THE LURE OF THE CANAL


I felt that I had arrived at home the first time I saw the Hood Canal, a natural waterway about a mile and a half wide with the proper amount of trees and water. The ancient trees grow down to the shoreline, and large rocks make a fine place for sun bathing or simply watching the gulls in their ever present search for food. It beckons one to pick up a fishing rod or a snorkel.

Often in the night the swish of killer whales rushing downstream reminds you that you are not alone in your love of the water. Sometimes at night when the moon is just right, the water becomes phosphorescent, and you aren’t quite sure what lies beneath.

The Hood Canal is the home of our friend and mentor Emmett Oliver, who passed away recently at the age of 102. In 1989 Emmett realized his hope that the tribal canoe culture could be renewed, as part of the centennial celebration for the State of Washington. It was called the Paddle to Seattle. Since then the number of tribes taking part in the Journey has increased each year. This year’s Paddle to Puyallup is well under way with many members of the same families plying the waters their ancestors visited. At the end of their destination there is a huge powwow featuring a salmon bake and many vendors offering native food such as a frybread hamburger.

The Oliver family is well represented, with Emmett’s grandchildren pulling. Son Marvin Oliver, professor of Art at the University of Washington, designs many of the canoes. His youngest son, 12 year old Sam, was a puller for the first time this year. Emmett’s daughter Marylin who has been a puller each year, took her new grandson along this year. To watch these colorful canoes moving through the water is to see the past through their eyes. The Willapa Spirit, with some of the Oliver clan aboard sailed slowly down the Canal past Emmett’s home, with paddles raised in salute to a great gentleman who had a great idea which came to fruition.

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LIVIN’ THE GOOD LIFE Kate’s Journal


Episode 29 Fremont 1966-1969

The years after my Southwest odyssey were ripe with possibility. I had come away with a deep feeling of humility and admiration for these people who had so little and yet were so generous and had the gift of laughter and ingenuousness.

The window dressing business, was still going well, spreading our good will and fancy frippery from San Jose to Oakland, our daughters became young ladies and began their University lives, we continued our outdoor life camping, hiking, fishing in the Northwest and Canada, went often to the family cabin at the Russian River,and generally enjoyed life.

Russian River

As fascinated as I had become with seemingly endless native subject matter for my painting, the opportunity to paint closer to home arose.

Child

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Other People’s Children

The City Recreation Department, using a charming old building across the street from Mission San Jose, had a sculpture class, and I decided to take a class. The instructor left and I was asked to teach the class as well as begin a pottery class, and they would even pay me! I couldn’t believe it. I was so rusty at throwing pots, I went to a neighboring town’s recreation department to brush up. We had no pottery wheel, so we bought a hand-made wooden kick-wheel through the newspaper, which turned out to be so uncomfortable, prospective students were dropping out. After a few money-raising events, we bought the real McCoy and things picked up. City coffers are notoriously empty when you need them.

We had a few memorable parties in our Japanese garden, even digging a pit to roast a pig for one party. The pig was still squealing at midnight, so we ate chicken and shrimp. The infamous zucchini parties came in the summer.

Just before high school graduation, our youngest daughter and a large number of her girlfriends had a photo-op on our red arched Japanese bridge, which suffered loudly from the added weight. Unfortunately, no photo remains.

J Garden 4 (1)

We all seem to have a favorite car in our past, and mine was a yellow Karmann Ghia dubbed “Herman”. It was truly mine, but with two daughters, one at San Jose State U., one still in high school, I waited for my turn. Herman lived with us for 15 years or so, and when he had reached his doddering years, a young grandson sobbed that he had hoped to drive it when he went to college.

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We found ourselves traveling to the Northwest, often as guests of Georgia and Emmett Oliver at their lovely home on the Hood Canal. Dr. Advice was an ardent fisherman, and Georgia and I had formed a strong bond during our summer in the Southwest. Emmett was introducing me more and more to Northcoast art and the country itself was beautiful. Our youngest daughter had been accepted at the University of Washington, and we began thinking seriously of moving to the Seattle area. Karma was right and it seemed to be the right thing to do.

NEW BEGINNINGS Kate’s Journal


Episode 23 Fremont 1959

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Mission Peak in Fremont, CA

Our best friends as well as Sam’s family had all moved into this new community which incorporated in 1956 by merging five old farm districts. Business was booming with new doctors, dentists, banks etc. opening regularly. There were probably 6,000 people here when we moved; there is now an ethnic diversity of 225,000 many of whom come from nearby Silicon Valley.

We moved into our new home in Fremont and began to figure out what to do with all the additional space both in and out. I had been taking classes in Japanese Flower Arrangement for awhile, and we decided to take it another step forward and put in a Japanese Tea Garden with ponds, waterfall, arched bridge and eventually a Tea House. Dr. A took pick and shovel in hand and dug till we had a pond big enough to swim in, which ended when we threw in all the koi fish. The whole thing turned out so well various groups around town began asking permission to come take a look.

J Garden 4 (1)

I met a Japanese/American lady who was to become a good friend who was brushing up on her Japanese, so I began learning the language as well. My Campfire group began studying ancient Japanese culture whether they liked it or not!

What do you do about a gorgeous new neighbor wearing short shorts and high heels, and who looks like a TV model? Why, you make a friend as quickly as possible. Joan did not come as advertised though; she was one of the nicest and funniest girls I had ever met and we became good friends.

We tried to figure out what we could do to earn more money for Christmas, and explored all kinds of things including running a Christmas tree lot or perhaps a nursery school. I came up with the idea of painting store windows with seasonal greetings. She immediately said “I can’t paint”. But of course I could, so with her pretty face and personality she got the business and I climbed the ladders, did the work and collected the money, which was not always the easiest thing. I became known as “the hatchetman”.

We took over most of the stores in town as well as branching out into Oakland and San Jose. I received some strange requests while painting in the cold December weather. One was a book deal which I took, and several were for decorating entire showrooms. We made a real business out of it and eventually spread out into dressing department store windows, which is what I had done during high school in Alameda at J.C. Penney.

Meanwhile, our youngest daughter had a delightful Native American teacher with whom we became very close friends. She was from the Pueblo village of Isleta in New Mexico, and her husband, a commander in the Coast Guard and also a teacher, was a Quinault from the State of Washington. I have written about their stories in the past.

We began vacationing in the Seattle area and at their home on the Hood Canal which they graciously allowed us to use as our own on occasion. We fell in love with the area and eventually moved there for a time. The fishing was good, and the diving in the Canal was lovely.

We fished and hiked all over the Northwest and Canada trying all the while without a lot of success to capture the sheer beauty of the country.

Sitting around mellow with a glass of wine one evening, my friend Georgia said she was going home to New Mexico when school was out and would I like to go along? Her plan was to come back just before school started in the fall. Dr. Advice while working to get the OSHA thing going, had spend some time in New Mexico, and he agreed that it would be a good thing for me to go.

So the day after school was out we took off in Georgia’s car bound for the desert. We would be living with her various family members and traveling between Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos. We opted to do this as cheaply as possible, with me keeping track of the money which we would only use to buy books and artwork. The car was packed with art supplies and sun lotion.