TOP O' THE MORN: Fun in a small town

In the mid 1920s, Oak Harbor had a playshed built next to the big two-story elementary and high school where today's flat-topped Oak Harbor Elementary School stands.There was a need for a building to house athletics, plays and programs, so community men got together, cut trees for logs and hauled them in. They made a big sturdy building with dressing rooms that had dirt floors.

We always were amazed that a school gymnasium would be built by community members who dedicated themselves to building what the school needed - without taxation.Goes to show how things have changed. Most of those living in town and going to a basketball game walked. There were cars, but night driving was hazardous. They walked on a bumpy cement sidewalk which ran from Pioneer Way up Telephone Hill, past the Reformed Church and on to Neil Road, now Whidbey Avenue. The sidewalk was paid for by the Women's Improvment Club with bake sales and other doings.The school's basement and first floor held elementary kids and a wood shop for high schoolers.

We have a small table made by our late husband who made it in woodshop about 1923. Hard to believe he became a first-class carpenter in his later years

The Model T Ford was popular, with flying side curtains, no windshield wipers, no heat, no radio. And no starter. One cranked the critter by hand (or arm) and many times it was marked by a broken arm! But it got people where they were going. The Model T was exciting in a town with no water or sewer system, where Main Street was graded weekly, where customers shopping the grocery store gave the clerk their lists and waited for groceries to be brought to the counter.

The boat came in at 6:30 every night with the mail, which was distributed by the post master, and most of the town gathered at the post office.Somehow we can still hear the boards of the dock creaking and thumping as the mail car came up the dock to town. It was a great place to meet old friends and visit, for the terrible teens to gather and amaze the oldsters.Johnny had a bug-sized car that held at least six in the seats and on the car's body. Racing up and down Pioneer Way at boat time was a real thrill!

Young people had to make their own amusements. Summer brought the word that a bonfire was scheduled at Cornet Bay that night. Kids gathered toward evening along the highway, waiting for a farmer to pick them up.Songs and tree climbing fueled the evening and cars that made it to the melee took all back home.

Dorothy Neil has been recording local history for more than 50 years. this column comes from her archives.

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