Adele Ferguson’s shoes

Doing an interview during the 1950s. Contributed photo / Secretary of State’s Office. Copyright 2015 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Doing an interview during the 1950s. Contributed photo / Secretary of State’s Office. Copyright 2015 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

There was far more material than I could use in the story about the passing of Adele Ferguson. Here are some more comments I think you’ll enjoy. There could be a few more. I received some written stories, but I’m double-checking to make sure the writers would be fine with me including them. Check back. They’re good ones.

“I always liked Adele because she would stab me in the front.” — Former Gov. Dan Evans. This quote actually was told to me by David Ammons, former AP statehouse reporter now with the Secretary of State’s office, but Evans confirmed that he said it.

“She was the den mother in a moveable feast. She was absolutely hilarious; I’ve never known a better story teller.” John Hughes, former editor of the Aberdeen Daily World, now overseeing the Secretary of State’s Legacy Project.

“They called her’Senator Adele,'” Rachel Pritchett, former Kitsap Sun reporter who met Adele in the 1980s. Pritchett was a communications staff member in the state Senate at the time.

“She was tough as nails, but she was also very feminine and dressed smartly. She was not feminist in the modern sense of the word. She pushed for the right for women reporters to wear pants on the floor.” — David Ammons

“She was a phenomenal asset to Bremerton. She defended Bremerton and she defended the Navy to the hilt.” — Ralph Munro, former Washington Secretary of State

“Adele was great. She could swear and drink with the best of the backroom politicians.  I remember one time late in Warren G. Magnuson’s career he came into the office assisted by two of his aides. They had hold of each of his elbows so he wouldn’t fall down. He stopped right next to my desk to steady himself and catch his breath. He still had about 30 feet to go to get to Adele’s office and made it in another couple minutes. The next day in her column Adele called Magnuson ‘robust and healthy.’ That was so far from the truth, but only Adele could get away with that. All the top politicians made appearances in her office. She was one of a kind, and I really liked her and got along great with her because she called them like she saw them, except for Warren G.)” — Terry Mosher, former Kitsap Sun reporter

“She was the only media person who sat through the Gamscam trial from day one to day end, so she had an opportunity of hearing all the testimony and listening to the various witnesses. She was a steadfast in my defense in that time and continued to be so.” — Gordon Walgren, former state legislator who served about two years in prison in connection with the Gamscam scandal.

“She was such a person of such stature. The Kitsap Sun should be so proud.” Rachel Pritchett.

“She never did go for a tape recorder to record. She was about the last reporter who depended on her own shorthand, but she easily the most accurate reporter that covered me.” — Dan Evans

“Adele could punish when she thought you did something wrong. Several times she would lay me out, but we were always friends.” Norm Dicks, former congressman.

“She was bigger than life for me when I was very young.” — Rachel Pritchett

“She gave as good as she got. She was deliciously bawdy and funny. Boy could she write.” — John Hughes.

“She had more insight in the capitol building than anyone, by far. She could smell a story two or three days before the next guy knew there was even one coming.” — Ralph Munro

“At times she would be salty. She could be critical, but she was always fair.” — Norm Dicks

“Feisty. Opinionated. Conservative. She had her own ideas and carried them out as best she could. Most of all she was a good friend.” — Gordon Walgren

“If Lehman (John Lehman, former secretary of the Navy) was at the Rotary or the Chamber of Commerce and he and I had gone fishing that day, she wanted to know all the details.” Norm Dicks, explaining Adele’s love of salmon fishing.

Dan Evans said Adele was covering an event in Washington, D.C. and was sitting next to him. A button came off his sport coat. She looked in her purse and found a sewing kit and sewed the button back on. “It was the last thing you would expect out of adele. She said, ‘You tell anybody about this and I’ll kill you.'”

“I was sitting next to her. I asked her what it would take to get onto the Bremerton Sun. She said, ‘Not much, apparently.” — Rachel Pritchett

One of Adele’s fellow Olympia reporters was on deadline to send in a column, but “he was so drunk there was no way he could have written that column.” Adele said, “‘I wrote the column for him. I knew how he wrote.’ I don’t think you could get away with that nowadays.” — Dan Evans

“She would invite people into her office and say, ‘Don’t sit down.” — Rachel Pritchett

When I got to spend those four days up there, (Hughes interviewed Adele over four days for the Legacy Project oral history about Adele. about the fourth day I decided it would not be imprudent. I allowed myself to have a little beaker; I think it was MacNaughton’s. I kissed her on the forehead and she said, ‘Don’t be fresh.’” — John Hughes

“She was a superb political reporter. She feared no one and she was always up front in her feelings.” Dan Evans

Point of personal privilege: In the first six years I worked for the Kitsap Sun beginning in 2002 I knew Adele Ferguson mostly through her columns in the local biweeklies and from her questions at debates during election season. It was in 2008 that things changed for me. We attended both county party conventions, offering coverage for our different publications. Again, she was writing for the biweeklies. I was writing for the paper she had been the voice of for almost five decades.

