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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
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Covers from British Columbia to Puget Sound. Counties covered: Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan, Snohomish & BC. An evolving history dedicated to committing random acts of historical kindness
Noel V. Bourasaw, editor (bullet) 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
Home of the Tarheel Stomp (bullet) Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

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Earl "Fuzz" Hegg and
his grocery stores and
his fire-fighting volunteerism

By Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal of History & Folklore
(Earl and Pearl)
Earl and Pearl on their honeymoon in 1921
Photo from Pat Hegg Brown and Diane Marinig

      The name of one of Sedro-Woolley's most important pioneers has slipped through the cracks of history. F.A. Hegg moved his family to the Sedro-Woolley area from Mount Vernon sometime in 1891-93 and they lived here while he operated a shingle mill on the north shore of the Skagit in the area that would eventually become known as Sauk — as opposed to Sauk City on the south shore. We are preparing a detailed biography of F.A. Hegg but here we profile his son who old-timers all remember: Earl "Fuzz" Hegg. Fuzz was called by that nickname from the time that he opened a grocery store independently from his father on Dec. 20, 1923. He called his new grocery the Fuzzy-Wuzzy in competition with a major chain that was trying to make inroads into Sedro-Woolley — the Piggly Wiggly. That store was located near the old Liberty Cafe but he became most famous for the store that is the nucleus of the present Liberty Bell market on State street.
      Fuzz was born Earl Anton Hegg on Oct. 10, 1895, probably in the town of Sedro, when his father was in the process of establishing a mercantile store somewhere in the area of Jameson street. His mother died when Fuzz was just ten months old. His father started a grocery store just north of the present Castle Tavern on Metcalf street either before he went to the Klondike in 1897 or just after he returned sometime in late 1898. F.A. later became a partner in the Green Shingle Company at the corner of Ferry street. That business became the Union Mercantile in 1903. Two years later F.A. became a major stockholder in the First National Bank, located north across Ferry street, where Hammer Square is being constructed today. F.A. started another grocery as a project for his three sons in 1910 at today's site of the Home Town Café in the 800 block of Metcalf. Fuzz went to work there while still in high school, the beginning of his 50-year career in the business. In 1921, Fuzz married Pearl Benson, the daughter of a pioneer Skiyou family that would also become known for grocery stores; she was the younger sister of Cora Benson, who married Fuzz's older brother, Bill.
      Here we present two profiles of Fuzz. The first was written in 1981 by his adoring daughter, Patricia Hegg Brown, as a eulogy for his funeral. The second is an article from the Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times in June 1951, honoring his longtime service as a volunteer fireman. On another site we feature a biography of his father and the Hegg family, who were truly important pioneers in Sedro-Woolley and Skagit county.

