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The Mother of Progress Finds Home mailbox and the entrance to a driveway covered in pine needles and moss are visible. Don’t ask me which direction is my own home because I no longer know, but I do know that Home is somewhere farther down this road. I talked my wife into taking this Sunday drive because I’ve never been to Home. We crossed the Narrows Bridge, followed Highway Sixteen to Purdy, and then drove across the spit, passing a huge mound of oyster shells just beside the bay. At the end of the long narrow sand bar, the land sharply scooped the road upward and after a few curves, began loosely unspooling down the peninsula. Each succeeding fog patch has dissolved my faith that where I’m going is somehow connected to where I’ve been. Our house in Tacoma no longer seems just a short drive behind us. Emily has not been feeling well lately, troubled by a heavy fatigue and vaguely upset stomach, so we don’t talk much as we drive. I try to pay attention to my surroundings, but because this is my first time here, I don’t absorb much. On the right side of the road, we approach a piece of equipment that looks like it was used to haul logs, an arch with two wheels on either side, its yellow paint grimed over with disuse. Then comes a little brown sign that reads “Welcome to Home” and a quick succession of small buildings and businesses. I notice in particular the vintage yellow and brown sign for Home Grocery and Feed, then the newer-looking fire station, and the wooden frame of a diner called Lulu’s Homeport Restaurant and Lounge. We turn at the blinking light and drive along the bay, the houses situated on the slope above us, a hodgepodge of buildings from various eras. It looks like any other waterfront community on Puget Sound. We go to the end of the drive, turn around and park near the boat launch beside the bare canes of the blackberry bushes. The three men who founded Home would have seen only trees when they gazed upon this spot over a century ago from the water. As they pulled the oars through the water, they found a narrow bay with a brook flowing into its head and wooded hills rising on either side. At high tide, the calm, blue-green water sometimes resembled a pond in its stillness, but strong wind could bring slate-colored chop dappled with white foam. Low tide revealed a muddy, flat bottom, bountiful with shellfish. Except for a small clearing on the south side of the bay, Douglas fir and cedar trees covered the land. As they assessed the slope from the water, the founders of Home envisioned the trees gone and an anarchist utopia in its place.

IN THE SUMMER OF 1896, Sylvia Allen held her fourth daughter, named Glennis for the place she was born, wrapped tightly in a blanket against the cool breeze. The engine thrummed through her body as she and her family rode the steamer to Home for the first time. Gazing toward the stern of the Typhoon, she could see the dissipating trail of wood smoke following the vessel and its wake rolling across the waters of Commencement Bay. The Allens had remained in Tacoma through the winter and spring so that George could continue to draw his teacher’s salary and keep up the payments on the land, but now they were finally following the Odells and Veritys. Through tall windows, she watched Tacoma’s wharfs recede into the fog of the factories and mills. The benches inside were polished from the passengers who had ridden this steamship first in Portland, then in Grays Harbor, and now on the TacomaHenderson Bay route. Inside the long passenger cabin, the family’s belongings were stacked in trunks that also vibrated to the motor. The smoke of the city eventually gave way to the wooded bluffs of Point Defiance. Here the ship turned, the propeller churning the emerald water as it angled for its run through the Tacoma Narrows. As her three other daughters explored the boat for the first time, perhaps pressing against the guardrail on the rear deck to watch the tiny whirlpools following the ship, what was left unsaid between Sylvia and her husband George? While baby Glennis cooed and wriggled in her arms, what was expressed in glances? Photographs of Sylvia show her as an unsmiling woman. It was the style at the time to sit expressionless, or even frown, in portraits, but she doesn’t look like a woman who smiled easily. In her younger years, she had brown hair, a round face, and a slender build, but as she raised her four daughters, her hair peppered with gray and her frame became more solid. Eventually, she would resemble a hard-working pioneer woman. Unlike many women of her generation, she had graduated from college—she was the first woman to graduate with a four-year degree from the University of Toronto. While in school, she was introduced to many of the radical ideas circulating among the educated set. “My personal emancipation during my college years consisted of abandoning my corsets and refusing to wear rings in my pierced ears,” she would later say.14 She also met George, a regular at socialist, anarchist, and atheistic seminars, who by then was showing his restless nature. He had studied medicine, dentistry, horticulture, music, and literature, but decided to become a school teacher. After they married in 1884, she also taught for a while in Windsor, Ontario, but stayed home after she became pregnant with their first child. When their more traditional relatives kept pestering the couple about their absence from church services, they decided to move

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Profile for University of Puget Sound

Bookends Reader  

Welcome new students! This reader is a collection of readings from and about Puget Sound and that will be at the heart of the Bookends orien...

Bookends Reader  

Welcome new students! This reader is a collection of readings from and about Puget Sound and that will be at the heart of the Bookends orien...