anything else that a special kind of power line — built with a special coating on it so the wires continue to work even when impact — was developed, he said.

The other main reason that Bremerton rarely loses power is that the power grid here is full of “loops” that provide backup even when one line goes down.

“If there is a power outage, we have a grid (in Bremerton) that’s capable of picking up areas in the core,” he said.

Here’s an example: if you live on a street in the city with a downed line, electricity will divert from another line nearby to restore power at your home. However, if you live out in the sticks, where the one line on the street goes down, there’s no other line beyond it that will feed you backup power.

Bremerton also benefits from having Puget Sound Energy’s high transmission lines — the most powerful in the system, as you might have guessed — go right through the city. Those aren’t as likely to be lost to an outage.

The city’s age and some of its properties probably help too. For instance, Harrison Medical Center is served by two substations. Substations are critical in that they reduce the amount of power down to more bitesized chunks as it heads for neighborhood lines. But substations can only handle so many customers — hence Bainbridge’s challenges as residents there chose conservation over a new substation a few years back. Having two nearby ensures power won’t go out as often. (Side note: Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton actually buys its own power and can generate it on its own, too.)

So, while the rest of the county’s residents might worry about whether they’ll have hot water for a shower or be able to watch TV during the next storm, rest assured, Bremerton. (Aaaaand, I’m knocking on wood right now.)

Beat Blast: 5 things you’ve gotta know in Bremerton this week

Did Monday’s weather feel especially dark and dreary to you? That’s because it actually was.

In this week’s Bremerton Beat Blast video, you’ll learn:

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 3.14.40 PM1. What new letterpress company just opened in downtown Bremerton?

2. What construction project will gum up the Seattle ferry terminal for years to come? (And we’re not talking about the 99 tunnel, either.)

3. Who’s the new director at Bremerton Foodline?

4. What Bremerton health care company’s name is fading out for good?

5. And — as promised — just how dark was Monday?

Thanks for watching. Please send questions or comments to


A brief history of Bremerton

Bremer's monument, on the Louis Mentor Boardwalk.
Bremer’s monument, on the Louis Mentor Boardwalk.

Bremerton is a city rich in history. I wanted to create a single post that would cover its most pivotal events. I intend this synopsis to be a living post; that is, I offer anyone a chance to offer his or her two cents on how it could be made better — and most importantly to me, more accurate. Please share it with your friends and neighbors. We’re all in this together.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 3.00.43 PM
Pre-World War II photo of Bremerton, courtesy of Evergreen Upholstery.

Bremerton’s beginnings can be traced in large part to two men: Ambrose Wyckoff and William Bremer.

Wyckoff, a Navy lieutenant, came to Seattle in 1877 to conduct a surveying mission. The man who would become known as “That Puget Sounder” made his case to Congress for a shipyard in Sinclair Inlet, and eventually, he got his way. Congress appropriated $10,000 in 1891 and the 145-acre Puget Sound Naval Yard was born.

Bremer, a German immigrant and Henry Paul Hensel, a jeweler, saw opportunity in Wyckoff’s purchase. They bought up the land, sold some of it to the Navy at $50 an acre and ultimately developed the beginnings of Bremerton.

The shipyard sputtered at first during a nationwide depression but got rolling after Wyckoff and others worked to get another $1.5 million from Congress by 1901, when the city was officially incorporated. The same year, nearby Charleston established a post office, the beginnings of a bustling commercial district there. The postmaster, who also owned a mill near what is now Evergreen-Rotary Park, started burning refuse from the mill in what became the city’s first source of electricity.

Bremerton has been known for its rowdy bars through the years, but its earliest era may well have been the roughest. By 1903, the town had 16 saloons in a city of only 1,200 people. The Navy threatened to leave Sinclair Inlet until Alvin Croxton, the town’s first mayor, did something about it: he led the charge to close them all.

Even before Bremerton, a community was building around a mill on the shores just north of present-day Manette. William Renton established a saw mill in 1854 at Enetai Point, but it burned down 16 years later, after Renton sold it and established a mill at Port Blakely on Bainbridge Island. Still, a town grew there and in neighboring Tracyton. In 1916, a ferry was established between Bremerton and Manette. Two years later, Manette was incorporated into the city, and Charleston followed in 1927. What was created was a city on two peninsulas, finally linked by the Manette Bridge in 1930.

