Snow in Wedgwood

Wedgwood’s Wartime Snow

Ted & Gerry Valaas were married on December 6, 1941 — the day before the Pearl Harbor attack which plunged the United States into World War Two.  As a pharmacist Ted was exempted from military service, and Gerry went to work as a dental assistant at Ft. Lawton, taking the place of men who had gone to war.

The Valaas house as it looked originally in the 1940s (it has since been remodelled.)

The Valaas house as it looked originally in the 1940s (it has since been remodelled.)

The young couple had a difficult time finding a place to live.  Seattle was flooded with war workers and all new housing construction was allocated to them.  On a drive one day through Wedgwood, longing to find a place in this charming new development, the Valaases came across a house for sale at 3164 NE 82nd Street.  The house was only three months old. The owner had fled from the terror that gripped the entire West Coast following the Pearl Harbor attack:  the fear of bombing.  The owner had moved to a place of perceived safety in eastern Washington, and builder Albert Balch was handling the resale.  Since the house was technically not “new” anymore and therefore not reserved for war workers, Ted & Gerry Valaas were delighted to be able to buy the house.

At first, Wedgwood neighbors were slow to get to know one another. Neighborhood activities were almost non-existent because Gerry and many other women were working full-time during the busy war years.  It took the heavy snowfall of January 18, 1943, to bring neighbors together and begin the Wedgwood tradition of community cooperation.

Balch's Wedgwood development was distinguished by the preservation of tall evergreen trees.

Balch’s Wedgwood development was distinguished by the preservation of tall evergreen trees.

The temperature dropped to six degrees above zero and Wedgwood’s tall Douglas fir trees, top-heavy with snow, began breaking off.  The snapping of tree limbs could be heard all night long as huge snowflakes continued to pile on.  Falling branches broke the electrical wires, and Wedgwood was without heat or lights.  In the spirit of the wartime ethic of making do without complaint, for the next three days Wedgwood neighbors gathered around fireplaces and shared their food and blankets.  Rather than just waiting for utility workers to come, Wedgwood neighbors cut the fallen trees and cleared the streets themselves.  This can-do spirit was the foundation of the Wedgwood Community Club which formed in 1946, a few months after World War Two ended.

Sources:

“Once Upon a Time,” by Doug Clyde, March 25, 1960 edition of the Wedgwood Echo community club newsletter.

Interview with Gerry Valaas in 1992.

About Wedgwood in Seattle History

Valarie is a volunteer history writer for the Wedgwood neighborhood in Seattle, Washington.
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