Feeling A Sense Of Place

I took a walk today in one of my favorite places on Vashon, the Upper Shinglemill Creek Trail. Once you enter the ravine you are taken back in time and as usual I was reminded of the following passage from my grandfather’s journal. He wrote “I can remember going to Sunday School. Believe it or not, I did, I don’t know if it did me any good or not. Mel, Flo, and I would go through Cedarhurst and walk the beach to Colvos hoping the tide wasn’t in. The Colvos Church and home again that was a days work, no road at that time.”   shinglemill cedarCedar Tree, Shinglemill Creek Trail, Brian Brenno photo

When I walk the Shinglemill trail I imagine my grandpa heading west on a trail from the family house on the north side of Lande’s Corner and following Needle Creek down to where it meets Shinglemill Creek and then following it to the beach, most likely nearly the same route as the current Shinglemill Creek Trail. Knowing about my grandfather’s experience walking the same part of Vashon, bonds me to the place and the place becomes part of me. I think Native Peoples had a cool way of naming places that reflected what went on there, old time lore, and personal experiences. That’s kinda how I feel about places on Vashon. Shinglemill  Creek would be – Place My Grandpa Walked That Takes Me Back In Time. Old Highway SW is one spot on the Island where you can go briefly back in time and drive on a little chunk of Vashon’s first cement road paved back in 1920 and used up until 1965. The road happens to go right in front of the house my Great Grandpa built after the family moved here in 1918. 2Brenno House, Old Highway SW, Brenno family photo

My Great Grandma’s sister lived across the street and down a few houses. They could see each others houses so when it was time for the daily coffee klatch whoever was hosting that day would raise a towel on the front porch to let the other know it was time. I knew them both, they were sweet Norwegian ladies and fed me Krumkake. synove ggrandmaSisters, Synove Abrahamsen, Brenno family photo.

Betty Brenno I live right down the street and my kids took their first bike rides down Old Highway Sw, the same road their great grandpa and grandpa did. How could a name like Old Highway SW possibly describe a place that has so much meaning for me tied up into it? For me it’s like that all over the Island, history, people, memories are all tied up with my sense of place. We have lost a lot of buildings on Vashon but I’m thrilled to drive the Main Road (I hate the Vashon Highway SW name) between town and Burton and see at least eleven 100 year old buildings, not including houses. Uptown;  Hardware Store, Liquor Store, Valise and Presbyterian Church.DSC09066 Center;  Blue Heron, Minglement, Old Fuller Store. King County tax photostherkelsonsBurton; Burton Church, Masonic Hall, Old Burton Hotel, Burton Store,       King County tax photosburton 1930s2 I grew up on Vashon in the twilight of what I would call the “old Vashon” days. When I see these buildings I feel a connection to all that past. It grounds me and helps me deal with change on the Island to have these buildings still around. I fell like I am part of Vashon and Vashon is part of me. My wife and kids feel the same so we all got Vashon tattoo’s. Mine has the Norwegian word for home, Hjem in a nod to the Brenno’s that came from Norway. IMG_0334 My Tattoo, Brian Brenno photo

What Vashon means to me is roots, to me it’s not just a nice place to live, it goes much deeper. I have a connection of a lifetime of shared experiences with other Islanders, a sense of community, place and history. I have a place in this big crazy world where I truely feel Hjem.

4 thoughts on “Feeling A Sense Of Place”

  1. I loved reading this, Brian. I remember going past your grandparent’s place on the old road. Lande’s Corner and The Old Road went hand in hand. Your story was great and I am going to follow your entries! (P.S. No “i” in Lande’s)

  2. I enjoyed your posting. And I love the old picture of what became my dad’ s pharmacy , beginning in 1955. During that time Matt Morresey had the meat market in the middle of the building and at the north end was the little Burton Library.

  3. Thanks for the great post. I’ve only been here 3 years (White Center and Burien since 1959), but I love reading about the Island’s history.

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