Back in time

By Peggy Darst Townsdin

Contributing writer

Descending down the hill into Oak Harbor these days on Highway 20, approaching from the south, has become quite an experience in dodging new construction and traffic while still hoping to sneak a peek of the fast disappearing view of the actual beautiful harbor.

Looking straight ahead over the town in front, though, you will still not be able to miss the sight of a large, round-top, over-sized, strange looking building. Some believe it is the old Safeway store, but they are mistaken. The old Safeway building is in fact now the Ace Hardware store on West Pioneer Way. No, what you are looking at is the fantastic automobile garage which pioneer son, Thomas Stroops, built with his own hands in 1945 at the corner of Dock and Barrington streets.

The George Stroops family came to Oak Harbor in 1889. George was a farmer and lay minister at Izett’s Methodist Church near Crescent Harbor. This Stroops family had six children. One son was Vince Stroops, who became a mail carrier to the north end of the island, delivering mail from his motorcycle.

One of Vince’s sons was Thomas, who was born in Oak Harbor in 1911. After graduating from Oak Harbor High School where he was known as a mischief-maker (by tipping over outhouses and the like), Thomas went to Seattle and took a mechanic’s coarse. In 1935 he joined the Marines, but was given a medical discharge due to constant surgery needed for his ingrown toenails.

In 1936 Thomas married Dora Minahan and worked at Maylor’s Garage. Maylor’s Garage was the building in which the Casual House clothing store is now located.

The Vince and Thomas Stroop families lived on their land on Maylor’s Point. When the Navy came to town, all their lands and homes were taken over. Vince is one of the local farmers who tried to fight this in court, but of course he lost after several years of trying. Vince then bought the Loers’ house, which is the blue onion-top house that still sits on the hill coming into town as well. This is why old timers will still refer to the Loer house as the Stroops house.

Tomas decided to build his own garage for a Chevrolet dealership. He built this building in 1945. He did not get the Chevys, but did end up with the Kaiser/Fraser dealership. He sold these cars until 1953. By 1961 he had sold the building and went to work for Krieg Construction. He retired in 1980 and spent his final years fishing in Baja and traveling.

The Stroops Garage building has been used for many things and was part of Skagit Valley College at one point in the 1970’s. Today, it is home to The American Legion George Morris Post, which was chartered on Feb. 3, 1920, first meeting in Coupeville and then at the San de Fuca Hall, before finding a permanent home in Stroops’ Garage.

(Information used for this story came courtesy of the late Dora Minahan Stroops and Jake Dietz of the American Legion.)

Peggy Darst Townsdin is the author of “Step Back in Time,” “Spirit of the Island,” and the upcoming “Whidbey Island - Now and Then.” Call 678-5970 or email to reach her.

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