A Patchwork Quilt of Issaquah’s History
Special Edition – Our 5000th Issue!
March 13, 1996
Reviewing a century of the Issaquah Press is like looking at the complex, beautiful, and unfinished pieces of a patchwork quilt. In 1909, for instance, the paper reported that the Pickering Brothers and Wilson Tibbetts had oats estimated to yield 100 bushels to the acre. In 1911, the first three students graduated from Issaquah High School.
The Early Days
A classifed ad in 1920 read, “Half an acre on Front Street, 2 houses, all cleared with dandy little orchard for $1500, $300 down and $20 monthly. “If you have a small family, live in one and rent the other. Save your rent money,” said C.R. Berry, “the real estate man.”
The following letter from Grandmother Pickering was published in the Press in1924:
“Dear Editor: I have been hearing so much about school lately that my memory went back to 57 years ago, when I first came to this valley. … Soon after that the Pioneers organized a school district. … There were about twenty-five children in school. … The teacher did her own janitor work. The children had to walk as far as four miles. …
Our Issaquah school seems to be handled in a much different manner nowadays. … School today seems like war to me. I do not know what the children are taught at our schools. But my own grandchildren and great grandchildren when they come home — they spend their time making guns and swords out of wood and building forts out of boxes. Then they play war…
Is this what is actually taught to the children, instead of love and peace? Parents against teacher, neighbor against neighbor, and brother against brother? …
Back to the good, old days when everyone had love for the children, and respect for his neighbor.
The Depression Years
Even as the aging pioneers grappled with change, growth was transforming the face of Issaquah. In January1931, the Press reported the Town Council began taking bids to replace Issaquah’s wooden sidewalks with new concrete ones. (Front Street had been paved only six years before.) Construction began in March.
In June 1931, the Press published the 41 eager, young faces of that year’s high school graduates. The swelling number of graduates, up from 3 only 20 years before, was yet another sign of a growing town. Signs of the struggles during The Great Depression were few in the Press. Life went on.
An advertisement of the Grange Mercantile run in late August 1934 showed Cornflakes selling for 7 cents a one pound can of coffee for 29 cents, and 3 heads of lettuce for 9 cents.
The War Years
Front page news in June 1942 in Issaquah was sugar rationing . In reporting on the monthly meeting of the Issaquah Valley Grange, the article said: “the sugar rationing program came in for considerable discussion, with special dissatisfaction in the plan requiring a representative of each family going to Renton to secure a permit to buy nine pounds of sugar for berry season, and a second trip for a second allowance for putting up other fruits. A decision was reached to write headquarters in an effort to remedy the situation.”
On the same front page was a headline that read “Gas Attack Precaution”. But much of the page was taken up with local news such as a detailed description of the Kelly-Boyden (son of Press publisher Dad Boyden) wedding. “Lighted candles with pink and white peonies were the attractive decoration of the parlor of the University Presbyterian church,” according to the article, and the newlyweds “will be at home to their friends after June 25″ at their Seattle address.
While local life went on, there were signs war touched Issaquah. The airport was transformed into a military flight training center. Planting a Victory Garden was encouraged in the April 15, 1943 issue of the Press.
Finally, the war was over. “Victory” said a front page headline on August 17, 1945. Underneath was a landing bald eagle with an olive branch in its talons. “American democracy has once more served as a protection against the evil forces of aggression,” read the article. “This indeed is a day of thanksgiving throughout a liberated world. And for the people of these United States, it is a day when we must dedicate our lives to the task of bringing our country back to normalcy, and to assume our full part in the development of a world peace.”
In 1962, Issaquah celebrated its first hundred years, and the Press published a commemorative retrospective. Almost a year later, in the dark days of late November 1963, the front page carried a short article about President Kennedy’s assassination “Residents of Issaquah joined the rest of the nation this past week in paying final honor to the late President,” the article began. “Monday found most of the stores in Issaquah closed .. as most of the people joined the nation in front of their television sets to watch the funeral services …, and in a way, perhaps waiting to hear that it was all a mistake, that the President was not taken away by such an unacceptable act. The clouds seemed to close in extra tight around Issaquah Monday morning, shrouding the flag-draped stores and homes as though to protect our city.” The headlines right underneath this read, “Junior Class Puts 77 on Honor Roll”. Life went on.
In 1965, the Press reported that Issaquah suffered a “major” earthquake that rocked area businesses and caused major structural damage to two junior high schools. The cover feature on May 28, 1969 described a harbinger of progress, and a detailed map and explanation of I-90 freeway, then under construction.
The Seventies and Eighties
Big news in the Press in June 1971 — only 25 years ago — was the changing of Issaquah Avenue back to Front Street. (It had been changed in 1958 from Front Street to Issaquah Avenue.) At the same time, a portion of Highway 10 was named N.W Gilman Boulevard. The front page of the August 19, 1981 edition of the Press ran an article about Issaquah’s aquifer that fed three city wells, and the city planners’ concerns over the impact of area growth on the aquifer.
The landscape was changing at an accelerated pace, and residents continued to voice their opinions in the Press. In a letter to the editor right after a bond issue to keep the skyport was defeated, Lee Will wrote on June 3, 1987: “I am sitting on the pea gravel at the Skyport right now. It is several days after the election. My heart is broken, a part of it will never heal from the pain and loss I am feeling … Issaquah had a skyport. I remember each time I’d drive up I-90 my eyes would behold magical moments as parachutes burst open and people skydanced and swirled to the ground. It was poetry in motion…. Pretty soon there will be bulldozers where I sit and write you this letter. … Thirty years of an active sense of history will soon be gone.” Nine years later it is Pickering Place.
The Nineties and Beyond
Today’s Press reflects modern life — stories of growth management, environmental issues, budget debates in Olympia, and 550 high school graduates in 1995. The words of the Issaquah Press publisher and editor written in 1962 commemorating the town’s centennial seem just as relevant today.
“The concern of all of us as we enter the second century of Issaquah’s history,” wrote publisher John L. Fournier, “is that we will glean from the past the very best elements it has to offer and link these characteristics with the bright and challenging present and future. Issaquah needs the vigor and daring and stability of its pioneer past in order to continue building. All of the elements are here to make this venture a success –acquiring the proper blend is the responsibility of each of us who has a stake in this community.”
“It is a real satisfaction to live in a community which has so much pride and enthusiasm,” wrote editor Jack Yearout. “This almost fierce civic pride and cooperative spirit is a neverending source of amazement to me. Perhaps it is one of the things, aside from the natural beauty of the area and the friendliness of the people here, that makes Issaquah a fine spot in which to live.”