A new bridge raises old memories | OPINION

Hello new bridge, goodbye old bridge. It was time for the rusty relic to go but with its passing, a bit more of Marysville’s history slips from view. The change brought up memories of what travelers encountered when crossing the bridge into Marysville in the 1950s.

Please don’t take what follows as accurate history. Since it is patched together from snapshots taken from a flawed memory, I interviewed a few old-timers, one of whom offered this as proof of his long-standing attachment to Marysville.

A visitor asked him, “You ever live anywhere else?”


“Did you go away to college?”


“Were you in the military?”


“Well,” the questioner said, “You don’t know whether you’re in heaven or hell, do you?”

My friend offered a wealth of remembrances about our town. Trouble is, other old-timers’ remembrances didn’t jibe exactly with his. It’s a problem of having lost historic landmarks that memories stand in relation to. Take the area west of 2nd and 3rd Streets. That zone of early homes and businesses was wiped from the map when the mall was built. All gone now. Or think of the waterfront acreage just east and north of the Ebey Slough bridge. Everything that once stood there has disappeared, taking reference points for aging memories with it. It would be so much easier to precisely fix the locations of things of the past if more of them still stood.

Most days, Ebey Slough has an Up the Lazy River look about it. But imagine the scene in days of yore when logging trucks spilled loads into it at the log-dump near Sunnyside. Boom-logs were chained together, making pens for logs awaiting tugs to tow them to tidewater mills. A way was cleared past the log-pens for the July 16, 1959, running of the Ebey Slough Strawberry Cup race, a contest that drew boaters from across the state.

Classes ranged from 25 horsepower to the unlimited Outlaw Class in the short-lived race series that saw boats auger into marshy banks or bounce off submerged logs. Local speed demons like Roy Murrill and Bill Ford entered two of the little hydroplanes that can still be found moldering in bramble patches behind area barns.

Let your trip down memory lane take you across the old bridge into Marysville. The first building on the right was the Reinell Boat Company, situated so that it could spill its products right into the slough. That seemed far more appropriate than Bayliner hatching boats next to Arlington Airport’s runways.

Reinell failed when Rainier Bank pulled the plug on the company’s shaky financing. A pair of Marysville grads got hold of an ancient dragline which they used to dismantle the boat factory to salvage dimension lumber—I bought a load from them to build horse stalls. And then that property became the Garka Mill, now standing empty near the new bridge.

Don‘t let your mind’s eye imagine curbs, gutters and sidewalks because they’d be some time coming. Sidewalks began north of 1st where the cream-colored stucco–front building once occupied by Doc Keene stands. Doc Keene kept a nasty tempered dog in a yard that got erased when State Avenue grew from two to four lanes.

Beyond Reinell on today’s site of Shell gas pumps and a Food Mart, lay Ron’s Hamburgers, a notorious breakfast joint where guy-gossip and cigarette smoke ruled. Conversation at Ron’s ran from, “Ya think ducks’ll set on the slough this morning,” to, “I heard tell that Doc Turk pulled a 15-pounder from the North Fork yesterday.” The old oft-modified building was perched on decaying wood foundations that slumped away from the street, casting the front wall some degrees out of plumb.

At least two things followed. With the building’s front tipping away from the street, the front door had to be pulled against gravity to enter and gravity took care of keeping it closed. Ron’s dinghy that he kept tucked under the building’s rear got entombed there during one of his restaurant’s periodic relaxations.

No Marysville old-timers’ bull-session is complete without sharing an anecdote about the typical insanity of breakfast at Ron’s. A sample: When smoke rose from the toaster. Ron stormed over, tossed out the blackened bread and reloaded. A few minutes later, more smoke. He yelled, “Who the hell’s watching the toast?” The befuddled Canadian ladies at the end of the counter had no idea that people occupying the end stools, their stools, were expected to tend the toaster.

Across State to the west stood, or rather leaned, Marysville’s blacksmith and welding shop which appeared closed most of the time. But from time to time, the barn doors fronting State stood open and welding sparks flew in the parking strip as Vern Post worked over a boat trailer or tractor.

Consider that the old bridge and the two lanes of pavement separating Ron’s place from the welding shop carried all the traffic between Seattle and Vancouver and points between. My, how things have changed.

Comments may be addressed to robertgraef@comcast.net.


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