West Seattle Memories Part 6: Community Spirit

  • By Alyssa Burrows
  • Posted 8/22/2001
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 3498

This file contains reminiscences of community life in West Seattle. Ema Albert describes how the neighborhood pulled together to help a young widow during the Great Depression, and Doc Eastly recalls an amazing community effort to vacinate animals against rabies in the 1950s. They were interviewed in 1999 by JonLee Joseph for the Southwest Seattle Historical Society.

Helping Each Other During the Depression by Ema Albert

"There was a family living down here on the beach and the father became ill. He had just started a business as a mechanic. He had a very nice wife and two little children.

"He got real sick and wouldn't go to see a doctor. He kept getting worse and worse and when his wife finally got a doctor to come, he had had a ruptured appendix. They rushed him to the hospital and he was between life and death for two weeks. They couldn't save him because gangrene had set it.

"Here was this young mother in her twenties with two little children. He had cashed in his life insurance to start the business and she had no insurance at all ... The neighborhood decided instead of buying flowers, we'd all give money and pay her rent. We raised enough money even though we were all poor, dirt poor ...

"Scotty Wilbur had a little grocery store down on the corner of 60th that had a storeroom in the back. He said, "Now Phyllis, if you want to come with your children I'll clean out the storeroom and you can live there and I can pay you and give you a discount on your groceries because there are things that just get beyond the selling point and are still usable ... "

"So that's what Scotty did, he hired Phyllis. She could keep the children in the back room off the grocery store and she could run in and out while she was working. Scotty saw her through until she could get a better job with Western Union. She raised two wonderful children. But you see it takes neighbors like that who want to help each other.

"One of my happiest memories of living down there on the beach was that people were so friendly and they were so united and everybody went out and did things with each other. Of course, the Depression did that, and with the worry and woe, people had to stay together."

Doc Eastly on the anti-Rabies Campaign

"I bought the veterinary practice from Doctor McNutt in 1957. McNutt was a real nut about rabies; he didn't want anybody to get rabies ... Anyway, the bottom line is that McNutt knew about rabies and he said, 'If we could vaccinate 70 percent of the animals in King County, we could contain a rabies outbreak ...' He finally convinced everybody (at one of our professional meetings) that we should convince the vaccine manufacturers that they should sell us doses at a much reduced rate. And then we would get the auxiliary, the wives, to help with the vaccinations.

"I remember here in West Seattle, we had 30 or 40 women sitting at card tables writing vaccination certificates. By the time we paid for the vaccine, we were able to give the women about 25 cents for writing out the certificates and that was their fund-raiser. It was held at the West Seattle Fire Station. I think we charged three and a half dollars.

"We paid for the vaccine; we paid for the refrigerators to keep the vaccine cool; and we paid for the women to write the certificates. Anyway, West Seattle really responded. Unbelievable! It was like a religious experience to see the response that came out of West Seattle.

"They were lined up for four blocks in front of that fire station. Leonard Mayer had been helping me around the clinic for a number of years .... He would mix up the doses of vaccine and then he'd fill a 10cc syringe full of the vaccine and he would give it to me. My job was to give this vaccine to each animal, change the needle, put another one on, and I just went on down the line.

"Well, Leonard and I vaccinated over 900 dogs, that night at the West Seattle Fire Station, just the two of us. And we had 35 to 40 women writing certificates. It took three or four hours. But that made me a West Seattleite, if nothing else did, because of the tremendous support of West Seattle."


Sources:

JonLee Joseph Interview of Ema Albert and Doc Eastly, 1999. Oral History projects conducted by the Southwest Seattle Historical Society. Transcript excerpts of these interviews were used in two Memory Book projects: West Seattle Memories: Alki (Seattle: Southwest Seattle Historical Society, 1999) and Memories of Southwest Seattle Businesses (Seattle: Southwest Seattle Historical Society, 1999); Excerpts are also available on a video produced by Valerie Vazza, BJ Bullert, and Sadis and Vaughn. All can be seen at the Log House Museum, 3003 61st Avenue SW Seattle, WA 98116. See Log House Museum in HistoryLink Museum Library, (www.historylink.org).


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