Last week I interviewed long-time Pebble Beach resident Amy Whitmarsh who was born in 1933 has a long and fascinating history of her family’s connection to Pebble Beach.
Amy told me that in the late 1800’s someone had built a dock and a holding pond for the logs they hauled down the steep hill above Pebble Beach. They also built little work cabins for their crew and a few larger buildings where they made shingles out of cedar trees. A small farm perched on the bluff above Pebble Beach and the farmhouse near where the main road now is. When the owners who farmed it dies, the two ladies who inherited the farm but couldn’t maintain it sold the land to the Tyee Logging Company.
Amy’s parents, William A. “Bert” and Myrtle Shanafelt and her brother Bill were in Alaska in 1928 when they met Eleanor Fortson, her husband, and their two children. The Fortsons told them about how they had bought some property, an old shingle mill logging camp on on Camano Island and how they were going to turn it into a resort.
When the Shanafelts moved to Everett, WA, they traveled each weekend to the Fortson’s resort on Pebble Beach and stayed in the cabins there. Amy remembers the rickety cabins, and the drawings on the walls made by the loggers when they were bored. Like the other guests at the Pebble beach resort, Bert, Myrtle, Bill and Amy played on the beach and fished in its salmon rich waters.
So it is not surprising that when in 1936 the Shanafalts bought their first property it was at Pebble Beach and that in 1937 they built a little “knotty cabin” there. Inside this cozy cabin Amy remembers the beautiful knotty cedar varnished walls and how weekend they would park their car at the top of the hill and clear fallen branches on the path to the cabin, and how it was her and Bill’s job to take the wagon and collect driftwood for the wood stove. She remembers how she would walk to Wilkes Gary Beach (which is the beach just south of Pebble Beach and which used to be part of Pebble Beach) and say hi to everyone staying there.
She also remembers catching her first salmon there. One morning she rowed out by herself and hooked a 10 pound blackmouth. She couldn’t bring it into the boat because she couldn’t hold both the pole and the net. A nearby fisherman cried out, “Hang on I’ll help you.” He brought his boat over and netted the salmon and jokingly asked, “Do I have to give this to you.” “I hope so,” Amy replied. Gazing out her window she reflected, “fishing was wonderful then.
In 1955 Amy married Derek Phelps Whitmarsh. In 1966 her parents sold their home in Laurelhurst and moved to Pebble Beach permanently. They started to build a house to retire in right next to their old knotty cabin when Bert was diagnosed with cancer. He saw it almost to completion before he died. And though they had moved to an apartment in Seattle when Bert was battling cancer, Amy’s mom wanted to live at their new home on Pebble Beach. Amy said “I don’t blame her. It is a marvelous place to be every day.”
The view from Amy and Derek’s home is impressive. Pebble Beach juts out into Saratoga Passage. Across the water you can see Langley and Freeland on Whidbey Island.
I asked Amy what her favorite part of Pebble Beach was. Without hesitation she said, “Everything has an appeal. But I’d have to say the storms that come in from the northwest, that sweep down Saratoga Passage to Pebble Beach at just the right angle to hit the beach, and whose two foot waves throw logs over the bulkhead.”
With her long history on Camano I asked Amy how she felt about the tension between public and private beaches confessing that in the past I had parked my car near the Fortson house, hiked over the old cedar mill pond that is now full of driftwood, and caught salmon from the shore.
In a firm voice Amy shared with me how her parents had bought private property where they could enjoy their privacy, and how they had spent their own money – and Amy and Derek had spent their money as well – to keep up the county road for years before the county paved it. She shared how her parent’s cabin had been broken into 3 or 4 times over the years. She asked, “would you like strangers to come to your home and have a picnic in your front yard? To dig up your clams?” She added, “It’s not just about ‘mine, mine mine’. We put the money down to buy this property. We worked with the county to get the road fixed.” She shrugged her shoulders and said that it is only her husband Derek’s kindness that lets their neighbors have access through their property to the upper lots that don’t have road access.
As we thanked Amy for sharing her time and family stories, she softened and said that of course her and Derek – and other private property owners with beach rights – allowed strangers to walk on their beach.
If you have a chance to walk on Pebble Beach and Wilkes Gary Beach in the evening as the sun is setting take it. You won’t be disappointed. Here are some photos of the cabins south of Pebble Beach and a spectacular modern beach house that was featured in the Seattle Times.
The sunsets are stunning at Pebble Beach.