Otherwise there seems to have been various 'resorts' there over the years...
The first Old Settler’s picnic was held on this property on August 8, 1896. “They came by ox-drawn carts, by hay wagons and by buggies. They put up tents, and built fires in pits for cooking, “ wrote Anne Nelson in her 1986 Old Settlers salute. According to accounts, the Birch Bay gathering featured the barbecuing of a whole ox in a large pit, “which provided for a gustatory needs.” Also a large platform was set up and music provided “for those who tripped the light fantastic.” By 1905 Pryor Key had a business called Key’s Place where The C Shop stands. It was 2 stories high with a flat roof and was the center portion of the C Shop (the outside wall being the back of the manufacturing room). There was small wing on the west end—half the width and half the length of the candy shop. Key’s Place included a grocery store and confectionery/cigar store as well as living quarters. By 1914 it included the original dance hall and was known as the Birch Bay Resort (or was that later when the Gischers bought it). It was the original resort at Birch Bay. Pryor Key also had a store at Pleasant Valley after the one at Birch Bay. Key’s Store at Pleasant Valley was sold to Clary Jensen’s father about 1935 about 2 years before Clarey was born. According to Jean Jensen Key Olson, the Keys and Gischers were cousins and about 1910-1912, Keys sold the property to Lora Gischer. In conversation with Lora Gischer on 12-15-86, he told us that he purchased the property from George Mack and that Fred Madison, a fur trapper from Alaska had owned it before that in which case there were 2 owners between the Keys and the Gischers. Lora also mentioned a Harden Key who had owned the resort but this name did not come up in talking to the Keys.
During Gischer’s ownership 1912-1921
After Lora Gischer purchased Birch Bay’s only store, he changed (Did he change it or had the Keys changed it?) the name to the Birch Bay Resort. The family lived in the two-story building and operated the store, restaurant, and campgrounds for several years through WWI. Lora’s son Herb was born in 1913 in the front west bedroom. (The Alesse’s living room.) Herb remembers Indians gathering in the vicinity for a powwow. About 1912, the building was one of the first to get electricity by having it’s own electric generator. It was a Willey’s Light showplace. The cement block where the generator sat can be seen in the back of The C Shop.
Joe and Carrie Mallatt ran the store from 1918 to 1920 and moved away in 1921. They rented from Lora Gischer. Carrie rented out the 4-5 rooms upstairs in the main building for him. There were about 12 cabins 5 to 6 feet apart in groups of 2 or 3. There was one outhouse for the 12 cabins. The sinks and the bathrooms were not upstairs at that time. Doris and her mother rented one of the cabins and her dad lived on a farm across the bay. Doris remembered the building as maroon with gray trim Carrie Mallatt ran the confectionery and ice cream shop at one end of the store. They also sold ice cones. By 1917 there was a big dance hall with a peaked roof just east of the big building. We have heard that big bands like Fred Waring and Lawrence Welk played at the dance hall. They would play Vancouver, then Bellingham, and then Birch Bay on Saturday night. Carrie & Joe Mallatt catered meals for the dance Hall. They served a Midnight lunch of Jell-O (when it was a new product), a sandwich, potato salad, devil’s food or white cake with thick frosting, and coffee for $1.00. Other band names that we’ve heard played at the dance hall are Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman but we don’t know if that is true or just someone’s ”Big Band” recollections. Millicent Alderson (10/9/01) didn’t think these big band played there. She does remember one big band one time but none of these. She does remember Mel McKey, Ken Huen, and Harry Wellman.
Carrie remembers that the Indians would come around here when she was little although there were no more Powwows because the Indians were on reservations. Her mother who was born in 1877 traded bread for berries with the Indians. She remembers when she was about 10 or 11 and saw the Indians come around the point in big Haida war canoes and Powwowed with the Siwash from around here. She remembers that her mother who was a housewife and a dietitian for the county and who lived on the farm with her father wouldn’t let her play on the spit because there were so many fleas. The carnival came while they were here. Doris remembers looking forward to it. The Merry-Go-Round had beautiful carved horses. Doris returned and bought property in Birch Bay in 1945.
Gussie Breidford and Augusta Brock worked from 1918 to 1920 babysitting Harold, Herb, Vernon, and Walter. They remember a bed & breakfast upstairs and coffee and cake served at midnight to the dance crowd.
