It was a beautiful day for a canoe journey. Standing on the long pier at Suquamish, you could see them as they rounded the point at Jefferson Beach, paddles glistening as they pulled in a rhythmic motion -tiny canoes against the skyline of Seattle and Mt Rainier. Throughout the day on Monday seventy tribal canoes landed on the shores of Suquamish for a two day layover as they make their way to Olympia, the final stop of this year’s Tribal Canoe Journey.
We’re lucky in Kitsap County – we have two tribal nations who both annually play host to the canoes. It’s about 26 nautical miles between the landing at Suquamish and the previous day’s resting stop hosted by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. In prior years the tired pullers would land on the Suquamish shore and, with a handful of volunteers, hoist their heavy, wooden dugout canoes on their shoulders to walk up the ramp to the lawn in front of the House of Awakened Culture. This year, a group of Navy men and women stationed in Kitsap County volunteered to carry the canoes.
It was an inspiring sight to watch each canoe stop before landing to ask and be granted permission to come ashore (often in their tribal language) from Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman. Yellow-shirted Navy volunteers then waded into the water, lifted each canoe and carried it uphill passing by the flagpole with the waving flags of the United States and the Suquamish Tribe to the applause of watching spectators. The symbolism of that cooperative effort was heartwarming – the original first peoples of Kitsap County sharing their culture and tradition, getting assistance from young Navy men and women, most just passing through on a tour of duty, to the applause of a crowd of Native and non-Native spectators, all under the flags of two sovereign nations.
Over the next two days there were evening salmon and clambake meals served by Suquamish tribal members and community volunteers followed by tribal singing, drumming and dancing by the visiting tribes – a tradition that allows the visiting tribes to thank the host tribe for it’s hospitality.
I went back on the second day to sketch the canoes, every one a work of art sitting on the grounds around the House of Awakened Culture. Each is a dug-out canoe made of trees that are found on each tribe’s land. The style varies by tribe though all have to be seaworthy enough to withstand the open water canoeing of the Salish Sea and Puget Sound. Some are painted, some bear tribal flags and wreathes of cedar branches. Some canoes have made the journey more than once and others are first-timers. The new Makah canoe was carved by students at Neah Bay High School.
It amazes me, the number of local residents I know who’ve never attended the Canoe Journey ceremonies hosted by the Suquamish or Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribes because they think they’re not open to the public. They are. You can watch and photograph the canoe arrival and departures, attend the evening dancing and drumming ceremonies and even volunteer to serve food and clean up. The tribes ask that you’re respectful and that you don’t bring or consume alcohol or drugs as the Canoe Journey is a tradition that promotes health and healing for the pullers and the tribes.
Tucked into one end of Newberry Hill Heritage Park in Silverdale is a tiny new addition called The Children’s Forest. Newberry Hill Park is a multi-use park of 1200 acres and nearly 15 miles of trails allowing horses, mountain bikes and walkers. It’s well maintained trail website provides a brief description of best and permitted uses of each trail and the volunteers who maintain it had clearly been hard at work when I walked it over the weekend. But it was The Children’s Forest that captured much of my attention.
The wide gravel paths are ideal for strollers and a new covered outdoor meeting area is a perfect group space for classes, youth groups, day cares or families to use.
There appear to be plans for interpretive signs such as this first one providing facts about the Oregon Trail.
Similar to the rest of Kitsap County’s heritage parks that are not supported by public funds, Newberry Hill Heritage Park is maintained by a loyal group of volunteers that include Scouting troops, church and community groups, the next door Klahowya High School Environmental Club and an oversight group of Stewards who work tirelessly to build and maintain the trails including the Children’s Forest. Because this park is a multi-use facility, its oversight Stewards represent the hiking, mountain biking and equestrian interests in the county who work together to insure the park is safely used by everyone. They’re always in need of more volunteers.
