The Pacific Northwest Forum
Volume 4, Number 4, Pages 6-19
Fall, 1979

Blacktail Beach - Part II

By W. S. Gilbert

The following pages contain pictures of many figures who appear in the Blacktail Beach letters. W. S. Gilbert appears with Sid Wentworth on the cover. The lone fisherman on page 14 is C. Herbert Moore, Mayor of Spokane. He is also the face in the smoke house on page 17. The adult figures at the boxing match on page 18 are Frederick Elmendorf, W. S. Gilbert, L. R. Hamblen, and Emmet Shaw. The boxers are Jack and Joe Shaw. On page 19 the barber is L. R. Hamblen; the manicurist is Frances Weijman, and the "customer" is C. Herbert Moore.

Responses to "Blacktail Beach"

October 2, 1959
2865 Southington Rd.
Shaker Hts. 20, Ohio.

Dear Uncle Win:

The following are my comments on your very good history of Blacktail Beach.

I believe the driving to the lake started sometime about 1918 or at least before the Drakes sold, since I distinctly remember a ride into Spokane with Dr. Drake and my father in a Model T Ford from the top of the hill above Peterson's. I occupied the back seat with a heating stove Drake was taking to Spokane. When we arrived at Spokane, the stove was completely disassembled with a mass of parts on the floor. Drake was the first to drive and I remember remarks being made indicating that he was very reckless to do this. The road in from Sagle to the lake was only made passable in a practical way at the time the Talache Mining activity started in 1921 when the concentrating mill and other buildings were erected. I believe they were the ones who had this made into a county road and this accounts for its being maintained all the way to the lake. I know this from my diary at the time, for I worked at the mine that summer helping with construction. The mine was also responsible for the good road extending down to the lake since they used the steam boat line to bring in freight, most provisions as I recall.

It might be well to note that the name Talache came into existence with the mining operation starting in 1921 and the town, a mile and a half or so back from the lake had a post office and small store. The younger generation at that time were assigned the task of daily visits to the post office and to perhaps get a few simple groceries that the small stores carried. It might also be well to mention that this is now a ghost town since the mines closed down.

In connection with Wild Animals, I would like to note in passing that the Elmendorf privy was so badly chewed by the porcupines that a new one had to be built. This was considered quite a grand affair compared with the old one.

Duryea E. Elmendorf

• • •

By Herb Hamblen

Any attempt to add a footnote to "Uncle Win's" history of Blacktail Beach - covering as it so well does the lives of the lake dwellers from aboriginal days through arrival at the "Promised Land," the conquest of nature and the local Philistines and the ultimate advance and decay of their civilization at the altar of easy living leaves one searching in vain for a point on which to offer further enlightenment.

Under the circumstances perhaps it will be best merely to share a few "flash-backs" as mind and memory wander happily over impressions and experiences of the lake years. Here are just a few flashes of the first generation:

"Uncle Win" approaching the beach by water, always with a lusty "wa-hoo-wa" signifying joy and fresh groceries;

"Uncle Herb" Moore catching and smoking fish with a fine art which has happily descended intact to his namesake;

"Uncle Henry" Yeomans swinging an axe in a way calculated to keep the hearth fires and campfires warm and crackling;

"Uncle Fred" Elmendorf cheerfully "yip-yipping" in the early morning;

"Uncle Henry Hart" pioneering (with occasional success) with an outboard motor;

"Uncle Laurence" baking beans in the campfire coals;

"Aunt Frances," "Aunt Edna" and the other "aunts" organizing and carrying out endless worthwhile activities from botany classes to overnight camping trips.

And then some flashes of the next generation:
Mountain climbing for huckleberries; picnics at Kinnikinnik Point, Mineral Springs and Petersons Point; high water fun in the slough; Fourth of July fireworks and icecream orgies; surf-boarding, swimming, rowing; "Indian and Whiteman," charades; mail, groceries, milk, ice and rowing; stovewood; the waterworks; the "Fair," the Lotts; new tenthouses, new cabins and then –

A third generation:

Waterskiing the "resort," motors, and all the other things over again making themselves a part of them;

And always imprinted as a background on every "flash-back," the mountains, the water, the changing pattern of light and weather, the companionship of true friends and happy families.


• • •

Postscript by Fred W. Gilbert

Many of my most exciting memories of the lake center about the launch. 1 think the first one was known simply as "the launch," which certainly was name enough. To me it was a thing of great beauty and driving it was a wonderful thrill. 1 can remember quite well how 1 felt when 1 was first allowed to take the wheel and to handle her by myself, although 1 have long since forgotten my first experiences at driving an auto.

The next launch was called the "gravyboat." Father says he never knew why. 1 am sure everyone will remember the sway-backed silhouette and the point at each end which made it look so much like the gravyboat we had on the table at home. But there was another reason. The Gravyboat leaked so much oil from her crankcase and so much water into her bilge that there was usually a goodly quantity of "gravy" left in the bottom at all times.

The Gravyboat was for me what a hot-rod is to the boys of today, and 1 learned all about gasoline engines from her. There were hardly any parts we didn't fix with bailing wire or pieces of old inner tube at some time or other. She was mostly my pet and my responsibility and 1 loved her.

