A Bang Up 4th of July Celebration (1938)

The Pocahontas float
The Pocahontas float

On May 28, 1938, the Eatonville Dispatch reported “plans were being discussed for a united effort of all communities, clubs and fraternal orders in the vicinity to stage a real bang-up July 4th celebration.”

Being considered were fireworks, a carnival, horse races, a smoker (I’m assuming a “social gathering” versus a dude smoking), horseshoe pitching, and more. The proceeds would be split among the organizations.

When the big day arrived it turned out to be bigger than anyone initially anticipated.

The main attraction was Bob Nicholson’s famous rodeo gang, which ran from July 2-4. They performed buck and trick riding, bulldogging and other wild stunts. Joe Sander remembers the rodeo. “My dad milled the timbers at our mill — 6”x6”s planks that were used for the corrals — and they were set up in the football field.”

The WPA (Work Project Administration) had just finished the grandstand and the rodeo would be the first big event to use it. The Dispatch reported that the new grandstand could seat nearly 1,000 people!

Full Filled Fourth

A Pocahontas float, Bill Smith driver
A Pocahontas float, Bill Smith driver

The rodeo was just the start. The rest of the line up was incredible.
• a street parade with prizes for entries like “best pet” and “most comical”
• a street dance
• boxing matches
• baseball games between Electron and Tahoma Creek CCC teams (Civilian Conservation Corps, a U.S. public work relief program)
• farmer’s horse races up Orchard Street
• a relay bicycle race
• a carnival
• a greased pig (which the Dispatch promised not be the fiasco of the last greased pig event, which I personally wish they had elaborated on)
• a greased pole
• fireworks, and
• a 45-piece band brought in from south Tacoma, which Eatonville families took in, housed and fed. The band provided music for the 4th and led the parade wow-ing people with its formations.

The event was considered a success. Gross receipts were $500 (approximately $8,000 today). The rodeo was a big draw — 280 adults and 140 children on Sunday and 878 adults and 172 kids on Monday.

A Pocahontas of Eatonville, not PC by today's standards, but a bunch of great gals
A Pocahontas of Eatonville, not PC by today's standards, but a bunch of great gals

The grandstand was packed and accommodations had to be made to handle the overflow.

Lots of folks showed up for the boxing bouts in the evening, with Joe Andrea of Alder refereeing. Johnny and Al Miller of Eatonville both won their fights against Tahoma Creek CCC boys. And, Don Hull, an apprentice at the Dispatch, knocked out Eatonville’s Roy Mack.

The girls got in there too. The Pocahontas — the female version of Eatonville’s Order of the Red Men — won $10 for best float, with their teepee and campfire.

1938 was a very festive fourth!

Photos courtesy of Rich and Ruthie Williams.

Click on images to enlarge.

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