Patricia Hegg Brown's eulogy for Fuzz
Pat passed away on Dec. 26, 2006, — her obituary
      Earl "Fuzz" Hegg was born in Sedro-Woolley in 1895. In his early years he was brought up by his [maternal grandparents who came up from Oregon], for his mother died and his father went off to the Alaska gold rush of 1898.
      The search for gold always had a certain fascination for Fuzz. He used to talk about a family map he described as "The Lost Gold Mine." Fuzz never went off looking for that gold himself, but he often grub-staked hopeful miners who came into the store and needed groceries to tide them through their explorations. They never came back with any gold nuggets — they never came back with any more than some pretty paper gold stocks.
      In 1918, Fuzz was called into the service of the first World War. He served for a year and luckily was never sent overseas, but he was always a loyal booster of the American Legion. In 1921 he married Pearl Benson and this year they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.
      He was also a loyal member of the Sedro-Woolley volunteer fire department. His home proudly displays a retirement plaque honoring 39 years of active duty, from 1921 to 1960. Through all those years, when the fire siren blew, he ran out in a rush and was gone, off to the fire. And in between fires there was a lot of good companionship at the fire hall and lots of good poker games.
      He started his own business in the difficult times of the Depression by building himself a grocery store onto the front of his house and then spent his lifetime making a success of that store, through hard work and long hours. His customers would even knock on the door on Thanksgiving or Christmas morning, knowing that Fuzz would open up to sell them some forgotten whipping cream for their holiday pumpkin pie.
      Fuzz always described Washington as "God's County" and all his life he enjoyed hiking, camping and fishing. He hiked into Ruby Creek before there was even a road. He knew where the salmon spawning grounds were on the Sauk river. He could tell some wild bear stories. He went on many camping trips around Washington and up into Canada, with an exciting trip not long ago to the far reaches of Alaska.
      Perhaps his greatest love was for fishing. He fished the streams, the lakes and the sound, but best of all he loved steelhead fishing. He knew every fishing hole in this part of the Skagit river. He could tell by the flow of the water or by the color of the river if the fish would be biting. He knew how to tie a fish egg "berry" or to paint a home-made lure to catch a salmon even when other fishermen said the fish weren't biting that day. Part of his pleasure in catching fish was to give the fish afterwards to family and friends.
      Fishing is a cold-weather sport but he had a succession of boats that he restored and equipped with a home-made stove. Many a cold, blustery day you could spot his boat on the river, the smoke pouring out the chimney, with Fuzz inside as warm as toast. Fuzz was a cheerful, hard-working, good-natured man who loved to talk and tell stories or play a joke or show off a magic trick. He left us all with nice memories.

(Fuzzy Wuzzy logo)
      A 1925 ad was headed by this logo for the Fuzzy Wuzzy store, owned by Earl "Fuzz" Hegg

Fuzz Hegg still answering calls after 30 years in fire department
Courier-Times, date unknown
      Sedro-Woolley's volunteer fire department has progressed considerably since 1921 when the original group of local men signed up to operate the city's first hose cart. Only one member of that original company is still answering fire calls. Earl "Fuzz" Hegg, proprietor of Hegg's grocery on State street is the only remaining active member.
      "Fuzz will still drop everything to answer a fire call or talk fishing," Mayor P.A. Stendal commented.
      The volunteer fire department was formed after a costly fire in May 1921. Bill Ropes Sr. and D.G. McIntyre were leaders in getting the department started. All the businessmen in town agreed to let volunteers take time off from their jobs to fight fires and 27 men signed up in the department.
      The hose cart was kept at the old fire hall where the post office now stands and the first man on the scene with a truck or team of horses pulled the rig to the fire. He was then paid for his services by the city council.
      Mechanized equipment arrived later. A Chevrolet truck and an old horse-drawn unit purchased from Seattle were combined to give Sedro-Woolley its first motorized fire wagon. A little later the city purchased a Model-T fire truck and it was generally felt that the city had the best equipment in the county.
      Since that time constant improvement has kept the Sedro-Woolley fire department up to date and has resulted in consistently low insurance rates for residents of the city.
      Fuzz Hegg was active in the fire department throughout the years of its development and held all offices in the department except that of fire chief. Although born in Oregon, he came with his parents to Sedro-Woolley at an early age and has been in business for many years across from Memorial hospital. [Journal Ed. note: the reporter was mistaken. Fuzz was born in Skagit county; his older brother, Bill, was born in Oregon.]
      The original contract signed by all the members is now on display at city hall. The signatures of most of the members, although badly faded, are still readable. Included on the list are:
      Elmer Shrewsbury, Robert Baker, H.A. Stendal, H. Kimsey, B.B. Shrewsbury, A.H. Bingham, Harry Ingham, Fred Therkelsen, E.B. Devener, Earl Hegg, Lester Lough, E.T. Nelson, S. Tull, L.E. Alverson, C.D. Duntz, Victor Pigg, Simon Anderson, Dale E. Tresner, George Rounser, Eddie C. Carr, F.N. Shelton, L.L. Clark, W.J. Fritsch, John Hawkins, William May, A.A. Sumner and R.J. Klause.

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Story posted on Jan. 25, 2003, last updated Feb. 15, 2009
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This article originally appeared in Issue 46 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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