Looking For Local History: Searching the Oral History Collection


In 2006, we launched a project to record and transcribe oral histories with more than 25 community members. At the end of the project, after staff members had an opportunity to review the transcripts, we realized the value of the information we’d gathered. It also made us curious about the 38 old recordings that were part of our collection, but which had never been accessed. These tapes had been part of the collection for at least 20 years, but we had no information on the contents. Many of the recordings were made in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with individuals who grew up in Issaquah during the 1890s-1930s. Thanks to a generous grant from 4Culture, we were able to convert the recordings into a stable format, transcribe the interviews, catalog the contents of the interview, and make the oral histories readily available to the public. 

We’re thrilled to begin sharing the contents of our oral history collection! There is a wealth of interesting stories and memories within the oral history collection  – each oral history transcript contains dozens of pages of memories about a variety of people and topics. 

So, how can you navigate this sea of information to find what you’re interested in? By using the Digital Collections search engine. Here’s a tutorial that shows you how:
Anytime you use the Digital Collections search function to locate specific people or information, the search pulls from all the online records – photographs, objects, letters and oral histories. You can limit your search to just the oral history collection, and easily find what you’re looking for, by following these steps:

  • In the collections field, enter Oral History Collection. Complete the keyword, subject or person field. You can complete as many fields as you need to in order to describe your search, but keep in mind that the more fields you complete, the narrower your search and the fewer your results. Let’s look for information about the rodeo within the oral histories.

  • There is only one oral history that contains information about the rodeo, an oral history with Walt Seil. Within the catalog record you’ll find a multimedia link called “Transcript”. Follow this link to view the transcript.
  • Once you’ve opened the transcript (which requires the Adobe Reader program), use your browser’s search function to find the word rodeo within the transcript.

  • From this screen, you can also print out or save a copy of the transcript.
Or maybe you’re just in the mood to read one person’s story. If you want to read a specific oral history, choose from the oral history directory select the person whose history you would like to read. In the future, the directory will include basic biographical information about each subject. 
Bill Evans

Looking for Local History: Bill Evans Tries to Enlist

May is local history month! All month long, we’ll be sharing bits and pieces of Issaquah’s collection, as well as tutorials to help you find local history on your own. Enjoy!

Bill Evans was born in Issaquah in 1923 and lived here for most of his life. Both of his parents were from coal-mining families. After serving in World War II, Bill lived in Seattle and went to college at the UW. Bill proved to be a sound and enterprising young businessman, and by the 1950s, he was living in Issaquah and operating his own business. Well-spoken, civic-minded, and forward-thinking, Bill was active in Issaquah’s Chamber of Commerce and helped shape the town we know today. Bill died in 2008. This excerpt from Bill’s 2006 oral history describes how Bill tried desperately to avoid serving in the Army during WWII.

Although he looks pretty cheerful in this picture, Evans was determined to serve in ANY branch but the Army.

Bill Evans:  I tried to enlist.  In those days, in [19]41, Walt [Seil] probably told you that he went to Pearl Harbor right after Pearl Harbor happened.  We saw him off on the train to San Francisco because he went down there to catch a ship.   …I didn’t want to get in the infantry.  At the time, there was the Army Air Force and the Navy Air Force.  I tried the Army Air Force first.

I passed my mental test.  And then, for some reason, they all took the mental test first.  I guess to see whether you were as dumb as you look or what.  And then they give you the [physical] test.  Well, when I was twelve or thirteen, I got scarlet fever.  I woke up in the middle of the night, probably two or three in the morning.  I remember I turned on my light – I had the bedroom next to my folks’ bedroom – and I was covered with blood.  This fever had built up so strong that it broke the blood vessels in my nose. I woke up, and I was soaking wet with blood from the fever.  Scared the devil out of my mother.  …The local doctor up in the bank building, which is now the bicycle shop cauterized the vessels in there with some kind of metal, heated iron, and stopped it.

All it left me with, other than being a little on the puny side, with 20/30 in one eye, and 25/ or 30/ in the other eye.  So later on, when I went to join the Air Force, I couldn’t get in because they demanded 20/20.  So I tried the Navy Air Force.  They gave me my mental test first.  And then I tried to tell them, “You better check my eyes,” “Oh, we’ll get to that.”  And I flunked out there.

