History of Gibson Landing
George A. Munro – Presentation to Bainbridge Island Historical Museum (1984) on the History of Gibson Landing
Transcribed in August of 2016 by Elizabeth Munro Berry of Heartbeat Family History Project and ClanMunroBainbridge.com
Now in my view of Crystal Springs, the beginning was at the dock up at Crystal Springs and the greenhouses and so forth there. To me Crystal Springs went all the way down to almost to Point White, because our school was down near Point White. The thing I was going to try to talk about today was, in-between Crystal Springs and Pointe White there got to be another place called Gibson Landing. That was another wharf there. I’m going to tell you about that, but first I’m going to talk about something else.
I’ve got a thing here. I should have passed it around, but I didn’t. If anybody can guess what it is I’ll give $5 to the Historical Society. Up at Crystal Springs there was a Japanese there by the name of Motosoko. He ran the greenhouses there and he had a cow. Now we had cows and my uncle, who always lived with us, my uncle Lachlan, he had come from a stock farm in Scotland and also learned a trade in Scotland. He learned the ship yard trade in Scotland. And this Japanese came to our house one afternoon. This Japanese didn’t know anything about cows. But his cow wasn’t giving any more milk and it wasn’t eating, so my uncle said “Well, I’ll come up tomorrow morning and take a look at the cow.” So that night he made this thing. He bored these holes and put a rope in there, and he made it out of a board. It’s got a few powder post beetles in it now, I see in them holes. He made it the size of his hand. He went up the next day and the cow was down. The cow was getting kind of weak and it wasn’t eating and it wasn’t giving any milk. He and Mr. Motosoko opened the cow’s mouth. These were to go around the cow’s horns. They opened the cow’s mouth, ya know like that, and put this thing in the cow’s mouth to hold the cow’s mouth open. And then he put his hand in the mouth he found a chicken bone. This isn’t the bone. It was in the cow’s mouth. The cow doesn’t have any teeth on the upper jaw, but it does have teeth on the lower jaw and this chicken bone was right across the teeth on the lower jaw, and he took the chicken bone out and then the cow could drink and eat again, and the cow lived. You see an awful lot of things made in the world and they’re failures. But this succeeded and saved the cow’s life and the Japanese was able to get milk again, and the cow could eat, and the cow lived a long time.
It was kind of hard for me to organize a talk, because I hadn’t started to realize things until I was about four years old. When I was four years old I had been a baby for four years and I was probably pampered and petted and so forth for that four years because above me were two girls, my sister Mary and my sister Ann Janett. And then I had three brothers, my brothers William and Duncan and John. Today John is 93 years old and he’s down here in the rest home. Well, my father always worked away because he was a stone cutter, but he would always come home on weekends if there was any transportation to get home. And when I was about four years old he was coming home on the weekends and of course a great surprise came to me then because my sister Euphemia was born. So I had to start finding other activities because my mother didn’t want me in the house making a lot of noise and so forth. So I started following my uncle and my father around quite a little bit. This particular weekend when my father was home, I was about four years old. He had been raised on a farm in Scotland and he liked to do a little farming and get away from stone cutting a little bit to kind of rest his hands. Our house was up on the hill from the beach quite a little ways, about a hundred yards and the house was on the ridge and the barn was up about another thousand feet, and then we had a field back behind us. Well my father always liked to plant a garden. He just loved to garden and every chance he got, he had a horse and a plow and he would garden. Well, this particular weekend my father was working up in the field and I got out of the house, got away from my mother I guess, or maybe she sent me out so the baby could get a little sleep. I got up as far as the gate, and I couldn’t get through the gate to the field where my father was because I couldn’t reach the latch on the gate. So I went through the barn. And on the way through the barn – the barn didn’t have a door on part of it – I went through the front door of the barn and I was going to go out the back door of the barn because I could open both those doors. And in the barn there was a dead rat on the floor and a trap alongside it. And so I looked at it and then I went up to where my father was. And he said “What’ve you been doing.” “Well” I said, “I’ve I just killed a rat.” “Oh”, he said “You did?” “Yes, I just killed a rat.” So he came back down to the barn with me. You know I can see that rat in the trap right there plain as day. And he came down to the barn with me and he said “Where is it.” And we went over to the side of the barn there and there it was. In those days the trap was a knock out trap and it would hit the rat on the forehead and knock it out. Well the trap was lying over to one side, turned over and the rat was over there about three feet. Well there was my dad and I standing there looking at the rat and my dad looked at me, and I didn’t dare look up at him. Pretty soon he stooped down and he rolled it over and he said “George”, he said, “You didn’t kill this rat.” He said, “If you’d killed that rat, that rat would be warm and loose. But that rat is cold and stiff.” Well, that’s all that was said. That was my first reprimand for kinda making up a little story and it was my first lesson in animal biology.
