"The past actually happened but history is only what someone wrote down." A. Whitney Brown.

About Us

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San Juan Archipelago, 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 750, 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.

31 December 2013

❖ CASTING OFF 2013 ❖

Ready or not, we must cast off year two thousand and thirteen, while packing a seabag of maritime memories. The past year included 73 posts and 10 pages, each with vintage, original photographs from the archives developing in this salty county of San Juan. Below are some sad goodbyes, along with a few celebrations to log online and into our memory bank, before the tide washes in with a brand new year. 

22 August 2013
Ron Meng (1954-2013)
Ron and Jennifer Meng, 1970s
I.M.C., Lopez Island, WA.
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
The founder and owner of Islands Marine Center, Lopez Island, was a self-made man. Ron started Islands Marine Center c. 40 years ago, literally from the trunk of his car, servicing what was then a sizable fishing fleet on Lopez.
      Gradually, he and his wife Jennifer purchased waterfront property, developed a full-service marina and shifted their emphasis to recreational boaters as the commercial fishing industry waned. Ron designed and marketed his own brand of northwest-style boat, the Ocean Sport Roamer. Coming up on hull No. 100, this unique brand was a source of great pride for Ron, as he engaged his favorite pastime, fishing trips to Barkley Sound. 
Above text from The Journal of the San Juans

September 2013
Famous as the vessel used on 
Steinbeck's Sea of Cortez expedition.
Photo location, Port Townsend, WA., 

donated by Skip Bold, 9/2013.
Up from the bottom of Swinomish Slough and hauled out on the hard at Port Townsend is the vessel known widely as the transport for John Steinbeck, Ed Ricketts, and crew, to the Sea of Cortez in 1940. 
      A review of Steinbeck's book, The Log from the Sea of Cortez can be viewed here.
      A Spring 2015 update of the vessel plans can be viewed here.

13 September 2013
Ferry HYAK collision in Harney Channel, c. one mile north of Lopez ferry landing, San Juan County, WA.

The 28' sailboat was hit by the WSF HYAK on 13 Sept. 2013.
The lone sailor was rescued before the sinking of his vessel,
reported in the Journal of the San Juans, as NORMA RAE.
An eye witness said it was a clear day.
Two months later, a 21-page report was released
that listed the ferry crew at fault.
27 October 2013
      Seattle sailor Bill Buchan was honored on this day with his induction into the National Sailing Hall of Fame, that took place this year, in the historic waterfront district of Annapolis. 
      Bill won first place in 3 Star Class World Championships in 1961, 1970, and 1985. 
      The Star-type boats are one of the world's oldest organized classes. Each boat was built to rigid specifications to make winning a factor more of skippering rather than hull design. The Star is a keel-type boat about 23-ft long, 5-ft beam, and weighing a little less than 1,500-lbs. 


Bill Buchan, 1970
With World Star Championship silverware.
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©

In 1984 Buchan won a gold medal in the Olympic Games. While Bill was winning his Olympic gold, son Carl won an Olympic gold medal in the Flying Dutchman class. Congratulations on your awards, Mr. Buchan.

Bill Buchan, up, and Steve Ericsson,
crossing the finish line
for an Olympic gold medal, Star class,
10 August 1984.

Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
6 December 2013
Anacortes, Fidalgo Island, WA.
The America's Cup, in 1934.
Crafted in sterling silver
in 1848 by Garrard & Co.
It has been modified twice by adding
matching bases to allow for more engraving,
as viewed in the photo below.

Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
      Into little Anacortes, on this date, and with "security escorts," came the oldest trophy in international sport, affectionately known as the "Auld Mug". 
      The sterling silver America's Cup was originally awarded in 1851 for a race around the Isle of Wight in England, won by the yacht AMERICA. 
      For the celebration at the Watermark Bookstore and the Anacortes Yacht Club, came the Commodore of the Golden Gate Yacht Club, Norbert Bajurin, and Mark Turner, the Anacortes-based builder of the ORACLE boats.
      Turner and Cafe Adrift helped with hosting and celebrating the public event. 
Watermark Bookstore, Anacortes, Dec. 2013.

