Enumclaw has interesting history with race | Wally’s World

Way back in the 1920s, Enumclaw had an informal, intimate kind of up-front, small-town personal charm. The line between right and wrong was sharply and easily drawn, social intimacy promoted more trust and crime of a felonious nature – except for bootlegging – was almost nonexistent.

Way back in the 1920s, Enumclaw had an informal, intimate kind of up-front, small-town personal charm. The line between right and wrong was sharply and easily drawn, social intimacy promoted more trust and crime of a felonious nature – except for bootlegging – was almost nonexistent.

Needless to say, the population was racially quite homogeneous; that is, there were several different European ethnic groups, but everyone was white.

In the late 1920s, the Klu Klux Klan marched down Cole Street and between one-third and one-half of the town’s population followed in lock-step behind them.

During the Depression – 1930 to roughly 1939 – the town had a sheriff named Tom Smith. Each day he stood at the local train depot, which was located near Griffin Avenue and Railroad Street, and he’d meet all the newly-arrived tramps who climbed off the train. After serving some of them a cup of coffee and perhaps a pastry, Tom would discretely and politely put them back on the train to Seattle. Rumors suggest some of these transients may have been black men.

My parent very rarely drove into downtown Seattle and, when they did, it was a major project that took a couple of hours. Outside the actual city, just this side of the Spokane Street intersection, there used to be a Sears and Roebuck store. (Remember when that paranoid expression would sweep George Carlin’s face and he’d ask: “Whatever happened to Roebuck?”)   That’s where I first saw a black man face to face. I was about 5 years old. Of course, I’d seen blacks in movies, but I’d never actually dealt with one.

When I was in junior high school (pre-”Middle School”) a Mexican fellow enrolled in my class and that’s when I realized just how bigoted and narrow-minded our little community was.  There were many racial slurs whispered behind his back and, for all I know, some may have been hurled directly in his face. But he survived whatever hostility was aimed at him, he graduated with the class, got married and locally raised a family.

However, at that time there still weren’t any African-Americans around town. In fact, I don’t remember seeing any blacks in our streets or high school until, perhaps, 15 years ago and they didn’t seem to hang around very long; they came and went, here today and gone tomorrow.

But now, during the past couple of months, a few black fellas have appeared in the local watering holes on a regular basis. There surely must be a column or two in this.

More next week.

More in News

Pierce library system seeking levy lift to keep facilities, programs operating

If approved, the levy will increase the annual tax bill by around $32 a year, bringing the average total up to $160 annually.

Recovering the mantle of ‘senior’

The Enumclaw Senior Center, with the help of a potential five-year grant from the county, hopes to change how people think about getting older.

Halloween pet photo event | Tractor Supply Company

Get a photo dressed up with your furry friend this Halloween.

New apartments coming to Bonney Lake

They’ll be lining SR 410 by around 2020, a representative said.

Enumclaw mayor’s proposed budget reflects recent growth, stashes money in reserves

One suggestion was to delete funding for the city’s Art Department. While other council members are suggesting a compromise, citizens can make their input official during the first public hearing on Nov. 13.

One dead, two injured in Bonney Lake Fire

Crews arrived early this morning to find a fully-engulfed double-wide mobile home.

Rape allegation against Sen. Joe Fain divides King County Council

In a recent interview, Councilmember Kathy Lambert blamed Fain’s accuser for the alleged rape. Then Lambert’s colleagues distanced themselves from her comments.

Futures Academy aims to teach lessons for a lifetime

The soccer program, put on by the Mount Rainier Futbol Club, is meant for elementary-aged athletes.

Paul Allen, shown in 2015. Courtesy of the Herald
Paul Allen dead at 65

Microsoft co-founder, developer, and philanthropist struggled with cancer for decades

Most Read