While commuting Highway 305 on Bainbridge Island most drivers are probably unaware that some of the highway parallels a trail located in a park with the biggest ledum bog in the state. Or that some of the land in the park was once a dairy farm owned by the founder of Port Madison on Bainbridge. Or that the park gate features a rat sculpture.
Meigs Park consists of 120 acres of preserved land, some acquired by the Bainbridge Parks Department and Bainbridge Island Land Trust in 1992 and some under a joint agreement with the Parks Department and City of Bainbridge. Most of the park isn’t accessible because of the fragile nature of the ledum bog but there is a maintained public trail that runs parallel to Highway 305 and a parking area at the corner of Koura Rd. and the highway.
Ledum is a plant whose leaves are used to make Bog Tea. Also known as Indian Tea and the Indian Tea Plant, ledum was used first by local Native American tribes as both tea and for medicine to cure inflammation. The last owner of the property considered building a spa featuring the bog’s water.
Before the land was owned by the parks department and city it was a dairy farm owned by the descendants of George Anson Meigs who built the Port Madison sawmill and founded the community that now exists there. In addition to his Port Madison waterfront holdings, Meigs, began the dairy farm which operated until 1950.
The trail has remnants of its use as a farm. Just off the trail is the ruined shell of an old trailer.
The gate that used to divide the park from the Meigs property is still there along with its decorative and inexplicable rat eating a piece of cheese.
Tomorrow I exchange homes and cars with a fellow traveler. A perfect stranger though she and I have been regularly communicating to finalize details. She and her two sisters will be doing exploration Kitsap from my home while I do exploration Florida from her’s. It’s one of the many strategies I use to travel far and cheaply – I exchange homes using Homelink, one of several reputable home exchange websites.
It’s a great way to become part of a community instead of passing through as a tourist in a nameless hotel. I save money by not paying for accommodations and by cooking in rather than eating out all the time.
Some home exchanges take me to places I intended to travel as part of a trip such as the Loire Valley of France in 2015. While there I stayed in a charming 300 year old home in a tiny village that was also the location of one of France’s premier lyceums (exclusive private boarding schools). The home owners, publishers and authors from England, were there living in their home on the property during my stay.
Three traveling friends joined me during this home exchange and we did what any visitor to the Loire Valley does: toured the valley’s many beautiful chateaus, sampled its famous wines and ate at its Michelin star restaurants.
Sometimes a home exchange takes me to places I hadn’t planned on traveling. While planning my 2015 trip to France and Germany I was contacted by a family in Solothurn, Switzerland interested in doing an exchange that timed perfectly with my trip. I had to look Solothurn up on the map. Their darling Swiss home was near a medieval town in the Jura Mountains near the French border; a train trip on the precise and comfortable French and Swiss rail systems.
I’d never been to Switzerland and the Jura Mountain hiking trails were every bit as Heidi and Sound of Music stunning as I hoped they would be.
The visitors who want to exchange homes with me have wanted to see the Olympic Mountains, downtown Seattle and Victoria. I live in a convenient place to see all three. I leave them a basket of tourist brochures about all of those places and a binder of information about Poulsbo where I live. It never fails. Poulsbo and the rest of Kitsap County are too darn charming; too varied and too beautiful to leave. They begin exploring and suddenly Victoria and Seattle are not the draw they anticipated. Their bucket list becomes less important. It’s usually the same with me. I become enchanted by their neighborhoods, their towns and their hiking trails. A home exchange becomes a small town cultural exchange.
I was recently in another country where English isn’t even the lingua franca answering the first question one gets when chatting up fellow travelers. “Where do you live?” Usually they’ve never heard of Poulsbo so I end up responding that I live across the water from Seattle when this one, a stranger on the train to Madrid, interrupted me with, “Do you live where that great licorice store is located?”
That great licorice store is Poulsbo’s Marina Market, home of The Licorice Shrine. So hip is the Shrine that it has its own Twitter handle @LicoriceShrine which regularly tweets out updates to its licorice followers: “we have WAYYY more #blacklicorice in stock now! and #buylicorice on Sale!” And a blog. And an online store carrying 502 licorice related products.
