Love is how you stay alive even after you are gone.

OIHM-1

I’ve been a member of the Orcas Island Historical Museum for a few years now. I joined after spending a weekend circumnavigating the Island by car to visit resort properties and locations owned or managed by members of my family in days gone by, as well as spending time perusing the museum archive files doing personal research.

Last year, I donated money to purchase a commemorative a brick for the walkway of the Orcas Island Historical Museum in Eastsound – Orcas Island, Washington. An act of love and personal tribute to my maternal grandparents and a dream they shared years before I was born. Leif Henry and Ruth Odell Erickson relocated with their four children, the eldest being my mother, from Bellingham to Orcas Island, owning and operating Waldheim Resort in Eastsound in the 1940s.

I had no idea where the brick was installed. As it turned out, their commemorative brick was part of the latest installation, which I literally stepped over following the path from the sidewalk to the entrance of the museum to inquire about it’s placement.

Although this engraved brick is a special tribute to my beloved grandparents, it brings a flood of memories of my summertime visits to the San Islands – vacations and reunions during the 50s and 60s with our extended family who still lived on Orcas. Several generations – great grandparents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins beach combing for shells and driftwood, building bonfires, clamming, crowded together is cozy cabins, cooking meals together, cracking jokes, laughing, playing cards, reading books, boating, swimming, horseback riding along the lake…. Recollections that spring to life as if only last summer, reminding me how much I still love those who are gone, but remain so deeply rooted in my heart and fondest memories.

 

Love is how you stay alive even after you are gone.

One and two stories high

Tyler Street MuralThe Jefferson County Historical Society tells the story of our town, describing Port Townsend as a remote outpost and village that grew into a a bustling seaport with a population of over 7,000 people, a city of dreams. Teeming with life along the water front, during the height of maritime commerce in the mid to late 1800’s, every kind of business and entrepreneurial enterprise sprang up to accomodate the influx of sailors, workers, and folks settling in to make a life and a living on the Olympic Peninsula. After the turn of the century, Port Townsend lost it’s advantage of the position it held as a gem of prosperity and opportunity on the Puget Sound – an ideal location for maritime commerce. The economy began to plummet partly due to the advent of steam-powered ships, which were by then routing their cargo to the customs office that was relocated to Seattle in 1911, along with the loss of the anticipated railroad. The population plummeted to 3,300 by 1910.

Today, we can still enjoy many of the landmarks, architecture, and other historic features and structures that have stood the test of time, many renovated at one time or another over the years. Both downtown and Uptown areas of Port Townsend are once again thriving business communities that have grown along with the growing population of over 9,000 people. Some of the mural graphics, both old and new, which cover some of the exteriors of brick buildings, one, even two stories high, such as the one pictured here, are preserved and appreciated for the unique, Victorian images they conjure up and the visual stories they tell of then and now.

A visit to the Historical Society, as well as self-guided walking tours of the town and marinas are how I first acquainted myself with Port Townsend’s rich history. The historic building plaque project is also a good place to start acquainting oneself with Port Townsend’s past and present. Today, Port Townsend is well known as a Victorian Seaport and hosts an annual Victorian Festival in March. It was after learning something of Port Townsend’s colorful maritime history and meeting local shanty enthusiasts that I became one myself, hosting a family-friendly shanty sing monthly since January of 2012. Out of that gathering, a group of us formed to work on a songbook project to preserve and enjoy maritime music. Sing Shanties & Songs About the Sea was published last August. Port Townsend is still referred to as the City of Dreams, and rightly so.

Waldheim Resort

My maternal grandparents Leif Henry and Ruth Odell Erickson owned and operated the Waldheim Resort on Orcas Island, Washington in the 1940’s.

Waldheim, which means “forest home” in German opened on the hill overlooking East Sound Bay and Eastsound Village. Started by Frank and Mia Opperman, Waldheim eventually grew to 22 buildings, including a dining room that seated 75. The teachers at the Eastsound schools boarded there for many years, and Mrs. Opperman’s chicken dinners were popular with island residents. All the guest cottages had fireplaces and for many years, Mr. Opperman cut and delivered kindling wood to each cottage every morning. Guest could play croquet, tennis, or ping-pong a the resort. The village at Eastsound was close for shopping or beach excursions. Images of America – Orcas Island. The Orcas Island Historical Society and Museum. Published by Arcadia Publishing, 2006.

I came by Images of America – Orcas Island and this rare Waldheim brochure through the online research of my husband and daughter. Such gifts! Either this winter or this coming spring, I plan to return to Orcas to retrace my steps as a child who enjoyed  summer vacations on the island with family and revisit the Waldheim property. Some of the original cabins remain, but the resort is long gone… a story about my grandparents and family, Waldheim and Orcas Island I look forward to telling you after my return.

Waldheim Brochure - FrontWaldheim Brochure - Back