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Oak Harbor house full of memory and history
There’s a house on Midway Boulevard filled with the memories of when Oak Harbor was a small town filled with oak trees, tracts of open land were used as ballfields by neighborhood children and just about everybody knew one another or was related.
The little, yellow house doesn’t have a name, like many other historic homes on Whidbey Island, but its history tells the story of a family, as well as a community.
Family members are holding an open house Sunday, Nov. 17, to allow the community to tour the recently renovated home.
The gathering is 1-3:30 p.m. at 580 S.E. Midway Blvd.
Oak Harbor resident Michael Dougliss, who has lived most of his life in the house, and his cousin Loann Gulick, the new owner, will display photos and artifacts from the city’s history, museum-style.
Anyone with questions about Oak Harbor’s past, or who likes to hear good stories, should spend time with Dougliss during the open house. He’s a fountain of knowledge and memories.
“I can still see grandma making Thanksgiving dinner,” Dougliss said, motioning toward the small kitchen. “I remember I could smell the food cooking from my bedroom.”
As caretaker of Maple Leaf Cemetery, Dougliss has years of experience talking to people about the past.
Gulick, who grew up in Central Whidbey, said she has fond memories of coming to the home for holidays.
“The house has so many memories for us,” she said. “By taking care of it, we can keep the memories alive.”
According to Dougliss, P.P. Custer originally lived in the home, which was built in 1924. He was a state legislator and a judge. He said the house was likely built by Otto Van Dyke, an Oak Harbor architect who built the Roller Barn.
Dougliss said his grandparents, Theodore and Mary Dougliss, purchased the home in 1955 for $9,995.
He explained that his grandmother didn’t think they could afford the house at first. She needed a $1,000 down payment, but had only half, so she made an offer to a local bachelor for whom she often cooked.
If he put in the second $500, she told him she would repay him in meals.
It was a crowded but happy home, Dougliss recalled. He was 5 years old when the extended family of eight moved to the two-bedroom abode. He lived there with his grandparents, his mother, his sister, two uncles and an aunt.
“We were the Waltons before the Waltons,” he said.
Dougliss is brimming with stories about the city’s history and his family’s connection to it.
His family has deep roots in Oak Harbor. His relatives first came to the island in 1874 and he counts among his relations such well-known families as the Barringtons, the O’Learys and the Nunans.
His great-grandfather, Bill Dougliss, became Oak Harbor’s first town marshal in the 1930s. His great-grandmother Everdina Dougliss and her daughter, Elizabeth Dougliss, were on the ferry Calista when it famously sank near Seattle in 1922.
His uncle Albert Dougliss, known affectionately as “Uncle Brick,” lost four fingers on one hand in a saw-related accident during construction of Deception Pass Bridge. That didn’t stop him from either working or duck hunting on North Whidbey.
He remembers playing as a child in the haystacks of a barn that used to sit not far from where the police department currently is. He said his grandfather used to shoot pheasants out of oak trees that used to populate the city in groves.
Dougliss lived in the house until he married his wife, Joan, in 1999. Instead of tearing down the old house, Gulick offered to buy it and renovate it.
The sheetrock had to be torn off walls so that new wiring and plumbing could be installed. The house got new flooring.
Much of the work, Gulick said, was done by family members. She also renovated the Coupeville house where she still lives; and a family house across the road from the Midway Boulevard.
“It’s in our blood to save old houses,” she said. “History is our thing.”
Yet Dougliss said he’s dismayed that so few people in Oak Harbor seem to care about the city’s past.
“This town has lost a lot of history,” he said. “You see so much in this town that gets torn down and nobody seems to care.”
He hopes that a little history lesson may help change attitudes.