This was originally posted to: Guemes Island Historical Society

2015 - September Historical Society Minutes (and Lavern Deane story)


-GIHS 9/14/15

Present: Carol Harma, Carol and Tom Deach, Sue O'Donnell, Sue Rombeek, BobAnderson (secretary), Holiday Matchett, Sally Stapp and Dick Brigham, Don and Terry Long.

Old Business:

Building Committee Needs:

Meeting with Cynthia Richardson, no one happy with first draft so all
members are taking a cut at ideas for revision. Expanding field of input from all involved. There is a need for larger temporary office and work space - approach Council on Park Model use (Sue O'Donnell)

Dog Show feed back:

Generally positive, except perceived need for a shorter show time. Tom showed
award plaques - nice. Terri Scapini will donate a small quilt for next year's show. Some people want copies of Carol's drawing of the Dog Island dog print. Tabled for the moment.


Price to be $15, up from $10 last year. Discount for Library use as member gifts ($12).

Holiday Festival:

Vendor list to be compared to Secretary's saved lists and letter and registration (on
hand) will be sent out before the end of the month. Need to work with Janice and list from Fall Festival quickly to get a common mailing list.

Program: Lavern Deane, presentation with Sally and Sue


Highlights (video being recorded - with the addition of written notes by Sally.):

Lavern Deane Remembers Guemes 


On Sept 14, 2015 the Guemes Island Historical Society hosted charming, knowledgeable North Beach resident Lavern (no “e”) Deane who delighted members and visitors with stories about early Anacortes, his family’s Lake Erie compound, his WWII service and his years as “rural carrier” of US mail on Guemes from 1945 -1962 when he became the Postmaster of the.  After 1962 Lavern was a friendly face in the Anacortes post office as Postmaster until he retired in 1982.


Lavern was born June 8, 1921 at the family home in the 1200 block of 20th Street.  When he was just 10 months old his family moved to a house his dad & uncle built on property they had purchased from a logging company on the shores of small Lake Erie about 5 miles south of Anacortes. After the trees had been harvested, the land around almost half of the small lake – was a bargain.  He attended school at the Campbell Lake School until it closed when he was in the 6th grade.  He joined about 15 kids on the school bus to the Dewey School until 9th grade when they were bussed to Anacortes High School.


Lavern’s first memories of Guemes include trips with his mother and siblings to pick cherries at the cherry orchard on South Beach.  A discussion among the attendees couldn’t come up with the origins of that grove.  He also remembered the Gould family who had the farm on the right side of the road just as you approach north beach.  He and his cousin Darryl Dean stayed with the Gould children in the big red barn.


Lavern’s father worked at the Anacortes Lumber and Box Company.  The large fish canning industry used the AL&B cedar boxes to ship their product all over the country. That boxmaking factory later burned down.  Lavern’s uncle Walter Deane was killed working in construction on a city project.


After graduation Lavern worked for the Army Transport Service – not actually military service - but he crewed on the Eli D. Hoyle, a supply ship often carrying barrels of oil for the war effort.  His stint lasted through six month-long excursions stopping at ports along the coast as far north as Skagway, Alaska.


The first mate, Duffy Kanier, who used to let Lavern stand wheel watch, offered him a permanent position.  By then Lavern’s schoolmates had all joined the WWII effort.  He remembers feeling uncomfortable talking to the moms of his buddies who had already left for war.  With that he joined the Navy.  His story about NOT getting a Purple Heart came next.


Between 1943-44 he served on Yard Mine Sweeper 48 off the coast of Manila.  It was their job to clear a path through the minefield before their Destroyers arrived. A hook was deployed from YMS48 that detached the mines from their anchor lines.  As the mines floated to the top of the sea Lavern & his buddies blew them up by shooting at them.  What twenty-something kid wouldn’t love that?


