The draw of Enumclaw, as seen from younger eyes

Everyone knew, or knew of, everyone else. It was a wonderful time.

The draw of Enumclaw, as seen from younger eyes

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve written about Seattle and it’s evolution from a small, provincial city into a first-class, cosmopolitan center. My friends, Enumclaw has gone through the same changes, but on a much smaller scale.

When I was a little kid — like, eight or nine years old — Enumclaw was, relatively speaking, a self-sufficient little community with fewer than 1400 people, isolated and surrounded by hundreds of square miles of farmland. At the time, it was possible to sustain a middle-class family — well, on second though, perhaps a lower-middle class family — on 30 or 40 acres of land with 30 or 40 cows.

However, the town’s most important economic staple was the White River Lumber Company, founded in 1897 by a few visionaries with backing from another collection of entrepreneurs in the town’s first bank. Eventually, it would become the largest lumber mill in the Puget Sound area, employing more than 700 men. (During the Second World War, a few ladies were hired as laborers, but for all practical purposes — except for a couple secretaries in the main office — there were no women in the general workforce.)

Looking back on my childhood, it seemed like everyone in town knew everyone else on a first-name basis. If they weren’t friends, they knew each other casually, or at least recognized one another, even if they’d never met. In short, it was a warm, friendly, and secure atmosphere with little felonious crime, so the town only needed one cop — Marshal Tom Smith. Children walked a half-mile or more to the J. J. Smith Elementary School and neither the parents nor the kids felt there might be bad guys lurking around the corner waiting to abduct or molest the youngsters.

Very few people had any reason to drive into Seattle, unless they worked there — and very few did. In fact, I knew several families who had never been to Seattle and the closest interaction they’d ever had with the city was to place a mail-order though the Sears-Roebuck catalog. Instead, they were committed to Enumclaw and were, in general, quite fond and proud of their little town.

Small, locally-owned businesses, including movie theaters, grocery stores, and farm granges, offered all the staples and entertainment local families needed. Downtown taverns might have gotten a little rowdy, especially during Naches Trail Days, but it was nothing the Marshal couldn’t handle. On Christian holidays, there was standing room only in the churches.

We spent our summer days and evenings lounging on the diving board and under the trees beside Pete’s Pool, probably the finest swimming hole in King Country. The air was fresh and pure and so was the water.

However, less I paint too rosy a picture, there was a darker, more malevolent cloud just below the town’s shiny, amiable surface. More on this in my next column.


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Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
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