Memories of Olympia in the 1920s and 1930s

by Mary Zindt

My brothers and I spent the summers doing farm chores.  A hike to McAllister Springs was always included during summer vacation.  It was about two miles from home.  We went through a tunnel under Old Pacific Highway and then on a trail to the pristine, beautiful springs.

This natural gushing fountain of crystal clear water flowed over colorful pebbles to form McAllister Creek.  Nature had landscaped this area with vine maple trees, salmon berry bushes and smaller plants.  In the Fall, hordes of salmon fought their way upstream to this place to spawn.

An elderly man, Mr. King, boarded and roomed with us for a while.  One day he took me to Olympia to see the parade of Circus animals up 4th Avenue.  The elephants were huge!  We didn’t to go to the circus and returned home.

In 1925 my family moved to a wooded 10 acres along a 2-lane gravel road (now Sleater-Kinney Road).  I had just graduated from the 8th grade from McAllister School.  There was seasonal work at the Olympia Canning Co. (peeling pears by hand, operating apple peeling machine, etc.)  Many women worked there, many as young as I (18).

My education had been disrupted.  One day I decided that I would like to attend Business College.  We didn’t have funds for this.  However, an uncle in Chicago said he would help.  Daily transportation was not available.  Pacific Highway was about a mile away.  But somehow I managed.  My day had secured a contract hauling U.S. mail by truck from the Nisqually Railroad Station to Olympia.  He left home at midnight and returned in late morning.  On Thursday afternoons he made a trip from the Olympia Post Office to Shelton Post Office in his Hudson touring car.  Sometimes I would skip an afternoon class and enjoy the tour to Shelton.

The country was still in a deep Depression.  As I became proficient at typing and shorthand I found temporary work.  Carlton Sears had four Rexall Drug Stores in Olympia.  The main store was at Capitol Way and 5th Avenue where I worked half days “jerking” sodas at the lunch counter and helping Mrs. Sears with bookkeeping in the office upstairs.  Later on there was a half day job at the Ready Mix Concrete plant in the Port of Olympia area.  The office was in a trailer (two small rooms), but no restrooms!!

The foundation of our new house was concrete from this Ready Mix plant.

By this time I had purchased my first car, a used Pontiac sedan.  The Washington State Licensing Department was giving a test for typists.  I passed the test and was hired.

The typewriter in the Department was partly electric (there was a carriage return button and lever for advancing the carriage to the next blank form).  An early version of the electric typewriter?

Finally my employment became more permanent.  I now had enough income to repay my uncle.  Besides the monetary assistance, it encouraged me on my life’s journey, an impetus moving me forward at a time the United States was experiencing a deep Depression.

Mary Zindt was born in 1910 in DuPont, WA to Catherine and Emil Zindt, one of the first babies born in DuPont.  Emil worked for the DuPont Powder Company which had come to DuPont in 1909.  The first lived in DuPont, then moved to a house on Reservation Road.

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