Category Archives: History

A Memorial Day soldier’s story

“A lot of guys were killed and more were wounded. After a couple of months in the mountains of Southern France, attacking villages looking for Germans, they pulled us out and sent us to a camp ninety miles south of Paris for rest and recuperation. We rested up, ate well, drank a lot of wine and looked for French girls.”

For our Memorial Day 2013 piece we included a conversation with a Battle of the Bulge survivor.

Diane Lafond Marler sent us a three-page memoir written by her brother, Raymond C. Lafond, another one who survived what would become the battle that helped exhaust Germany’s ability to fight anymore.

Lafond must have written this sometime in 2007. He died in April 2008 at 83. He was living in a Silverdale care facility at the time.

His story not only provides some of the hard details of war, it is also filled with some of the humor you would expect in tales of when boys are forced to become men. Some parts of the boyhood never go away.

Raymond Lafond remembers the Battle of the Bulge by Steven Gardner

PO commemorative bricks, get ‘em while they’re hot

The ribbon was cut on Port Orchard’s City Hall 13 years ago, but it’s not too late to buy one of the commemorative tiles or bricks on walkways outside the stately building perched above the Port Orchard Marina.

Each summer, in fact, there is a short window of opportunity to engrave bricks and tiles not already spoken for. If this were Arizona instead of Western Washington, we could buy bricks and tiles all year ‘round.

The answer to this riddle is temperature. According to city clerk Brandy Rinearson, in charge of peddling the memorials, temperatures that reach or exceed 80 degrees for at least a portion of each day are required to warm the bricks, or the materials will be too brittle and will crack during engraving.

The 6”-by-6” tiles in the plaza in front of the main entrance on Prospect Street each allow for a three-line message, with up to 15 characters or spaces in each line. The tiles cost $50 each. The 3.5”-by-7” bricks, on the lower level outside the police department, allow for 18 characters or spaces and cost $35 each.

There are 608 tiles total, with 152 yet unmarked, and a total of 672 bricks, with 320 up for grabs.

The city doesn’t make any money on the sale of bricks and tiles. The fees cover the cost of the engraving, which is done by the Kenadar Corporation of Tacoma. Kenadar requires a minimum of 10 bricks and or tiles per visit. The city last year sold about a dozen.

“In years prior to that, they didn’t really market it very well,” Rinearson said. “Last year, we really went for it and told everybody and anybody.”

Many of the bricks and tiles already engraved are predictable odes to and by city leaders, civic groups and business people. The family of former City Councilman Bob Geiger, who operated a pharmacy downtown for decades, is well represented, for example, as are the Vlists, longtime owners of a car dealership on Bay Street.

Since the purchase of the commemorative bricks and tiles was open to the public, however, many others represent ordinary citizens who otherwise might have faded into oblivion.

“Doris Lind-Perrine, World’s Best Mom.”

The Gauvin family writes, “London, Paris, Rome, Port Orchard.”

And if we’ve forgotten “Millie S. Cohen, Humanitarian, a Visionary,” we should not have.

The city also dedicated a time capsule at the opening of the new city hall on Sept. 11, 1999. Longtime councilman John Clauson recalls its contents as news articles of the time, a copy of the opening ceremony program, a list of then-council members and staff, the Fathoms O’ Fun court and other community information … oh, and a couple hundred dollars in bills of various denominations, to document the new bills that had recently been put into circulation.

The time capsule contains a video of the last council meeting in the old city hall and the first meeting in the new city hall. It also holds entries from a contest the city held seeking essays on “Why I Like Living in Port Orchard.”

“We were just trying to get a snapshot of what the community was at the time,” Clauson said.

How has Port Orchard changed since 1999? It’s bigger by about nearly 3,000 souls and about 10 square miles, what with annexations. Oh, and gas is a whole lot more expensive, Clauson notes. Otherwise, he says, the city retains that “small, hometown feel” that’s been its hallmark lo these many decades.

The time capsule, installed under the main entrance flagpole, will be opened in 2049, on the “new” city hall’s 50th anniversary.

Oh, and in case anyone is thinking of pilfering the cash in the capsule, know that items are secured in several sealed plastic pipes that are installed in a box under a brass plaque … one level up from the police department.

The Port Orchard Masonic Lodge also installed a “cornerstone” time capsule on the Prospect Street side of city hall, to be opened in 2099, 100 years from the grand opening. The Masonic ceremony was held Aug. 21, 1999.

The new city hall was commissioned after a seismic survey showed the old city hall would not withstand an earthquake. The old building has long since been demolished.

Construction on the three-story, 28,370-square-foot building began on March 3, 1998. City hall was open for business May 22, 1999.

City officials at the time expressed pride that they would be able to pay off the $6.3 million building out of the city’s regular revenue and did not have to ask taxpayers for additional financing.

