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Puppy Love on the Rock

Cynthia and Sam were twelve years old when he rode by her on his bicycle coming down Ellisport hill.  “Wanna go to a square dance?”  he yelled.  “Don’t think I will,” Cynthia replied.  But Sam couldn’t hear, he was too far down the hill, which didn’t stop Sam from asking Clara the next day and the day after that.  What was a boy to do?    

Vashon Island was a lot more rural in the 1950’s, lots of people with chickens, growing strawberries or raising hay.  It just follows that we had a square dance club and we called it the Shoe-Busters.  It was for us young people in our early teens and I don’t recall ever having had a live caller.  Older people would teach us to square dance to a record played on a phonograph about the size of two shoe boxes and sometimes a little scratchy.

If you went to Vashon Grade School, there was a good chance that there were plenty of kids from Burton Grade School that you wouldn’t know, even though the two schools were only five miles apart.  Just as Vashon and Maury Islands were isolated from the mainland, the little fishing or steamer communities on Vashon were insular from each other.  The mosquito fleet brought the mail to sixteen post offices around the island.  The eighth grade was taught at the high school and consisted of the graduates of both grade schools, Vashon and Burton.   About the only time the Burton and Vashon kids were together was on the school bus, taking them to the 8th grade at the high school, swimming lessons at Dockton or at a meeting of the Shoe Busters.

Square dancing was the first time that the guys had had physical contact with the girls and the boys were embarrassed and clumsy as they learned, “Partner left and corner right, Do-Si-Do with all your might.  Allemande left with your left hand and Promenade to the Promised Land. “  It was all gibberish to us who had trouble taking orders or were just slow learners.  We liked the slow dances where you could pull the girl in tight, if she let you.

Mrs. Clark was our fifth grade teacher.  Every year she picked two students to represent Vashon at the P.I. Quizdown in Seattle.  It was on the radio and she only picked the very best students to go.  Cynthia was the smartest person in class, but Sam didn’t have a clue why Mrs. Clark picked him, his interest in school work was negligible.  Cynthia did very well with her questions, but Sam missed a question because he thought the deepest part of the U.S. was Lake Superior when the correct answer was Death Valley.  They both came home with brass badges from the P.I. Quizdown and Sam has kept his to this day.

Carla wasn’t in the Shoe Busters, she was four years older and beautiful, and Sam was twelve years old and in love with her, even though she was the eighth grade teacher’s daughter.  Carla was tall and looked really good in shorts, which she was wearing as they drove to Ellisport to run the log boom at night, a very dangerous sport.  If you fell through the logs and they closed over you, you were a goner.    The raft of logs was huge, the furthest logs being two or three hundred feet from shore.  The boom logs forming the outside of the raft were the most stable as they were chained together end to end and that is where Sam stayed as he watched Carla running across the logs in the middle, oblivious to the danger.  
Carla’s mother, Mrs. Crosier, our eighth grade teacher, was as mean as “Billy-Blue” and never hesitated to punish the whole class for the mistake of one.   Mrs. Crosier had one of those blond oak desks and pulled the middle drawer out one day to find a snake.  She demanded to know who put the snake in her drawer,  while the girls screamed and stood on their desks as the snake slithered across the floor.   Nobody in her eighth grade class would give away the secret that her stepson had done the “deed”, and we all had to sit at our desks all through the noon recess for punishment.   Mrs. Crosier asked one of the boys to remove the snake to the bushes behind the school.

We also had the brand new Vashon theater where we could date and hide in a dark corner.  One cold Saturday in winter it was John Wayne, shooting his way out of another mess, when an explosion shook our seats and shortly after, the theater started to get cold.

 I’ve been informed by a good source that the manager and projectionist walked down to the basement which was 14 feet underground to look into the problem.  Us kids thought the explosion was just part of the movie.  The door to the furnace room wouldn’t budge until the projectionist put his shoulder to it and pushed it open to find the furnace blower and motor up against the other side.  The furnace had blown up and shot the blower and motor clear across the basement   and we continued to watch John Wayne until we swaggered out of the theater pointing our fingers at each other as if they were guns.