25 December 2013


Bellingham Christmas Ship 
in the San Juan Islands, 2013.
Through the years, Bellingham Junior Chamber of Commerce, the Bellingham Jaycees, the Bellingham Sea Explorer Scouts, Captains Don Wight, father and son, and multiple Lions Clubs with their hundreds of loyal volunteers have guided Santa Claus through the winter storms to the children of the San Juan Archipelago and the Gulf Islands! 
      Mr. Pete Zuanich was the first skipper to volunteer with his fish boat, in 1947.
      What a kind, generous crew supporting Santa while he jumps ashore to spread good cheer.

23 December 2013

❖ CAYAFAS––A REAL SAILOR ❖ (Updated with photo added.)

Nick Cayafas, age 90.
At his annual sprucing up and rigging,
atop his 47-ft mast, 1987.
Photo by George Carkonen

 From the archives of the S. P. H. S.
The PERPETUA, a trim two-masted sailing vessel, has long been a familiar landmark at its offshore mooring near Duwamish Head, midway between Harbor Island and Alki Beach.
      For 25 years, the ketch-rigged, white sailboat has been home to Nicholas Cayafas, a mustachioed Greek fisherman who, at 89, still climbs to the top of the 47-ft mast, and sails the 36-ft ketch single-handed.
      The elderly bachelor and his neatly kept boat are almost an anachronism in today’s jet age, virtually the last vestige of Seattle’s once colorful colony of Greek-born fishermen.
      The PERPETUA, for instance, has a miniature chapel in the forward compartment, complete with votive lights and Greek icons, an old-world custom that was commonplace in the days when the city’s Greek fishing fleet included 30 or so boats.
      For many years a Greek crucifix also adorned the PERPETUA’s topmast, but the cross was lost when hoodlums stole the boat several years ago and apparently knocked off the crucifix while going under the Spokane Street Bridge.
      Nick Cayafas is a Seattle old-timer. He came here from Astoria, OR, in 1908. For many years, he and his brother, Chris, who died five years ago, were partners in a long series of fish boats, mostly purse seiners with names such as IKAROS and IKAROS II, NICK C and NICK C II, TWO BROTHERS, CHRIS C––12 boats in all, and they fished from Alaska to the Golden Gate.
Cayafas' NICK C II, August 1949,
at WA Fish and Oyster Co, Pier 54, Seattle, WA.
She picked up ocean-caught salmon from smaller boats 
at Neah Bay before delivering to the city
 every Tuesday and Friday.
Here she is offloading 30,000 lbs of salmon.

Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
Seattle, 1977.
From the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
      Today, despite his 89 yrs, Nick doesn’t wear glasses, even for reading, and he stands up to row the dory that takes him from ship to shore, just like his ancestors who fished the Aegean Sea.
      The colorful old-timer with his sweeping mustache and immaculate boat lead an old-world touch to the Harbor Avenue Southwest waterfront.
      George Carkonen, a Seattle Times photographer, whose family has known Nick more than 50 years, recalled when he was a youngster and Nick and other Greek fishermen would take families from Seattle’s Greek community aboard their flag-bedecked boats for Sunday outings to Port Madison, Blake Island, and other places on Puget Sound.
Nick Cayafas, born in Ikros, Greece.
With some of the boats he has made since 
he first went to sea. The model on which he works 
represents a ship he crewed at age 14.
At the time of this photo, he was living on W. Orleans, Seattle,
in a house shared with brother Chris, where they had a view 
out over Puget Sound from Tacoma to Whidbey Island. 
Photo by George Carkonen, March 1952.
Original from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

