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Skagit River Journal

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Memories of Clear Lake
by Charles R. Hyatt

(book cover)
Book cover.

      About 13 years ago, the late Charles R. "Chuck" Hyatt showed me the manuscript that his wife, Phyllis, typed up from his handwritten memories of his life in Sedro-Woolley and Clearlake. I told him that it deserved to be a book, but Clearlake historian Deanna Ammons went further. She raised the money to print 1,000 copies in 1998 and the book, Memories of Clear Lake, has become a staple for researchers and students of local history.
      Dennis Blake Thompson, author of his own definitive book, Logging Railroads in Skagit County, wrote this about Hyatt: "A delightful book by a delightful gentleman. A very well done and detailed commentary on "old Clear Lake," its life, times, people and industry, yet reflects the lifestyle of much of older, rural America. Easy to read! Lighthearted, Chuck Hyatt has done a good job with this volume — it will become an important part of Clear Lake's history. Highly recommended." You will note the various spellings. Clearlake was the U.S. Post Office designation for the unincorporated town south of the Skagit River and Sedro-Woolley, resulting from the agency's policy at that time that discouraged two-word names. So, Clearlake is the town and post office. Clear Lake is the lake itself.
      You can order the book directly by mail for $15, which includes postage and handling. The U.S. Mail address is: Deanna Ammons, President, Clear Lake Historical Association, P.O. Box 333, Clearlake, WA 98235. You can also request an appointment with her to tour the museum, located in the former Odd Fellows Hall, and save the .postage charge. You can also email her. She is planning a history meeting for July 2006 and the museum itself is a gold mine with many old photos, carefully catalogued, capsule histories and profiles, oral history tapes and furniture and mementoes.
      The book is written the way Chuck spoke: crisp memories with humorous references and names of people who have slipped through the cracks of history. You will read about Prohibition, blind pigs, buildings and businesses of both towns, hoboes, pool rooms and card rooms, and Ammons added historical photos of Clear Lake.
      Here is an excerpt from the book that also introduces Chuck and his family:

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We recently visited our newest sponsor, Plumeria Bay, which is based in Birdsview, just a short walk away from the Royal family's famous Stumpranch, and is your source for the finest down bedding. See our Journal feature on this local business and learn more details and how to order items at their website.

      My grandfather, C.A. Smith, came west to Washington in the early 1900s (exact date unknown). I don't know where they lived at first, but early papers indicate that they spent some time in Whatcom, later renamed Bellingham. Grandpa was a steam engineer and held a certificate as such from Minnesota.
      His wife, Harriet, and daughter, Emily, came with him. Emily, my mother, married my dad, W.R. Hyatt, in 1905, and they lived in Pilchuck (Snohomish County) where my sister and I were born.
      In 1909, Grandpa bought a triangular strip of land north of the Day Creek Road (now Old Day Creek Road), bounded on the east by the Northern Pacific Railroad and on the west by the road to Sedro-Woolley. The land was purchased from John and Susie Peterson for $40 and was approximately four acres.
      Grandpa built a small clapboard house for himself and wife toward the north end of the property. He had a cow, raised chickens for eggs and a pig for meat, curing his own hams and bacon. Surplus eggs were either sold or packed in a stone jar or crock, each layer covered with lard rendered from hog fat. These came in handy when the hens quit laying.
      He planted an orchard, sending back East for apple, prune and pear trees. Names I remember are Ben Davis, Winter Banana, Snowapple, Northern Spy and Michigan Gravenstein. Snowapple, bright red with snowwhite meat, and the juicy, tart Michigan Gravenstein were my favorites.
      Grandpa had a large garden he tended and sold the produce, as well as eggs and cream, from a roadside stand. Each day's sale were written down in a notebook. I saw the notebook many years later and prices I remember are: eggs 10 cents a dozen; cream 15 cents a pint; vegetables, 5 cents a pound, and corn, 25 cents a dozen. I wish I had that notebook now — and a return to some of the prices wouldn't hurt either.
      My grandmother always made sure plenty of the farm produce and meat was canned or cured for winter. Grandma died in 1916, about the time my father and mother started to build their house on Grandpa's acreage. Grandpa lived until 1922, still active on the farm.
      My parents, Roland and Emily Hyatt, my sister Gertrude, and I moved from Pilchuck to Clear Lake in the fall of 1914. We lived in a company house [Clear Lake Lumber Co.] in what was known as "Pigtail Alley" (now Cedar Street). Across the street were neighbors Ed and Sybil Sanders. The Hacketts, with children Ray and Dolly, lived on the northwest corner. Houses on the west side of the street were on the uphill side and those on the east were down the hill and were in water most of the fall and spring during the rainy season. Some of the things I remember about Pigtail Alley are on tape. Our next move was to a house on Main Street across from the depot, and north of the old post office.

      Phyllis Hyatt proved to be an adept author, herself, as she penned the history of the Knights of Pythias Lodge in Sedro-Woolley, in which she and Chuck were involved for decades. This is the first story in a restored section on Clear Lake and Day Creek history. It will be followed by a series of photos of the early town that was platted by the Bartl family as Mountain View, and the village and company town of Clearlake, which grew rapidly with the railroads, logging camps and sawmills and then faded just as quick in the 1920s when the Clear Lake Lumber Co. burned and then went out of business. Do you have copies of family memories and photos to share?
      One of Chuck's most delightful stories came from the time his father opened a service station north of town at the intersection of the Clear Lake road (now Hwy. 9) and Day Creek road in the late 1920s. After being laid off in Sedro-Woolley in 1932, he and his mother took over running the station. A bootlegger named Rex distributed his wares through the station and Chuck observed several revenue agents trying to nab Rex.

      One morening a Skagit County sheriff's deputy stopped, passed the time of day and when leving, called me over to his car. 'Word to the wise,' he said and drove away. I mulled this over, finally worke up and called my mother to the station. I took off in the car with six pints of moonshine and got ride of it. Sure enough, the feds came and searched the station — end of bootlegging.
      I later found out one of the town tattlers had tipped off the sheriff's office. He had hung around the station reporting movements and trying to mooch a bottle. He was hard to get rid of so I finally mixed a little vinegar in some moonshine and gave it to him. He was sick for a while but no more hanging around.
      The most shocking even was the time two popular LaConner girls drove into the station one Sunday afternoon in their Model T roadster. What a surprise when I went out to wait on them. Bought were as naked as the day they were born. No, they didn't buy gas, simply talked for a while and drove off without any indication that anything was unusual. I knew one of them but will mention no name.

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