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and the extent of our care of them marks the
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San Juan Islands, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 500, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.

09 December 2012

❖ Twenty-Five Years of Ferry Lunches ❖

Written by author, historian Lucile McDonald (1898-1992)

Ferry LINCOLN c. 1930
postcard from the Clinton H. Betz Ship Collection, 
Archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©

"Living on the western edge of Redmond, WA, is an 84-year-old niece of Capt. John L. Anderson, who used to be king pin of the Lake Washington ferry service. Olga Carlson Dunkel says that she opened the first lunchroom aboard his boats and remained with the business a quarter of a century. 'I always liked boats and I got along well with people'.
      Mrs. Dunkel came to Seattle from Sweden in 1913. ' I had to get a job as soon as I got to this country. I did housework for $50 a month.'
      One day in 1924, Anderson told Olga that the ferry LINCOLN was laid up at Houghton for its annual overhaul and he had installed a lunch counter on board the vessel. 'I want to know what you think of it'. His niece visited the boat as requested and told him the arrangement looked fine. 'You can have it,' Anderson announced.
      From then on she managed the lunch service. 'There would be about four of us women on a shift. We were paid $3 a day and eats when I started, but I got more after the union was organized. Besides serving food we sold newspapers, candy, gum, and chances on punchboards.
      It took 22-minutes to cross Lake Washington from Madison Park to Kirkland, but people could consume an awful lot of food in that amount of time. We sold hotcakes, waffles, eggs, a tremendous number of hamburgers and pies --40 or 50 pies on weekend.They brought in a lot of money although a serving cost only ten cents. Doughnuts were three for a dime and coffee was five cents.
      When I started I had to take home beans to bake and then carried them back to the boat. Sauerkraut and wieners were popular, so were soups, Swedish meatballs, and potato salad. Later I didn't have to take the beans home because we got an electric oven and steam tables. 
      When the LINCOLN was laid up once a year for repairs we went in the old WASHINGTON. She was an awful boat. Sometimes we were chartered for an excursion, especially kids bound for the camp at Denny Park.
Photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.

When the first Lake Washington bridge opened I was working on the LESCHI, running to Medina. She had the best lunchroom of any of my uncle's boats.
Ferry LESCHI, Seattle-Kirkland
November 1948.
Original photo from the Saltwater People Historical Society.©

      During WWII we did big business with the shipyard workers at Houghton. I worked a shift beginning at 6 a.m. but some of the girls were on the night run which meant getting home at 2 a.m.' 
      One of Mrs. Dunkel's best memories is of meeting her future husband when he was a regular passenger on the ferry. He was running a hog ranch at Redmond and she was then living in Kirkland. After her marriage in 1942, she kept her job and had to ride to work in a taxi.
      Asked if she had any adventures aboard the ferries, 'Yes, once a hold-up man came aboard in the early morning on the first ship leaving Kirkland. I saw he was watching me and I wouldn't open the lunch counter. Officers got him before he left the boat.
      Another time when I was on the LINCOLN enormous waves from a passing naval ship nearly turned us over. The ferry went clear down in the water and I was pinned in a corner and hot coffee poured over my legs. I worked several more hours with my stockings off and my legs bandaged, but I gave up about 2 p.m. and wound up in the Kirkland hospital. 
      Although many decades have passed since the last ferry quit running, Mrs. Dunkel says every once in awhile someone comes up to her and asks, 'Didn't you used to be on the boats.'"

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