Opinion

Happy 100th, Friday Harbor | Editorial

Happy birthday, Friday Harbor - Rob Pudim
Happy birthday, Friday Harbor
— image credit: Rob Pudim

Feb. 9 is Friday Harbor’s 100th birthday, and it’s our birthday too — all of us who call this place home — for we are all a part of the community and the culture and the history of this place.

First, a bit of a history lesson.

Friday Harbor residents voted 70-55 to incorporate their village as a fourth-class town on Feb. 2, 1909. The election results were certified by the Board of County Commissioners on Feb. 8, and incorporation became effective Feb. 9. The incorporation documents indicate the mayor and Town Council were sworn in Feb. 10. But according to Town Clerk Amy Taylor, “Feb. 13 (1909) is the first entry in the minutes. The minutes read ‘they swore their oath of office.’ ” The first Town Council meeting was Feb. 13, 1909.

Friday Harbor celebrates its birthday Feb. 9 — Monday — with a series of community parties. For schedules of events, see the special section in Wednesday's Journal of the San Juan Islands.

Now, what makes us different as a community? Consider this: Friday Harbor is on an island, separated from the mainland, in the northwesternmost county in the continental United States. We depend on each other more than residents of other communities do. We must stand together, or we fall.

This fact has been proven time and again over the last 100 years. This community has experienced fires, economic turmoil, and other personal and collective crises. But seldom if ever did anyone walk alone. Barn-raisings, figuratively speaking, are a part of a culture: As author Mike Vouri states in an interview in the centennial special section, this island is an extension of the American frontier. Surrounded by water, we essentially live together on a boat at sea. We stick together, or we sink together, he said.

Dr. David Kennedy, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and part-time island resident, wrote of this in the foreword to the book “Friday Harbor”:

“... few places seemed more likely than Friday Harbor to suffer the eventual fate of desertion and death that befell so many towns in the West in particular, where boom gave way to bust with cruel regularity,” Kennedy wrote.

“... Like other pioneers, Friday Harbor’s citizens flourished during various commodity cycles — timber, salmon, limestone, apples, pears — and repeatedly faced ruin when they exhausted the resource or more efficient producers came to dominate the market.

“Yet through it all Friday Harbor had one resource that was inexhaustible and unique: the stunning beauty of its location, mantled with forest and prairie, surrounded by sea, and jacketed on the horizon by the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges. Here is an aesthetic and spiritual frontier that will never close.”

As we go forward into our second century since township was approved by voters — during a time of economic uncertainty — we would do well to remember those attributes that helped our community survive challenges in the past: Natural resources that sustain us, a beautiful environment that nurtures our souls, and an assurance that in giving to our community we do indeed receive. And, finally, that no matter what confronts us, our greatest strength will be our ability to stand and work together.

Happy birthday, Friday Harbor.

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