Last Century on the Peninsula

The French have a rather pessimistic saying – ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, meaning the more things change, the more they remain the same.  Every once in a while we like to take a tour of our past through the eyes of the Port Townsend Morning Leader and its reporters.  It helps to remind us not only of how far we have come, but that we often face the same problems today that our forebears dealt with a century ago.  If you enjoy history, you can browse local, national and international events in the pages of the Leader.  Access is through the Port Townsend Public Library Website .

The headlines in early June of 1913 were primarily of local interest.   The June 4th edition showcased a front page story on the work of the city council which had, the previous evening, passed a record four ordinances and one resolution.  Among the notable items passed was a change to water charges to reduce the months patrons had to pay for sprinkling lawns from 4 to 3.  Patrons would no longer be charged extra in May.  It was only a minor note, but the police department reported only six arrests in May of 1913 with a grand total of $23.50 in fines.  It would hardly seem enough to pay the rent. 

The inside pages provide some insight into life here in 1913.  Mr. William Bishop of Chimacum was appointed a Deputy Sheriff – an uncompensated position he evidently sought out of a deep concern for problems he saw in the community.  Mr. Bishop had recognized that the excellent quality of the road system in and round Chimacum was drawing the interest of motoring enthusiasts who wanted to “advance the spark a little and see what (their) machines were capable of doing.”  Mr. Bishop had earlier been instrumental in the apprehension and fining of a lead footed Seattleite who had “dashed through” Chimacum at fifty miles an hour.   

June 5th continued the local news with the arrests of two servicemen who worked at the army YMCA for theft of goods and embezzlement.  The two had been stealing cigars and pocketing money from the pool table rentals.  The cigars were being sold in saloons throughout town.  The Chief of Police, a Mr. Dobler, was given great credit for bringing the pair to justice.  Remarkably, there was a lot of emphasis in the piece on the supposed good character of the perpetrators.  Another front page article was a bit more macabre running under the headline “Floater Found.”  The article described the recovery of the body of a “Scandinavian” who had evidently fallen into the water somewhere near Port Angeles and washed up on the beach near there.  How the Leader determined the ethnicity of the deceased was not revealed and his identity remained unconfirmed. 

The inside pages again reveal some interesting – and probably long forgotten – elements of our peninsula history.  If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that Washington was the first state to introduce a state run occupational insurance program.  The Leader reported that in May of 1913, the state industrial insurance commission has 1619 reported cases that included thirty-two fatalities and 3 cases resulting in permanent total disability.  The paper also reported on a long forgotten experiment that reminds us that our ancestors were practical sorts of “take the bull by the horns” people.  The Washington Secretary of Commerce had agreed to a plan to exchange Pacific Salmon for Atlantic Lobsters in an experiment to see if each species could be propagated on the other coast.  A hundred years later we know this could not be accomplished without two universities, the EPA and dozens of picketers being involved on both coasts.   Maybe that’s why the experiment is lost in history. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *