The Fourth of July is magic at Juniper Beach. Then Juniper Beach is packed with people and parties and thousands of dollars-worth of fireworks light of the night sky in what might be one of the best displays in Puget Sound.
Juniper Beach has had a magnetic pull on people and from the very beginning.
The earliest inhabitants of Camano Island were the Kikalos Indians who camped on Juniper Beach while feasting on the seafood and berries. They named the island “Kal-lut-chin” which means “land jutting into a bay” and learned to camp on ground high enough to avoid the high tides and regular floods.
I remember the big storm and flood that happened in late December 1982. I was part of a human chain that passed sandbags to lessen flooding at Driftwood Shores. Juniper Beach was hit hard on that flood.
The first bridge onto Camano was built in 1909. When in the 1920’s tourism became popular, people drove their automobiles to Juniper Beach, the nearest beach to Stanwood and the mainland and tent camped on the beach.
Soon small cottages were built on Juniper Beach and families would spend their summers there, many of the children returning to Juniper as adults, so strong was the pull of the Beach on them. Like Carl Hughes whose grandparents moved from East Chicago to Mount Vernon in 1929 where his Grandfather served as minister of First Lutheran Church and his grandmother raised their six kids, including Carl’s mother.
Following in the cultural tradition of the Swedish people who always have a summer place by the water, Carl’s grandparents bought the summer home in 1929 at Juniper Beach. The lived in Mount Vernon till 1944; and when they moved to Gresham, OR they kept their summer place on Juniper, looking forward to retiring and living there. Carl was born in 1947 and grew up in Seattle. He remembers coming out the cottage on Juniper Beach to visit.
“Mother used to drop him off with Grandma”, Carl’s wife Margo offered. Carl chuckled and shared how he has a letter to his mom from his Grandma that says, “I just realize that I hate kids and Carl is the worse.” Somehow she managed to watch the grandkids at their cottage on Juniper Beach with no electricity and no running water, no washing machine, no refrigerator and no car. They did have an icebox, and a man who delivered ice, another who came around with meat and cheese. Carl remembers staying with his sister Linda on Juniper Beach for the whole summer.
Carl’s grandparents moved to Juniper in 1962 to retire, but soon were to decrepit to manage it, and sold the family cottage to his parents in 1965. In 1984, Carl’s father died; his mother sold to Carl and Margo in 1985. Carl and Margo sold their place in Eastern Oregon, packed up their family and moved from to Juniper Beach. Carl, who had worked as an engineer for the railroad opened a barber shop in Stanwood, right across the street from the baker. He named it Carl’s Barber Shop.
Carl learned a lot about the early history of Juniper Beach from the old-timers who came to the barber shop to get their hair cut and shoot the breeze. One of them was named Earling Hall who told Carl about the days when people tent camped at Juniper on the weekend.
I asked Carl what was a characteristic of Juniper Beach. He said, “The way the tide goes out so far, then comes in and Driftwood on the beach. And all the changes. The beach changes all the time from rock to sand. You go down one week and the beach is full of little rocks, the next week there is sand.” In the summer, Carl says, the beach is full of people and boats. There’s lots of waterskiing. And lots of crabbing; they run over towards Driftwood Shores to crab at Cavelero.
Carl told me that in the summer there’ll be over 25 boats anchored in the water, then after Labor Day they’ll all be brought in.
I took this video in the still of an afternoon after Labor Day.
Carl shared with me a book made up of stories of people who live on and love Juniper Beach. A common thread of those stories in the magic of Juniper Beach on the Fourth of July weekend.
“Everyone comes here” Carl said. “There’s nowhere to park; people have to park in their yards. It turns into a disaster down here.” Carl estimates that twenty to thirty thousand dollars of fireworks light up the night sky with reds and blues and greens and whites. “It gets out of hand.” Two or Three times the beach has been burned from fires started from the fireworks.
And so the magnetic pull of Juniper Beach continues to draw generations of families back in the summers, back on the Fourth, and back to the Beach they love to live out their days.
P.S. One of those who comes back to Juniper is Carl’s daughter Malynda, who was a classmate of mine and who, with her husband Jim, run the excellent news and entertainment digest The Crab Cracker.