History – Slack Family

Pearl Slack phone interview – 1/9/2006

Three generations of Slack family moved to Coyle about 1943. The family included; Fred Gregory Slack (often referred to as Fred Junior), wife Pearl, Fred’s parents, Fred Garfield Slack (often known as Fred Senior), and his wife Ella Mae, and Fred and Pearl’s first child, George.

Fred and Pearl first rented the big Johnson farm at the head of Fisherman’s Harbor where they kept a cow, and some chickens. Later they purchased approximately twenty acres from the County for back taxes and built their own home. The family, in-laws, and neighbors helped cut the trees and built a log cabin that was their home for about ten years.

Coyle did not have electricity, indoor plumbing, or phones when the Slack’s first arrived. Later crank telephones were available that went only as far as neighbors with no long distant service for some time. Two or three neighbors sometimes got on the phone and talked to each other at the same time.

Fred drove the school bus that transported the Coyle children back and forth to Quilcene School. The old schoolhouse was still standing by this time, but no longer used for educational purposes.

Pearl delivered main between Coyle and Dabob Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. She started out her day by picking up mail at mailboxes all the way up to Dabob. Once there, she would be met by staff of the Port Townsend Post Office who brought down the mail as far as Dabob. On her return trip home, Pearl delivered the new mail to the same mailboxes along the road and sometimes down dirt side roads as well.

The roads that Pearl and Fred traveled were no more than a singlewide gravel road in rough condition. When Fred drove down around curves he would blow his horn so that people coming would know to move over for the bus. It was almost impossible for the bus to turn around in some areas. Pearl drove a variety of vehicles on her route. She often drove the family jeep, and was also known to have driven, cars, farm trucks, and even an army 6×6 truck. It was usually the jeep.

Once Pearl got to Dabob for the mail, she would sometimes go on in to Quilcene to pick up groceries for neighbors. One time she had a fifty-pound sack of potatoes on the hood of the jeep, had her brother-in-law riding with her, and ended up bringing back the school kids, teacher, and the mail all piled into the jeep. When the school bus broke down on another occasion she did the same, transported kids and teacher to the school.

One snowy day, she started up a hill when the tires spun out. She flipped over with the jeep and the mail waiting for someone to come by the seldom-used road. As it turned out two men that were out picking Huckleberry brush to sell at the Quilcene brush plant found her, tipped the jeep back over and off she went on her way along the mail route and home again.

Pearls’ children often road the mail route with her when they were not staying with their grandmother. The Slacks had eleven children, seven of which were born locally; George, Don, Caroline, Harold, Jackie, Lorraine, Mara, Kathy, Sherry, and Rita (who was the eleventh?)

The old school house was used for community events. There were various holiday parties, anniversaries, and other special events held there. It was also the local polling place during elections.

There were not all that many people living around Coyle in the 40s and 50s. A few were fishermen going to Alaska each season. Lee Morgan worked for the county taking care of the roads. Lola Mae Eaton was a Quilcene schoolteacher. There were a couple of single men that leased or owned land on which they picked huckleberry brush to sell in Quilcene.

In the early days, people would pick brush just about anywhere, and then people started leasing particular parcels in order to keep other people off and to save the brush for their own harvesting. There were very few people that did not live in the area full time. Besides occasional community events, sharing phones and grocery pick up, people pretty much stated to themselves. Pearl remembers them all as being good neighbors.

Fred and Pearl Slack along with their growing family moved from their Coyle home around 1955. Fond memories and experiences of the ten years the Slack family lived in Coyle, fill a space in Pearls’ heart.