I started school when I was about five. But about the year six (this is going to be Gibson Landing now) one morning when I went down to the beach to go on the road down to the school, which is about a half a mile down here toward Point White, why there was a pile driver out in the bay in front of neighbor Hansen’s house. And when I got home from school that night there was a wharf half built. And the next night when I got home from school there was a whole wharf there. It was about 220 feet long. The beach sloped out there gently for a long while and then there’s a jump off, and the jump off goes down to about 25 or 30 feet, so the wharf had to be out to the end of the jump off so that passenger boats could land. And also on the wharf was a slip that went down and there was a float there. That was the beginning of the wharf at Crystal Springs. The neighbor had instigated the idea of having a wharf because we were getting tired of walking from Pleasant Beach or walking from Crystal Springs. On the little boats you could catch out of Seattle, you could get home quicker. The wharf, that was practically all that was there and the neighbors along the beach, and a ton of people were coming in and buying lots then to build houses on and it was getting to be quite a few houses built between where we lived and Crystal Springs. Well at all the other wharfs around the Sound, at the head of the wharf or close to the wharf or sometimes on the wharf, was a grocery store. We had all these things that my dad was planting in the garden and we had cows and people were coming to our house and getting milk, and getting potatoes, and getting eggs. And the heck of it was, ya know the boat came along there at about ten after seven and some of them were coming there so they could get an egg and some milk and some other things, so they could cook their husband breakfast to go on the boat, which was about ten after seven. So they were disturbing us pretty early, so ah, since we had these products, apples and carrots and spuds and milk and all kinds of apples and plumbs and cherries and things, well then somebody got the idea that, well maybe all the brothers could run a store, a grocery store. So my uncle, who was a ship’s carpenter, he and my dad and my brothers made a store. We stocked it with groceries and we had the produce around the place there and we had a motor boat. We had staples, groceries and certain vegetables and oranges and bananas and all those kinds of things. We had a shed for hay and grain and feed and we had an ice house. So we had those things. And we had, out on the wharf, we had oil drums. Standard Oil Company used to land in a big boat called the Petroleum and they would put off barrels of gasoline and coal oil. The coal oil was for the lamps and things like that. So ah, we were pretty busy. We’d get ice from Seattle Ice. We had an ice house there and we stocked the house with a couple a tons of ice and throw a little salt on it. We had an ice saw and we’d cut up chunks of ice. 25 pounds. Fifty pounds. The big chunks of ice came 200 pounds in a big sack. It was about twice as big as a gunny sack and about twice as thick. We would pull it ashore with a horse and a sled, and cut it up on the beach there and deliver it to people who had ice boxes. Some of them had ice boxes big enough for fifty pounds and some of them had ice boxes big enough for 25 pounds. I liked the 25 pound ones the best because we were putting the ice that we would cut up into the motor boat and taking it along. There was no road, you see, from Crystal Springs to Westwood. And we just went along the beach and carried the ice up to the ice boxes up little trails. And we delivered milk in the morning. We had some cows and we delivered milk in the morning and took orders for groceries. And when the boat came in, why ah people would stop by the store and give us orders for groceries and sometimes people up the Westwood way or up to that area would, if we went out onto the wharf to catch the line and help the boat land, why they would give us orders for groceries. In the afternoon we’d chuck the groceries into boxes and deliver them along the beach there, carrying it up the trails to the houses. And we also picked up eggs from some of the farmers that were around and boxed them and sent them into the Seattle market. And we delivered groceries over to Enetai, which is about half way to Bremerton, and up to Ilahee. There wasn’t any store at Ilahee at that time.