Commemorative tile and brick applications can be found online at www.cityofportorchard.us, or call the city clerk at (360) 876-4407

Old Waterman School celebrates 100th anniversary

Centennials … there’s a lot of that going around. On Sunday, the Kitsap Sun will run an article on Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church’s 100th anniversary.

Also turning 100 is the Old Waterman School, a single-story, one-room schoolhouse where scores of South Kitsap students expanded their minds through 1946, when the school closed. Since then, the Associated Clubs of Waterman have maintained the building for weddings, parties and other private events.

“It’s a wonderful old building. We try to keep it preserved,” said Janet Hane, club member.

The whitewashed schoolhouse on Hillcrest Road became a school in 1912, when rural one-room schoolhouses were the norm. Waterman School District #37 was later acquired by South Kitsap School District, and the school eventually was shuttered with the construction of larger, centrally located schools.

The building sat empty until some “old time Swedish settlers” bought it from the school district for $1 to preserve the schoolhouse for community use, Hane said. The “clubs” in Associated Clubs of Waterman refers to dance groups and other activity groups that met at the schoolhouse, as well as a former port district and something called the Good Roads Committee.

Today there are only about 30 members of the association left to carry the torch. Some, in their 80s, were once students at the school.

To celebrate the school’s 100th anniversary, the association will offer free root beer floats from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at the school, 5785 Hillcrest Road E.

“Maybe we’ll get some new members,” Hane said hopefully.

Annual dues for the association are a whopping $5.

“Coming to the Table” for Black History Month

Patricia Moncure Thomas, a long-time Port Orchard resident, has spent years delving into the history of her family, the Moncures, whose pedigree includes black and white members. Moncure Thomas was featured in a 2002 article in the Kitsap Sun, and she has written a book about her family, dating back to the 1700s.

Moncure Thomas since 2006 has taken part in a group called Coming to the Table, which focuses on the legacy of slavery and it ongoing effects. The six women who make up the group include descendants of slaves and slave owners.

Today (Feb. 26), Moncure Thomas and others in the group will meet at the Northwest African American Museum (Seattle) to culminate an eight-week workshop. She has been a facilitator.

Moncure Thomas’ website, Moncure Place…Connecting Family and Friends, contains stories, interviews, photos, family trees, and history of the times and places in which her Moncure family lived. She is President of the Black Historical Society of Kitsap Inc.

Her goal, as stated in her bio on the Coming to the Table website, “is to uncover and document untold stories about the legacy of slavery that have been left out of our United States history — stories, she says, that connect everyone as important parts of American history.” She attended a pilot Coming to the Table event in 2006 with a white Moncure descendant, and is now a member of the group’s community practice board. She is the principal of Browns Point Elementary in Tacoma, WA.

On Sunday, Kitsap County will wrap up its observance of Black History Month with the 12th annual Salad Bowl Sunday. The event — set for 3:30 p.m. at the Kitsap Sun Pavilion, 1200 NW Fairgrounds Road, Bremerton — was founded by Emmanuel Apostolic Church Bishop Lawrence Robertson as a celebration of diversity. The theme of this year’s event is “Designed to be Different.” The event is hosted by area churches and includes speakers and performers. If it’s anything like previous years, it concludes with a Pavilion-sized potluck.

So, question of the day: How have you celebrated Black History Month?

As seen in Bremerton — a Ford Pinto

1970s chick magnet
Every once in a while we get to witness things that do not rise to the level of news stories, but would make for great conversation at a party or during church. Today this is the place for that for me.

On the way to work today I saw a verifiable Ford Pinto parked along Fifth Street. That’s noteworthy for anyone these days. Pintos, of course, became the butt of jokes and the source of grief for America in the late 1970s, because they had a penchant for exploding if hit from the rear. (For the record I’ve been known to explode when hit from the rear.)

The Pinto’s reputation earned it a spot on Time Magazine’s list of 50 worst cars ever. The explosive capabilities was known by Ford, as it turns out, because the company had a memo comparing the cost of fixing a defect they knew about versus settling claims in court. Court was deemed to be cheaper, so the message was if you’re going to ride in the back of one, bring marshmallows just in case.

My own experience with the Pinto was from my friend, Kevin, who inherited his from his brother Charlie. It was a black number that Kevin had outfitted with shag carpet (courtesy of our friend Dave, who now runs his father’s carpet business) and a T-handle stick shift to go with the killer stereo. The stick shift knob was an easy and inexpensive way to customize a car, as I’m sure it is today. Another friend, Larry, had a Hamms Beer tap stick shift knob in his car. I bought a classy VW knob for my 1966 Beetle to go with the stereo, carpet and European taillight covers. The knob, the stereo and the light covers were stolen while I was at psychology class at the junior college. The thieves left the carpet.