Shipyard Crane
The iconic shipyard crane was installed in 1933.

As it has throughout history, Bremerton has ebbed and flowed like the tides with the country’s war efforts. Following the first world war, the city started to languish until its biggest boom of all came with the second. The population here exploded from 15,000 to 85,000, as Westpark, Eastpark and Sheridan Park were built in an effort to provide enough housing. An African American population grew as well, but was confined to Sinclair Park in what is now the West Hills until residents like Lillian Walker fought against the de facto segregation.

Barrage balloons surrounded the city in case of an attack by Japanese warplanes, blackouts were held and “victory gardens” became popular. Women working in the shipyard gave rise to the cultural icon “Rosie the Riveter.” Even after the war, it was allegedly a local resident who told President Harry Truman to “Give ’em hell,” while at a speech at Fifth and Pacific.

The post-war years saw Bremerton decline from its war boom but maintain its status as Kitsap County’s commercial hub. Olympic College was created by the Bremerton School District in 1946, and was eventually taken over by the state. The Casad Dam, named for the visionary head of Bremerton public works was completed in 1957, and its Union River headwaters still provide the city’s water supply today. The Warren Avenue Bridge was completed in 1958, offering a second link to East Bremerton.

Warren Avenue Bridge.
Warren Avenue Bridge.

Then came an exodus toward more rural parts of Kitsap County. The federal government chose to build a new submarine base at Bangor in 1973. Suburban life grew in other parts of the county, and developers started eyeing locations outside Bremerton for shopping malls.

Ed Bremer, last surviving member of the founding family, attempted to keep Bremerton as the commercial center of the county. But his efforts would backfire: Ron Ross, developer of the Kitsap Mall, sued successfully and won a $2 million judgement for impeding an attempt by Ross to build a mall near Wheaton Way and Riddell Road.

Ed Bremer and others cross Second Street in this 1970s photo. (Evergreen Upholstery)

Bremerton’s end as the county’s retail hub more or less officially came on Aug. 1, 1985, the day Kitsap Mall opened in Silverdale. Ed Bremer died about a year later. His fortunes went to the Bremer Trust, which now benefits Olympic College but still maintains a portfolio of Bremerton properties.

Efforts in the 1990s to restore Bremerton’s downtown were hit-and-miss. There were victories, including the restoration of the Admiral Theater and the construction of the new Bremerton Transportation Center. But gang violence and high crime still plagued the city, and in 1998, the city lost the famed World War II Naval ship USS Missouri to Hawaii as a museum.

Downtown today.
Downtown today.

Bremerton’s beginning to the 21st century has seen its own set of victories and setbacks. Under Mayor Cary Bozeman, the city embarked on a vigorous downtown revitalization effort, branding it the “Harborside,” and developing controversial condominiums, conference center and fountain park. Many other city parks have been redeveloped, the old Westpark housing area was demolished and violent crime has plummeted.

A tunnel funneled traffic out of downtown, a new Manette Bridge replaced the old span and a 10-screen movieplex was built. But Harrison Medical Center, with roots here dating back to the early 20th century, announced plans recently to vacate most of its East Bremerton campus for Silverdale. A spate of downtown apartment projects aims to bring even more people into living an urban lifestyle in downtown Bremerton.

Special thanks to so many in helping me to put this together, including Kitsap Sun’s archives, historians Frank Wetzel, Fredi Perry Pargeter, Russell Warren and Ruth Reese, The Kitsap Historical Society and Museum and its staff, the book “Manette Pioneering,” and others.

Beat Blast: 5 things you must know in Bremerton this week

In this Bremerton beat blast, we journey to the end of Pacific Avenue, in search of the city’s newest pop-up store. (Spolier alert: We find it!)

In this week’s edition, you will learn:

1. What pop-up businesses are invading Bremerton?
2. Where can you spot Santa this Friday?
3. What cuts are the Bremerton City Council planning to make?
4. Where will Bremerton’s newest arcade be located?
5. Where can I take a free Bremerton history tour Saturday?

As always, let me know what you think. Oh, and see you Friday at Winterfest, Magic in Manette, and more!