History & Mystery

The First Wooden Nickel 
    This may be hard to believe but it is true. The first wooden nickel in the United States was used in Blaine, Washington.  During the hard times of 1933, the Blaine Bank ran out of money and had to close. The people in Blaine could not sell things. They could not buy things. They could not hire people to work for them and they could not get paid for working for someone else. They agreed to make wooden nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollars. It was money based on trust in one another to help one another.
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Swallow Bridge

Patricia and Patrick moved The C Shop to its present location in 1979.  The building was a favorite nesting spot for Barn Swallows. The Pats did not mind the swallows nesting in the back and sides of the building, but they were bothered by the fact that some of the swallows insisted on nesting in front of the building on the lower porch. Patrick tried to encourage more swallows to nest in the sides and at the back of the building by supplying them with swallow nest boxes. The Pats found they had some success with the nest boxes even though now and then a nest would show up on the porch. Then in 1987 house sparrows moved into the swallow nest boxes. Patrick was bewildered. The sparrows had taken over all the nest boxes in the back and sides of the building. Were the Barn Shallows forced out?  Where did they go to nest? The truth eventually revealed itself. The swallows moved their nests under the new concrete bridge built in 1986 to replace the old wooden one. The county calls it Terrell Creek Bridge.

Do you know how many bridges are on Terrell Creek? I don’t.  I do know the swallows return to their bridge every May for nesting, so I and others call it Swallow Bridge.

History as if it meant something 

In June of 1792 at the age of 36 Caption George Vancouver was discovered at Birch Bay by the Lummi, Nooksack, and Semiahmoo local nations. The natives had become aware of another group in the area, the Spanish. The Spaniards and the British became aware of each other. This happened one night when the Spanish were sailing north from Sucia Island into Boundary Bay.  They saw the lights of the Discovery and the armed tender Chatham anchored in Birch Bay and the Spanish recorded the sighting in their log book. The British became aware of the Spanish because of the lights on the Spanish ships as they sailed north in the dark. The British recorded the sighting in their log book.
When the Spanish and the English finally met they decided to share information on the North West.

The sturdy ship Discovery ended her service as a coal ship on the Thames River in England. So why it is the Birch Bay Chamber celebrates Discovery Days in late August?


Link to George Vancouver

Sandcastles at Birch Bay
 (70’s. 80’s, & 90’s)

As I have said before, about 1971 or 72 Paul Gaudette (who had been doing sandcastle contests at Birch Bay for several years) handed the responsibility of organizing and conducting the sandcastle contests at Birch Bay over to me.
As I organized the sandcastle contests, they evolved. We did not have sand castle contests on weekends or holidays. Businesses were already busy and at capacity on these days. Having an event midweek encouraged people to come when it wasn’t so busy and made sense (& dollars) by boosting a mid-week gross. We did not choose first-place, second-place, and third-place castles. My argument was that you get mediocrity by choosing a first prize because then everyone copies it and that’s mediocrity. Actually, it is a little presumptuous of me to think I could pick a first, second, and third best of anything. But even more importantly, it meant we didn’t have to require the contestants to be in one spot so the judges could compare castles.
Participants could build anywhere between Shore Acres Resort (now Jacob’s Landing) and Bay Center Resort. (I always believed in a decentralized Birch Bay.) We did go through the beach in an organized fashion so we knew which areas of the beach we had covered. The judges carried a pole with a flag (big blue trash bag) on it so the participants could see the judges coming. If there was a large crowd, there were 2 sets of judges, one going north from the lanes area and one going south from the Bay Center area. When they met in the middle they knew all the castles had been covered.
We did not limit the number of people building each castle. (That way we did not have to police it.) Larger and better-executed castles got more valuable prizes which were sometimes shared by their builders. Every castle got at least one prize (even a little kid with a pile of sand in front of him), but nobody got a huge prize and there were no money or trophy prizes. Even though we did not assign a specific area for the castles, we did keep a count of each castle or sculpture and how many participants built it . We did talk to the participants. We particularly worked to encourage the children to tell us about their castles or sculptures. Each participant got a couple of prizes–usually a small toy and a coupon for an item at a Birch Bay business. The businesses chose what to give. They might give 1 or 2 larger prizes (especially for groups) and several smaller prizes. Either they provided the coupons or I made the coupons for them.
It was a fun way for families to enjoy the beach. The Chamber (originally the Resort Association) did spend some money for the small prizes and the event was not a fundraiser except for the added sales it brought to the businesses.

Ethiopia and Sand Castles

This summer I met a man and woman from Ethiopia on the porch of The C Shop. I was excited to meet them. Because, back in the early days of The C Shop when I took over Birch Bay’s sand castle contests from Paul Gaudette, it resulted in a challenging experience that involved royalty from Ethiopia. The C Shop was in our third year at Barb and Ernie Jacobs’ Shore Acres Resort which was located where Jacobs Landing now stands. I had done one sand castle contest with Paul’s help so I knew how they worked. I was ready to do another. The idea was to do the contest in the middle of the week when things were not that busy at Birch Bay. With Paul’s help, I picked a low tide and I also made a 3 by 3 poster saying “Sand Castle Contest Tuesday.” I also made badges for most employees at Birch Bay that said, “Sand Castle Contest Tuesday. Ask Me.” When that Tuesday arrived Patricia was sick. I took our two small boys to The C Shop so they could be in the sand castle contest. I opened the shop. I had my prizes for the sand castle contest in a bucket. Things were going OK at the shop. Then we had surprise visitors. A small bus pulled up in front of The C Shop. Patricia’s older cousin, Gladys, piled out of the bus with 21 grandchildren of Emperor Haile Selassie. Gladys had brought the children from Ethiopia and she was showing them the North West. The children were excited to tour The C Shop and I was excited to show it to them. Their eyes danced with excitement as we moved quickly about the small shop. I had to move quickly–judging time was near and I knew I was cutting it close on the tides. It was the second Sand Castle Contest of the season and the tide would be coming in faster than the first contest two weeks earlier. I had sent our two young children to build their castle. I ushered Haile Selassie’s grandchildren out to their bus, gave Gladys a couple of bags of candy for the children, bid them farewell, and turned my attention to the beach. The beach was packed with people and sandcastles. I felt it was like a mall at Christmas time packed with people. I threw myself into the fray. I was judging sand castles left and right fighting against the rising tide and ignoring Keith’s and Burton’s castle until the last. The tide made it to my boys’ castle before I did. Their eyes were awash with tears. I felt completely inadequate as a father. On top of that, a well-dressed lady on the beach reprimanded me for allowing those two little boys’ castle to be swept away by the tide. I sent the boys up higher on the beach to build a second castle which I judged. That Sand Castle Contest was a learning experience for me.


How Swim Suits Evolved Over Time Evan at Birch Bay

Wooden Nickels Helped Blaine Weather The Great Depression

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