I live in Poulsbo and as you know from previous posts, I walk everywhere. Marina Market and The Licorice Shrine are on one of my routes and so I stop by on occasion to pay homage. There are rows of packages and tins of authentic licorice choices from around the world. Brightly colored packages of black licorice from Finland, Holland, Sweden and Germany (Marina Market makes it easy to identify the origin of the licorice by placing country flags on the displays).
There are licorices filled with blueberry, pomegranate and mango. Sweet licorices. Salty licorices. Extreme super hot licorices. Gluten free licorices. Hard and soft licorices. And for those of you who insist, Marina Market carries faux licorice – Red Vines and Twizzlers that don’t even list licorice as an ingredient. In fact, some candies that call themselves licorice are really flavored with anise, a seed similar to but with less flavor than licorice extract. Real licorice candies are made from the root of the licorice plant; an herbal plant originating in China and India and used for thousands of years to relieve pain and heal wounds. The root contains a chemical called glycyrrhizin that’s fifty times sweeter than sugar. When the roots are shredded and ground they create an extract used in the making of licorice.
Why in my Norwegian themed town is there a Licorice Shrine? Because Nordic people have a fondness for licorice. In fact Google any Nordic country + licorice and you’ll find that each has a favorite type and flavor. Marina Market caters to that multitude of tastes. And if you prefer your licorice in liquid form, the store has fifteen varieties of beer flavored with licorice among its stock of 1079 beers.
Mrs. Nell Skinner taught one term at Mcdonald School. Then the school board told her they were against hiring married women so she was out of a job. She ran into the same opposition from the Illahee district but when she told them she had a sick husband and three children to support, they relented and hired her. To get to her job each day she would walk to Captain Anderson’s place and was rowed across the bay to Fletcher Bay. Then she took the little steamer Chickaree from the Fletcher Bay dock to the Illahee dock. After landing at Illahee she walked up to her school and made a fire in the wood stove to heat up the room before her pupils arrived.
In 1902 after graduating from the eighth grade, Chloe Sutton took the State Teachers Examinations, passed and received a certificate to teach. Her first school was located between Brownsville and Keyport.
My second year of teaching at Kitsap Lake School I served the children a hot lunch. Hot cocoa was always served on Mondays and I cooked vegetable soup at my cabin. I bought the soup bone and meat at Silverdale on Saturdays and cooked the stock. Each child brought a potato and 15 cents each week for lunch supplies. Eliza Jane Hanberg
On May 14, 1931, the Bremerton School Board adopted the following resolution: That a married woman having private means of support, income producing property or other property capable of producing an income, or a husband who is physically able to support her, shall not be hired as a teacher by the district.
Excerpts from The Way It Was in Kitsap Schools, Kitsap County Retired Teachers
The local newspapers have been busy covering public education issues in the county over the past month. South Kitsap School District lost its bond election to build a new high school for the second time. The North Kitsap Superintendent is under fire for ignoring teacher and community input. Central Kitsap School District has a bus driver shortage. And I’ve been reading a fascinating book that appears to be the sole resource of collected historical information and archived memories on Kitsap County’s public education history. What was it like back in the day?
Schools in the county were built before Washington achieved statehood and were mostly situated at population centers near lumber mills. Unlike today where the county is served by five school districts: South Kitsap, Bremerton, Central Kitsap, North Kitsap and Bainbridge Island, each early school in the county was a school district. By the time Washington was declared a state in 1889, there were already 615 students in the county and 24 schools located in 24 school districts. As the population grew and shifted, more schools were built. At its peak there were about 34 K-8 school districts in Kitsap County.
The first school was built in Port Gamble in the current North Kitsap School District, though the building that housed the school was used for “public worship, social enjoyment or fraternal communion and to educate the children.” Given the multi-purpose use of the building, Bainbridge Island lays claim to the first building erected as a school which was built in 1860 at Port Madison on Bainbridge Island. The third school was built seven years later at Seabeck in what is now the Central Kitsap School District.