Then I went to the Coast Guard, and I flunked out there.  Then I went to the Navy, and I flunked out there.  All about my eyes, 20/30.

Let’s see, in [19]42, I was working at the Alaskan Copper Works still. …I was out in the cold weather in the wintertime and so forth, and it really bothered my ears. I got an infection in my ear… I just had flunked out because I had 20/30 [eyesight].  And the doctor said, “Have you tried vitamins?”

And I said, “What’s a vitamin?”

“Well, it’s a pill.”  They weren’t out like they are today.  And he said, “Vitamin A will get your eyes in good shape.  It’ll take about two weeks if you take vitamin A.” 

I said, “How do I get this vitamin A?”  Because I’d tried bananas, I’d tried orange juice, I’d tried cabbage juice.  I’d tried everything I was told, and nothing worked.  So he gave me a prescription to go to the pharmacy and get vitamin A.  He was right.  In two weeks, I had 20/20 vision. He warned me.  He said, “Now, if you stop taking the vitamins, in two weeks your eyes will go back to normal.”

So I went back to the Navy real quick, and I said, “Here, swear me in!  I’m ready to go.”  By this time, it was about March of [19]42.  They said, “Oh, you come back in four months because we’ll send you to Farragut, Idaho.” Of all places for the Navy to train you, you know. There was no water around in Idaho!  [laughter]

And I said, “Well, OK, I’ll wait.  But swear me in!”

“No, we’ll swear you in when we call you up.”

I knew I was dead because I’d been in the State Guard.  Teenage kids and old men were in State Guard.  The only ones who weren’t drafted, or in the service.  We wore coveralls, and we’d go out in the fields by Puyallup, and lay in the rain with a shotgun.  We’d do close-order drill.   … All they did was teach me close-order drill, which you learn in any camp, you know.

So I knew I was dead.  I thought, well, I’d try the Merchant Marines.  So I went down to the Merchant Marines and they said, “OK, but we have to have your parents’ OK that you can get in the Merchant Marines.”

I was going into the Merchant Marine because there used to be a butcher shop about two doors down from Fischer’s Meats. The father of this guy was in the Merchant Marine during the [19]30s.  His son, who was a year younger than me, Don Finney, got in because of his father. He went from here, to Alaska, to Vladivostok, Russia and then back again. He was home every three months.  I didn’t know when I’d see home if I got into the Army or something.  So I thought, well, hey, that’s a possibility. I can be home. And I’d get double pay in Alaskan waters because the Japs had already infiltrated Attu, Alaska and so forth, way up north.

Interviewer:  How come you’d get double pay?

BE:  By carrying weapons and munitions and so forth.  Dynamite.  Anything that could blow up your ship.

INT:  Oh, so it was extra-dangerous.

BE:  Yeah, right.  So I was all set for that.  I had to talk to my mother until four o’clock before she finally gave in.  So my dad said, “OK, if that’s what you’re going to do.”  So I went down with my paperwork all signed.  He said, “Well, you have to have lifeboat training if you’re going to be in the Merchant Marine.  So we’ll have it out at Pier 92.” So I said, “OK.”

Well, I got home that night and I had a call from the draft board.  So I knew I was dead.  So they said, “Well, they won’t release you.” So I went back the next day, crying the blues to the Merchant Marine.  “We called them, and they won’t release you because you’re draft material.”
I was defeated. I went to Tacoma to the sixth floor of a building where they had the draft board located.  There was a guy sitting at the desk where you first came in. He said, “What do you want, Army or Navy?”

I said, “Do I have a choice?”

“Oh, yeah.  If you qualify, Army or Navy, either one.”

I said, “The Navy!”  I thought, Boy, there’s life yet!

So I went into a back examining room, went through the physical – most of the physical.  And the mental, again.  And I got to the eye exam.  The room had been a classroom, and the charts that you’d close your one eye and look at were at the front of the classroom, hanging over a blackboard.  Then you had to go down to the back of the room, turn around and take the eye test. I knew what was going to happen.  So, I flunked. 

I went out and there was a chief petty officer, about a thirty-year man.  He had hash marks all over his arm. And I said, “I couldn’t see all the letters” because of some reason, there was a shadow or something.  I lied my head off then. And I said, “Let me take it again because,” I said, “I know I can see those letters.  Something is wrong here.  I don’t know what it is.”

