Special Reports

Dance halls, getaways lost in technology boom

In less than 100 years, Whatcom County residents have seen inventions that have transformed the world.

Some - like television, computers and the automobile - still challenge us to find a good fit for them in our lives. Others - such as sliced bread, phones and indoor plumbing - have been readily adopted as standards of life.

But what about changes in lifestyle that have come and gone?

Bob Boice now lives on the property where he was born, next to Lynden City Park. The house he was born in has since been lost to time; it was moved to Trapline Road and later burned.

Boice has lived in the county for more than 80 years. He's seen one world war, an economic depression and a moon landing. Yet it's the changes in the way we live our lives that has impressed him the most since he was born the winter of 1922.

"There are no dance halls anymore," Boice said. "Every Saturday we would go dancing, if we could find a car. We would head out to Forest Grove or Birch Bay, or the Seven Cedars in Burlington, they had the nicest dance floors.

"If we didn't have the money for a dance hall, we would go to Jacob's Landing, then called Shore Acres, in Birch Bay. One of the resorts there had a jukebox. One play cost a nickel. So we would all just stand around chatting until someone found a nickel in their pocket. Then we could dance."

Bands often would play at the larger dance halls but, in a pinch, a good floor and jukebox would do. Almost every town in the county had a dance hall; all you had to do was find a car big enough to carry everyone who wanted to go.

"No kids ever owned a car," Boice said. "When you went to school the only cars in the parking lot were the teachers' and parents'. For us to go anywhere, we had to convince our moms and dads to give us the keys."

As with many families then, Boice's parent's first car was a used one. The family bought its first new car, a Dodge Deluxe, in 1935. It cost $1,000. Like dance halls, getaway spots were popular, too. Small getaway cabins abounded along Puget Sound and lake shores. The Boice family's favorite was a shore cabin they would rent by the week at Birch Bay.

To get there, Boice and his cousin would bicycle along Birch Bay-Lynden Road, then follow a rough gravel track with intermittent traffic.

"We would also go for picnics down at lakeside on Wiser Lake," he said. "Some others would go to Bartlett's Beach, also on the lake.

"My dad would also sometimes go out to Hawley's Resort on Lummi Island. That is where everyone liked to go to fish. You could go between Lummi and Orcas and catch some real good salmon."

Cities and neighborhoods have grown and changed through the decades, Lynden included. Life was a bit slower back then, more home-grown.

"So many people have moved into town," Boice said. "When I lived here, our house was the edge of the city.

"People had large gardens and livestock in their yards. Practically everyone had at least a few chickens. That was where you got most of your milk, meat, and eggs, just trading or buying from the neighbors.

"People mostly walked or rode bikes. There were very few cars on the road and no traffic.

"You could walk along the Guide Meridian and have to wait for a car to hitch a ride with," he said. "Not because no one would stop, but because there were no cars."

For Boice, the most notable invention he's experienced is television. He married Anna Greta Akerland in 1951; the following year, they bought their first television. It was a big deal to their friends.

"When we first got the TV, the Seattle hydroplane races were on," he recalled. "We had about a dozen people sitting in our living room watching the races on the tube.

"A far cry from listening to KVOS on the radio as a kid."