Her grandfather, Andrew Olson, arrived to homestead in 1886. The Buckell greatgrandparents and her Bill grands and great-grands came from Alberta, Canada, in 1908 and 1911 to settle in Vaughn. Today many think Sunnycrest Farm is in Key Center, but Olson considered it Vaughn. Phyllis, born where sister Joyce Niemann now lives, says her birth certificate reads Vaughn.
Olsons had a chick hatchery when Phyllis was young. Her mother checked eggs for embryos and threw out those that had none. “It was really the only farm work Mother did, because she was busy with five kids, cooking and all the rest,” she says. The children were put to bed on bales of hay in the hatchery if necessary.
Phyllis’ dad sold his “Sunnycrest Chicks” all over the peninsula. Most people raised chickens, but his was the only chick hatchery around.
Phyllis recalls being fascinated by the visit of the “sexer” who arrived when the chicks were a day old. He divided the roosters from the pullets, and put them in separate bins.
“We always had plenty to eat and work to do,” she says of the depression years.
“People didn’t have much money, but my folks did all right. They bought a new car in 1934, another in ‘36, and another in ‘37.
“The barber (Ray Bond) traded haircuts for eggs,” Phyllis says. The Schaak family brought soda pop and left with eggs. “Dad had a big bull with a ring in his nose, and many people on the peninsula had family cows. They brought them to Dad to be serviced. He charged $2,” she says.
The kids were excited when someone brought his cow, because it meant they could go to the movies. “We went to a lot of movies,” Phyllis remembers. “Port Orchard Theatre was closest. They sent out postcards with the features for the month. On Family Night, you could take the whole family in for $1. Grandpa Frank used to load his car with kids. Or our folks would.”
There was always work on the farm. Phyllis and brother Don packed a case of eggs every day, and to earn money for 4th of July fireworks, hosed potatoes. A dollar each was a lot of spending money then.
The Olson siblings, with their Froelich cousins, went to Glencove School through eighth grade. Eight grades with 16 to 20 children, no electricity, no running water, outhouses down the hill. A pump was on the porch for water.
“Everybody played everything — baseball, touch football...” because there were so few students.
“Track Meet Day” each spring was a big event. The whole school participated, and they practiced for weeks ahead. “Running — 50 and 100 yards — ball throw, shot put, pole vaulting — we had it all,” she says. Glencove, Vaughn, Lakebay, and Longbranch grade schools competed, and ribbons were awarded. The top three winners for each event later went to Gig Harbor to compete.
“I think summers were longer and hotter and winters were colder then,” Phyllis says. They did a lot of ice skating and sledding in the winter. Summer meant swimming, bonfires, beach parties, picnics, “and ball games on Sunday afternoon,” often umpired by Uncle D’Arcy.
Phyllis loved the community dances where children were taken. When the dance floor wax was sprinkled, the children were encouraged to slide around to make it ready for dancing. Young ones went to sleep on benches along the walls.
“Mother insisted we have music lessons,” Phyllis says. She took piano for awhile, but it didn’t last.
In the ‘30s, Florence Holman had a harmonica band and all the kids loved it. Phyllis took accordion lessons. Brother Ed played trombone and Don had a trumpet.
“We were never bored,” Phyllis says. “We had lots of cousins and friends around. There was always something to do.”
Phyllis is glad she’s lived where and when she has. “I had roots,” she says with a smile. And still does.
UNDERWRITTEN BY NEWSMATCH/MIAMI FOUNDATION, THE ANGEL GUILD, ROTARY CLUB OF GIG HARBOR, ADVERTISERS, DONORS AND PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT LOCAL, INDEPENDENT NONPROFIT NEWS