Issaquah History Museums

Ruth Kees

Ruth Kees (1924-2009) was raised in a small town in Nebraska, but moved to Issaquah in 1960. Ruth is a local environmental activist. She has operated a weather monitoring station, recording and maintaining rainfall records for the immediate Issaquah area, for many years.


Ruth Kees


Birth Date or Year (optional):  1923

Your history in Issaquah/How long lived here, et c.:

When we started on our dream home, our slogan was, “We are going to be in by Christmas.”  So on December 24, 1960, we flung our sleeping bags onto the floor of our unfinished house and moved in thereafter.


 If you moved to Issaquah, why did you choose it?

Our property has a little stream running from the NE corner to the SW, lots of trees, Issaquah Creek, scenery, small town, mountains, country roads, lake, small airport, new friends.


Education—Coming of Age


Were you affected by earthquake damage to the schools in 1949 or 1965?

We were irreversibly and permanently affected when debris from schools was used as fill in the lily pond and wetlands located at the north end intersection of Hobart road, 238th way and S.E. 96th street in order to create a. to this date, unusable lot. The intent was to create a filling station here.


What kind of extracurricular activities were you involved in?  Did you play football or chess, or did you act in the school plays?  What were memorable games or plays?

I designed and constructed settings for class plays-deep purple dance presentation modern interpretive dance and Christmas carol plays.


Where did you and your friends spend your free time as teenagers?  What kind of mischief did you get into?  How did your parents or teachers punish you when you got into trouble?

Football (spectacular) games, roller skating, ice skating, swimming, dancing, (big name bands, picnics, baseball, bicycling, chores,  (shocking wheat, husking corn, picking grapes, strawberries) getting cows home, roaming fields, fishing for bullheads, jumping from rafters in the hay barn.


Local businesses

What local businesses do you remember?  What items did you purchase there?  Who owned the business?  Where was it located?  What do you remember most about it?

I helped Ann Haffington in an antique/second store in the old “Elks” South of Fasanos and north of Lewis barber shop. I was a “picked” and attended Grufield’s and other auctions and junk shops and helped clerk the store.  Ann named the store “Finkeis damn”.  Ann moved to Fairwood where her husband built an airplane.  On one of their trips, they crashed near Chicago where he was killed and she was so severely crippled, she never recovered.


What is memorable about Lewis Hardware?  What items did you purchase there?

Lewis Hardware was there when we started building our dream house in 1959.  The best thing is that it is essentially still there in 2001.  Please dong let anybody modernize it and turn it to some other use.  He used this product and always found then helpful in obtaining special items while building our home and all years after.  Their wooden floors and beaten counters and rear entrance and are delightful.


Where did you go to buy your groceries?  Did you go to Tony and Johnny’s, or RR Grocery on East Sunset? Do you remember your favorite clerk?  Were there any items that these grocers specialized in?

Rena’s pies and sandwiches saved our lives when we came to Issaquah to work on our property after both of us had put in a day’s work at Boeing:

Before building, we had to get access to our 20 acre property by constructing S.E. 96th and part of 240th Ave. S.E.

Fisher’s meat market was our meat source.  My specialty then was prime rib roast.

George Campbell, on Tiger Mtn. Road, constructed our roads.


Did you purchase things at the Grange Mercantile Building?  What type of things did you get there?  Did your family rent a frozen food storage locker?

He bought most of our groceries there and we had a frozen food locker where we stored lamb and beef.  Clark Campbell, who owned the property we bought, had a herd of sheep and we bought a butchered lamb from him.


What restaurants or soda shops did you enjoy going to?  Did you go to Rena’s Café, or XXX Root beer?  What was your favorite food?  Were there memorable waiters or waitresses?

Rena’s pies! Rena and her husband!


Did you go to Boehm’s Candies?  What candies were your favorites?

Boehm’s mixed chocolates- we could get a sack full for 99 cents ah! Good old days.


What do you remember about Grange Supply?

We’ve always found our supplies there-not only for feeding our various pets and animals but others gardening supplies and building materials-besides dogs and cats, we’ve had bantam. Pigeons, Chickens, crippled squirrels and wounded deer.


Local Politics

What important local political issues of Issaquah are memorable?  Do any particular politicians stand out?  Why are they memorable?  What did they accomplish while in office?

Build out – loss of springs and digging wells for Issaquah Water supply.  Lass of Skyport and farmlands to development. All mayors from Herb Harrington to our present day mayor are notable for promotion of increased tax base with very little regard to loss of quality of living, increased infrastructure cost and loss of watersheds and recharge areas.


The Great Depression

What are your memories of the Great Depression?  Did you have a job at this time?  What ways did you try to save money?  What did you eat?

I grew up in Beatrice, Nebraska during the great depression which was also the great drought fears.  We lived on a small farm where we milked a cow, had a draft horse and hand cultivators, pigs raised our corn, alfalfa, Grapes, apples, peaches, and pears, and beans peas and potatoes.  He all had different chores divided amongst two older brothers and one older sister.

