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Bow pioneers reminisce: Homer
Alwood and Claude Pocock

Claude Pocock R.I.P. Sept. 29, 2007 . . . 2007 interview with Claude Pocock and Homer Alwood

Claude Pocock, 99, R.I.P. Sept. 29, 2007
Obituary from Skagit Valley Herald, Oct. 3, 2007
(Claude Pocock)
Claude Pocock. Photo courtesy of Skagit Valley Herald

      Claude H. Pocock, age 99, a resident of Burlington, died Saturday, September 29, 2007 at Lifecare Center of Skagit Valley in Sedro-Woolley. Claude was born May 27, 1908 at Hudson, MI, he was a son of Clarence & Florence (Easterday) Pocock. Two years ago I asked my dad to tell me, David, his son, about his life. The following is how he described his life to me:
      I suppose when you live ten decades, 100 years, a century, you have seen and done just about everything. I experienced my first car ride in a model T Ford at the age of 7. I thanked him for the buggy ride. My dad bought his first car when I was 13. At the age of fourteen I was horseback riding on a prairie in Montana looking for little doggies and making 2-bits a day with a bunk, cornbread, beans, meat and hardtack provided. I had to furnish my horse and saddle. My dad, Clarence, gave up the homestead and we moved back to Washington where jobs in the logging camps in the 20's and 30's were plentiful. In the early 40's I worked in a steel plant. Then in the late 40's and 50's America's last frontier, Alaska, had opportunities in the fish canneries. I worked there before it became a state. By the mid 50's I was working again at Skagit Steel and Iron Works and then Bendix until my retirement. I enjoyed raising a family and sharing experiences. I loved the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. I was blessed to live long enough to know 4 generations of my family. I have passed through two great wars and many small ones, though times during the Depression, watched two Americans leave this earth and land on the moon and return. I have seen technological advances in areas I never thought would happen. It was a long ride and a joyful one. So again, thanks for the "buggy ride." Hope to see you at the next stop." Last summer I, David, took my dad, Claude, for our last ride around the county. When we returned to Life Care and were heading back to his room his reply was, "thanks for the buggy ride." Claude was a member of the Moose and the Machinists Union of Seattle. He was preceded in death by his parents, Clarence and Florence Pocock; two daughters and a son-in-law, Barbara and Eugene Schimke of Bow and Kay Wiles of Sedro-Woolley; three brothers, Raymond and Walter Pocock of Bow and Clifford Pocock of Seattle; and a step son, Vernon Anderson of Burlington. Survivors include his wife, Helen of Burlington; a son, David Pocock (Ruth Anne) of Burlington; step daughter-in-law Iku Butler (Jim) of Marysville; sister, Bessy Jensen of Tucson, AZ; his grandchildren, Ken Schimke (Jackie) of Burlington, Richard Schimke (Collette) of Bow, Diz Schimke (Vicky) of Bow, Crystal Schmike of Alger, Carl Wiles (Kristie) of Burlington, Kathy Wiles of Bellingham, David Wiles of Bellingham, Kevin Peterson of Sedro-Woolley, Craig Anderson (Carrie) of Everett, Evan Anderson (Debbie) of Arlington, Ian Pocock (Shalyce) of Bow, Susan Anderson Gunsolas (Jim) of Bellingham, Terri Anderson of Spokane, Toni Spoelstra (Robert) of the Netherlands. There are 21 great-grandchildren and 4 great-great-grandchildren. Visitation will be held Wednesday, October 3, 2007 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Thursday, October 4, 2007 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Hulbush Funeral Home, Burlington. Graveside services will be held at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 4, 2007 at Bow Cemetery. In lieu of flowers the family requests donations to Soroptimist International of Burlington, P.O. Box 362, 98233, or Skagit Audubon Society, P.O. Box 1101, Mount Vernon, WA, 98273.

(Homer and Claude)
      Former Bow resident Homer Alwood (left) and Claude Pocock (right) share stories of their youth, when the town of Bow was a bustling community. Diz Schimke (far left), Pocock's grandnephew, has been trying to gather all the information he can about Bow history from his family members. Photos by Scott Terrell.