He said, “You stupid jerk.  Why do want to get in the Navy?”  He’d been in the Navy for so long, he couldn’t understand that.

“Let me go back and take it again,” I said.

I knew what lines I could see. So when I was standing there, getting in line to go back to the back of the room again, I memorized the letters I couldn’t see, because I was up right alongside of them.  So, I took my test and all of a sudden, I became 20/25 or 20/20.  [chuckles]

So he looked at me and he said, “Well, you said you could see them.  I don’t know how the heck you did it,” he said. “OK, you want to get in the Navy, go in that room over here.  There are naval officers to take your paperwork.”

There was a lieutenant commander, and a commander, and a lieutenant JG.  And an ensign on the end.  And the highest-ranking officer looked at my papers and said, “OK.” “OK” right down the line.  They got to the ensign and he said, “Fellow, you were in the State Guard, weren’t you?”

I said, “Well, it’s all close-order drill.  You do close-order drill in the Navy.”

“Yeah, but you look like Army material.”

I said, “Why do I look like Army material?”

And he said, “Well, you’ve had this training.”

I said, “I’m willing to call, at my expense, my commanding officer at the State Guard in Seattle and he can explain it to you.”

“No, we don’t have time for that.  Put this man in the Army.”

So I was shipped from Fort Lewis to Camp Roberts, California, by Paso Robles.  I went right into the infantry.  When I get there, I thought, Ohgod, the worst possible thing that could happen to me now has happened to me. 

What happened then? Peruse the rest of Bill’s oral history to find out. Other stories in his oral history include his early childhood in the coal-mining town, his career as a medic in the Pacific Theatre, and how he fell in love-at-first-sight with his wife on a Seattle bus. 

Looking for Local History: A Voice From The Past

Jake Jones, Jr., and grandson Willard Krigbaum

Jake Jones, Jr., and grandson Willard Krigbaum

If you asked me what my favorite artifact in our collection is, I would have a difficult time selecting just one thing. I could probably narrow the field to 100 favorite artifacts. Included in that hundred is most certainly the Jake Jones, Jr. oral history. 

Thanks to generous funding from 4Culture, we have been able to digitize, transcribe, and catalog more than 50 oral histories. Many of these were conducted in the last decade, but a significant number are much older, dating from the 1960s – 1980s. Recorded in 1958 by his grandson, Willard Krigbaum, the Jake Jones’ interview represents the oldest oral history in our collection.

Jacob Jones, Jr. was born in Squak Valley (as Issaquah was known then) in 1881. His parents were Mary Anderson and Jacob Jones, Sr. Jones the elder was among the earliest land-owners in Issaquah, having moved to the Valley in 1867. Jones, Jr. worked on the family farm in his youth and then became a carpenter. He married Leda Livingstone, and together they had a daughter, Florence. Florence’s son Willard began recording interviews with his grandfather after Jones was diagnosed with cancer. A year after the recordings were made, Jones succumbed to cancer. 

Although the recording was made for the benefit of Krigbaum’s baby, who would not know his great-grandfather personally, it is such a gift to our community. 

Jones’ oral history is unique because it provides a very rare first-hand recollection of Issaquah in the 1890s and early 1900s. In the excerpt below, Jones reminisces about Doc Gibson, a familiar figure in Issaquah history. I love the level of detail Jones provides – like the color of Doc Gibsons’s horses. The description of Doc Gibson tending to local shingle-weavers help describe the dangers of the logging trade in an era before OSHA and disability benefits. Imagine a time and place where it’s typical for a doctor to enlist passersby off the street to subdue a patient.  

The full transcript of Jones’ interview is more than 60 pages long. You can read, search through, or peruse it here.

“Doc Gibson was the first doctor that came here to Issaquah.  He came in about 1888.  And he had, oh, he had a big district.  He had Carnation, and he had Fall City, and he had the upper valley, and down to the lake, down Inglewood, and North Bend, Snoqualmie and Fall City.

“And he had two chestnut sorrel horses that he used to ride.  He went night and day, any time.  He had all that district to take care of.  One time, there was a bunch of shingle weavers, and they cut pretty regular.  They’d cut their hands and cut their fingers.  Sometimes, they lost their arm.  And Doc had a chair that he used.  He put them in that chair – and when he looked around, he didn’t have much tools to work with.  He’d look around out on the street to get some young fellows to come and help him.  And so some of them couldn’t stand the sight of blood or anything, and they’d run.  