      “Spiro Koutinas, whom we call ‘Sam’, has a Columbia River double-ender and still fishes for salmon, mostly around Blaine. And as for me, I manage to catch a few rock cod but I haven’t done much serious fishing since the government took over my big boat, the Nick C II, an 80-footer, shortly after the outbreak of WWII”, said Nick. Today, Nick is one of the last of the Greek fishermen.
      “I got her back, after the war and did some sardine fishing, also halibut, but by then I had bought the PERPETUA and she has been my home ever since.”
      During recent years, however, Nick makes his home during the winter in a small brick bungalow he owns on 49th Ave S. W. On cold winter mornings, he grins, “it’s more comfortable than the boat.”
      Nick has rigged his boat so that he can sail it by himself, seldom leaving the tiller or cockpit. Mostly he makes short trips, seldom venturing beyond the San Juan Islands.
      “Nick is very self-sufficient,” said Carkonen. “Why should he buy food when there are so many clams, oysters, cod, and red snapper right in our own backyard? He makes a real good clam chowder.”
      “Are you a pretty fair cook?” I asked the elderly bachelor.
      “I manage not to burn the pots,” he replied modestly.
      Most persons, meeting Nick for the first time, are astonished by his happy disposition and almost youthful enthusiasm. Probably because of his stern visage, impressive mustache, and big, work-calloused hands, they mistakenly figure the grizzled, old fisherman as a gruff or crotchety man.
      Actually, Nick is a jolly oldster––an old Nick full of “the old Nick.”
Above text by Glen Carter for The Seattle Times, October 1966
“The families would bring picnic baskets of food, jugs of wine, mandolins, and other musical instruments, and we would barbecue a whole lamb on the beach,” Carkonen said. “The kids would swim all afternoon, while the older folks gossiped, talked politics, argued, and otherwise enjoyed themselves. For the trip home, the fishermen would lash their boats together side-by-side. Sleepy children were put to bed in bunks out of harm’s way, and the older folks would dance Greek dances on the afterdeck or sing the old Greek songs.
      I can still remember the music and laughter drifting over Elliott Bay on a summer night as the boats made their way across the Sound to their home port in the Duwamish Waterway. It was great fun, the unsophisticated era before automobiles became popular and changed people’s habits and customs…”
The next year:
       "The PERPETUA, with an unusual rigging of wishbone-type gaffs which carry her triangular canvas inverted with the wide base at the top of her two masts. She wears no booms. Before Nick was hoisted aloft by Melvin Miller, close friend, West Seattle automobile salesman and sailing enthusiast, Cayafas said:
      "I've been sailing since I was 11. Last night when I went to bed I knew I'd have to decide when I woke up whether I was going to get out of bed and sit in a rocking chair or come over here to the moorage and swing in a bos'n's chair. So here I go."
      Watching with admiration was Curtis Hitchings, operator of the Riverside Marina. 
      "That's Nick for you, Hitchings said. Everybody loves him. He's a wonderful, gentle, thoughtful man who loves to sail and loves his independence.
       I've been trying to buy the PERPETUA for six years from him. It'd be easier to buy a man's right arm.
      He's always said he was going to give her up and quit sailing next year. But he's never been very definite about which next year, and here he goes again."
      Once Nick was aloft and out of earshot, Miller added:
      "He's the kindest, sailingest, hardiest man I've ever known. He's lost none of his admirable Greek heritage.
      There are no mattresses aboard. He sleeps on a bear skin and wraps up in a couple of goat skins. His lights are all kerosene.
      He has her rigged up so he can handle the jib, the staysail, the mainsail, and the spanker all by himself from the cockpit. 
      He's a real sailor."
Bottom text by Robert A. Barr for The Seattle Times, 5 May 1967.

16 December 2013

❖ HOME FOR CHRISTMAS with Log Tow ❖ 1949

Across the Strait of Juan de Fuca
Text by Captain Ray Quinn

BARBARA FOSSDiesel 1200 HP; Ocean Going
Original photo by Roger Dudley, Seattle.

