Shopping in your own closet
Back in late February (2020) I saw an eBay listing for Kirkland Summer Festival programs from 1946 and 1947. The starting bid was only $25 and I was the only bidder. So I won, obviously.
When they arrived I opened the package but I did not spend my time actually studying them—I just gave them a cursory page-through. Nineteen forty-six was the year of the nationally-famous Kirkland Summer Festival pig derby—a race in which 18 pigs were launched down wet slides into the lake, where lanes were created with rope-linked floating boards—so I was mostly focused on checking to see if the 1947 program had photos of the previous year’s swimming pigs. (Sadly it didn’t.) I also mentally noted some of the cool ads and that the winner of the 1947 baby photo contest was the cousin of two sisters I know from Kirkland’s Etzler family, whose ancestors came to Kirkland over a century ago. I put the programs aside into my “pending” bin of stuff, intending, as a low priority, to scan some of the ads when I could get around to it. It wasn’t too much later that COVID-19 hit and my attention shifted almost entirely to its effects on my family, friends and my business.
By mid-July things calmed down enough for me to return to my stack of history stuff to go through— mostly scanning and organizing old photos, postcards, maps and other historical ephemera. I took a closer look at the programs, without the distraction of looking for pig race photos.
During the research on railroad spurs in the Feriton area for our Lake Washington Belt Line in Kirkland feature, we discovered that the Northern Pacific Railway built a 1240.5-foot siding in 1942 to serve the warehouse erected by the U. S. Navy for the Lake Washington Shipyards. After the war, the warehouse was sold as surplus in March, 1947, and of the two bids, the offer that prevailed belonged to Preco, a licensee of Ford Preconfigured Homes (not related to the Ford Motor Co.). (Over the years, the term “preconfigured” seems to have morphed into “prefabricated”, in which the major components are factory made and assembled on site. This in contrast to the modular home, which is assembled at the factory and transported intact to the site.)
Preco turned around in July, 1948 and subleased to Acme Millwork. H. W. Hansen owned both companies. In 1957, Acme merged with the well-remembered Seattle Door Co., which was a major Kirkland industry through the 1980’s. So, Preco had significance in the Feriton area, even though it was only there for 16 months. Given that, we had little information on it beyond a few small newspaper mentions and various business and property records.
When I took my mid-July fresh look at the programs, I discovered a full-page Preco ad prominently displayed on the back cover of the 1947 issue, with Preco glowingly described as “Kirkland’s newest industry” in an article within the program remembering Kirkland’s past and promoting its future.
Since we previously did not know much about Preco, finding this ad and glowing reference finally gave us some context and a sense of how Preco fit into the Kirkland community. It’s funny: The more material a history researcher accumulates, the more common later discoveries like this one are. Kent has a term for this: “shopping in your own closet”. Featured here are a few other images from the two programs. Enjoy!