We had no electricity or running water and the house was heated by a pot burner in the living room and a Monarch range in the kitchen.  One of my jobs was to clean the coal and oil lamps chimneys.  In spite of storm windows, winters often coated the insides of the glass with an inch of ice.

Every Sat, Mom would make a trip to town to trade butter and eggs for groceries which consisted mostly of staples – flour, and sugar. She spent most of her summer canning produce for the coming winter. Each of us received a dime to spend and often we attended a picture show or maybe an ice-cream cone – double-dip 5 cents. It was something when sound movies started.

Mom made most of our girl’s clothes but the boys wore overalls. I was enrolled in 4-H when I was nine and made my won dresses. Cloth was 3 yards for a dollar.

My dad made was a rural mail carrier and remained one until his death in 1959.  He had all gravel or mud roads but when th weather was good, he would cover his route in the morning and take care of the farm afternoons.  We didn’t know we were poor!

I remember the drought years well. The red dust of Oklahoma blew up into Nebr. and lay against snow fences like dirty snowdrifts. As soon as the wheat fields were combined, the grasshopper infestation which came with the hot summers, moved into the corn and milo fields and on quiet days you could hear the munching. The fields grew smaller daily.

There is much more to tell of the indigents passing through trying to get to California or anywhere and the gypsy migration in spring and fall.


World War II

How did World War II affect the town of Issaquah?  Did you know men or women who went to fight in the war?  Did you leave Issaquah to join the war efforts?

I did not move to Issaquah until 1960. However, Beatrice, Neb., was and still is, a town of some 11,000 in an agricultural area. When WWII started in December 1941, I was starting my first year at the University of Nebraska.  My two brothers were drafted immediately and spent the rest of the war in the South Pacific. Almost every fellow of about my age disappeared into the military. Dempster Mill Mfg. Co., which made farm equipment, was converted into the manufacturing of 90 mm shells. After finishing my first year of college, I was accepted into the Ordnance Dept. of the Army and became and Ordnance Inspector where I remained until the end of the war.  My brothers and future husband all returned uninjured but many did not. One young man who visited Beatrice on leave brought a diphtheria infection with him. Some dies because we had no penicillin.


Issaquah Round-Up– Salmon Days– Labor Day Celebrations

What do you remember about Labor Day Celebrations or Salmon Days?

It always rained on Labor Day. It  was wise to move it to October.


Was there any year that these celebrations were especially memorable to you?

When I was honored for environmental concerns and Brian Boyle shared in the honors.  While he managed the Department of National Resources, Tiger Mountain State Forest became a reality!


Outdoor Recreation

Did you spend a lot of your free time outside?  What do you remember about fishing, hunting, or hiking in the area?  What was your favorite hiking trail? 

Tiger and Squak Mountain – Lake Tradition (Issaquah Watershed) posted with “No Trespassing” signs to prevent pollution of “springs” area.


What are your memories of Vasa Park?  What did you do while there? 

Rock shores – I’m fascinated by the diversity of rocks found there – brought down by the glaciers and left here when the glaciers receded.


Did you go swimming in the local lakes in the summer?  Or ice-skating at the Horrock’s Farm in the winter?

Have gone swimming in both Lk. Sammamish and Lk. Washington


Salmon hatchery

How has the salmon hatchery affected Issaquah?

Yin and yang, both good and bad.  The native wild salmon in Issaquah Creek was a fresh water fish which migrated from Issaquah Creek to Lake Sammamish. When Lake Sammamish was connected to Lake Washington via the Sammamish Slough, bigger salt water salmon were introduced and the small native salmon were discouraged by preventing them from going past the hatchery. Also, it was feared that the native salmon would carry a virus which could infect the imports.

This has been disproved and now the hatchery is being used for education and encouragement of restoration of more natural environment.


Farming and Dairy

Do you have any memories of Pickering Farm?

There was an artesian well where the Meadows is now located. The cupola of the barn was home to barn owls and pea fowls strutted around the barnyard.  Also, the Skyport for gliders and small aircraft was, I believe, a remnant of WWII.


Railroad– Transportation

Did you travel frequently into Seattle?  How did you get there?  What did you do while in Seattle?

It used to be easy to drive into Seattle, I shopped there at the Bon, Frederick’s, Penney’s, Sears, Goodwill and Pike Place Market – Goodwill and numerous junk shops. Later, as traffic increased and parking became difficult, taking a bus was easy.  Medical centers were located in Seattle.


How did the construction of I-90 change life in Issaquah?

It took the city of Issaquah off surface water (5 springs on NW Tiger Mountain) and fave it groundwater (2 wells near Boehm’s candy). Issaquah’s watershed area which was to have “No Trespassing” signs, has become a part of Tiger Mountain State Forest conservancy area where hiking is permitted.


What was your first car?  Did you buy it from Hepler Ford Motors, Stonebridge Chevrolet, or the Kaiser-Frazier dealership?

My very first car was a WWII surplus jeep – a gift of my father. We promptly traded it in for a metallic copper colored jeep station wagon, which my husband and I used for moving to Renton, WA in fall 1952.  Dan was hired fort Boeing and I also joined Boeing in Dec. ’52.

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