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Posted by Carl

My name is Gloria Watson Schwab, daughter of Lewis and Mildred Watson. I was an infant in the 1930’s when my father built a cabin on Camano Island. He and his brother Dick had frequently rowed a boat from Marysville over to Camano Island to hunt ducks and fish when they were young men while they were growing up in Marysville. My dad decided to build a cabin. I believe there was a “hermit” named Jim Collins with his dog who was already established next door to where my dad built his cabin. For years, on an almost weekly basis, my dad brought groceries and a bottle of booze to Jim. That night then Jim would serenade us in song. When the cabin was habitable, there was no electricity nor running water (nor indoor plumbing). Down the beach toward the south there was a small spring coming out of the hill and a small water retention hole was established. We drank that wonderful water and the “hole” became a refrigeration unit.

  My Dad built the cabin with the help of nephews Chet and Lloyd who at that time were teenagers. In the summer theywould be left there during the week, with my Dad returning on weekends. (They had the beach to themselves.) The cabin was covered with handmade cedar shakes.The log booms going by out front frequently lost logs which were never retrieved. Cedar logs were plentiful; nice big logs became the bulkhead. Lots of wood for wood stoves, both for heating and cooking. However, the salt-water soaked wood was hard on stoves, which needed replacing frequently.

 My dad did sometimes make the trip by boat over to Langley on Whidbey Island to shop for groceries and gas. I can remember it was tricky to land at Langley at low tide, as the sand there had a quick sand aspect to it.

At that time there was no road down to the beach. I don’t think the dirt road above went clear around the island. Homeowners in Pebble Beach built their garages up on the road and they also walked down pathways.Our road to our property went off the main road and crossed several pieces of property to the south. A parking space was cleared out and then we dropped over the hill to a path down the hill that had numerous stairs. The sandy hillsiderequired yearly maintenance and replacement after the winter weather.

 The road we traveled was very slow because of many ups and downs - very “dippy”. This contributed to car sickness to anyone sitting in the backseat. I remembered dreading the trip, as we went nearly every weekend in the summer. We traveled in a Hudson Terraplane automobile. Mostly unmemorable trips, except for the time we hit a deer.

Fishing, clams, crab - all the bounties of the sea! - were plentiful in years past. (No license was required and no Indian Rights were involved.) We seined right in front of the cabin for our bait and at one time there were sea bass to be caught at dusk right in front of the cabin in fairly shallow water. As a child I was introduced to fishing by using a mason jarcovered with cloth with a fishing line wrapped around it and we fished for sole. In the cove just south of the cabin there was a rock cod hole and we had all the fish we wanted. As a 5-year old I caught an 8 pound red snapper - pretty proud that day.

Probably in the late 1940’s or 50’s, my folks were told they had to buy their property or get off. They had had “squatter’s rights”. They bought Lot 11 from Burt Garrison. About that time the road was constructed down to the beach and a large parking lot was established. I remember my father saying that he shook hands with Burt over the promise of there “always being a parking lot for the owners on the beach” (a gentleman’s agreement not honored.)That was before Burt took half of that property and put up his own house. Then, in 2000, a number of owners had to pay for a suit against him as he wanted the parking lot to build himself another home. After a large amount of money was spent, several owners had to purchase that lot from Burt.

My father retired from the Post Office in 1955 for medical reasons and spent the rest of his life almost continually living at Camano. He died at the cabin on December 15, 1964. It was at the time of a considerable snowfall, so the medics had to carry him on a stretcher from the cabin, down the beach and up the road to the top of the hill.

His brother, Dick, took over as caregiver and with his wife, Eleanor, used the cabin from Memorial Day to Labor Day. They enjoyed the cabin until the 1980’s. My husband Del and I had the cabin and enjoyed the beach until the fateful day on January 1. 1996 when snow on the ground melted in a heavy rainstorm. The large runoff flow in the upper road drainage ditch overflowed down toward the cabins below because the county’s outlet drainpipe to the beach was plugged with debris. That overflow was diverted to our cabin by a fallen log on the upper bank above our cabin. That flow created a landslide that pushed our cabin over the bulkhead into the bay.

The fortunate aspect of that water flow diversion by the tree over to our cabin was to delay the failure of the bank over the Peck and Lynch cabins to the south. That delay gave the Lynch’s daughter, who was sleeping in their cabin, time to evacuate with her cat before those two cabins were also pushed into the bay by the upper bank failure. In a similar vein, an interesting story came from Craig Corliss, a former neighbor north of our cabin: he had read in a paper that in the 1850’s a mud slide on Camano head killed over 120 women and children digging clams on a low tide - these weremostly Indians.

 Our first neighbors at Camano were my father’s fellow post office friends enticed over to the beachby my father. They purchased the neighboring lots. To the north of our cabin came Clayton Meech, who later married Jean. The cabin north of the Meech’s wasowned by C. Van Valkenberg (owner of C. Van’s Grocery in Everett), which was a stopover for my father on his mail route. “Van’s” daughter Billie Jean marriedBob Wright, who eventually took over the cabin with his daughters. Down the beach towards the south, a cabin was built for Claude and Dorothy Fowler.Claude ran the C. Van Grocery for many years and was a good friend of my father.

Our next neighbor to the south was Roger Shepherd and his wife, Nellie. Roger was commonly called “Slats”. (He was a very tall, slender man.) He and Nellie decided to move to Hawaii, so they sold the property to Walt Hagenau and Ardis. (Ardis was killed in a beach accident involving a water device colliding with the bulkhead.) Their daughter Judy and her husband Mike (Peck) used their cabin until it also was lost in 1996.

The next cabin was a building moved over to Camano from the Housing Project that was located in north Everett. It was owned by Abe and Gladys Semrau. They decided to relocate to the lake near Stanwood, so they soldto Dick and Mary Lynch (Dick was Jean Meech’s son.) After their cabin was destroyed, they put a pad for a home up on the top of the property and that lotis now owned by Bob Hall and Pam Trojanoski. Their home was originally builtand owned by the Homer (the Colonel) and Lucille Marcy. My father built their originally stairway to the beach.

In 1998, Island County decided to give “addresses” to private roads that serve five or more parcels of land for 9-1-1 uses. I requested that the “road” or pathway going south to our cabins be named “Watson Walk” in honor of my father and my uncle. I asked my neighbors if this name would be appropriate and they agreed, so Watson Walk it is. Most people probably think that was named for Dick, as they didn’t know my father. I am proud to leave that little legacy.

This is my little narrative - accurate as far as my memory goes. I hope this leaves a little bit of me in its history.

Gloria Watson Schwab

#camano #memories #history

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