The Southwest Seattle Historical Society has announced a new project – “War on the Homefront”:
The Southwest Seattle Historical Society (SWSHS) is conducting an exciting new oral history project. Staff at the Society’s Log House Museum are interviewing the West Seattle High School classes of 1944 and 1945. These classes had the unique experience of having their high school years during the Second World War.
Seattle is a strategic military location, both now and during World War II. Seattle’s southwest district is a particularly strong historical backdrop for the experience of wartime Seattle due to its placement between the waterfront and Boeing. As we lose period sites and markers, it is urgent now than ever to document the imprint of this period in history. Through oral histories, the SWSHS is asking: what was it like to live in Seattle in a time of war? High school is a formative time in a young person’s life – interviewing the classes that experienced wartime during their years of high school provides a particularly rich snapshot of those years.
Several interviews have already been conducted, during which these now 93 and 94-year-old West Seattle alums shared their experiences from rationing, USO programming, to wartime jobs. Jim Bonholzer related how he and his classmates would pool their gas ration stamps together to rent a U-Haul in order to go skiing in Snoqualmie.
Nancy McPhee (shown in both photos above) told of her time as a popular USO hostess versed in all the latest dances and entertaining servicemen. Bob Windom, a doctor’s son, shared that he would go on calls with his dad at night during blackouts, which meant driving without lights on through West Seattle neighborhoods. These and so many more stories and vignettes help us understand a critical time in our history at a local, and very personal, level.
Interviews will be conducted through the rest of the year and early 2020 and will be turned into a future exhibit. The interviews will also be added to the permanent collection of the Society, which already includes over 10,000 documents, archives, oral histories, and artifacts.
In order to preserve their collection; collect stories; and share local history through exhibits, tours, and special events, the SWSHS needs support. You can help by visiting loghousemuseum.org/get-involved/donate. This project is partially funded by a grant awarded to the SWSHS from 4Culture.
If you have any questions, please contact Registrar Rachel Regelein at the Log House Museum, firstname.lastname@example.org, 206-350-0999
ADDED: Thanks to Forest for pointing out a video interview with Nancy McPhee from 2014: