I wrote a story Sunday about improvements to the intersection of Bethel Burley and Mullenix roads. It brought back memories. The intersection hasn’t changed much in 40 or 50 years, when I was growing up around the area. Outside of its name. For us old-timers, it was “the old highway” or “the old Gig Harbor highway.” I don’t remember what the real name was, but it wasn’t Bethel Burley. Guess what we called the new highway?
My dad told me a story the other day that involved the highway. We had a sawmill off of Mullenix back in the late 1950s and early 1960s. They were getting a lot of house orders from Tacoma. Dad would run boards through the planer to make them smooth and the right size. Then he’d jump in the truck and deliver them.
One day he was hauling a load in a Kenworth truck. He had turned left off of Mullenix onto the old highway — the only highway then. He went up a little hill and came upon a new school bus stopped to pick up kids. Dad smashed right into the back of it, sheering off its motor mounts. The driver, whose last name was Hoyt, got fired because he was supposed to be going all the way to Burley and picking up the kids on the way back. At least that’s how the story goes.
Dad’s truck was OK. He got back in and continued to Tacoma. Back then, the highway went through Purdy and Gig Harbor. The Purdy bypass wasn’t put in until 1977.
I can’t remember when the new highway opened but I’m pretty sure I was alive. It was there when I started driving in 1970, but was just two lanes, not divided and had all kinds of dangerous cross streets.