Happy Valley in the 1930s

Recollections of the Shoreline Area and Happy Valley in the 1930’s
by Wilson Schwehm

In the late fall of 1929 my father was hired to manage a pheasant farm being built by the Boeing family on property which is now part of Innis Arden. A trout hatchery was also part of the land called the Hidden Lake Game Farm. A house was to be provided as part of the job. My parents and I moved into the house previously owned by the Ray Smith family at 641 N.W. 175th Street. A snapshot of the house as it appeared in the 1930’s is provided with this letter. It has since been completely remodeled and is a real showpiece.

This house had many conveniences lacking in our previous home near Bitter Lake, and we were very happy on the game farm. However, we now had very few neighbors, the roads were gravel and dusty in dry weather.

I was a sophomore at Lincoln High School in Seattle, and getting to school and home again was quite a problem. In the morning my Dad would drive me up to Ray Mau’s Standard Oil station at Richmond Highlands where the Ronald school bus would pick up a load of students and drive us to Lincoln. After school we would be driven back to Richmond Highlands. I would get off at 175th and Aurora and walk home, west along 175th for about a mile. I recall one time after taking a music lesson (trombone) in Ballard after dark, and hearing a pack of coyotes howling, off in the woods, but quite close by. They became quite a nuisance around the game farm, as they will kill and eat anything they can catch. They were eventually trapped out by a professional trapper.

I worked summers on the game farm raising baby pheasants, or whatever else was to be done. The pay was 25 cents per hour, but this was during the Great Depression, and anyone was fortunate to have any kind of work. The game farm had a fine collection of pheasants, peafowl, and even a pair of young mule deer.

On the side, my mother would hand-rear many exotic birds such as Manchurian Eared pheasants, ruffed grouse, and other more common species where survival of the birds was important. My father was excellent bird man whose hobby was wild waterfowl. In our yard he kept several varieties of wild geese, and was acknowledged to be the first breeder to raise Barnacle Geese from domestic stock.

A fish hatchery was located on a stream which flowed through the property and emptied into the Sound south of Richmond Beach. The stream was dammed to form Hidden Lake, which was stocked with rainbow and brook trout. This was a private lake on which Mr. W.E. Boeing fly-fished.

I was part of a large group of young people, mostly of high school age, who basically knew one another from riding the school bus, or from other activities in the general area of Richmond Highlands and Richmond Beach. The following names come to mind: Gordon Patterson, Merrill Hite, John Eckelman(Poyneer), Grace Clark, Dwayne Clark, Vivian Smith, Grant Senour, Lynn Senour, Bob Polachek, Art Seels, Helen Cassel, Laurella Hunt, John Steinberger, Donna Saxton, Janice Walker, Bob and Frances Chester, Dick, Walker, and Patricia Hagman, Rudy Wuestenhoefer, Art and Mildred Beam, Phyllis and Muriel Smith, Bob and Evelyn Granstrom, Pete Fulton, Paul King, Lefty Hunter, Carl Weissenborn, Maynard Ponko, Basil and Kenneth De Mouth, Marguerite Rudd, and I’m sure others that I can’t recall. These were all good, decent young people, who were not into even smoking or drinking, but there were tough times then and we had few temptations, and almost a complete lack of resources, I have very fond memories of those times and people. I still see a few of them at high school reunions and class luncheons.

I can recall some of the neighbors along 175th St. in Happy Valley. Names such as Firth, Cox, Seifert, Pardee, Downing, King, and Davis, Supt. of the Hidden Lake Game Farm, come to mind.

At about the time that I graduated from high school the minister of the Ronald Methodist Church, William Callahan, decided to organize a Sea Scout troop or “Ship” as it was properly called. Many of the boys listed above joined. Somehow we obtained an old 24 foot surplus Navy wooden hull with a 2-cylinder engine of dubious reliability. We worked on this boat for months, perhaps a year, and finally made a cruiser of sorts of it and christened it the “KRAKEN” which was the name of some ancient Scandinavian God.

On a Thanksgiving week end we planned the maiden voyage from Richmond Beach to Bellingham. All went well as we cruised through Deception Pass, but when we reached the open water in Bellingham Bay, we found ourselves in a real storm. The waves came over the gunwales and drowned out the engine. We drifted all night, dead in the water, and washed ashore just north of Bellingham about daybreak. Everyone was seasick and I mean sick! We waded ashore in about 3 feet of water on a cold morning and that was my last day as a Sea Scout.

A more successful venture on the part of the same group was a dirt tennis court we built on the identical location where the Ronald Water District building sits across from the Museum, or Ronald School. We dug and leveled, sifted dirt, raked rocks, and finally had a decent dirt court. At that time the parsonage for the Ronald Methodist Church was on that same piece of ground.

In those days the winters seemed much colder than in recent years, as ice skating seemed an every-year occurrence. In the summer we swam at the Echo Lake Bathing Beach where Florence Butzke collected 10 cents, as I recall, to enter and swim.

I went to work for the Boeing Airplane Co., as it was called in those days in August of 1932, just two months after graduating from high school. I worked In the Production Office at the old Plant I for $60 per month, and worked ½ day on Saturdays. I spent 13 years at Boeing during my working years.

In June of 1936 I married a girl from Ballard and left Happy Valley. My parents lived there until 1950 when the house was put up for sale as part of the Innis Arden project. I returned to the Shoreline area from 1960 until 1974, then returned to Edmonds in 1980 where I presently reside.

Going back to the early 1930’s, the western end of Happy Valley was primarily part of the Boeing estate, which eventually became Innis Arden. Hidden Lake, previously mentioned, was surrounded by virgin timber and all of the natural plants, ferns, and other native flora. In about 1932 or 1933 Boeing made the decision to close down the game farm and fish hatchery, drain the lake, plat the entire area of some 400 acres, log off the land, and sell lots on which to build houses. This is how Innis Arden came into being.

It was a sad sight to see the logging trucks hauling out the huge old-growth logs, as this land overlooking the Sound was indeed a paradise. Earlier, workmen had made paths through the woods, planted rhododendrons, maiden hair ferns, and other beautiful plants and shrubs, and at the end it was all destroyed. But that’s progress!

It will be sixty years this fall since we moved to the Happy Valley area. The word “Shoreline”‘ did not exist at that time. I’ve enjoyed the three books written about the early days as the area was developing, and am happy that some persons had the foresight to create the museum. I am a very recently-joined member, and am happy to submit these recollections of earlier days when we were young and healthy, and what problems we may have had were easily resolved.

–Courtesy of the Shoreline Historical Society