From the archives of the S. P. H. S. ©

Captain Ray Quinn
Undated original photo from

the archives of the S. P. H. S. ©
I was on the BARBARA FOSS and we'd just come into Seattle from Alaska. It was about eight or nine days before Christmas. So they told me I was going over to Esquimalt to get a tow of logs and bring 'em around to Port Townsend. The engineer, Doc Templeton, he said, "to hell with that. I'm gonna have Christmas at home––I'm not gonna go." I went in and told the dispatcher that and he said, "well, Jack Gilden is on his time off, and he's down in Port Angeles. When you get through with the customs clearin', the first assistant can run the engine to Port Townsend, and you can pick up Jack there." So I said, "ok, that's fine." So when we got through with customs and started out, we got down to Pt. T, and Jack Gilden was there at the Standard Oil dock.
      We picked him up and went on to Esquimalt. It's right next door to Victoria. We went through customs, and we were gonna wait until daylight. So at daylight, we found the tow and looked it over and put some extra gear on it. It was 64 sections of bundles rafts. A bundle raft is a truck load. They bring 'em down to the water, and before they dump the logs into the water they put a band around 'em and cinch 'em up good and tight, and the bundle can take a lot of weather. You can get more footage of logs in the tow. So that's what they'd done. But there was one stick in the middle raft––the end was pulled out, but they had a jury rig with wire on it, so we put another wire on it and doubled it up so it wouldn't give us any trouble.
      That morning we started out, and when we got out to the entrance of the Esquimalt harbor, I heard two tugs off Pt. Angeles talking, the ARTHUR FOSS, Capt. Jay Thurston, and the MATHILDA FOSS, Capt. Ray Cook. But they had a tow that was goin' up on the American side. They were goin' up around Dungeness. They said there was a little swell, but they were gonna try it anyhow. I got thinking––before we left Seattle I talked to Walt Headwall, the dispatcher. I asked him, I says, "any objection to me goin' across the Strait and getting on the American side and coming up to Port Townsend?" He says, "I don't care, you can go right up for Dungeness Spit, I don't care." So I said, "ok, I'll think about it." I told Jay Thurston, I said, "I think I'll come across, head up for Dungeness." So he said, well, you'll  be home for a white Christmas one day or another."
      Anyhow the tide was ebbin' pretty good yet, so we took the tow down toward Race Rocks, and the flood tide started to come, and we headed up for Dungeness Spit. The tide was runnin' like hell; it was a big flood. Anyhow, when we went by Dungeness Spit, we's about three miles off of the end of it. We were pullin' across the current. And about that time the tide run out, so we's kind of anglin' across the current, tryin' to get in behind Dungeness Spit. 
      The MATHILDA FOSS gave me a call and he says, "say, we got a couple of hours to kill up here," he says. "We're a little ahead of ya, if ya want me to, I'll come back and give ya a little pull." I told him, "Come on, everything's welcome!" So he did, he come back and got alongside the raft and put his tow line on and pulled there for a coupla hours, and so we skidded right in behind Dungeness, between Dungeness and Discovery Bay. And then the next tide, they were gonna go inside the island. The MATHILDA had let go and gone up to his own tow. So I asked Jay Thurston, "You goin' inside the island, Protection Island?" and he said, "Yeah!" I told him "Well, if you can make it in to Port Townsend, goin' inside the island, I can come outside the island and make it in to Townsend, too." So he said, "Well, it's a good idea." So we did, we headed up outside the island, goin' pretty good with a small flood.
Map drawn for The Sea Chest by
the Honourable  Ron R. Burke, Editor
of Puget Sound Martime Historical Society.