“But he’d get about four of us that he used to get a hold of – sometimes some of those fellows was pretty husky and strong, you know – and he’d strap them in that chair, strap their legs and strap their arms, and he’d start to work on them.  Well, I helped him, oh, quite a few times.  And he always give me the ether cap [chuckles] to put on them.  And as they’d go out, they’d struggle pretty hard.  And boy, they’d make the old [inaudible] and he had the other three fellows to hold them in till they got enough ether to be quiet.
“And he’d watch, he’d tell me when to take the ether cap off.  And when they’d begin to come to again, he’d say, “Well, you better put it on again.”  He never got excited.  He almost … in the same way, he never got nervous or anything.

“Didn’t have much tools to work with.  He’d take and trim up their fingers, and cut the flesh back and saw the bones off and put the flesh on.  And he took four stitches, two one way and two across.  And he’d tie them up.

“And he had one great, big shingle-weaver.  His name was Bozo, and he was a brother of Bobby [inaudible], the world champion fighter at that time, a heavyweight.  And he was a very powerful man.  In fact, he cleaned up a whole bunch of them one night.  Three of them was going to pile on him and he them all laid out on the floor.  [laughing]
“But that was the hardest place.  Boy, he pretty near turned the till over and everything else with three holding him.  And I had the ether cap on him, and finally he got quieted down.  Doc fixed him up.  He took off the end of two of his fingers and I think his thumb.  That was one of his.

“Then, the train.  There were three men at different times fell off the big trestle here out of town and he took care of them.  And one fellow got his foot inbetween the railroad coal train and the couplings, the old-style couplings, and smashed his foot up, and then was [inaudible].  He got him in there and fixed up his foot.”

Looking for Local History: Ruth Kees’ Magic Carpet


May is local history month! All month long, we’ll be sharing bits and pieces of Issaquah’s collection, as well as tutorials to help you find local history on your own. Enjoy!
Ruth Kees was well known in the Issaquah community for her environmental education and advocacy work. We conducted an oral history with Ruth Kees in 2006, and learned more of the details about her fascinating life. Did you know that Ruth Kees and her sister co-owned a Piper Super Cruiser airplane? Our oral history collections are filled with fascinating details about the lives of Issaquah residents, before, during and after they lived here. Here’s an excerpt of our interview with Ruth Kees in autumn of 2006:
Ruth Kees: But right after World War II, my sister worked for the booster station, you know. Five different pipelines run through Beatrice, oil and gasoline… North of town, there’s a booster station – she worked there.
And she drove past the airport all the time. And so she stopped in one night and they gave her a ride. And she started flying lessons. That was the end of 1945… She got me to go out with her and I got hooked, too. So I had my license before she did, my flying license. And the money I’d saved up to go back to college, I spent – we went together and bought an airplane! [chuckles]
Interviewer: You’re kidding me!
RK: No!
Interviewer: And where did you fly to?
RK: All over. It was our magic carpet. We hadn’t gone traveling very much and boy, we just took off like big birds.
Interviewer: Were you intimidated at first?
RK: A little bit. But then, it wasn’t bad at all. Back then, too, to get your license, you had to learn to do a loop and be able to do a few tricks in a plane.
MM: Did you have to fly upside-down?
RK: Yeah. And now they don’t require that.
Learn more about Ruth’s flying career, and the rest of her life, here. 

No Time to Monkey

Rob Pickering, Donna Pedegana Arndt, and Dick Campbell reminisce about the childhood chores they were responsible for, growing up in Issaquah during the 1930s-1950s. This is yet another clip from the two-DVD set produced as part of Issaquah’s Oral History Video Project. You can purchase the video here.

The Birth of the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute

Ken Stuart and Ruth Shearer, around the time of the founding of the Seattle Biomedical Institute.

Ken Stuart and Ruth Shearer, around the time of the founding of the Seattle Biomedical Institute.

One of Oral History Video Project stories that most surprised us was the birth of the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute — which occured in Issaquah. In this video clip, Robert Gray relates the beginnings of Seattle Biomedical as a project of the Pine Lake Presbyterian Church.