By Beverly Crichfield, Skagit Valley Herald, June 18, 2006
      The memories are there but they're tough to get to. Sitting in a big brown easy chair in his son's living room Monday, 98-year-old Claude Pocock squinted his eyes and gazed at the black and white photograph quietly, struggling to see something that would jog his memory. Pocock's grandson wanted to know: Where were the saloons in Bow when Pocock was a young man? How many were there?
      "A'll have to think about it," Pocock said, through a pair of prescription eyeglasses, placing the old photograph back in a stack on the coffee table beside him.
      Pocock's uncle-in-law, 98-year-old Homer Alwood, who sat next to Pocock in the living room, can remember many details about the old times" in Bow, the lumber mills, the stores and hotel on the corner that served up regular, hot meals for 25 cents, the knife fights among the Tarheels who migrated to the area in search of work, the triple-murder involving a prostitution ring out of Everett. But darned if he could remember exactly where those saloons were.
      "I think they was on the back street," he said, waving his hand in the air in the direction of downtown Bow. Few people remember much about the early days of Bow, a once-thriving town that was all but wiped out during the Great Depression.
      And that number gets smaller every year, said Diz Schimke, Pocock's grandson. The Schimkes migrated to Bow in the late 1800s and have been living .there ever since. Before you know it, there won't be anyone who will know what life was like working among the machinery and logs of the lumber mills or who owned the hotel on the main thoroughfare, Schimke said.
      He and Bow resident and carpenter Dan Miller have compiled some of Bow's history on their own. But a recent property rezone pushed their efforts into high gear. Skagit County Planning and Development Services recently approved the rezone of an acre of land where a decrepit building that once served as a grocery store, barbershop and hotel still stands. The rezone means the owner could sell the land for residential development.
      Miller and Schimke see the potential loss of the grocery as a call to action, to get organized and preserve the small rural town's history before it's gone beyond anyone's memory.
      "I knew then and there that if I wanted to do something about it, I would have to act now," Miller said. Miller is a relatively recent transplant who moved from California in 1975.
      With the help of local historian Noel Bourasaw, Miller and Schimke have been rounding up old photographs and interviewing any old folks who used to live in Bow decades ago. They also hosted a meeting Saturday afternoon to discuss what they know of Bow's history with the town's residents. They say they want to keep up the momentum and continue the meetings.
      They're also hoping they can convince the owner of the old grocery store, Joan Wilson of Mukilteo, not to sell the land and tear the building down. They say it would be a nice spot for a small museum. [Journal note: In subsequent meetings, Mrs. Wilson agreed that she wants to help preserve the history of Bow.]

Finding history
      Miller stood in front of the old Bow General Store on Bow Street, staring at the large square hole where there used to be a window. The grocery was once one of several in Bow that sold food and other supplies, especially for logging. The owner operated a barber shop on the west side of the building and a grocery store in the middle. A shed room on the far west side housed the Shadle Meat Market. [In subsequent research, we learned that the meat market was located a half block east on the street.] The second story of the building was a hotel. Neither the shed room or the second story have survived the years.
      "The window frames are still in pretty good condition," he said, excitedly. "I think these are the original doors." The building is one the two left standing from pioneer days, he said. The other is Schimke's grandparents' two-story house, which sits across the street. Both structures were built in 1901. It was a very different world in the old days, at the turn of the last century, Miller said, wiping the dust from his hands as he stood ba
      Bow was comprised of a few sleepy homesteads in the late 1800s. The area's fortune changed dramatically with two events: The arrival of an industrious English sailor named William Brown, who sailed from the Bow district of London to Padilla Bay; and the Great Northern Railway rerouting its main north-south line to follow the foot of the Chuckanut Mountains in 1902. Brown saw the potential for a thriving mill town, and became involved in its formation.
      Strolling to the end of Bow Street with Miller last Saturday, Schimke held up an old photograph that showed a wooden building, new and sturdy, that used to sit on what is now just a small knoll next to the tracks. The building was a train depot, where mail from around the area was delivered by train. Schimke's grandmother often brought the mail in thick bags to the depot.
      At the time, timber mills were built and thriving. Men from across the region ramped to Bow and nearby Blanchard to work in the mills making anywhere from $1 to $2.50 a day. With the influx of workers came the need for more housing. Structures cropped up all over he town just west of the tracks.
      Early town fathers had platted an addition to the town, just east of the train depot, now a quiet cow field. That addition never happened. Bow continued to flourish, and both Pocock and Alwood remember it as a bustling market center with a decidedly wild streak.
      Pocock came with his family from Montana in about 1924. As a young man, he began working for farmers plowing the fields and later in the lumber mills.
      He met his wife, Lorena, at the town gathering center and settled down to raise a family. That's when he became acquainted with Lorena's uncle, a young-good natured mill worker named Homer Alwood. The two men hit it off and often and worked together.
      They lived life with the same energy that they worked. They remember more than a few parties in town that got a bit "alcoholic." "Even during the during the dry years?" Schimke asked a much older Alwood Monday.
      The old man smiled. "Oh, you just went upriver to the distilleries. The Tarheels had distilleries [stills] up there. It was no problem getting a drink," he said, and added after a few quiet seconds of thought, "And it was good stuff, too."
      The town continued to thrive, and Pocock and Alwood were able to make a good living.