See PSMHS on Favorite Web Site List

In the meantime, the MARTHA FOSS was in Port Townsend. He was gonna go from Pt. Townsend to New Westminster, up the Fraser River with two sawdust barges. So he was up to the custom man, he says, "The BARBARA FOSS'll be in here this afternoon with a tow of logs for the mill."
      And he says, "Aw, no. I generally get the papers on those logs eight or nine days ahead––I haven't got a thing on 'em." Bill Ericson was cap'n on the MARTHA FOSS, so he was lookin' out the window, and he says, 'I got news for you." He says, "the BARBARA FOSS is comin' around Pt. Wilson right now." So the guy grabs the telephone and called the mill, and they said. "Oh, no, we got lots of time to get the papers to ya." He says, "Ya have like hell––ya have 'em up here in an hour, 'cause that's the time they're gonna be in here." And I guess that's why it hit the fan, 'cause they called Seattle, and the guy was raisin' hell. He says he didn't want his logs out in the Strait of Juan da Fuca.
      So anyhow, Bill Ericson come down from the custom house, he gives me a call on the radio, and he says, "Hey, Ray, kill a couple of hours to get the tide right goin' up the Fraser River. If you want me to, I'll come out and give ya a pull for a little bit." So we'd gone on by Pt. T. and over towards Marrowstone Point with the tow. We's trying to fight our way in to Pt. T. Bay. There was a lot of counter currents in there. There's the big eddy behind Point Wilson, so we stayed away from that. Anyhow, we's pullin' back into the Bay, so Bill come out and give us a pull for a coupla hours, and then he left. By that time we's up where the tide didn't bother us so much.
      We got up to the log moorings, and the mill tug was out there. He had the superintendent of the mill, and the head boom man, and all kinds of people to look this raft over to see if it was injured in any way. All it was, was a little bark washed off the side where we'd hit a little swell out in the Strait, but not much. Anyhow, 26 hours from the time we left Esquimalt, we was tied up in Pt. T.
      When I called in to Seattle, Sid Campbell answered the radio. He wanted to know if we'd had any trouble or was anything broke on the raft. I told him, "No, only this one stick had an end pulled out of it, and that was before we left Esquimalt. We'd doubled up the gear on that so it was no trouble at all. All it did was wash a little bark off." So he said, "Ok, come on home." So I got back to Seattle. I left Jack Gilden off on the Standard Oil dock, his wife was comin' from Pt. Angeles to pick him up––that's where he lived. So we left him there and went on in to Ballard. 
Looking down on 3 towboats with many sections,
from Deception Pass Bridge, Summer 1941.
Capt. Quinn decided on an alternate route.
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S. ©
If we'd have went around, up through Deception Pass and up through the islands and then into Wasp Pass––if we'd had eight days of good weather, it would have taken us eight days. When we got to Seattle, I called Doc Templeton at home. When the phone rang, he answered and he says, "where the hell are you at?"
      I told him, "we're in Seattle." He said, "what'd they do, cancel the job?" I told him, "no, they didn't cancel the job. We went across the Strait and come up. You could have measured the trip and still been home for Christmas." He couldn't believe it, that we'd gone across the Strait. And a lot of other people didn't believe it either, but that's what we did. We went across there with 64 sections of logs in bundle rafts,* and I don't know whether anybody's ever tried it since or before––I don't know.
 was another old-timer that was built for the US Army in 1905.
In 1923 she became part of the Foss fleet and spent
much of her time towing logs in the Straits. 
Longtime skipper Bill Erickson loaned Ray her 450-HP 
to help the tow across Pt. Townsend Bay.
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
*"Bundles" are made up by wrapping an entire truckload of logs with flat steel straps. After dumping, they float about four feet out of the water and are assembled into a raft for towing. Bundle size will vary from eight to twelve logs depending upon their diameter.

Master Mariner tug Captain Ray Quinn was well known in the Puget Sound maritime community. He served as chief mate on several Victory ships during WWII and obtained his Master's license. In 1954 he was accepted into the Puget Sound Pilots and served for 20 years. 
Essay from the quarterly membership journal 
The Sea Chest, December 2002.
Courtesy of Puget Sound Maritime, Seattle, WA.


10 December 2013


LaConner, Skagit County, WA.
ANDREW JOE (1892-1960)
  carving a 54-ft canoe, 1952,

LaConner, WA.
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
Andrew Joe, 60-yr old Swinomish Indian, has carved about 30 dugout canoes in the past 42 years––but none was so important to him as the 54-ft racer now being hewn from a cedar log.
      Not only is the canoe the longest he has made, but it will carry the 11-man first team of the Swinomish in the Pacific Northwest Championship race 30 May, at the Lummi Stomish Water Carnival at Gooseberry Point, south of Bellingham.
      "This will be the first time the first team has used one of my canoes in the big race," Joe said from among flying cedar chips. "Our second team once found out one of my canoes was pretty fast, though." 
Racing canoe carved by Andrew Joe.
Four of the five canoes in the race were swamped
during the first mile of the three-mile race. 

Dated 6 July 1941; photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      Joe was referring to a 50-ft canoe which swamped with others competing in the last Coupeville race, 6 July 1941. The second team had a good lead in his canoe when choppy water cut them out of the race.
      The large cedar for Joe's new canoe was cut before the snow last winter. He has been working on it in his spare time for about a month.
      Most of the work of carving a dugout is done with an adz, the use of which Joe has developed to an art. Much work with a plane and finer cutting tools is required to make the lines smooth and true. When completed, the sides of the hull will be less than an inch thick.
      Worm or "dead" spots in the log make patching necessary, Joe explained. Patches are fitted and glued into the hull during shaping.
Words by John Van Devanter for The Seattle Times, 12 May 1952.