About 1918 Amy Jacobs (Her daughter Helen Jacobs Snow was 7 or 8 at the time.) and Freda Gilk (later Leyton) rented a portion of the Birch Bay Resort where the C Shop candy shop is now. They ran a confectionery and displayed their chocolates on the square daisy and button plates. That is why we began collecting them and using them in The C Shop.
When Gischers sold the south portion of the property to the Aldersons, they retained the property on the north side of Alderson Road where they rented to tent campers, operated a Triple XXX Root Beer Barrel and a carnival, built cabins and created a trailer park.
Talking to Harold Gischer’s widow Peggy, I learned that a Triple XXX Root Beer Barrel was built on the corner of Birch Bay Drive and Alderson Road. Being one of the original ones it had the big barrel on top of it. The first Merry-Go-Round on the property was purchased by Lora Gischer and a man from Bellingham in 1936 and was put where Robbie’s Drive-In would later be built. During the war (about 1942 or 43) the government bought the Merry-Go-Round and shipped it to a training center somewhere in the mid west. Mel Cook and Rhea Nordman ran the Triple XXX. Mel and Denver Burtonshaw started the carnival on the spit. A Mr. Sybrant ran the carnival. Up to that time the spit had been vacant except for a short airstrip, which operated about 1920 to 1940 where Guy and Phyllis Smith started Holiday Shores. (This doesn’t mesh well with Jean’s recollection of the carnival beginning between 1918 and 1921.) When Herb came back from the Navy yard, he purchased another Merry-Go-Round and traded it with Mel Cook for the Triple XXX Root Beer Barrel. Herb tore down the old Barrel and built a new one in the mid 50’s. Rob ran it in 1959 and then built Robbie’s Drive In in 1960. The barrel (now Commonwealth Realty building) became the Clam Shell gift shop and a grocery store.
Peggy remembers the Merry-Go-Round and Bingo on the spit in 1946 and 47. Peggy and Harold Gischer built cabins and started the Lora Park cabins north of the Tripple XXX in 1946 or 47. They sold them in 1976 for the development of Bay Rim Condos. Peggy couldn’t remember who played at the dance hall on Alderson Road but she remembered dancing in the 40’s and 50’s to the music of Mel McKey once a month at the grange hall on Birch Bay-Lynden Road and Harborview Road. They square danced there also with Bernard Beatty doing the calls.
Alma Wagner’s first job was working at the carnival in 1946 and ‘47. She worked at the XXX Root Beer Barrel in ‘49 and ‘50 and then in ‘52 worked at the Birchwood Restaurant on the corner of Morrison. She remembers a wing on the east side of the restaurant that had previously been used to sell ice cream through a window. (Millicent Alderson said it had been added on to the Birchwood and they would open it up whenever they had dances.) When we moved The C Shop to Alderson Road, Alma, who had been working in the candy shop since 1974, said, “I guess I’ll have to work for you for at least one more year so I can say I worked on all four corners of that intersection.” She did continue working for us at the candy shop through 1986 and doing Easter candy through 1990.
Alma’s sister Emily worked at the XXX Barrel in ‘48 and ’49 and then later when she was married with children. Elaine Gilbert who worked at the Barrel in ’45 and ’46 remembers that when she had a quarter to spend, she would go across the street to the grocery store (the present C Shop) where they had a jute box and play “Heartaches.”
Alderson’s Birch Bay Resort 1921-1947
John William ”Bill” Alderson (John Sr.) purchased the portion of the Gischer property south of the road that came to bear the Alderson name from the Gischers in 1921 At that time the store had only 28 feet (probably more like 35) of frontage on the main building. It was called The Alderson Resort and included a main building which was their home, a grocery store, 5 bedrooms upstairs which where used by son John Jr. and daughter Millicent or rented out, the original peaked roof dance hall, and a gas station with Standard Oil Products. There was an ice cream parlor at the west end, a grocery store in the middle of the building, and a tavern & restaurant serving sandwiches at the east end. Millicent remembers (10/9/01) the soda fountain chairs with the round seats and the iron backs with the heart shaped design in the ice cream parlor where the candy shop is now. She also told us that her parents adopted their niece Vivian Quitslund when her parents died and she lived with them for several years.
On 7-22-98 we talked to Jim McClintock (b. 1912) who had gone to school in Birch Bay when he was 7-9. The school at the Birch Bay Lynden Road and Harborview Road intersection became the grange hall, then fire district, then water district, and then a succession of businesses. Jim told us when he was 15 or 16 (1927 or 8), he was hired once to wax the floor of the dance hall on his horse. They sprinkled grainy wax like sand on the dance floor and then he pulled a bale of straw around behind the horse to polish the floor. To protect the floor, they made gunnysack pads about 2 inches thick to put on the horse’s hooves.
