From Pioneer Stock: Bob Tachell and Marthann Tachell Swanson, fourth generation on family property


Colleen Slater, KP News

Ralph (Bob) Tachell and his sister, Marthann Tachell Swanson, live on the Key Peninsula, where they grew up.

The Tachell family arrived in America from England in 1863, settled in Michigan, but some eventually headed west.

Roy, father of the Key Peninsula clan, rafted from Spokane to Kennewick in 1920 with a brother, parents and grandparents. He arrived in Kennewick in time to meet and marry Clara Mae McCurdy. Her family had just moved from Seattle.

McCurdy family history dates back to the mid-1400s on the Isle of Bute, Scotland, and claims lineage with Robert the Bruce and other kings and queens of Scotland and France.

A father and four sons came to America in 1752 to escape religious persecution. Some moved to Washington in the early 1900s.

Clara (always called Mae) McCurdy’s parents, John and Lulu McCurdy, bought a section of land on the Key Peninsula in 1925, near Glencove. When Mae and family arrived a few years later, they were given seven acres. Mae’s uncle, Ace McCurdy, a Gig Harbor barber, bought the Elgin school and converted it into a home.

Roy, along with his five brothers and dad, was a house painter and paper hanger.

“He painted most of Key Center,” said Marthann. “Hipp’s, Visell’s…and he did the first coat of paint on the antique store.” He painted government houses at the Bremerton Navy Yard, and later the interior of Grand Coulee Dam and government houses there. He painted for people around the Key Center area, in exchange for garden plowing, meat, and produce.

Roy and Mae had 10 children — Mary Mae, Roy (Bud), Lloyd, Geneva, Kenneth, Bob, Jessie, Betty, Elmer, and Marthann.

Bob did his first painting job as a teen, with his dad. “I made up my mind I wasn’t going to be a painter,” he said.

The Tachell children dug clams, picked berries, fished, and also did exchange work. Oscar Boquist cut his hay with a scythe, and the Tachell boys helped load it in the wagon. Their pay was in apples and Bing cherries.

Mae Tachell always had a big garden. “Mom canned 100 quarts of everything,” said Marthann. Fruits, vegetables, meat. She smoked salmon, too.

“If I had 25 cents,” said Bob, “I’d go to the Sunday afternoon matinee in the Gig Harbor Theatre…. Bon-Bons were a nickel, popcorn another nickel. The movie was 10 cents.” They usually walked, although if a driver knew them, he’d pick them up.

Bob often hiked with a friend to fish at Rocky and Coulter creeks. “We always went to Horseshoe Lake on the first of April to start swimming,” Marthann said.

Bob spent four years in the Army, then was a traveling license examiner in Eastern Washington. He drove a ‘52 Ford with “Happy Birthday!” painted on the side.

Later, he cooked at and managed three fish and chips shops at Fort Lewis, the Gig Harbor Broiler for seven years, and was at the Boat House, Point Defiance, until it burned. Other jobs included Yukon Jack’s in Seattle and San Clemente, Calif., and Metropolitan Park Concessions in Tacoma. He enjoyed the Point Defiance jobs the most, working mostly with young people.

“It was a fun place to work,” he said. “A rib-eye was $1.45, fish and chips, 35 cents, a burger 30 cents, and piece of pie, 25 cents.”

Marthann became a cosmetologist. Later she helped her mom in the Bow and Arrow Café, did food service and catering for Eagles, worked in the Peninsula High School café when her kids attended there, at a Shell deli and Kentucky Fried Chicken. She now manages the Huckleberry Inn restaurant in Key Center, which she’s owned for about 13 years.

She and her husband, Bill Swanson, a commercial fisherman, had their own beef, went hunting, fishing, and like her mom, had a big garden. “I canned thousands of cans” every year, she said.

Bob, Marthann and Lloyd are all who remain of the 10 siblings. Lloyd, 82, recently drove from his Oklahoma home to the Vaughn Union High School reunion and back again.

Marthann was born in the family home north of Glencove. “Mom was supposed to have a card party the day I was born,” she said. “Nobody knew she was pregnant.”

Marthann’s daughter, Teresa, now lives in that house, built by her Tachell grandparents, on land once owned by her McCurdy great-grandparents.