Looking back at Redmond's past
80 years ago, Redmond was a small town where everyone knew everyone's name, kids went to farm fairs to show off their cows and very few people could live because there were no jobs. Redmond turned 90 last month, and 80-year-old Doris Hebner McFarland, who grew up here, remembers what life was like before dramatic changes made Redmond what it is today.
McFarland was born in 1922 and grew up on a farm her grandparents, who were among the first settlers in Avondale, settled in 1884. The log cabin they built there in 1885 still stands next to the house they built in 1900, and is the oldest structure in Redmond. Her Scottish grandfather, Thomas Provan, was visiting Seattle on a trip around the world when he decided to buy a homestead on the Eastside. "There was no road from Seattle out here, just a path through the woods," said McFarland. There was a rowboat from Madison Park to Houghton, south of Kirkland, and then an eight-mile walk to Redmond. Redmond was still very remote when McFarland was growing up on her grandparent's farm in the 1930s.
For her summer jobs in Seattle, she had to go four miles to town by car, then take a bus to Kirkland, a ferry to Madison Park, and a street car to downtown Seattle. The trip took two hours one way. This remoteness, coupled with a severe lack of jobs in Redmond, meant that very few people could survive there. Young people were expected to leave when they became adults, for the most part. There were no industries and no factories, only farming and a few shops and services in town. That's why McFarland herself left at age 21 in 1943: She found a job in Seattle and got married.
But before she left town, she lived what she calls "a wonderful life." I can't think of a nicer life growing up anywhere, she said. Redmond, a town of between 400-500 in the 1930s, was a real community then, she said: Everyone knew everyone else in town. "People then would help out much more than today," she said, adding that her mother, Ethel Provan Hebner, took in a child and housed her through high school because she had nowhere else to go.
"Your neighbors were your friends," she said. Because there were no phones, neighbors would stop by unannounced, often around dinnertime, when her mother would simply set down extra plates. And because there were no televisions, people entertained themselves by socializing. For McFarland, this made for a rich and varied life: She didn't feet bored, she said, and no one talked about boredom. "There was a lot more things for kids to do then than now," she said. "This is partly because kids can't go anywhere they want without supervision in today's world," she said. "It's also because kids today rely on technology such as televisions and video games to keep them busy," she added. In Redmond in her day, there were dances twice a week attended by about 100 people. McFarland was also in the 4-H club with her neighbors, and together they attended farm fairs where McFarland won prizes for her cows and for her sewing. When not working or socializing, she'd sew, paint and draw.
But Redmond in those days was no paradise. People worked even harder than they do today, McFarland said, and had less free time. Her mother got up at 4 a.m. and worked on the farm until the dishes were done after dinner, seven days a week. Those with shops in town worked six days a week. McFarland herself attended school in Redmond through high school, helped out on the farm and held down summer jobs. But McFarland doesn't remember anyone complaining, because expectations about life were different. "They didn't know any better," she said, "adding that back then, nobody talked about problems." She says that this may be a cause of dissatisfaction in modern life: People aren't taught to accept hardship. "Kids today aren't as strong; they can't accept disappointments and tragedies," she said. "It's because parents give them all these choices, and too much authority."
McFarland's own father died when she was nine, which prompted the move back to the farm in Avondale. "If your parents died, you just accepted it," she said. "You didn't need to talk about it; you were strong enough. It helped to be stoic back then, when life was harder than it is today. Now people have more money, they have jobs. In the Depression, people had no clothes, no food," she said. Finally, Redmond looks far different today than it did then. "My mother used to say would the day ever come when she didn't have to turn her head up to see the sky, and a lot of the trees are cut down now," said McFarland. But she wouldn't say that Redmond back then was particularly beautiful. "It looked a little stump-farmish," she said. Hebner, McFarland's mother, has written a book about her parents and her life in early Redmond called Avondale, which is available at the library. McFarland is writing a sequel to the book, her own memoirs, which is yet untitled.
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