So that was kinda the life of what took place at Gibson Landing. That went on from about 1906 until 1917. By the time 1917 came along, why ah, we were pretty well in war with Germany, because the German’s had sunk the Lusitania. So my two older brothers went into the Navy. And I went into the naval shipyard as an apprentice electrician, and I worked there until I retired. That was just about what Gibson Landing consisted of and there’s no wharf there anymore. It fell down. When I was working in Bremerton I built a little wharf in front of my house so that I could get to work and the boat came down from Brownsville and picked us up at the wharf there.
I found a little article in the paper the other day. You know what reminded me of the rat story was, in the paper the Chinese were talking about the year of the rat and that was what reminded me of my rat story. So about 1904 was my year of the rat.
I found another little article in the paper there, Last Veteran Spanish American War Celebrates his 104th Birthday. And he lives up at Horton, which is over east of the mountains. And he tells a story here about how he fought in the Spanish American War. It was the insurrection that he fought in. I didn’t know much about insurrections so I looked it up in the dictionary and I learned that apparently an insurrection is not as bad as a revolution, but it’s not so sweet either. Why ah, in an insurrection people are just opposed to the kind of government that’s been set up for them but they’re not so opposed that they are setting up another form of governments. Because if they’re setting up another form of government, that would be a revolution. Well, this little thing reminded me of one time my sister Mary and I were playing down on the beach and were about, I was about six years old and she was about eight I guess. And we were playing in this big old skiff that we had. We weren’t suppose to go out and row around in the bay, but we could play on the beach and swim in it. It was summer time. So ah, well pretty soon we looked up the bay toward Key Port and we saw a cloud of smoke coming down there and pretty soon we saw some white things coming. And down the bay came destroyers, white destroyers. And they were these old four stackers and they were burning coal. They came right down the bay and we didn’t get wise early enough. We were in this boat and when the first wave hit us it ran us away up the beach and then when the wave went out we went away out. And that kept up for a little while. Then the second and the third boat came through and we began getting waves from them and we were getting water in the boat and so we jumped out and got out of there. Well, that was when Teddy Roosevelt sent the White Fleet off around the world. That was the White Fleet around the world.
Now ah, about 1900 Teddy Roosevelt was assistant Secretary of War and when the Secretary of War was on vacation, Teddy Roosevelt ordered George Dewey to clean up on the Spanish Fleet, and he did. He cleaned up in great shape on the Spanish Fleet, because the Spaniards were mistreating the Filipinos and they were mistreating the Cubans. I read in an article somewhere, they said that the Spanish set up more crosses and mistreated more people than any nation in the world. Well that was it, so when Teddy Roosevelt cleaned up on the Spanish Fleet why ah then the United States set up a form of government in Cuba and a form of government in the Philippine Islands. There was still enough Spaniards left in the Philippine Islands that weren’t pleased with the form of government we were setting up for them, and they had the insurrection. By that time McKinley was shot at the fair at Buffalo, New York in 1901. Then Teddy Roosevelt became President. And he was the one that started the Roosevelt Rough Riders. That was the 1st American Cavalry and they sent the American Cavalry into Cuba and into the Philippine Islands to squash the Filipino insurrection. And that’s what this old boy here was in. He was in the Filipino insurrection and he says it was pretty bloody.
