Reinventing a Town (1953)

Center Street in the 1950s
Center Street in the 1950s

In 1953 the Eatonville Lumber Company closed. People were scared. Would the town survive without the major business? What could they do to save Eatonville?

The community banded together to find answers in a way they never had before, and called it Operation Bootstrap.

One Operation Bootstrap group looked at what potential industries might be a good fit. Eatonville seemed to be an ideal location because it offered affordable power and water, transportation, and great sites inside Eatonville and all the way up the line.

Straight from the Operation Bootstrap Industrial Report, are some of the ideas considered.

Clay Industry. Clay City was producing and there appeared to be no shortage of clay, it would make sense to build on that. A couple options included the inactive Bean Brick and Tile Company at Clear Lake, and other possibilities up the line.

Mashell Ave. & Red and White Store - ca. 1955
Mashell Ave. & Red and White Store – ca. 1955

Coal Distillation. A plant in Renton was to be built. If that worked, it might work for Eatonville. Coal samples were being gathered from the Ashford and Ladd mines.

Cement-Mixing Plant. The Eatonville area could benefit from a cement plant because it cost so much to ship from Tacoma. (Washed sand and gravel in Eatonville was $4.50 a yard and only $2.75 in Tacoma.)

Charcoal. A charcoal plant made sense because “The basic material in charcoal is wood, of which we have an unlimited supply on our logged-off lands. A mixture of Alder and Fir seems to make the best charcoal.”

Wood Related Plants. Other wood ideas considered were a Wood Briqueting Machine, an Evergreen Processing Plant “to produce Christmas decorations prior to Christmas” and a Pole Treating Plant for utility uses.

Cabinet Shop. The Red Men Hall in town was suggested as the right size building to handle a cabinet operation.

Mashell Ave ca 1946
Mashell Ave ca 1946

Laundry. A laundry was considered, but a modern sewer system was needed.

Paint Rock. Paint rock in the Mashell River contains pigment for paint. Mining and grinding of this rock was an Eatonville industry in the 1920s, but it was determined not to be viable in the 1950s.

Crude Drugs and Condiments.  Copy the “crude drug collection and packaging” done in Southern Washington, where farmers and individuals bring in peppermint, spearmint and wintergreen oils to be packaged. The bootstrap committee looked also at medicinal dandelion, tansy oil, digitalis, Oregon grape and more.

Printing Plant. Printing plants in large metropolitan centers were interested in moving to smaller communities. More study was going to be done.

Sport and Recreation Equipment. The manufacturing of fishing tackle, archery equipment and small boats would tie in well with our current recreations.

Rumors. There was a section called rumors. “The Industry Committee was unable to verify several rumors that continue to circulate . . . a glove factory that was chased out of town, a chemical plant that was refused a building site, and a spool factory that could not buy raw materials.”

Every one of these ideas was researched and Operation Bootstrap was an amazing testament to teamwork. A big industry didn’t come to town, but Eatonville found out when times were tough they could work together.

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