(Pocock house in Bow)
      Long-time Bow resident Diz Schimke compares a photograph of his grandmother's house, as it looked in the early 1900s, to his grandmother's house today on Bow Street. The house is one of two pioneer structures still standing in Bow. [Journal note: The house was built by the Cleary family, who also owned the boarded-up store across the street.]

Town hits tough times
      That is, until the Great Depression hit. The lumber mills began to close. People boarded up their homes and left to find work in nearby Blanchard's wood mills. Stragglers took the lumber from deserted homes and buildings and either used it to build other structures or hauled it out of town.
      Several small grocery stores struggled to stay alive amidst the townspeople's need for credit to buy food. When the pressure became too much, they and other businesses made the tough decision to close their doors.
      "During the Depression, this town went under," Schinike said, shaking his head.
      Standing at the end of Bow Street, Shimke gazed up at the large, expensive houses on Bow Hill just east of town, their picture windows overlooking the vast farmfields of Skagit Valley and the sparkle of Samish Bay in the distance. That same hill used to be dubbed 'Starvation Ridge" for the poor families who lived there and fought hunger during the Great Depression.
      "About 23 families lived up there and the grew their own food."
      A few businesses still held on through the Depression and kept on through World War II. Ironically, it was the war and gas rationing that kept the grocery and department store alive, Schimke said. No one had the money to buy gas to drive out of town for supplies, he said.
      The train depot had closed down in the early 1930s. Researchers aren't sure exactly when the Bow General Store closed. It was used by the townspeople as a sort of community storage shed for years, Schimke said. He remembers it as a child, looking about the same as it does now, he said. Schimke said Bow was a struggling town during his childhood. Most people found work in Burlington or north in Whatcom County.
      "When I was a kid here in town, there were hardly any houses left at all," Schimke said.
      Sadly enough, most of Bow's history went up in flames in 1965, when Schimke was just four years old.
      Minnie [Golitzen], one of Brown's daughters, still lived in Brown's original home near the tracks. One day, Schimke's father was driving by the house and realized that it was on fire. Schimke's father rushed upstairs in the house, rescued Minnie and one suitcase of her belongings, and then rushed to get help. Schimke's father took photographs of the old pioneer house burning. Not only did the town lose a historic structure, Schimke said, but also the historic artifacts inside, old documents, newspaper clippings, photographs and mementoes of a bygone era.
      "That was Bow's original museum," Schimke said.
      In the 1970s, suburban sprawl brought some people back to Bow. Gradually, more people moved in and more houses were built. Now, most of the town's residents are in their 40s and 50s, Schimke said. It's becoming a bedroom community, with little connection to the past.
      "Most of the old people, they've all died out," Schimke said, pulling out more photographs for his granduncle to look at. "I just want to know more. It's our history."
      [Skagit Valley Herald writer Beverly Crichfield can be reached at 360-416-2135 or by e-mail at]

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