The day that Lavern did not get a Purple Heart their YMS was bombed by enemy fire and all 30 crewmen (lifejackets required) ended up in the water swimming away from shore and ducking the incoming shrapnel bombs sent low over the water to explode and send metal chunks & nails over a wide area.  About two hours later their Destroyer came to the rescue.  Lavern was one of two strong swimmers who swam toward the rescue ship.  As the ship “backed down full” the propeller current was pulling the two swimmers toward the prop.  Quick acting sailors threw large, empty artillery shell shipping cylinders overboard for Lavern & his friend to buoy them up. Three crewmen died.  All but Lavern & two others had shrapnel wounds – therefore no Purple Heart Medals for the lucky ones.


The result of that mishap meant the crew spent the rest of the war “on shore duty”.  Lavern was a radioman stationed at Skags Island, a communication center off the coast of California.   Near Napa & Sonoma the island was connected to the mainland by a bridge.  They continued to wear their Manila uniforms – flip flops, shorts, no shirts and lifejackets.


Lavern met Ila June “Prunie” Hughes at a dancehall in Burlington.  She needed a ride home.  In 1957 “Pruny” and Lavern built a house on the family property at Lake Erie and raised their three daughters and one son on the lake.  Those lucky kids learned to swim in warm lake water.  Lavern figures he taught about 20 kids how to waterski.


In the work realm, Lavern “carried city” from 1945 through 1949 - meaning he delivered mail on foot in the city of Anacortes.  Rules governed weight of carriers’ bags.  Lavern rued the days of the Sear’s and Roebuck Catalogues.  They nearly tipped the scale. 


His next route was “carrying rural” on Guemes Island when Bill Beesner was the ferry Captain.  He drove a ‘46 Plymouth onto the 9:30 or 10am ferry and around his route of about 100 mailboxes, returning on the 1:00pm ferry.  During heavy seas the waves would wash over the deck and up to the car’s running boards.   He remembers daily stops at Meta & Harold “Whick” Whicker’s North beach house for a chat and a coke, and that Desi & Cliff Wiegel often met him at their mailbox with armloads full of garden produce.


The year Lavern was named Postmaster (1962) ended his Guemes route but was the year that he & Charlie Funk bought three of Claudia & Lowell Ashbach’s rental cabins on north beach next to the Ashbach family home.  Lavern remembers crabbing and fishing with Charlie Funk, Bill Everett, Shorty Hunt and Earl Cahil - his North Beach buddies.  Takes a lot of sitting around with refreshing drinks while those crabs cook!



When Lavern retired in 1982 he and Prunie built a new house a few lots north of their first cabin.  From his back deck he watches heron and mallard ducks landing in pools scattered about the large salt marsh.  The view from the front deck scans over the Salish Sea toward Jack Island, Chuckanut Drive and Mt. Baker.  I asked if the marsh waters ever overflow his yard – he remembered an event at his old cabin.  The water was rising behind the houses because of run off and rain and threatening Lowell Ashbach’s house heating boiler.  Lavern tells of Lowell hopping onto his backhoe and digging a channel through Guemes Island Road so the water could escape.  Now those were the good old days!


Bob Anderson records: Born in Anacortes, lived many youth years in Mt. Erie and Campbell Lake area. 15 kids took the bus to school in Anacortes.
First trip to Guemes was to pick cherries. Had property near North Beach on Guemes. He knew the Gould kids.

His dad worked for a company In Anacortes that made boxes for the cannery. Uncle Dwight (wife was a Gould) owned a dairy on Q Ave. - made local deliveries. Lavern was a civilian in the Army Transport Service out of Seattle with stops at Prince Rupert and up the coast. Soon after he joined the navy.

Served on a minesweeper (like John Wayne's). In action in Philippines. Ship shot down, harrowing rescue. Never got a purple heart because he ducked in water and wasn't hit!

After the war he worked as mail carrier in Anacortes (19445-9). He loved the rural Guemes route (About 200 local mailboxes.) 1949-62. Some stops handed out desserts and pop. People waited for mail as they knew his schedule. He was Postmaster in Anacortes from 62- 82. Shared some stories about knowing Bubble, mostly censored! Built a house on North Shore in 1982. He was against the
proposed Nori Seaweed growing operation. Several buddies fished and went crabbing together.

Respectfully submitted, Bob Anderson, secretary


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