07 December 2013


Chart page from the travelogue,
 The Time of My Life

written and illustrated by Cherie Sutton.
Cherie was one of the fortunate Four Winds Camp 

alumni to tour Europe with Ruth Brown.
 As early as 1928, Brown escorted a party 
of 8 girls on a 7-month tour abroad, 
after the camp had closed for the summer.
Their motto was  "Around the World Friendship." 
Scan courtesy of Louellen McCoy, from her own
private book, one of 100 printed for a fund-raiser for
 Four Winds-Westward Ho Camp, Orcas Island, WA.
15 February 1950
“Glorified vagabonds” is what London affectionately called five young Pacific Coast girls who have arrived here on a tour that has taken them through a dozen European countries.
      One of the purposes of the group was to see what happened to food and clothing parcels sent to needy Europeans from the Four Winds Camp for girls at Deer Harbor, Orcas Island, WA.
     “The glorified vagabonds” moved around as the spirit prompted––and in style. The girls and their three chaperones traveled in two automobiles roomy enough so eight could sleep in them, if necessary. It wasn’t necessary. All of the sleeping was done in hotels.
      Chaperone-in-chief is Miss Ruth A. Brown of Seattle, director, and owner of the Four Winds Camp. Other chaperones are Mrs. Charles Zook Sutton, of Piedmont, CA, and Mrs. Hamilton Roberts of Stockton, CA
      The girls are Eleanor Harris, 21 yrs, of Berkeley, CA; Jane Graham, 20, of Vancouver, BC; Michaela Moran, 20, of San Francisco, CA; Tomolla Lipps, 24, of Los Angeles, CA; and Margaret Cranston, of Boise, ID.
      Their tour, which began in France at Le Havre in September, took them through France, Belgium, Holland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, West Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy.
      In each city, they visited they looked up persons to whom they had sent parcels.
      “They thought we were Santa Claus,” Miss Lipps said.
      “In one place in Germany they thought we were Marshall Aid,” Miss Cranston added.
      “We were whistled at and oo-la-la-ed in all languages", Miss Brown said, “But no one was fresh.”
      The cars have covered 21,000 miles. The only trouble was a puncture caused by a nail.
      The girl’s program included intensive sightseeing, some study, and wide-eyed observance of the complicated European scene.
     Some of their impressions were:
     Germany is dreadfully smashed, but its Western regions, at least, are beginning to hum.
      European men are gallant, slick, some are handsome––but they don’t seem to be as dependable as the American boys.
      British food is "much better than we expected, and the people seem so robust.”
      English fashion––also, “better than we expected.”
Above text: Alvin Steinkopf,  AP Foreign Staff, published by The Seattle Times, 15 February 1950

Ruth A. Brown, (1894-1976)
Camp Director, Four Winds-Westward Ho Camp,

Deer Harbor, Orcas Island, WA.
Original photo dated 1935, 

from the archives of the S. P. H. S. 
Ruth Brown served as executive director of the Camp Fire Girls in Seattle from 1921 to 1926.
      In 1927 she organized the Four Winds Camp in Deer Harbor, Orcas Island, WA, which she owned and directed until she retired in 1966. In 1935 she organized Westward Ho for boys, which operated in connection with Four Winds.
     Both camps were given to the Four Winds Foundation in 1968 by Miss Brown, who served as honorary board chairman of the foundation and Mr. Edgar F. Kaiser as Chairman.  The beautiful camp, known for its sailing, kayaking, and canoeing education is the largest operating in the San Juan Islands. Situated on over 1,000 acres, there are riding trails for beginners and advanced. Four Winds Camp is still operating into the next century with creative, responsible staff. During camp sessions the technology world is put aside in order for the young people, 7 through 18 years of age, to enjoy each other and the artistic, comfortable surroundings. There are hiking trips to Mount Baker and schooner trips on the Sound. 
      The newspaper article above highlights the special opportunities Miss Brown provided, leading several young women on a cultural experience through Europe.

03 December 2013

❖ The Happy Warrior ❖ of Waldron Island

 June Burn
author of Living High
Faculty of Creative Writing of U of WA.
celebrating National Book Week 12 Nov. 1944.

