Top of the Morn
July 3, 2008 · Updated 12:40 PM
"If our Fourth of July family picnic gets any bigger, we may have to rent Smith Park for the days celebration. Our present back yard, surrounded by trees and flowering bushes responded to the sunshine and gentle breeze from the west, to say nothing of the picnic table burdened with the best of Whidbey Island picnic fare.Our Jim, an excellent cook and innovator of unusual recipes, has a specialty which has become a capstone of any family picnic. Barbecued beef ribs equals and surpasses Whidbey Island barbecued salmon. Last years Fourth of July shindig had both with Jims brother Doug at the salmon specialty. Both brothers inherited their cooking abilities from their father who not only fed the family but in winter, fed the birds who learned that specially baked winter bird cakes were something few birds enjoyed.Holiday celebrations change with the years, but they are still celebrations. We remember growing up in Mount Vernon, the parade was the biggest moment of the day, followed by a gigantic family get together and picnic at our grandparents home on top of the hill. The parade was a big moment for us when Grandfather Harris, a Yankee veteran of the Civil War, was given a place of honor as the towns oldest war veteran. In the 1920s, Uncle Gene was mayor of Mount Vernon and he also had a place of honor. It was a great day for a family who had come to the little settlement on the banks of the Skagit River in 1902, 25 years after Jasper Gates became the first settler and the father of Mount Vernon.But most memorable was Grandmas long back porch and back yard, the big swing, the garden, and the pasture land where we kids played. (Tenth Street on top of the hill was the last city street east ... back yard included Little Mountain and the Cascade foothills!) And we mustnt forget the homemade ice cream that topped off every family get together.Oak Harbor has a difficult time attracting publicity through local magazines and city newspapers. Their stories usually begin with the Clinton ferry and proceed through Fort Casey and Coupeville and Captain Whidbey Inn, with the final admonition Going north be sure to stop at beautiful Deception Pass! ... Maybe traffic from Cackle Corner and Highway 20 was too much for tourists to divert their attention to Oak Harbor.But this weekend we received a letter from all places, Walkerburn, Scotland! Janet Thornton writes that she had just received a copy of the Irish Book we wrote and she was astonished and hurt that her two sisters, a brother, and her own self were not mentioned in the list of descendants of Thomas Nunan. Janet Thornton is a great-grandchild of Nunan.In the 1950s, Janet and siblings came with their father to Whidbey Island and she remembers there was a big barbecue one afternoon and a great many of the family were there. And in 1972, she and her sister Carol drove to the island and were taken to see Pioneer Burial Park. They also met the Ed Fisher family. Genealogy is an interesting subject, but added generations present difficulties. The McCrohan family who came to Oak Harbor in 1858, along with the OLearys, Nunans and others, had a number of girls who married early day settlers. Our husbands oldest brother married Ruby McCrohan, and they had four children. Only Ruth Neil Orr survives the next generation, and we havent heard from her in sometime. Other families have the same difficulty. The burial park in Oak Harbor contains headstones and monuments honoring early day Irish settlers, but even the park has its limitations.Americas Fourth of July is a great day. All over the United States we celebrate. Sweet land of liberty."