Pioneer of the Year's 'roots run deep'

By Sara Bruestle | Aug 14, 2013
Photo by: Sara Bruestle Madeline LaBeau Kuykendall is the 2013 Pioneer of the Year.

When Madeline LaBeau Kuykendall smells the salt water and seaweed of Mukilteo, she knows she’s back home.

“When I smell the shoreline with all the old seaweed hanging around, it just invigorates me,” she said. “I come alive inside. I’m home.”

Kuykendall is the 2013 Mukilteo Historical Society Pioneer of the Year, chosen by MHS members as a way to commemorate the history of Mukilteo.

Her memories were recorded on video during an MHS meeting at Rosehill Community Center on Aug. 8.

Last year’s Pioneer of the Year was Marlene “Tudy” Scheller Erickson.

Kuykendall, 89, not only grew up in Old Town and has many childhood memories she’s able to share, but her Mukilteo roots run deep: Her mother was one of the four daughters of Louis and Mary Foster, who operated the Bay View Hotel in Mukilteo in the early 1900s.

“It’s often easy for people in Mukilteo to go along in their daily lives and not really think about what went on here in the past,” MHS member Ann Collier said. “Picking the Pioneer of the Year is a way to remind people of the history of the town.”

Kukendal jokes that the stork didn’t bring her – she came to Mukilteo by train three days after she was born. She was adopted on Oct. 6, 1923, by parents Louis and Kate LeBeau and was raised in a house on the corner of 5th and Loveland.

Growing up, Kuykendall and her brother Malcom “Frenchie” LaBeau and sister Kathleen LaBeau Mortimer had the freedom to roam all of Old Town. When the Crown Lumber mill whistle blew, they knew it was time to come home.

Her father worked for the Crown Lumber Co. until it closed in 1930.

Kuykendall remembers swimming at the beach in the summers, if Alma “Ekie” Ek was there to lifeguard. If she was lucky, her mother would give her 10 cents to buy a hot dog at the Ferry Lunch where Ivar’s is today.

“Ekie patrolled the beach,” Kuykendall said. “Lo and behold, if you didn’t obey Ekie, the next day you didn’t get to go. That was it. If she said that you had misbehaved, there weren’t any ifs, ands or buts about it.”

She also remembers how Charlie Hurd would set up bonfires and host cookouts on the beach, with salmon, potatoes and corn on the cob. He would cook it all in a trench lined with seaweed, rocks and sand.

“There’s nothing that tastes so good as salmon and some baked potatoes,” she said.

Also in the summers, Kuykendall remembers walking up Nelson Hill – now 84th Street S.W. – to pick strawberries. Two or three Nelson families had houses there and a strawberry farm. She would pick the berries and get paid per box or flat.

“We’d go out there and pick strawberries, maybe 2-3 times a week,” she said. “You could even pick some for your family.”

Then there were the tea parties with the neighborhood kids at Elsie Zahler’s house, Tude Richter’s aunt. She would set the table with her finest China, as if the kids were her honored guests.

Sometimes the kids would get rowdy and break a teacup or saucer, but “Aunt Elsie” wouldn’t mind.

“She wouldn’t even turn a hair,” Kuykendall said. “She would just clean up the mess and go on. She taught me that people are far more important than things.”

Kuykendall started first grade in the new Rosehill School, built in 1928, in the six months after the first Rose Hill School had been destroyed by fire. After ninth grade, she attended Everett High School.

In high school, Kuykendall remembers going to the Mukilteo observation tower for her shift to report plane sightings for the Volunteer Observer Corp during World War II. She said Mukilteo changed with the war.

“We all spent time up there watching for airplanes,” she said. “We had to recognize the airplane silhouettes and all that. We all took our turn up there.”

At Northwest Bible College in Seattle, she met her first husband, Virgil Dickinson. They were married in 1943 at Mukilteo Presbyterian Church, just three blocks from the LaBeau house.

“I love to come up here and stay at the Silver Cloud, because I know I swam right down there as a kid,” said Kuykendall, who now lives in Hillsboro, Ore. “I could jump right out my window if the tide was in and have a swim.

“That’s where Ekie was. You could go down there and spend all day.”

Kuykendall will ride in the Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival parade on Saturday, Sept. 7, and will be honored in a ceremony at the lighthouse at 3 p.m. that day.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.