At the Republican convention the party gave her a Barnes & Noble gift card. I sat next to her at the Democratic convention and the party didn’t give her any gifts, but several delegates came to the table to say “Hello” to her. This was the first time I ever had a lengthy conversation with Adele and I was charmed like you wouldn’t believe. Maybe if you ever met her you would believe it.

A few things charmed me. One, she was a vivacious story teller, and I’m a sucker for stories. Secondly, she had all kinds of respect from a large number of Democrats that day. Certainly they didn’t like her politics, but they loved her. Third, she said she used the gift from the Republicans to buy Barack Obama’s books. Fourth, for all that she had accomplished she didn’t ever treat me as anything but a peer, and given her history and all she accomplished she had every right to act superior.

After that I got to meet with her at her home in Hansville when the state made her one of three oral history subjects. At other times I would call her when I needed a quote about someone with political history here in Washington or for other various reasons. In every instance she was gracious to me. I know others can’t say that. I guess I was a lucky one.

It is true that she wrote columns later in life that were unsupportable. Not that many, but how many does it take? Set that aside for a moment and consider the woman’s life as a whole. We, both women and men, walk through doors she opened. It’s hard for me to imagine some of our open government laws existing without reporters like Adele Ferguson, who called nonsense on secrecy. Women, particularly journalists, owe their opportunities to Adele and others like her.

I’m 53 and I enjoy political reporting, but I’m content in the reality that my chances of ever filling Adele’s shoes as a political reporter are slim. Perhaps that time has passed for anyone, but even if it hasn’t it would be akin to matching the greatness of a Willie Mays or Sandy Koufax. She meant that much. Big shoes.

For me, even though Adele will be remembered generally for her work as a political reporter, I’ll remember her most through two stories she told me at that Democratic convention. From that moment on I was a fan. She also told them to John Hughes, who wrote her biography and oral history for the state’s Legacy Project. Those stories will conclude this insufficient memorial. Allow me to add one more thing. I’m really going to miss Adele. I feel lucky that I ever got to meet her.

Now, here are the stories, both involving shoes. I’ve taken these stories from Hughes’ work, The Inimitable Adele Ferguson.

STORY 1
Ferguson: (Telling a World War II-era story of her family.) … We finally got near California, but we were running out of gas. We stopped to find my father. My mother got a hold of him, and he was at camp. We found out we couldn’t stay there.
Hughes: What camp was that, Adele?
Ferguson: I don’t know where he was stationed. It was near Los Angeles. So my mother thought, “Well, if we can’t stay here, let’s go up to Washington.” My mother’s brothers were all up there working in that Navy Yard. So we thought, “OK.” But we had to have gas. We headed to the gas rationing office. First we went to a park because we didn’t want to take all the kids with us. We left all the kids at the park. My mother and I then drove back to the gas ration office, and as soon as they found out we had eight kids with us they gave us enough gas to get us to Alaska. I mean they gave us all the stamps we could possibly use.
Hughes: This was the federal gas rationing board?
Ferguson: Yeah. Well, wouldn’t you, if somebody showed up with all those kids?
Hughes: Absolutely.
Ferguson: So we got the gas stamps and we went back down to the park and picked up the kids. We were about an hour out of town, Los Angeles, when Peggy said, “I left my shoes at the park!” And we thought, “We don’t have any shoe stamps.” And you had to have stamps to buy shoes. So we had to turn around and drive all the way back to the park to get her shoes. We found her shoes under a tree. And sitting by them was my brother Robin! We never even missed him. (gales of laughter)
Hughes: How old was Robin?
Ferguson: Oh, who knows?
Hughes: He’s a little kid, 4 or 5?
Ferguson: Yeah.
Hughes: That’s incredible. You left him behind and didn’t know it.
Ferguson: And he’s crying a little, but he said, “I knew you’d come back for the shoes.”

STORY 2
Ferguson: (A Depression-era story) I told my mother one time, I said, “You know I have to have some new shoes. I really need new shoes.”
And she said, “Well, I haven’t got the money to buy them.”
And I said, “Well listen, I’ve got the worst shoes in the whole school. And I really have to have new shoes.”
And she said, “Well, I wish I could buy them for you, but I just can’t. I’m sure there’s somebody who’s got worse shoes than you.”
A couple days later, I went into the girls’ bathroom at school, and I was sitting on the toilet, and it was open between the stalls. I see these feet hanging down under the toilet next door to me. “God look at those shoes,” I mean the toes were all stubbed off, and the laces were just knots; the heels were worn to a nubbin. And I thought, “My god, my mother was right. There is somebody who’s got worse shoes than I have.” So when I got out I waited, and the door opened, and my sister Alice walked out!

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