Fort Casey turns 100
July 3, 2008 · Updated 12:33 PM
"Charles Evans, 95, was a raw recruit when the U.S. Army posted him to Fort Casey, back in the early 1920s. It was a quiet time, between world wars, and he spent his days raking leaves, drilling, standing guard, and putting in hours of target practice with the big 12-inch mortar. Once he was asked to strap on his tree-climbing irons and rescue a lost parrot. But on Saturday, June 10, the Seattle man will get a hero's welcome when he returns to Fort Casey as a guest of honor at the fort's 100th anniversary celebration. The fort - which never saw a shot fired in anger - will mark the centennial with flags, kites and bunting flying, an Army honor guard, music by the 133rd Army Band, and a public ceremony hosted by the Friends of the Admiralty Head Lighthouse.A crowd of several thousand visitors from on and off Whidbey Island is expected to turn out to recall the peaceful history of the old fort, which was built as one of three military installations guarding the entrance to Puget Sound, centennial chairman John Willson, of Clinton, said. Fort Casey, which was equipped with the first disappearing guns, got its first gun emplacements in 1899 and was completed in 1907. Although it was never mobilized for war, the old fort played a major role in the economic and social life of Whidbey Island from the turn of the century until it was taken out of service in the mid-1950s. Evans is the only Fort Casey soldier that Willson has been able to locate. But he won't be the only guest with a long memory. Willson has invited 19 other special guests, most now in their 80s and 90s, who lived at Fort Casey as children. Jo De Vries of Oak Harbor will be among them. De Vries' grandfather, first ordnance sergeant Thomas Clark, a career Army man, was posted to Fort Casey around 1900. Her father, who was also named Thomas Clark, worked at the fort as a civilian engineer, under the first chief engineer, Mr. O.W. Degan.I was born in what was the old post office, up on the hill, De Vries recalls. At that time, the fort was bustling with 1,000 men. There was a hospital, a bakery, a bandstand, a tailor's shop, the post exchange, a blacksmith shop, and a jail, De Vries said. It was a lovely place. It makes her sad to think of the many old military buildings that have been torn down. De Vries remembers the huge noise made by the big guns. They shook the earth pretty good! Bud Winterburn of Oak Harbor also lived at Fort Casey. He was there for a year in 1924. His father had been appointed commanding officer of the fort, but was hospitalized for a year and never set foot on the post. When he recovered, the family moved on to Bellingham, but Winterburn, then 13, well remembers fishing off the government dock at Keystone, playing baseball, riding his bike everywhere, and doing just everything that kids do.He particularly liked to watch the firing of the big mortars located in the deep bunkers behind the hill. He and the other kids sat on the mounds alongside the bunkers wearing muffs to protect their ears. You could see the projectile go up, he said. You could follow it until it made the turn to come down.He's looking forward to the centennial celebrations. The Lighthouse people deserve a lot of credit for what they've done, he said. After the ceremonies, the Fort Casey alumni will be seated near Battery Worth to share their recollections, old photographs and other memorabilia with anyone who is interested.The guests will include Charles Evans; Bud Winterburn; Jo De Vries and her brother, Mickey Clark, of Coupeville; Kay Arnswaldt, Jan Ford, Ray Meadors, Bud Merryman and Gus Reuble, all of Coupeville; Jessie Vane Barnes, Seattle; Marjorie Vane Carpentier, Port Townsend; Harve Harrison, Edmonds; Angeline Harrison, Mukilteo; Francis and Vincent Novarra, Clinton; Margaret Pontiuf, Federal Way; Arthur Vane, Menlo Park, Calif.; Angela Wilkinsen; and Ivy Vane Williams, Tacoma. Celebrating Fort Casey's centennialHere's the program for Fort Casey's centennial celebrations Saturday, June 10:10-10:30 a.m.: Straits of Juan de Fuca Men's Chorus11-11:30 a.m.: Opening ceremony at Battery Worth, with the United States First Corps Army Honor Guard, the United States 133rd Army Band, and distinguished guests. Noon-2 p.m.: Army band concert at Battery Worth.Other attractions include: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.: A special post office will be set up near Admiralty Head Lighthouse. Ten post cards with old views of Fort Casey will be on sale at $3 for a set of two and $5 for a set of four. Distinguished soldier stamps in sepia tone will be included in the price. Post cards will be hand-cancelled with a special stamp featuring the outline of a disappearing gun.10 a.m.-noon: Horseless carriages - pre-1915 automobiles - on show.10 a.m.-2 p.m.: Vintage army Jeeps and troop carriers on display and a circle of 70-year-old military tents.Noon-3 p.m.: Whidbey Island Kite Flyers show their skill and share kite-flying tips.Noon-5 p.m.: Fort Casey battery tours.The gift shop at Admiralty Head Lighthouse will be open all day.Visitors are encouraged to bring a picnic lunch and lawn chairs or blankets. Beverages will be available from roving carts, but no food will be on sale at the State Park.Parking outside the park will be available once the parking lots are full. Shuttle service will be available for visitors who have difficulty walking.Call (360) 579-2590 for more information. You can reach News-Times Island Living editor June Vigor at email@example.com or call 675-6611. "