City Slickers Visit the Farm

The second in a series of clips from the Oral History Video Project video. The two-DVD set will soon be available for purchase at either of the museum gift shops, or through our web site at

The Night the Waterhole Tavern Burned Down

Here’s a sneak peak from our Oral History Video. The two-DVD set will soon be available for purchase at either of the museum gift shops, or through our web site at

This NOT Just In: Great Seattle Fire

This past Sunday marked the 121st anniversary of the Great Seattle Fire, which destroyed a large portion of Seattle’s downtown area on June 6, 1889. The Seattle Fire obviously had a profound influence on Seattle, a city still in its infancy in 1889. The mark of the fire spread throughout the region, too. Rebuilding the city required a great deal of lumber. The sources closest to Seattle had already been depleted to build the city the first time around, and builders turned to lumber mills on the east side of Lake Washington to provide raw materials. This helped drive the lumber trade in eastside towns like Issaquah, Preston and High Point.

I happened to tune in to KUOW the morning they featured a piece called This NOT Just In: The Great Seattle Fire. The piece talks about the fire, but the main focus of the story is a rediscovered oral history artifact. If you listen to the piece, you’ll hear the only known first hand accounts of the Great Seattle Fire. The accounts were recorded at an event held at the Museum of History and Industry in 1953. The resulting record album remained in MOHI’s collection for decades, the value of its contents unknown. When MOHI staff played the recording in 2003, they were stunned to hear accounts of the fire as recollected by people who were school children at the time.

Imagine hearing people describe an event that they witnessed, more than a century in the past

This reminded me of the old oral history tapes “discovered” in our own collection — recordings made anywhere from 20 to 50 years ago. Up until last year, no one had listened to these recordings. Because of the age of the audio tapes, we didn’t want to risk playing them and having them break. A grant from 4Culture allowed us to get the recordings transferred over to compact disc and then transcribed. When we received the CDs in the mail, I sat down with the Jacob Jones, Jr. CD, the oldest recording, and played it.

The recording, a bit fuzzy but audible, began with Jones’ account of taking the train into Seattle at the age of seven, in the year 1888. Jones’ vote emanating from the computer’s audio speakers described a Seattle with wooden sidewalks and gas streetlamps. Jones’ voice, recounting a day more than 100 years in the past, raised goose bumps.

The sound is faint, so turn the volume up and have a listen to this voice from the past.

(transcript after the jump)

This recording was made in 1958 by Jake Jones’ grandson, Willard Krigbaum. Jones had already been diagnosed with the cancer that ended his life in 1959. This five-minute recording is a small fraction of the full Jake Jones oral history.

JAKE JONES: But anyway, we left here in the morning – Sam and Mother – and Dad packed Sam down at Goode’s Corner [inaudible] down the hill there. And got on a horse wagon and rode over the top of the hill to Newcastle. And when we got to Newcastle, we went over to the ticket office and bought a ticket on the coach of the little narrow-gauge railroad.

They were loading coal and the coach was on behind it – it was a baggage car and then the coach – to Newcastle. We had to wait a long time before the coal train was loaded. And the train started out, went down around Lake Washington on the narrow-gauge, went around by Renton, came into Seattle on a hard [trestle wood?] built out over the mudflats.

And from there, when we got into Seattle, at that time it was dark, getting dark. We’d left here at daylight in the morning [inaudible]. We got in there, and we went up on a wooden sidewalk, somewhere built way up high. And we got up at 7th and Lenora quite a while after dark. And I was pretty tired, I guess. I was about 4 ½ years old.

WILLARD KRIGBAUM, JR: It was after dark when you got into Seattle?

JJ: Yes, it was after dark when we got into Seattle.

WK: When did you leave Issaquah?

JJ: Daylight with a lantern in the morning. And then, we had something to eat and they put me to bed pretty early, I guess. I was tired and I fell asleep. And early in the morning around daylight, I heard a bell, like a sheep bell ringing. And I went up and looked out the window, and it was an old horse-drawn streetcar taking people to work with all its passengers, pulled by one horse, led on a 3’ narrow-gauge railroad. And the back, the seats were turned out sideways so you faced the side of the small car.

And the brakeman, or the fellow that was running it, he had more uniform badges and buttons and brass on it [chuckles] than a general in the Army!

