In September 2011, I was contacted by Joyce Agee from the University of Washington Libraries staff regarding 53 historic newsreels, mostly from the Harbor area. Thanks to funding from the Apex Foundation, the University of Washington was able to digitize the newsreels from the original 35MM nitrate. Nicolette Bromberg, visual materials curator and Agee, associate director of advancement, were interested in showing them at a local venue and had a potential sponsor for a documentary (the Apex Foundation is generously funding the documentary). This is how I became part of this project, in my capacity as a board member of the 7th Street Theatre Association.
The newsreels are online at http://content.lib.washington.edu/filmarchweb/aberdeen.html and entitled Newsfilm of Grays Harbor County, ca. 1925-33. (Also available for viewing at the Polson Museum.) The newsreels contain footage from numerous events including a marriage at the Grays Harbor County Fair, the sinking of the tugboat Harbor Queen in the Hoquiam River, Aberdeen-Hoquiam football games, a huge public gathering and barbecue, the opening of the Aberdeen-Willapa Highway, Aberdeen Fire Department drills, cows herded through Elma and the grand opening of Finch Playfield (featuring Edward Finch). One of the films, which made its way around on the Internet in the past year, shows a group of local school children in a somber gathering, circling around a fire and burning a piece of paper.
The newsreels were donated to the UW Libraries Special Collections by a Seattle couple who had bought them at an estate sale in Seattle in 2004. This digital collection was researched and prepared by the UW Libraries Special Collections Division in 2010. The year of the film and description was provided in the original films, but there was no detail. What were these children doing? Why was there a marriage at the Grays Harbor County Fair and who was this couple? Where was this barbecue that was attended by thousands? What’s the history of the newsreels themselves? Stepping up to find the answers to these questions was Roy Vataja, a local historian and long-time volunteer at the Aberdeen Museum of History. Vataja has spent countless hours researching newspaper articles at the Aberdeen Library and consulting Polk directories for information about these films.
One of Vataja’s first and most important finds was the article in the Sept. 17, 1925, edition of the Aberdeen Daily World, entitled Screen to Show Harbor Events. The article states “A newsreel of recent Harbor events will be shown next week by the Anderson Photo Company, it was announced by C. D. Anderson today,” and “It is planned to show the pictures every week if the news happenings will warrant it. If not, they will be shown as often as possible. It is expected that this new project will be well liked by the theater-going population of the city as Harbor theater managers say that news reels are among the most popular of the extra attractions shown.” The first newsreel was shown at the Weir Theatre in Aberdeen in October 1925 and featured the Smith Dairy team at the Elma fair, a children’s parade, Aberdeen winning the baseball championship of the Timber League, Mrs. Jean B. Stewart celebrating the 50th anniversary of her arrival in Aberdeen, the Lake Quinault suspension bridge and the new Camp Fire Girls home at Roosevelt Park (now Sam Benn Park).
Vataja has discovered numerous articles about the events in the newsreels. John Larson of the Polson Museum, Dann Sears of the Aberdeen Museum, and local businessmen /historians Tom Quigg and George Donovan have also provided historical information about the films.
One big question remains unanswered: What happened to C.D. Anderson? Vataja discovered that C.D. (Charles) Anderson had a photography studio at 114-1/2 E. Wishkah in 1924. In March 1926 he moved his studio to 119 E. Heron, and in 1935 it was located at 104 W. Heron. After that he ceases to appear in the Polk Directories. We are attempting to find out if anyone has any information about Mr. Anderson. If you may know what happened to him, please contact Joyce Agee at the University of Washington Libraries (206-616-6521), the Polson Museum (533-5862) or the Aberdeen Museum (533-1976).
The newsreels will be used as part of a documentary, under the direction of Ann Coppel, Producer/Writer/Director at UWTV, and will be shown at the 7th St. Theatre in Hoquiam on March 9 of next year. There is a plan to make the documentary available on DVD.
Mickey Thurman has lived on the Harbor all her life and is the vice president of the 7th Street Theatre Association.