From 1931 to 1933 Millicent and her sister-in-law Delia ran the Birchwood, a restaurant on the Morrison, Birch Bay Drive, Terrell Creek portion of the property. They served chicken dinners for 50 cents and had a juke box so couples could dance if they wanted to.
Bill (John Sr.) and Alma Alderson made many changes and additions to the resort. By 1938 the Alderson’s Birch Bay Resort had been expanded by increasing the cabins to 16, by adding 2 stories of rooms to the rear, by adding onto both downstairs wings, by adding a peaked roof and attic to the main building, and by including indoor plumbing both upstairs and downstairs. They had also replaced the original peaked roof dance hall, which had been destroyed by fire, (sometime after Millicent left in 1930) with a domed roof dance hall. They were advertising the dance hall as the Birch Bay Pavillion with the syncopated swing of Harry Wellman and his White Jackets, the Northwest’s most versatile dance band. The building was white and there was an ice cream parlor with white chairs on the west end.
Derwin “Will” Williamson (died 12-13-96) and his sister Joyce Williamson were nephew and niece of Bill and Alma Alderson and lived with them in the main building when they were young (1936-37). Will fell out of a second story window while he was there. He and his wife Shirley “Pete” visited The C Shop and the Alesses many times.
While John W. Jr. (Johnny) was in the service, his wife Nan helped Bill Alderson Sr. and Alma with the store, beer parlor, gas pump or whatever. Nancy tells the story of working there alone on August 15, 1945—V.J. Day. Bill Sr. had gone to town for supplies, wife Alma was unable to work that day, baby son Billy was having his first birthday, and half of Bellingham decided to come out to Birch Bay to celebrate. Gas had been rationed until that day; customer could now say for the first time “fill her up” so it soon ran dry. The store ran out of groceries and the beer parlor was more than could be handled so Nan had to lock the door until help from town arrived. One year old Billy sat in his highchair playing with his birthday cake. Neighbors soon came to the rescue and Bill Sr. arrived from town loaded with supplies. As Nan told us the story, it sounded like quite a day!
By the time Bill Sr. and Alma sold the resort, the Alderson buildings stretched 300 feet along the road.
Meador’s Ownership 1947-1954
After 26 years in business, the Aldersons sold the property to Henry M. Meador of Seattle in 1947 (to take possession on March 1) for a price in excess of $50,000. The property included the Birch Bay dance hall, tavern, store, residence and 16 cabins. Approximately 19 acres of beach property, not counting tidelands was included in the area.
Nancy, a friend of the Alesses, at Baker Candy Company (about 1997) told us about a time when she was at the dance hall and a man introduced the singer by saying, “My little girl is going to sing her socks off for you.” The little girl was Loretta Lynn and the man was her father. Nancy thought it was 1955 but it was before the collapse of the roof so it would have to be before 1951 or she might have been remembering Bob’s Tavern in Blaine where it is well known that Loretta did sing when she was getting started. When I asked Bob he said [9/18/01] she sang all around the area and he knew she had sung at the Birch Bay dance hall. Rob Gischer (Herb’s son) worked as a teenager for Henry Meador parking cars for the dance hall in about 1947. Bands he remembers (9/21/01) playing in the dance hall were Gordy Ford, Gordy Geer and the Blue Notes, (Gordy owned the Blue Note Ranch on the NW corner of Blaine and Anderson Roads), and Put Anderson who also owned a dance hall on Birch Bay-Lynden Road and Old 99. Rob also remembers helping to lay the red and grey checkerboard floor in the restaurant/tavern for Henry Meader. Henry wanted it done in one night so it was an all night project. At that time there was a grocery store where the candy shop is now.
Mrs. Langley (Bruce’s Mom) remembers getting her hair cut at a beauty shop that was at the west end of the building between 1945 and 1950.
In 1946 Ray and Virginia Wampler won a jitterbug contest in the dance hall.
It was the winter of 1950-51 while Meador was operating it that the domed dance hall collapsed under the snow. There was huge snowstorm and there was about 6 feet of snow on the roof causing the collapse. We have been told that they cleaned out the debris and kept it as an open-air dance hall for a couple years.