But anyway, the next day we went downtown. We rode that horse-drawn streetcar. Went from 7th and Lenora, by Lake Union, down to 2nd Avenue. And they had an extra man with an extra horse to pull up the hill. When the fellow come down and met the streetcar, and they hooked on the head of the horse, and he pulled to the top of the hill and made it go, then it would go down 2nd Avenue. He had a brake on it, but there was no tongue or shaft in it. And that was the first streetcar they had in Seattle, in about 1885 … 1884-85.

And I don’t remember how we come back. We came back the same way, through Newcastle, on the train. And old Charlie Smith was a freight man. He run every other day over to Tibbetts’s store on the Squak Valley.

WK: Tibbetts’s store where?

JJ: Yeah, that was at Goode’s Corner. He had a store there. It was the only store in the valley.

So, that was the first trip into Seattle. The railroad was built on trestle wood piling all the way. Now it’s filled in, all that’s filled in where Sears Roebuck and all that company is all filled in, and buildings built on it. At that time, it wasn’t nothing but a big, dumb mudflat.

WK: You went through Renton, then?

JJ: Yeah, we went through Renton, across the Black River. Went along Black River till it comes to the bay [inaudible] followed the beach on this trestle wood. That was the first trip into Seattle. [tape recorder turned off]

The Anderson Brothers’ Service to their Country

A generous grant from 4Culture is currently funding the digitization and cataloging of several archival collections, include the letters of Rodney and Vernon Anderson, Issaquah residents. Rod and Vern both served in the Army in the 1940s, and they wrote home to their mother regularly. This post is part of a series of posts about their lives and letters.

Recently, a very generous donation was made by Rodney Anderson’s daughter. Included in the donation of pictures and documents was a set of letters written during wartime from Rodney and Vern Anderson. The first batch of letters, beginning in 1944, were written by Rod Anderson to his mother, grandfather, and brother. The second batch of letters are written by Vern “Babe” Anderson, Rod’s younger brother, and were mostly written post-WWII. We are only beginning the process of cataloging these letters into our collection and hope to have more posts regarding their content. For now, here is a brief biography into these two brothers’ service to their country.

Rod Anderson (pictured at right) entered the Army in August 1943, 5 months after he turned 18. He only completed 3 years of high school. He started out in the infantry but ended up taking tests to enter into the Air Corps. He made it in and began his training and education. Soon after the Battle of the Bulge the United States began pulling men from different areas to go back into infantry. Rod was removed from his Air Corps training and was sent overseas. He spent time in Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Germany before the war ended. He was then sent back to the United States and then to Japan after their surrender. He returned home in March – just as his brother Vern was entering the Navy.

Vern Anderson (pictured at left) was drafted in March 1946 for WWII only 3 months after his 18 birthday. He was drafted again in March 1951 – almost exactly 5 years later – for the Korean war. Here are some excerpts of his oral history in 2008 detailing his time spent in service.

VERN ANDERSON: Well, I … originally, I got drafted in 1946, in March. I ended up in the Navy. I went to boot camp in San Diego, and then they sent me back to Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Waukegan [Illinois].

I spent all summer there going to a service school, which was just right down my alley because it was all about boilers. And hell, I’d been running boilers, you know. [chuckles] I knew all about that stuff.

Then I got discharged because they didn’t want us anymore. I’d only been in there eight months. So I came home. Then in March of 1951, I got drafted again, about five years after. In the same month. Practically the same week. And this time, I ended up in the Army.

I was over at Fort Lewis; and a bunch of the guys in Issaquah had been in the reserves, and they were running a reception center. And one of these guys said, “Hey, where do you want to go?”

I said, “I don’t know. What have you got in the lineup?”

“Well, you can go to Fort Lawton or you can go to Aberdeen Proving Grounds.”

“Oh heck, I think I’ll go to Fort Lawton,” I said. So I went out there.

We went through training there, and there was a port company – unloading ships – and they needed a bunch of guys up in Whittier, Alaska, which is an Army port. So they sent us up there. And because I had been in the service before, they could send me alone. Because you had to have six months in the Army before they could ship you overseas. I’d already had that before.

So we went up there, and we stayed there till right up until the first of December, then we got back here. Then they gave us a month off, you know, a month off here anyway.

When we got back right after New Year’s, they called six of us guys’ names out and they said, “You’re going down to the port of embarkation.”

