Lee's Oak Harbor:
The Fourth of Quintilis

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The Fourth of Quintilis
by Lee Brainard

Can you imagine watching the big Oak Harbor fireworks display on the Fourth of Quintilis?

That might have happened if the Romans had not changed the name of our seventh month to July. More specifically, Mark Antony renamed the month in honor of Julius Caesar. The name went into effect in 44 B.C., the year that Caesar was killed by Brutus.

'Et Tu Brute?' Could that be where we get that beastly word 'brutal'
Until the end of the 18th century, the accent in pronouncing July was placed on the first syllable. The English poet Wordsworth, writing in 1798, rhymed July with truly.

Three nations were born in July, two on the same day. July 4, 1776 was the birthday of the United States; 170 years later, July 4, 1946 became independence day for the Republic of the Philippines after it was liberated from the Japanese. Midway in the month, French independence is celebrated on July 14, Bastille Day.

July is noted for a number of battles, particularly during the Civil War. July 1 is the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, marking the farthest point north for Confederate forces. At month's end, July 30Ñknown as Crater Day, recalls the unsuccessful attempt by Union troops to take Petersburg, Virginia by tunneling under Confederate positions and blowing up tons of gunpowder. Also in the martial vein, the Korean War Armistice was signed on July 27, 1953.

Birthdays of famous Americans during July include the following Yankee Doodle Dandys: Presidents John Quincy Adams, July 11 and Gerald Ford, July 14; Naval hero John Paul Jones, July 6; sewing machine inventor Elias Howe, July 9; automotive pioneer Henry Ford, July 30; and artist James McNeill Whistler, who was best known for the painting of his mother, July 10.
July is a busy month all over Whidbey Island. Every year Oak Harbor has its own Old Fashioned Fourth of July Celebration, with the great 'Fourth of Quintilis' fireworks at City Beach Park, starting at about 10 p.m. . . . or whenever it gets dark enough. There's a big parade down Pioneer Way in the morning, and an all week carnival, food booths and crafts.
Then July 20-25 is the famous Race Week Sailing Regatta, starting from the Oak Harbor Marina and filling Oak Harbor Bay with sails . . . colorful and exciting!

And, most exciting of all, the 4th of July is on a Friday this year. Does that mean we all get a 3-day weekend? Incidentally, you can buy your safe and sane fireworks this year at the Soroptimist Fireworks stand, just west of 7-11 South on Highway 20. All proceeds go to fund the club's community projects.
In 1942, the "building of Oak Harbor" began in earnest as the Whidbey Naval Air Station burgeoned, and civilian workers and Navy men poured into the area.

Oak Harbor, with a population of about 600, was ill-equipped to handle those who needed housing. Barns, chicken houses, and extra bedrooms became living quarters that were gratefully used while the Navy began building its own housing. The first two Navy enlisted men, who came here from Sand Point, had to bunk in with construction workers in the dormitory sheds hastily together for the purpose.

On what is now Whidbey Avenue East in Oak Harbor, just south of the North Whidbey Junior High (it was then Neil Road built by logger James A. Neil to reach from his farm to the local grade and high school), a small housing development sprang up.

A builder by the name of Nichols came down from Bellingham to erect a duplex and some small frame houses. Nichols dubbed his project "Little Bellingham," a name that is not heard much today because none of the original occupants are still living there . . . although a few of the small houses still stand.

Among the people who bought houses in "Little Bellingham" were the Lloyd Clines, Judd Taylors, L. R. Everetts, Howard Tolers and Dan Dillard Seniors. They had moved here from Lynden and Concrete to make their homes, raise their families, and work as civilians at the Naval Air Station.
Pansy Taylor told Dorothy Neil how they had lived for four years in the little community, long before North Whidbey Junior High was built as the "new Oak Harbor High School," and before the Midway Shopping Center was developed, on what was then pasture land.

The three Taylor boys were among 10 boys in the small neighborhood, but boys will be boys, and the Taylors thought 10 boys together were too many for comfort, so they moved to the Pete Ploegsma place out in Clover Valley next to the Howard Walker farm. There the Taylor boys and the five Walker girls grew up together. The Taylors and Walkers had been good friends in Lynden before coming to Oak Harbor.
The name "Little Bellingham" gradually died as the original settlers moved away, but some of its small houses still remain as a testimony to World War II housing needs on North Whidbey. They were tiny, but much better than the quickly remodeled chicken coops some of the workers families had to live in before housing finally caught up with need.

Weather or not . . .
An Oklahoma newspaper once printed a picture of a deserted farmhouse in a sand-swept field and offered a prize for the best essay on land erosion. This won the contest:
"Picture show why white man crazy. Cut down trees, make too big teepee."
"Plow hill. Water wash. Wind blow soil. Grass gone. Door gone. Window gone. "
"Whole place gone to hell. No pig. No corn. No pony."
"Indian no plow land. Keep grass. Buffalo eat grass. Indian eat buffalo. Hide make plenty big teepee. Make moccasin."
"All time eat. Indian not hunt job. No work. No hitchhike. No ask relief. No build dam. No give damn."
"White man heap crazy."

 

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