Those earliest schools only served younger students. It wasn’t until 1902 that the first high school opened in Kitsap County. The school was located in an existing elementary building in Bremerton and in its first year there were four students who attended – three ninth graders and a tenth grader. By 1905, there were 61 students wanting to attend high school so Bremerton School District and adjacent Charleston School District voted to create a merged Union High School and agreed to open it in a Lutheran church in what is now downtown Bremerton. By 1908 the only high school in the county had it’s own building and a student population of 106. Students in the rest of the county who wanted to go to high school either attended high school in Bremerton or in Seattle or Vashon and boarded with family or friends.
In 1920 six of the fourteen school districts in what is now the North Kitsap School District joined forces to build Union High School. Over the next ten years, the remaining eight districts joined them and by 1930 a bigger high school was built. Port Orchard built its first high school in 1921 after a similar history of its eighteen school districts voting for one consolidated high school. Silverdale’s districts opened their first high school in 1925. Bainbridge’s eleven school districts opened a high school in 1916.
First Keyport School
Inside Keyport School
The school buildings changed as the county populations shifted. Some of the first schools took place in local residents’ homes such as the first Bethel School school in Port Orchard and the Bangor School near Silverdale. Others took place in a tent such as the Harley School on Bainbridge or a grocery store where the first Bremerton School operated. The earliest schools were small one room board and batten or log buildings constructed by volunteer labor on donated land with no insulation, no plumbing and a wood stove for heat. Water was usually carried in by the teacher or students from a neighbor’s well and the lack of heat often meant that the school only operated during the warmer months. The 1891 Crosby School in what is now the Central Kitsap School could only afford to stay open three months a year. Blackboards, books and desks came from donations and the local community raising money at basket socials to buy equipment. When the school building became too small it was sometimes dismantled and the materials used in the building of a bigger school or abandoned only to be reincarnated as something else as my previous post on an early Keyport school illustrates or the land and building was returned to the resident who donated the property.
The earliest teachers were unmarried woman and men (who could be married); some who had only just graduated themselves from the 8th grade. They performed multiple duties beyond teaching; they were also the school janitors, cooks and according to the Rules and Regulations of the State Board of Education, air quality monitors: Every public school teacher shall give vigilant attention to the temperature and ventilation of the school room and see that the atmosphere of the room is changed frequently.
The county rule regarding the married status of female teachers didn’t change until 1942 when a regulation was passed entitled War Emergency Teachers. Because male teachers were called to military service, the change allowed districts to hire married women during the duration of the Emergency. Despite what would now be an illegal hiring practice, women who taught managed to serve in school leadership capacities. Most famous among them is Elizabeth Ordway who taught at the first schools built in the county and then became the Superintendent of County Schools in the 1880s and Jane A. Ruley, the first African American teacher in Kitsap County hired by the Sheridan School District in Bremerton in 1887 to open its first school.
Unlike today when collective bargaining determines teacher salaries, the first Silverdale teachers recalled that their salaries were determined by having them bid for how much they wanted to get paid with the job usually going to the lowest bidder. The average monthly salary of the county’s first teachers ranged between $30 and $40 per month and much of it was used to pay room and board to the families they lived with while teaching. In some of the first schools, such as the small 20 feet x 28 feet Seabeck School, an apartment for the teacher was part of the building and some students whose commute by boat or walking was too distant or dangerous boarded with the teacher when school was in session. (School transportation didn’t involve bus driver shortages back in the day. There are plenty of anecdotal memories in the book about students swimming to shore from overturned boats and getting charged by bears while commuting to school and teachers sinking in quicksand while walking home.)
In researching this post I discovered a website with old class photos from Kitsap schools in the early to mid 1900’s. Who do you know in these photos? What memories exist in your family records about early schools in the county?