Oak Harbor – Working 7 Days A Week & Having A Wonderful Time

(Click to Enlarge the Photos)

I have recently taken a liking to reading the messages on the flip sides of postcards.  Here’s a revealing example.

OAK HARBOR on Whidbey Island was named, of course, for trees like the one above, which the settlers discovered surrounding the town site.  The trading center was known for its Dutch influences and at least when the W.P.A. Guide to Washington State was first published in 1941, the Dutch language was still commonly heard on Barrington Avenue.   The message written on the back of the Ellis real photo card #3454 trumpets that Ralph, the card sender, is “having a wonderful time, working seven days a week.”   Not certainly, but most likely, Ralph is helping build the naval air bases – both on water and on land – that were first picked for Oak Harbor in January 1941.  Construction work began on the land-based Ault Field, about three miles north of the town, in March 1942.   Ralph’s postcard to his sister and Homer is postmarked from Oak Harbor on April 29, 1942.    He does not describe his work, and it may have been hush hush.  Below the flip side message are three military records copied at the National Archives branch here in Seattle when Greg Lange and I were scrounging for illustrations for the book Building Washington (It is included on this blog as a pdf file.).  The first one shows a rudimentary map of the seaplane base in relationship to the town, as proposed most likely in 1941.   It is followed by two aerials, both from Nov. 15, 1944 and so during the war.

Reflecting on the size of both the Seaplane Base, above, and the land-based Ault Field, below, there was plenty of work for Ralph to keep busy seven days a week.  Still we hope that he managed to get away to visit his sis and her Homer in Puyallup.

The depression-time WPA writer's guide to Washington State a shipyard was the harbor's first industry.  "The schooner Growler, named for its complaining builders, was launched here in 1859  and became one of the best-known boats on Puget Sound in pioneer days.

The 1941 W.P.A. Writer’s Guild to the Evergreen State notes that Oak Harbor got a shipyard in 1854, its first industry.  “The schooner Growler, named for its complaining builders, was launched here in 1859 and became one of the best-known boats on Puget Sound in pioneer days.”  The guide continues, “Hollanders began to arrive towards the close of the century, and the extremely fertile countryside was developed with characteristic thoroughness by the Dutch farmers who were attracted here.  Today [in 1941] the outstanding annual event is the Holland Days Festival; Dutch costumes are worn, old-country games are played; there are prize contests and a livestock show.”

Barrington Avenue is Oak Harbor’s “Main Street.”  Follows three looks into Barrington including the “now” that Jean recorded for our book, Washington Then and Now.

We conclude this visit to Whidbey Island with another real photo postcard from Ellis, the Arlington photographer who drove the state for four decades supplying its gift shops and drug stores with real photographs of state landmarks.   Judging from the numbers Ellis used, this card was photograph on the same visit to Oak Harbor as the one at the top.  Both Ellis cards are used courtesy of John Cooper.



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