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One Event/Three Reunions

December 19, 2013

On the weekend of December 14 – 15, I actually participated in three reunions.
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The first was with an old story, “Little, But OH My! – the story of Berte Olson” which has been in mothballs for several years. Berte was my first historical heroine, a tough, feisty little Norwegian-American (that’s her in the photo), the first woman to skipper a ferry boat on Puget Sound and run her own ferry boat company. Berte and I had traveled all over Washington State together, as well as to Oregon, California, and Connecticut. It’s wonderful  to resurrect a beloved character – and observe how new audiences react to her.

The second was with an old site: the Seabeck Conference Center in Seabeck. The Center, first built in 1864, was part of a bustling town with two lumber mills. In 1886, the pier and mills were destroyed by fire and Seabeck became a ghost town. But the site was resurrected – as a conference center – and many of the old buildings restored. I had been to Seabeck several times during my  preparation for “Little, But OH My!”. One of Berte’s ferry runs was there – and her brother, Andy, after he retired from the sea,  had become the long time and well loved caretaker at the Center. So, in a very real sense, I was bringing this story “home”.

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The third was with the family of the event’s coordinator, Megan Bradley, Program Coordinator for the Kitsap County Historical Society Museum. Megan and I share a common ancestry: the sea-faring Peabody family of Seattle. She had grown up on Whidbey Island, where I live. My former home, a funky old farmhouse overlooking Saratoga Passage, once belonged to her grandfather and grandmother. Those connections, though tenuous, have always meant a great deal to me and are part of the reason I settled on Whidbey.

The event was the annual Old Mill Town Christmas celebration sponsored by the Society and held at Seabeck. It featured dancing, hayrides, singing, a delicious “pioneer” dinner, and me – the entertainment. The grand old inn was all spiffed up for the holidays and three and four generations of the same family sat around the tables.

The wonderful thing about these kind of reunions is the collective sense of memory that they create. I had wondered if people would come up to me afterward with their own memories (as had happened many times before) – and they did! The looks on their faces – as they told their stories or suddenly  made a connection that they hadn’t realized was there – reminded me once again of the power of this kind of memory.  Thanks, Megan, for the invitation. It was a grand event…..

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