I think that’s about it. Except the reason why these ships were going into Bremerton was because the Spanish American War had been pretty modest and ah my father was working up… You see there was one dry dock in the naval shipyard at that time and it was made out of big timbers, stepped down, ya know like this and ah. And they were building number two dry dock out of granite rock and they were great big chunks of granite about as big as half of this table and just about that thick too. No, they were only about that thick because they were stepped down. They quarried the granite up at Index, back of Everett, in the mountains up there and they put it on a flat cars and railroad down around Marysville there someplace and then they hauled it down through Agate Pass and down into Bremerton right alongside. We could see these… They put these big flat cars on barges and the tug boat would haul them down to Bremerton where they had a side track at Bremerton where they brought them up through the stone yards where the stone cutters were cutting stone. And my father and a bunch of other stone cutters, granite cutters mostly, were working there cutting and setting stone in the dry dock and my father had written home to my mother. The Crystal Springs post office was up there at Crystal Springs, ya know, and we got the letter and ah he said in the letter, he said, when John (that was my older brother John, he was about ten years older than me), when John comes up to get him to bring him home for the weekend, to have George, me, and my sister Mary and my sister Ann Janett come along, because he wanted us to see the biggest Army Transport in the world that was in Number One dry dock. And I think the name of it was the Ohio. Well, my uncle who lived with us had also worked for the shipyard as a shipwright, but he didn’t like the rat race, waiting for materials and waiting for blue prints and all that stuff and he got another job. He was a little bit opposed to all that red tape. But anyhow, when we went into Bremerton and went into the shipyard and our father met us at the gate and took us in, and this big ship was in dry dock and we were walking along near the end of the dry dock there and my sister Mary had a little straw hat on and the wind blew it off and blew it down into the dry dock. The water was pumped out because it was a dry dock. And my dad, he stepped over the chain there and went down in there. He told us to stay back, and he went down in that great big hole and he recovered the hat. Then we went over along to the side of the boat and down to the stern end of the boat. And along the side of the boat there was a great big door opened there, on the side of the boat. This was the big Army transport. Great big door opened there and there was a ramp going over to the boat from the sidewalk there. All the farmers around there were down there with their horses and wagons and they were hauling out. You see Roosevelt’s Rough Riders rode horseback and mule back, and they had been shipping horses and mules out to the Philippine Islands and it kind ah surprised me a little bit because what they were hauling out on wagons out of this ship was horse manure. I recognized that, because we had plenty at home. We saw the ship and my father took us around in the stern of the ship to show us the big gate that opened and closed to let the water in and let the water out and let the ship out and in. Well, when we got home, my uncle was making a sled, I think it was, out by the back yard. I was still questioning my father about how did they get that ship in there and how will they get that ship out of there, and so forth, and my father was still telling me a little bit about it. And ah, I got all the information about what I wanted and I turned and I was starting off toward the kitchen door. Pretty soon I heard my old Scotch uncle say to my Scotch father (he didn’t like, ya know, the director of the shipyard) “They’ll get the ship out all right, but I fear the horse manure is going to be there for a while.”
Biography – George Alexander Munro
George Alexander Munro was born February 4th, 1900. He was the sixth child of Alexander and Janet Munro, and from an early age he was extremely intelligent, curious and overflowing with fun. He possessed a heightened understanding of “quality of life” and he lived his life in a way that allowed him to enjoy every day to the fullest.
George grew up on the family farm at Crystal Springs (Bainbridge Island, Washington) and on the waters of Port Orchard Bay. He attended Crystal Springs School, walking the mile or so to school with brothers, sisters and neighborhood kids. Later he attended Queen Ann High School in Seattle.
As teen years turned to 20′s George went to work in the Puget Sound Navy Shipyard in Bremerton where he apprenticed to become an electrician. He and some buddies got tired of commuting by rowboat, so they lived in a tent in Manette. They hiked on Mount Rainier, joined the Masonic Lodge, organized an Apprentice Football team and chased girls. Some of the ladies “chased back” as well. Referring to George’s red hair, one girl wrote “Dear Carrot-top, it must be so cold in that old tent. Why don’t you come to my house where it is nice and warm!”
George earned college money by putting electrical wiring into many Bainbridge Island homes – their first electric lights. He used the money to attend Washington State College in Pullman and was a “Cougar” for the rest of his life.
Betty Troll came to the Island to teach school in the early 1930′s. She married George Munro and they raised three children together, David, Ronald and Ralph.
In his later years, George was a curious enigma to some. He lived a very self-sufficient life in his little house on the beachfront. When a log washed up on the beach he would quietly tie or chain it in place. He would pull any nails and salvage them to use later. Then he would saw up the log to burn in his wood cook stove. He would go fishing in his rowboat nearly every day the weather allowed, with fishing line wrapped onto a piece of salvaged board that he held in his teeth while he rowed. Dinner was usually fish. Often it was clams from the beach.
None of us realized at the time, but George was primarily responsible for the great clamming on the Munro beach – quietly ridding the beach of the Moon Sails that decimate clam populations. At the same time, he would clean the beach of trash and he was always scouting for driftwood or other treasures to be stored here or there for later use. Some of the newer neighbors would worry about him if the power went out in the dead of winter. But when they stopped by, they would find him reading in a warm living room heated with a gravity fed oil stove – far more comfortable than his neighbors.
George passed away on February 14th, 1999 at the age of Ninety-Nine.