We didn’t know what the hell we were going to do. We went down there to [unknown] and they made military policemen out of us. It was supposed to have been temporary. And it was such a good deal. Hell, I just fell right into that job. [chuckles] So actually, I spent the rest of my time right there.

MARIA MCLEOD: What was your job?

VERN ANDERSON: I was a military policeman on the main gate. That’s where all the troops went and left Seattle, and then also when they came back.


MARIA MCLEOD: So when you say it was the “best deal,” when you worked the gate, what did you mean?

VERN ANDERSON: Well, I had an off-duty pass. All I had to do was show up for work down there. I could do what I wanted after. Then, later on, I even got a pass for living at home. They paid you. Then I had to pay for my meals was the only difference.

MARIA MCLEOD: Do you remember how much you got paid doing that job?

VERN ANDERSON: You want to see the actual figures? I’ll show you. Didn’t get a hell of a lot.

MARIA MCLEOD: So you just [found] your tax withholding statement, your W-2 form, from the U.S. Army, and that says that the finance officer, C.F. May, Lt. Col. F.C., Fort Lawton, sent this to you –– and it says that total wages before deductions payroll in 1952 was $1,429.45, and Federal income tax withheld $151.60. So this was for a full-time job. Did you hold it a whole year?

VERN ANDERSON: Yeah. Look what they get now! You can’t believe it. I was getting – because I’d been in before – I was getting a little extra money. Then, also, I was a PFC, because I’d been in before, and got a little extra money for that.

MARIA MCLEOD: Private first class.

VERN ANDERSON: Then a little later on, I got to be a corporal. That upped it a little bit, not a whole lot.

MARIA MCLEOD: So does your job change at all when your status changed? Private first class, corporal …

VERN ANDERSON: No, I did the same thing. Actually, there was supposed to be sergeants on that job but they had put a freeze on – they couldn’t promote anybody for, I don’t know, about a year there or something, or six months.

We were only supposed to be in the Army for twenty-one months. That’s what the deal was. Then they upped it to twenty-four months.

MARIA MCLEOD: So when you worked the gate, did you have weapons on you?

VERN ANDERSON: Oh, yeah. A .45 pistol. I had that Sam Brown belt and all that. Then, when they had the ships come in, you had to put on a fancy outfit – a white kind of a deal, a neckerchief-type deal. Then you had a white rope on one arm. Then you had white leggings. Then you had the hat – they used the helmet liner, actually, was what they were. They were painted fancy. I think it was a white and gold kind of a deal like that.


MARIA MCLEOD: When you were at that gate, what were you supposed to be watching for, or protecting against?

VERN ANDERSON: Well, we had to let the people go in the cars. That was one job we had. We used to take turns going to do back and forth. Then we to check everybody who came in and out.

MARIA MCLEOD: Did you have to keep a roster of their names?

VERN ANDERSON: No. They always had to have an I.D., or we wouldn’t let them in. They weren’t supposed to be bringing alcohol in, and all that kind of stuff, you know.

MARIA MCLEOD: Did you have to search for alcohol ever, or confiscate alcohol?

VERN ANDERSON: Oh, yeah. We’d take it off of them. They weren’t supposed to take cigarettes neither, you know, from the ship’s store. Golly, they were 20 cents a pack, or a carton, I don’t remember what it was. We used to take it away from them.

I remember that one day, it was on a Sunday, and this black fellow came walking along there. He had a whole carton stuck in his back pocket.

I seen it, you know, and I reached out like that, I hit him in the back. I said, “What the devil do you got in there? Come in here!”

He had steaks wrapped around his body. Tied up in there, you know. Taking them home, see.

So I had to do something then. I couldn’t let him go. So we had to call the officer of the day, and I don’t know what they did. They didn’t do nothing to him. In about two weeks, I seen him back working.

MARIA MCLEOD: Was he stealing steaks? From where?

VERN ANDERSON: Yeah, out of the mess hall, out of the ship. He was one of the cooks that was working in the mess hall.

MARIA MCLEOD: Oh, and he was going to take some home. I guess some people must have gotten mad at you for taking their alcohol and their cigarettes.

VERN ANDERSON: No, they didn’t seem to be. They knew they were wrong. What were they going to do about it? If you got a job to do, you do it.

To read Vernon “Babe” Anderson’s full oral history, follow this link.