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Fairhaven karate instructor compiles photo history of Bellingham

Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane have one or more, of course. So does Mount Baker, the University of Washington, Fife and Sedro-Woolley.

Now, at last, Bellingham has a photo history book of its own from Arcadia Publishing.

The company’s sepia-covered “Images of America” series has long needed a volume about Bellingham, and Cecil Jentges answered the call.

Literally. He says Arcadia called him to see if he wanted to gather more than 200 photographs to tell the story of Bellingham, as well as write captions and a short introduction.

Jentges seemed a logical person to contact because he’s president of The Historic Fairhaven Association. The group keeps the history of Fairhaven in mind while it plans community events and promotes the business district.

For his part, Jentges developed an early interest in history thanks to his mother, but he grew up in Vancouver, Washington, not in Whatcom County, and at age 30 he’s far from an old-timer. Still, he’s energetic, community-minded, and as a first-time author, not fully aware of what it would take to finish the book within Arcadia’s six-month deadline.

“Some late nights turned into early mornings,” he acknowledged. “It was fun, afterward, when it was done.”

Jentges moved to Bellingham about five years ago. He co-owns Karate Quest, in Fairhaven, teaches martial arts at Western Washington University, and leads anti-bullying sessions for P.E. classes at several local elementary schools.

In other words, he’s busy but he finds the time to help others. The idea of compiling the book appealed to him as a gift to the community, and to honor his mother, whose love of history prompted her to have her children study Washington state history. She died a year ago.

Most of the pictures in the book are courtesy of Gordon Tweit, the retired former owner of Fairhaven Pharmacy whose collection of local history photos and artifacts likely warrants a book of its own.

“A big part of this book was Gordy Tweit opening up his personal collection,” Jentges said.

The photographs cover expected topics, including prominent citizens, early industries, landmark buildings and slice-of-life activities. There’s a touch of the unexpected, too, with photos of famous criminals, Bellingham’s anti-Hindu riot of 1907, and the once-flourishing presence of the Ku Klux Klan in Whatcom County.

“It wasn’t just all the positives,” Jentges said. “There’s some of the dark side.”

Jentges hopes the book will appeal to newcomers as well as to longtime residents and their descendants.

Like all such photographic overviews, the book isn’t history explored in depth. And the content is inherently limited by which pictures Jentges could access and reproduce. And, it must be noted, several photographs are printed with less clarity than in other Arcadia collections I’ve seen.

Still, Jentges should be applauded for stepping forward and finishing the book, with humility about the task before him.

“All of this I’ve learned is from people who are actual historians,” he said.

“Images of America: Bellingham”

Author: Cecil Jentges

Price: $21.99

Publisher: Arcadia Publishing