Everett Archives: Summer Recreation of Yesteryear
Before the days of Netflix and smartphones, people got out a lot more than they do now. Lo-fi outdoors recreation has always been an appealing option for citizens of Everett, situated as they are next to saltwater, rivers, and mountains. Any direction you head on a sunny day you’re more or less guaranteed a photogenic vista.
Let’s take a look at favorite outdoorsy activities from yesteryear.
Silver Lake and its accompanying parks (Green Lantern Park and Thornton A. Sullivan) have been summer chillout places for generations of Everett-dwellers.
The first recreators hiked in, as when the Everett Mountaineers made a voyage there from downtown Everett, on foot, in the early 20th Century. Photos from this era show car campers sitting next to their vehicles at Silver Lake with their picnic goods and a blanket spread out. Canoeing has always been a traditional pastime at the lake, as seen in many photos and the tradition of watersports continues to this day, as modern folk can rent stand up paddleboards at the lake.
Modern park-goers can also enjoy the City of Everett’s Cinema Under the Stars outdoor movies series during summer months. Families can view classic and modern films, while vendors sell popcorn and people lounge on blankets in the summer night.
The Everett Waterfront/Snohomish River
Before the waterfront was completely industrialized, the shores of Everett were a place to go for swimming. People rode bikes to the beach, as seen in early photos of youth perched on driftwood, with their steel-framed simple bicycles nearby.
Fishing has been a perennial popular activity in this mill town. During the middle of the Twentieth Century, anyone could rent a boat on the waterfront. People would row, paddle, or ride a motorboat to Jetty and Hat Islands. People also enjoyed salmon derbies, crabbing and outings put on by the Everett Yacht Club.
Another popular spot to dip was the Snohomish River, especially among youth. According to one man who grew up then, summer swimmers had to be careful when they took a dip—tides could change the direction of the river, which carried sewage out to sea.
Kids once enjoyed ice skating on frozen sections of the slough. In one account, an early Everett resident recalls ice skating at night in the slough, the night sky lit up by the glow of a smelter.
Exploring the Cascade Mountains and living in Everett go hand in hand. Nordic skiing was popularized by the Mountaineers and started becoming more popular with “regular folk” after World War II.
Hiking didn’t always have to be to an out-of-town destination. According to early residents, the heavily-forested upper peninsula of Everett (near modern-day Alverson) was a popular spot to trek to, before it was completely logged and developed. Apparently, a good spot for picking berries was on the north side of the peninsula, near where Legion Memorial Park is today. This area used to be heavily forested and was prized by locals for its fruited vines, including blackberries and Oregon grape.
Wheels and Races
Soap box derbies were once a way to pack downtown Everett with crowds.
Competitors (all of them teen boys) from outlying cities like Monroe, Edmonds, Marysville and Snohomish raced their wheeled creations downhill on Hewitt Avenue, vying to be the brave winner. The champion of the annual Snohomish County Soap Box Derby would go on to Akron, Ohio for a national soap box derby showdown.
150 other boys would race in the All-American Soap Box Derby, including international contestants from Ireland and West Germany for $15,000 in college scholarships and prizes.
Gene Fosheim’s book “Mill Town Boy” has a good chapter about motorcycle youth culture in Everett during the 1930s (Fosheim’s father was part of the cycling subculture). Kids zipped around the dirt streets of Everett on two wheels, wearing EHS sweatshirts with embroidered seagulls. Harley-Davidsons were once a stylish and practical way to zip around the streets of the lumber milling town.
Summer in our northwest city has always been idyllic. When you go out and savor the water and sun you’re in good company with the milltowners of yesteryear. To call this idyllic peninsula home is our good fortune.