Whatever you might think of the Pinto now, for Kevin it complimented his already sizzling status with the ladies, something I could never match. I remember a lot of rides in that car, a couple times to Anaheim Stadium, once to Hollywood and once when we ditched school and went to the beach. For Kevin I’m sure the memories are even fonder, involving company that was not me or Dave.

For that reason while everyone else in America might have been chuckling at the Pinto’s descent into infamy, I was kind of saddened by it. To see one again today was kind of life affirming.

Should I see it out on the road, though, I’ll give it plenty of distance.

A Vet’s Perspective

In preparation for Thursday’s Veterans’ Day story on Thuong Kien “T.K.” Mac, I contacted Bainbridge Island’s Frederick Scheffler, who served in Vietnam and is currently the adjutant at the island’s Colin Hyde Post 172 of the American Legion.

Mac, a former Vietnamese refugee, wrote in gratitude to soldiers who served in the Vietnam War on our “Your News” site.

Scheffler’s response did not get to me on time for the story, but I wanted to post it here.

I served with the Vietnamese in the Mekong Delta. Reading this man’s account brings back memories of the young Vietnamese soldiers that we recruited and trained. They all had one thing in common and that was a fierce determination to see their country become what they thought America was. America was a beacon and inspired semi-literate farmers to risk death by participating in the national elections in 1967. The vote was something that was precious to them and they were willing to risk the wrath of the local Viet Cong by voting. They were an example that I will never forget. His story is one that has been lived by thousands of Vietnamese who risked everything to come to this country and make a new life. They have demonstrated their dedication to living the American dream and have excelled. When we left Vietnam in 1975 we left a lot of good people. When the North Vietnamese invaded the South in 1975 these people who had been our friends and comrades paid a heavy price.

The Vietnam War was the coming of age for a generation of young Americans. The world has turned many times and Vietnam has changed from when we went there. It has evolved and gone through some terrible growing pains. Although I fought in that war and lost friends, the war we fought was not against the Vietnamese people. My memories of them is not framed by those we fought but rather by the noncombatants, the children are especially memorable . I have a picture on my wall of 20 of them that we brought medical attention to in a small village on a Mekong tributary. Those are the memories of Vietnam that I hold dear. This man’s perseverance and what he has achieved speaks volumes. I wish him and those who made it to the States welcome and remember those who did not in my prayers.

Bremerton’s Iconic Bridge to Its Past

Assuming you read Ed Friedrich’s story you know that construction on a new Manette bridge could begin in July. The old bridge won’t be gone until 2012 or 2013, but a new path is coming.

The picture here is one I took one day from the bridge. In the more than seven years I have worked for this paper, I never had walked it before. My first three years were in Poulsbo covering Bainbridge Island, so I deserve some slack there. But one day a few weeks ago I had walked to the fountain park during my search for profanity and the air temperature was neither too cold or too hot. I didn’t have something desperately awaiting my attention back at the office, so I decided to make the walk I always said I wanted to do. For the record, I did cross the Warren Avenue bridge some time ago.

Like so many places here, the view from the bridge is spectacular. This picture, taken with my cell phone, doesn’t come close to doing it justice. In 2013 that view will remain. I’m sure the walk will continue to be wonderful.

The view of the bridge will be vastly different. The kind of picture Larry Steagall took with Ed’s story won’t be available when the green goes down. State Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, had at one time questioned whether the steel pieces that give the bridge character could be maintained as a facade. It’s possible that it could be, from what I remember a state transportation telling me. But it would cost more. Given tight dollars these days, the state sure wouldn’t pony up the money.

If one of you wins a lottery, a really big one, I’m sure you could at least pay for an audience.

During that walk I saw that it was dedicated on June 21, 1930. With a little research I’ve found that the only person born in Kitsap County on that day died 30 years ago, but still has at least one relative living nearby. I still haven’t tracked down the whereabouts of the girl given the honor of dedicating the bridge. She’d be in her 90s now.

If you have never taken the walk over the bridge, I’m one who would recommend it, especially because a deadline looms. In this business we know all about deadlines.

When Bremerton Dreamed

Angela Dice, web editor here at the Kitsap Sun, was poking around the archives Monday and found a story she shared with me about Bremerton revitalization dreams made in 1987. Among the items on the wish list:

  • Professional offices
  • Retail
  • Apartments
  • Condos
  • Museums
  • Art galleries
  • Restaurants
  • Hotels
  • Boardwalk
  • Waterfront park
  • Boat moorage

The city stood ready to condemn properties owned by people who weren’t keen to redevelop soon enough to turn the parking lots into something splashy for the waterfront. The city’s chief planner emphasized that it was just a proposal.

All those things happened, except for apartments, and Ron Sher has it in mind to build those.

Two other things the dreamers wanted that have yet to arrive:

  • Tourists
  • Shoppers

Here’s the story:

1987 story on Bremerton revitalization