Cousins Maya Baird and Sonja Dewar remember 1952 with the open air dance hall, a grocery store at the west end, a tavern, and outhouses and cabins in back.
Rob Gischer remembers that ice cream was sold out of a window in the main building during Meador’s ownership.
Henry Meader’s big addition to the property was a riding stable, which was built up against the hillside where Leeside Drive begins. Henry also built a house that was up against the hillside. He continued to live there until shortly after Dodds bought the property.
Walsh Ownership - 1954 and 1956
Henry Meador sold to the Joe Walsh family from Alaska approximately 1954. Walshes remodeled the west end of the Birch Bay Resort building creating a restaurant with booths and shuffleboard on the floor. At that time the 16 cabins were named after movie stars. (Don’t know if they always were or not.)
In 1955 they built The Palms, a dance hall just south of Alderson Road on the Birch Bay Drive shoreline. (In 2000 The Palms was torn down and Peter Hansen built condos.) Marilee Rush and the Turnabouts performed in the dance hall in the early 60’s.
Dodd, Hollinger & Nelle Ownership – 1956-1971
Dodds bought the property in 1956 forming a partnership with Nelle (a lawyer) and Hollinger (a real estate agent). The Dodds lived in the downstairs apartment of the big white building the summer of 1956 renting the rooms upstairs, the cabins, and the open field to tenters and trailers. Aleta Dodd said they often had 100 up to 175 campers from Canada, Seattle, and all around on the weekends and sometimes it was pretty wild depending on the crowd. Aleta said when people called in for cabin reservations, they always referred to the cabins by name. “ I s Marilyn (or Lana, Jane, Carol—Monroe, Turner, Wyman, Lombard) busy on Saturday night?” Bud (Harold) Dodd’s folks lived in the downstairs apartment and rented the rooms and camp spots during the summers of ‘57 and ‘58. Aleta thought her mother-in-law had run a post office where people could pick up their mail also. Mrs. Dodd (Harold’s mother) ran the Birchwood restaurant one summer and then it was made into a grocery store, which was run by Gail Bishop, a Blaine teacher and coach, and his wife. The dance hall was gone at that point. They leased The Palms and the other buildings along Birch Bay Drive--the Drive In across the street from it (which was a Chuck’s Drive In for a while), the feather shop (The feather shop was a business that had flower arrangements, corsages, and novelties made with colored feathers.) and another little building between them, which was a Laundromat owned by Don Graham for a while. Phil and Mary Claymore lived in the main building and rented out the cabins and campsites for a few years.-----and Nelle established lots on this property, dredged Terrell Creek, cleaned out the ditch along Sunset Drive, filled in some lowlands, moved the cabins so they would be one on each lot and began selling the lots as vacation properties. The main building, its garage, the former dance hall property, the riding stable lot, and the Birchwood all became separate lots and the cabin area was divided up into many lots. Sometime in the 1960’s Gus Franks and Dr. Apeland, a lawyer and a dentist from Bellingham, sub leased the main building, painted the previously white building barn red and changed its name to the Red Barn Inn. They ran a tavern and pizza place in that building.
About 1967 or ’68 a teenage dance hall named Village West was built on the Alderson-Leeside corner of the property. One note said Henry Wellman owned the dance hall in the 70’s and there was no connection between it and the rest of the building. Rob Gischer tells how it really drew the crowds of teenagers and how it grew to be a real problem because of the unruliness. He said at one time they had to have 4 deputies on site just to keep things under control and even then he remembers a time when one of the deputies got roughed up. He said when the dance got out at midnight the crowd shook his Drive In which stayed open until 1 AM on Friday and Saturday. They had to hire security guards to protect their place. Eventually they just closed early to avoid the hassle. Village West’s last season was 1971. This dance hall is the building that is now Borderland Mini Golf. Dodd, Hollinger, and Nelle sold the main building to Max Meshwa in July of 1971.
Meshwa Ownership - July 1971 – August 1978
While Max Meshwa owned the building, his family lived there. Max and his family including his wife Joan and daughters Joanne, Denise, and April sold pizza in the summertime through a front window. They had tables and benches on the front porch for their customers. Noel Tilden rented space and did framing and importing of velvet paintings. For one summer, there was fellow running a body-painting studio. There was Crabtree’s Apparel, a fellow selling Mexican pottery and a small feather shop. About a year after purchasing the present C Shop building, Max also purchased the Village West, the teenage dance hall that had been closed for over a year. He leased it to a band from Lynden that had teenage dances for one summer only.