JENNIFER JACKSON’S PORT TOWNSEND NEIGHBOR COLUMN: Teen’s turn-of-century journal goes home

HE LOVED MUSIC, being outdoors, going to the Rose Theatre and staying up late.

He hated getting up early, going to school and the idea of celebrating a “sane” Fourth of July.

But when Albert Schanz quit school and went to work for his father, he discovered that life had taken an ugly turn.

“I have to get up at 6 o’clock now,” he wrote. “Papa wants me to get down to the [grocery] store. That means I have to go to bed at half past nine . . . it is hard business.”

Albert was a typical Port Townsend teenager, a fact that is apparent from his journal, which he started on Jan. 21, 1909, his 18th birthday.

A century later, Gail McNealy, a local antiques dealer, bought the journal from a person who came into her shop, Olympic Art and Antiques.

McNealy read the journal, much of which covers the next two years of Albert’s life, and was fascinated by the view of life it offered of life in Port Townsend 100 years ago.

Knowing the address of the family home from the journal, she drove up and rang the bell.

No one was home, so she left a note in the door SEmD “OFFERING TO GIVE THE CURRENT OWNERS THE JOURNAL” SEmD with her phone number.

But when McNealy didn’t hear anything for two weeks, she thought the note had blown away in the wind.

Then she got a call from Kent and Paula Zimmerman, who had been on vacation.

The couple, who bought the house three years ago, were happy to accept.

“We don’t have any family or ancestors in Port Townsend, but we really like it here,” Paula Zimmerman said.

“To find the house, then find that connection, was really cool. It seemed to connect us with the town more.”

Sitting at the dining room table of the family home after his parents had gone up to bed, 18-year-old Albert filled the lines of a leather-bound ledger with his thoughts and details of his daily life.

In his first entry, he recorded that he quit school and went to work at his father’s grocery store, for which he was paid $1 a day for 10 hours.

In the evenings, Albert attended concerts and shows at the Rose Theatre.

In February, he got a half-day holiday for the 100th anniversary celebration of Lincoln’s birthday, observed by a program of “different musical numbers” at the First Presbyterian Church.

Albert also wrote of getting an ice cream at Sofie’s Store and playing pool with Willie McGee, who was the church janitor.

Details of daily life

The name rang a bell with McNealy.

Willie’s family once owned the building on Water Street where her shop, around the corner from the Pizza Factory, is now.

“I’m sitting in the McGee building,” McNealy said. “It was a bus barn.”

Like all teenagers, Albert discovered the value of a dollar once he had to earn it himself.

He complained when the Rose Theatre raised admission from a dime to 15 cents.

He noted that he had to pay double the cost for the Times newspaper, which was 5 cents, because of the large edition on the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition.

Albert wrote of going down to the dock and catching the overnight boat to Seattle to attend the exposition and to visit doctors, seeking a cure for his sinus problems.

He also went by boat to visit his maternal grandparents, Elliott and Sara Beaumont, in Port Angeles, walking up from town to their cabin in the foothills.

Returning from PA

He returned by boat, but after a visit one summer, Albert decided to walk back to Port Townsend, arriving in Sequim the first evening, where he paid 25 cents for a dinner of eggs, bread and coffee.

He spent the night in a hotel, and after being roused by the management at 6 a.m. the next morning, for which reason he had no idea, he bought a 5-cent can of sardines to eat for breakfast.

In July, he scoffed at the new rules for the Fourth of July SEmD no fireworks, no whistling bombs, no firecrackers SEmD only a band concert and a two-block horse race.

Despite his sinus trouble, Albert smoked SEmD he complained that the clerks in his father’s store threw him out the door when he lit up.

He also drank whiskey, something his father frowned upon.

Alfred also became addicted to the morphine prescribed following surgery on his sinuses, and in February of 1915, after a year’s break from journaling, he recorded that his father had sent him to the Keeley Clinic the previous October and that he is now “out of it,” meaning the drug habit.

He also noted that Pastor Charles Taze Russell’s predictions have come true, writing, “So far as the greater part of the ‘civilized’ world is plunged into war.”

“He was a square peg in a round hole,” McNealy said of Albert.

Lost at love?

McNealy thinks that Albert also lost at love.

He alludes to a girl named Josephine and a secret that will someday be revealed.

At first, McNealy thought he was referring to Josephine Haller, who Albert gave informal music and diction lessons to.

But Albert made these allusions after he walks to the Eisenbeis house, leading McNealy to suspect that he was carrying a torch for Josephine Eisenbeis.

Pages torn out of the journal may have expressed his feelings for Josephine, who married another.

Albert seems never to have found a direction in life and apparently was estranged from his father.

When he died in 1943 in Port Angeles at the age of 52, his body was returned to Port Townsend, where it was buried not at Laurel Grove next to his father but in Redmen’s Cemetery at public expense.

McNealy was moved by Alfred’s story.

“I think he wants to be understood,” she said.

Wanting to know more, McNealy and the Zimmermans visited the Beaumont cabin, which was moved to just inside Olympic National Park and restored by the Clallam County Historical Society.

McNealy also asked Louise Frombach, a volunteer at Redmen’s Cemetery, if she knew where Albert’s grave was.

To find out about that and more about the house, Paula and Louise went to the Jefferson County Historical Society.

The grave has not been found, but from records, they learned that the house was built by Albert’s father, Otto Schanz, a German immigrant who arrived in Port Townsend the year of Albert’s birth.

Albert’s father

Otto was a stonemason who did stonework in the county courthouse and the Customs House, now the post office.

His business, Key City Marble, Stone and Granite, was located on the property near the courthouse until he built the house, which he placed on a foundation of stone blocks.

Otto then went into the grocery business, opening a store in the Elks Building that he sold to Fred Eisenbeis in 1902, after which Otto opened another store on the bluff.

According to newspaper accounts, Otto Schanz was appointed to the City Council and served as the county game warden from 1918 to 1927, the year he died.

Albert wrote of attending the swearing in of Walter Rutz as mayor of Port Townsend, and during a visit to Port Angeles, attending a banquet of the “Peninsula Get-Together Movement” with the governor and Rutz in attendance.

The final entry of Albert’s journal is dated Nov. 20, 1938, in which he recorded that he had not written for more than 23 years.

He is sitting in the old living room, he wrote. His mother has gone up to bed, and as happens so often on nights in late November, “the wind is howling like fury.”


Jennifer Jackson writes about Port Townsend and Jefferson County every Wednesday. To contact her with items for this column, phone 360-379-5688 or e-mail

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