Original photo from archives of S.P.H.S.©
" 'Pixilated,' I thought; 'thoroughly pixilated.'
      This estimate raced across the top of my coffee cup as June Burn and I had coffee in a restaurant the other morning. June Burn is the author of Living High, a different kind of book, published recently by Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, New York.
      It was with the first sip of coffee that I made the mental reservation 'pixilated.'
      By the time I'd reached the bottom of my coffee I was convinced June Burn is the most thoroughly refreshing, fascinating, absolutely free soul, I've ever met. Here is a woman who outwardly seems haphazard in her living but who truly has not one whit of irresponsibility in her soul––perhaps her early Methodist training, plus the advent of two sons, put a stabilizing strain in her whimsicality, and yet never wore that whimsicality threadbare.
      There she sat across the restaurant table from me, her blue eyes looking like huge drops of the Puget Sound she loves so well; the sighing of the big firs and the rumble of stormy waters in her marvelous voice. Somehow she didn't belong there in the restaurant having coffee. Rather she belonged to the great outdoors and I had the feeling she is a captive soul the minute four walls close in on her.
      'You just come up to my island, Waldron Island,' I'll make you the finest hoecake you've ever tasted––it's made from whole wheat I grind by hand. And cook over the fireplace. Sure, I've got a kitchen in my cabin, and a kitchen range, too, but I like to cook over the open fireplace.'
Philosophy of Life Given

