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75 years later: Whidbey Witnesses recall Deception Pass Bridge opening

Oak Harbor resident Mary Fuller shows the program of the original Deception Pass Bridge dedication 75 years ago. She was 5 years old when the bridge opened.  - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Oak Harbor resident Mary Fuller shows the program of the original Deception Pass Bridge dedication 75 years ago. She was 5 years old when the bridge opened.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

With the celebration of the Deception Pass Bridge 75th anniversary drawing near, several Whidbey Island residents remember the original dedication that took place in the mid 1930s.

They were little kids when they attended the original dedication held July 31, 1935, but the bridge created memories that never faded.

Mary Fuller was 5 years old when she attended the bridge dedication along with her parents and several of her siblings. She doesn’t remember all of the day’s events but she still keeps a copy of the program that has tattered and yellowed over the years. Since then, the bridge has been a fixture in her life. She has painted images of the bridge and her son wrote about the history of the bridge for his thesis at Western Washington University.

Fellow islander Myrtle Whitehead said she and her three sisters, Francis, Hazel and Alice, were among the first to cross the bridge after the ribbon cutting.

“We ran across the bridge and yelled freedom! freedom! freedom!” said Whitehead, who grew up in the Crescent Harbor area and has lived on Whidbey Island her entire life.

Coupeville resident Dorothy Keefe was one of the youngest people to attend the ribbon cutting. She was 10 months old when her dad, Tom Clark, who was Island County sheriff at the time, carried her across the bridge after it opened.

“I just thought it was really neat. I don’t think there were that many babies out there,” Keefe said of the event.

As for photos of the event, neither Fuller, Whitehead nor Keefe had any.

“We didn’t take picture back then like we do now,” Whitehead said.

According to a news printed in the Island County Farm Bureau News, the predecessor to the Whidbey News-Times, estimates show about 12,000 ventured to Deception Pass that day either to picnic or enjoy the dedication ceremonies.

State Representative Pearl Wanamaker, who was influential in getting the bridge built, used silver shears to cut the ribbon. Then a procession that included state and Whidbey Island elected officials along with the drum and bugle corps of the George Morris Post of the American Legion marched over the bridge and then returned. Officials at the time said the new span with mean a new era for Whidbey Island, according to the news article.

Once the dedication was complete, approximately 5,000 people enjoyed a picnic at Cranberry Lake. The articles states that Whidbey resident Frank Siegfried spent several hours that day counting cars crossing the bridge. In the first couple of hours, he counted 714.

A Deception Pass Bridge dedication marking its 75th anniversary takes place Saturday, July 31, at noon at the parking lot located south of the bridge.

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