Given the deep practical interest Island residents have in the Washington State ferry system (WSF) for obvious reasons, it would probably not come as any great shock to learn, somewhere in the sediments and mists of time-gone-by, that some Vashon-Maury Island residents actually participated, at least in some small way, in the creation of the Washington State ferry system. Yes, but did you know that some of those residents made their contribution armed with clubs and apparently quite prepared to use them in... well, in the way traditional for clubs?
And did you know that at one time the notion of a bridge to Vashon was so popular with Vashon residents that the Garden Club featured a model bridge to the Island, bedecked with flowers, as the centerpiece of its annual flower show? This was news to my wife, the current president of the Vashon-Maury Island Garden Club.
These revelations and a surprising stream of countless others can be found in the pages of Vashon-Maury Island, a new book by Island historian Bruce Haulman and retired schoolteacher Jean Cammon Findlay, due out July 11. As noted on the back cover and back interior, this book is a new title in the Images of America series by niche publisher Arcadia Publishing which specializes in books on local history, typically written by local residents, in communities all across the nation. There are nearly 5500 titles in the Images of America series alone with thousands of other titles of historic interest in other series by the same publisher. Co-author Jean Findlay has another title in the Images series, The Mosquito Fleet of South Puget Sound.
As Bruce Haulman himself describes it, Vashon-Maury Island is a photo history of Vashon-Maury Island and the first history of the island published for over 75 years; Oliver Van Olinda's The History of Vashon-Maury Island was published in 1935.
This book is an absolute must-have for any Island resident with any affinity for the Island. You'll find your friends, neighbors and often your family members in the list of people who have contributed to its content and production process, and every page bears information connecting people and places and names you know today, and probably see or drive by every day, with their origins in the past. My wife has a social dinner in a local social club nearly on a weekly basis with a man who "led an effort to develop a scenic overlook at Inspiration Point". I did not know this. A local lumber company used to be owned by a recognizable family name, and two of their sons lost their lives in World War II. A name that you would probably associate with Christmas trees ties to a man shamefully sent off to an internment camp but who, even in the face of the insult, turned around and joined the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, "the most highly decorated unit in American history" and fought in Italy and France.
Almost every page in the book reads this way, every photo and every sentence connecting the Vashon of today to the Vashon of yesterday, yesteryear, and back through the centuries and millennia.
There were some elements of the book I found to be disappointing at first look. As it turns out, Vashon-Maury has a stunningly complex and deep history, and the book races you through it at breakneck speed. You no sooner bump up against some fascinating aspect than you are whisked away from it with the very next sentence. Countless topics and references shriek out for further detail but there is none. Additionally, I found the writing style sometimes distressing. A single paragraph would often contain ten entirely different topics more suitable to a bulleted list than a flowing paragraph.
I often found it quite difficult to discern satisfactory detail in many of the photographs. All the photographs are black-and-white, even if they were taken last year, giving one a disturbing sense that events you participated in only last year have suddenly become ancient history. No attempt has been made at photo restoration at all and many of the photographs could well benefit from modern techniques; I prefer to preserve the contents of historic photographs rather than to preserve how the photograph itself has been physically compromised.
As it turns out, criticizing the book over these issues would be completely inappropriate. There are exceedingly rigid formatting and content requirements from the publisher for the Images of America series. Each and every book in the series must be EXACTLY 128 pages, no more and no less. All books in the series SHALL contain 180-240 vintage photos specifically, they must be black-and-white, and there shall NOT be any restoration performed. Essentially, the authors had to perform their magic within arbitrary constraints which would have driven me entirely insane. The fact that the authors have operated within these limitations while at the same time producing a little miracle of a book constitutes a rather stunning accomplishment.
Potential readers of Vashon-Maury Island should, in my opinion, look at the book as a sort of photo-enhanced expanded index of Vashon-Maury history, a universal standard starting point to lay the initial foundational understanding of our local history and to plot sojourns of greater depth. The book is a literal treasure map that alerts you not only that there is treasure to be had, but it also yields clear pointers as to where you might go digging. The author's sources are well documented and the Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Association is close at hand. Personally, my copy of Vashon-Maury Island has sticky notes all over it already.
Locally, the book will definitely be available on publication day at Books By The Way.