Pat Rodocker’s yard at 215 W. Sixth St. in Port Angeles is decorated seasonally with help from her son, Michael. (Iris Heston)

Pat Rodocker’s yard at 215 W. Sixth St. in Port Angeles is decorated seasonally with help from her son, Michael. (Iris Heston)

BACK WHEN: Columnist begins new project

After 10 years of writing ‘Back When,’ Alice Alexander says goodbye

WELL, THIS HAS been an interesting ride these past 10 years.

My column subjects have come from Neah Bay, Forks, Sekiu, Port Angeles and Sequim.

I have met many interesting people, some who responded to my column every month even when they did not recognize the photo.

Some of the regular contributors were Paul Lotzgesell, Paul Lamoureux, Margaret Livitan, Normand Gallacci and Al Brannin.

Others who popped in from time to time were Rosemary and Richard Deane, Ted Bedford, George Williams, Charles Riddle and Ron Wasnock.

There were many other names too numerous for me to mention.

The photos I have used came from a variety of places.

Kathy Estes at the Clallam History Center gave me access to several of their photos throughout the years.

Others sent me photos and asked if I could use them in columns.

But my dear friend, Rex Gerberding, provided me with the most. He came up with the most interesting photos. Some were copies from glass plates and others from his postcard collection.

It was a joint effort with many people providing different things necessary to put out a column.

When I first started writing for the PDN, my husband Carl did my editing.

He is an extremely talented wordsmith but we argued about what and how to correct.

I finally decided I would rather keep him as a friend and husband but not my editor.

I found a friend, Bernice Byrne, who went to school with me, but we did not know each other then as she was from town and I was from Dry Creek.

We got acquainted when she was volunteering at the Park Service and I was researching for one of my books.

When I asked her if she would like to edit my column, she said she would be honored, so that was the beginning of a wonderful relationship.

Once a month I would appear at her home with a copy of my column and she would get out her pencil and clipboard.

She always had lots of snacks and fresh coffee and we would spend the next two hours while I read her old Port Angeles Directories and she did her magic on my column.

Once that was completed, we had wonderful conversations about everything imaginable and always on a positive note.

Even though the column is ending we will continue this wonderful tradition we started.

There have been several ideas for columns I never managed to get together.

One of those ideas was Caroline Proulx’s Five Seasons Bed and Breakfast’s ghost.

The house originally belonged to John Trumbull, an early pioneer, and then the Smiths of Smith Bottling had it for many years.

The ghost has been known to ring the doorbell that was not hooked up and sit on the bed of guests.

It also turned on faucets and the shower in the middle of the night.

Proulx has owned the bed and breakfast for three years and these events happened in the first few months she lived there.

But it appears the ghost is happy with the residents because it is no longer making itself known.

Another column idea was the house at 215 W. Sixth St. in Port Angeles that is decorated each season.

I took several photos but could not figure out how to tie it to history, so this is the perfect opportunity to write about it.

The son, Michael, does the work with support from his mom, Pat Rodocker, the owner.

Rodocker has been decorating for at least 20 years, even before her husband died.

Her son came back to town about six years ago and he has been helping her.

The photo of the house does not do justice to the yard because it is full of spring color and Easter trees, etc.

During the years I have made errors in my columns which readers were quick to point out.

I have always tried to be as accurate as I could and I apologize for the errors.

Making mistakes is hard for any writer because often the mistakes are passed along as history; thus making history incorrect.

I have a new project now and that is working with old houses in Port Angeles.

I am trying to find their history and that is not very easy because there are not old records kept.

Sometimes it is a matter of asking neighbors what they remember.

The search is on for the McDonald Funeral Home.

It was at 115 W. Fourth St. in Port Angeles and moved along with two other houses to make room for Ridgeview Funeral Home. Later Ridgeview combined with Harper and it became Harper Ridgeview.

One of the other houses was moved farther down Fourth Street.

The cost was $5 plus moving.

McDonald Funeral Home also was moved but no one knows just where.

The city is trying to locate records but there is not a record for each individual house.

I am hoping someone will see it or someone will let me know that it is now their home.

The funeral home was unique because it had one story with the second story being smaller like a bonnet.

I want to say thank you to all readers who have enjoyed my walks into history and thanks for all the cards and messages.

I hope you have gained some knowledge of things you didn’t know.

Even though I am not doing the column anymore, feel free to email me things you have discovered about history because I am still researching our beautiful city and county.

Also, I am sure whomever takes over the column will love to hear from you all.


Alice Alexander is a Clallam County historian, author, and a descendent of an Elwha Valley pioneer family. She is a recipient of a 2014 Clallam County Heritage Award. She can be reached at [email protected].

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