Community is the critical word in the Facebook description of Indian Beach – “Indian Beach is a small and picture perfect community on the west side of Camano Island enjoyed by family, friends and neighbors.”
I spoke with Gary Altaras who is a relative newcomer to Indian Beach. Gary and his wife June live in Kirkland. He has recently retired from his job as a total loss specialist for Mutual of Enumclaw. June is the chief executive of Swedish Health Services in Seattle
Gary told me that early Native Americans used to stay at Indian beach in the summer as a place to collect clams and mussels; that the Early Native American name for the beach was Hwigsap’; that Indian Beach became a resort around 1924, was open the public and offered cabin rentals, boat rentals and a store; that the properties at Indian Beach were sectioned off and sold by the owner Mildred Doxie (formerly Mildred Goldsberry) in 1971 and that the Indian Beach Community Club was incorporated in 1972.
Gary and his brother Dean had spent time at Port Susan and had an interest in getting a place on the Island. (Here is a fun photo of a gathering at Port Susan.)
June was born and raised west of Salem, OR, near the coast. Her mom was raised in Empire Oregon on the coast and her family owned a crab shack, so the water had a lure for her too. Gary, his brother Dean, and their wives started looking for a place on Camano. They bought the house, as partners, on Indian Beach in 2012 and are one of the newest members of the community.
And it is that community that drew and continues to attract Gary. This is how he describes it:
“Indian Beach has a magical feel to it. Even the name is intriguing. We fell in love with this place the minute we saw it. The sunsets, views and wildlife are spectacular.
There are 23 houses in our community, several of them being passed down to family through the decades.
Our favorite thing about our beach is it’s sense of community. We were accepted in with open arms and have become very close to our beach neighbors. We refer to our neighbors as our “beach family”. We eat together, play together, drink, crab, and boat together.
We gather for football games and the Super Bowl, and have a large New Years Eve party every year. Most people on the beach went to University of Washington so we’re a majority of Husky fans. Our grown kids have even become close friends with our beach neighbors kids.
We often get together off the island too as most of us have homes in the Seattle area or on the east side.
On the weekends, at 5:00, someone always hosts a happy hour at their house. We do this all year long and love every minute of it. We know people on other beaches on the Island. When we mention Indian Beach people say, Oh we’ve heard that’s a party beach! Yea… it kind of is. We talked to our next door neighbor before we bought our house and he told us that if you’re looking for privacy and don’t want 25 people showing up on your patio for cocktails during the summer then maybe this isn’t the place for you. On the contrary, we love every minute of it and have become very close to everyone. I’ve always been fascinated by stories of Indian beach as told by some of our senior members.”
With all the gatherings and parties I asked Gary if he was a party planner? He says that he takes after his grandfather who was very social, who loved people getting together. For Gary it is all about relationship. The older he gets, relationships are what he values the most: family and friends, “the more the better.”
From the beach to the left of the Altaras cabin is Renie Luce who is in her 90’s. At the Indian Beach parties Renie and a couple of her friends, come over; they are a hoot, the “Golden girls” Gary says. Mike and Candy DeDonker, live to their right. Down the beach lives my classmate at Stanwood high school Blake and Diane Hezel. David and Trish Wright, who are great friends of the Hezels, are at their house lots, and regulars at the Indian Beach parties.
The Indian Beach community spills over beyond the beach on Camano. These neighbors do stuff off the Island. Mike and Candy recently had a huge party at their house in Edmonds. down there all the time, Blake’s house
These pictures from the wine tasting party in 2016 give a window into that community and into the beauty of that place.
In the past there had been some tension and distance between the people who own homes on the beach, and the homeowners who lives behind the front row of houses. “Not any more”, Gary says. They join in the parties and those walls have gone down.
“It wasn’t always peace and harmony on our beach. Years ago, the home owners on the beach side did not associate with the folks who owned homes on the back street. Even now we joke about the front row people and the back row people, all in fun. The license plate on my truck says “FRONTRO”. All are welcome in our yards or on our bulkheads on the beach. That’s part of what makes this place so special. Everyone’s doors are open.”
I asked Gary about how Indian Beach residents felt about people walking on their beach since it is a private beach. He said, “nobody minds.”
Gary and June don’t see their home on Indian Beach as an investment, but as a legacy of community that is to be passed down to their kids and the generations to come.