      Then June told me first of her philosophy of life:
      'You've got to get your wants down if you want to be happy. There are so many riches in the world that are not covered by economic security. I've had little cash but lots of color in my life. Queer, too, how I love to be alone in the woods and yet I adore people... .no, that's not queer, either, for people are a great deal like trees––when they're real people.' And then she told me in chronological order of her life, as revealed in Living High, An Unconventional Autobiography.
      June Burn was born in Alabama, and her father was a Methodist circuit-rider preacher. She finished college at the Oklahoma A & M and then went to New York. She got a job on McCall's Magazine (she describes herself at that time as a 'wide-eyed, green kid'). Later, she decided she'd become a short-story writer so she went to live in a Maryland cabin, not so far from WA., D. C. with another girl. There she wrote and there she met Farrar Burn, an ensign in the Navy. They knew each other a month and then married. Farrar leaving the Navy for civilian life.
      Their dream was an island. The atlas showed them the myriad of Puget Sound islands, so it was Westward-Ho! for the Burns. They homesteaded on Sentinel Island; there they followed out their own homespun philosophy, 'enjoy life first and settle down later,' They called their little island, one of the San Juans, the Gum Drop, it was so lush and green looking.
      The Burns' life on Sentinel Island is a book within a book. In fact, Mrs. Burn admitted that 'their life had been a series of Islands––first Sentinel, then St. Lawrence Island in Alaska, then the present Waldron Island,' where she now makes her home.
      'I wonder why everybody doesn't do their retiring first,' Mrs. Burn writes in Living High, 'while they have the zest for everything and settle down later on when they don't feel like doing anything but work, anyhow.'
      The second part of her book is called The Pale Green Year, and that was the year that the Burns spent in AK on the Aleutian Islands, specifically on St. Lawrence Island, teaching school with the natives as their pupils. There they met an eccentric old man who thought he was Christ come to save the world, and he offered them many thousands of dollars to take him across the Bering Sea to Russia and around the world. They flipped a coin to see whether they'd go around the world or come back to Puget Sound and raise a family.
      They flipped a coin, they came back to Sentinel Island, they had a son, North, who arrived in a terrible storm. The baby was born with Mr. Burn and a neighbor woman attending, who in lieu of a doctor––he could not reach the island on account of the storm––read instructions from a government bulletin directing her husband and the neighbor woman on childbirth procedure.
      Then came a trip from St. Louis to WA., D. C. by donkey cart. Then a conventional business venture, which netted the Burns $8,000 annually––she wrote advertising and lectured, he ran a public market in Sacramento. But the open road called and soon the four Burns (Bob, a son, had joined the family before the California adventure) piled into a specially constructed automobile and started across country. They called it Burn's Ballad Bungalow, this touring theatre, which had a collapsible stage at the rear of the automobile, where the four Burns sang Farrar's self-composed songs to the tune of his guitar.
      After this whirl around the country, they went back to Bellingham and there bought some land and built a cabin. Mrs. Burn wrote a daily column for The Bellingham Herald. It was called Puget Sounding and in it she wrote of everything from life in logging camps to stories of the Indians.
      Then came the depression and back to Waldron Island went the Burns––they had by this time purchased 44 acres on Waldron, also one of the San Juan group. There the four of them lived for 26 months on $200.
      After that, they founded a weekly paper, The Puget Sounder. It was first published in Bellingham, then Seattle. It was a literary success but a financial failure. Then came the time when Farrar had to go to New York, where he did lecturing and radio work. June and Bob, the younger son, hitchhiked to California. Later they joined Farrar in New York and there they lived in an 'undiscovered' New York. Mrs. Burn returned to write her book on Waldron Island and she's still there. North is attending the University of WA. Bob is a student at Bellingham HS. Farrar is making recordings for NBC in New York and lecturing. Right now Mrs. Burn is trying to decide if she is going to New York or on an eastern lecture tour.
      You find all this and much more in Living High. You find the beauty of nature served up as only June Burn can serve it up. There's philosophy, too, served up a la Burn. Here's a pinch of philosophy from Living High:
      'Washdays were fun. We had learned from the Eskimos that if you don't live as you go, you don't live at all. Since occupations fill most of our time, they must be made interesting, lively, delightful. They have got to be, or at least seem, important. Farrar and I had determined that we would never again do anything that wasn't rewarding in the doing. We had a theory that a good life, right and true and independent, could be lived on that principle. The Eskimos loved all the everyday activities of their lives. What could be more fun than hunting seals? What's more fun than gathering boot grass in summer? Yet their economy was as complicated as ours.'
      Farrar and the instinct for economy of effort, which we so aptly call laziness. He loved large leisure for trying out new tunes, new word combinations, new ideas. His more gracious attack on everyday living was hard work to me at first, for I cared for white clothes and immaculate houses, clean corners, and tidiness.
      '''Don't you see,' he kept at me, 'that energy margin, time-margin left over from doing washing is more important than getting the clothes to a certain degree of whiteness? If I'd wanted a housekeeping wife I'd have married a servant and gone out for friendship and companionship.'
      Then some of her touches of 'high living close to nature,' She speaks on sleeping on the ground and comments:
      'You sink down into a sleep that is like a rebirth, and awaken refreshed, and healed.'
      And then of Puget Sound:
      'Suddenly you round a curve or top a hill and there is Puget Sound before you, glittering in the sunshine or misty gray in the rain. There are ships coming and going in every direction, sidestepping the myriad green islands that pattern the Sound. Behind you are the mountains you have crossed, snowy white, and another range to the south, another to the north. You are encircled by snow-capped ranges. You have come home!'
      June Burn can speak of salmon leaping below a sturdy bluff, lighthouses throwing their long beams down a starlit channel, long-remembered hours by glowing campfires, cooking at fireplaces and ––well, we who are shackled to desks, immediately start straining at the bonds.'
      June calls this zest for living 'the technique of living.' Right now she's living all alone in her cabin on Waldron Island. She's working on a juvenile walking book, which gives most of the walking trails in the US (recently, with another woman, she hitch-hiked from New York). Farrar Burn will be back on Waldron Island in the spring.
    New York Parties
Mrs. Burn also tells you of:
Catching and hauling a half-ton of dogfish to her Waldron home, where she planted this dogfish for fertilizer in her garden.
      Liking to give lectures but not liking all 'the palaver that follows the lectures.'
      Keeping up a correspondence with more than 100 persons, including letters to Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt––'My biggest creative job these days is writing letters,' says June Burn. 'They say if I keep up I'll make a third-class post office out of Waldron, which is now just a fourth class, as I receive so much mail.'
      Giving parties in New York off the docks, when they caught eels out of the Hudson River, and living near an old blacksmith shop in Chelsea––'We found a New York that few people know and I called my lectures on this subject 'The New York that Nobody Knows.'
      And as you talk to this woman, who first appears to be pixilated and then convinces you––she's just natural, however, and doesn't for one moment try to impress or convince you––that she is 'dern smart' you know that she just told you a partial truth in the closing line of her book, 'From now on everything is gravy.' You know that June Burn's life 'always has been all gravy'...because she made it that way!
Above text by Virginia Boren for The Seattle Times, 1941,
A re-issue of June Burn's Living High, an unconventional autobiography was published in  1999.

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