We used to keep her anchored in Hamblen's bay with a huge mill wheel which 1 think came from the Talache mill. It seemed a most adequate anchor. When the big storms would blow, the old Gravyboat would rear back on her bow line until she was practically standing on her stern as each big wave would come long. One time the waves were so big that the boat rose up to a forty-five degree angle with the stern in the bottom of the trough and the bow right at the crest of the next wave. The gives one a good idea of the size of those waves. Then one time we had an even greater storm in the night time and when dawn came and 1 looked out, the Gravyboat was gone. We expected to see it crashed on the beach but it was not in sight anywhere. Even though the storm was still blowing hard, we felt we had to go to the rescue. The only powered boat available was Mr. Hart's rowboat with about a two H. P. Evenrude on it. Phil Finlay and 1 decided to chance it. Luckily the motor started on almost the first pull. We travelled just like those surfboards they ride on the big waves at Hawaii. That little boat had never gone so fast before. We were amazed to find the Gravyboat had hung up her anchor just a few feet from shore about half way to Garfield Bay. Her stern was within arm's reach of the precipitous cliffs that come down to the water in that area. Phil and I felt as though we had narrowly averted another "Wreck of the Hesperus."

• • •

Comment by Helen DeForest

The first summer of the Hart family at the lake was in 1916 when we rented Dr. Drake's cabin. We purchased it in 1917. The ownership went to me with the expectation that the Henry Harts would share in its use.

I think that Dr. Drake built the log cabin in 1915. We always understood that the Drakes had occupied it for one year before renting to us. I could be wrong. Mr. Chapman with his team of horses and perhaps one other man were reported to have constructed the cabin - quite a feat when you consider the size of the logs. It was a workmanlike job.

• • •

Phil and I feel that The Blacktail Beach Story is an interesting and vital addition to our family documents and one which our children and their children will read and cherish. We are grateful to Dad for doing a very fine job. Surely, we of the second generation, were the most fortunate of children! We give thanks to our parents for the years past and for the years to come.

Of course many happy memories of past summers come to mind but I shall limit myself to recalling only one - the beach "Fairs." These were big events of forty odd years ago and eagerly anticipated. All summer the young people worked hard making what we hoped would be saleable items. With materials available on the beach we turned out strange and wonderful things of birchbark, tin, yarn and remnants. On the big day we set up booths along the slough and loudly hawked our wares. I believe the money we earned (in true communistic spirit) was used to buy a huge freezer of ice cream which came on the boat from Sandpoint. That was a rare treat and was enjoyed with a great feeling of "togetherness" at the camp fire seats.

Yes, times have changed on the beach but much less so there than any other place I can think of. The most important things have not changed the serene beauty of mountains and water; the satisfying companionship of friends and most of all that indefinable spirit of that enchanted place that calls us back wherever we might be.

Betty and Phil

• • •

Picnic Fare

The food on our weekend picnics that was enjoyed by the "young people" was noted for its quantity, not variety, as it seems to me we always had the same thing. Even now when I meet up with one of these "dishes" it reminds me of the wonderful times we had on these junkets.

The decision to go on a boat picnic always started the wheels going in the Gilbert kitchen and all 4 girls knew just what to do. First of all, Addie had to make a cake (Mrs. Hart's chocolate cake recipe - very seldom made now with the advent of mixes, alas), Betty made Banbury tarts by the dozen, Hat made a gallon or so of lemonade - squeeze kind, not frozen concentrate, and Fran made, with help from the others, many sardine and egg sandwiches. Quite often we made several meat pies and took them wrapped up so they would still be warm over at Many Springs. Cantaloupe and watermelon were always ready to put to cool in Granite Springs.

One delightful piece de resistance was onion sandwiches we made at Kinnikinnic Point. Only those who wished to indulge were allowed to go along on this feast and it's a wonder those who stayed behind could stand us when we returned.

For the little tykes who were just learning to picnic - there were private parties down the beach about where Fred's house is now. There a small fire was allowed to be built and supper consisted of one fried egg and a piece of bacon cooked in individual frying pans. The food being limited, we soon learned not to burn it all up.

I don't remember what the other families put in their baskets - we evidently didn't trade back and forth very much, but no doubt they had their own specialties of the house that they remember as vividly as I remember ours.

Frances Hunner

• • •

The Beach Picnic

This social event which occurred several times a summer during the years when my generation was young remains one of my fondest memories. It was so called not because we would picnic on the beach, which of course we did, but because everyone present on Blacktail Beach was taken along, old, young, and hired help. Its heyday was during the years when the camp group remained constant all summer with little coming or going. I have an idea that it was promoted by our mothers when it seemed to them that things were getting dull, because it always took place in the middle of the week when the fathers were not there. Right after the afternoon swim picnic baskets were packed and by five o'clock the expedition would be ready to take off. Shaw Wells and Kinnikinnik Point were both favored spots as they were out of sight of camp and yet not too far to row. Loaded into four or five rowboats with the boys or bigger girls at the oars and the grandmothers and little tots comfortably settled in the stern, what fun we all had shouting back and forth as one boat or another pulled ahead. Once at the site, we youngsters gathered fire wood and explored the surroundings while the supper was laid out. Before darkeness fell we would start home again and row along in the twilight singing at the top of our lungs while the little ones in stern seats trailed their hands in the water . Through the years there have been many summer picnics at many different places which we got to either in boats or on foot, but now the custom seems to have faded into the past. For its success, I believe it was dependent on the rowboat and the wide beach as well as other elements peculiar to that era.

Harriette McLean

• • •

One of the most unique beach activities of the early days was the "orchestra." This was a loosely-knit organization sponsored, promoted and conducted by Aunt Frances. Anyone who could play any instrument with any degree of success, was elected permanently to that chair. The performances were always at the camp fire after dark, thus requiring of the performers an ability to play by ear. Aunt Frances played the violin; Uncle Laurence, the mandolin; Herb, the 'cello; Mary, the violin; Charlotte, the guitar or ukelele; Duryea and Henry, the flute; Helen, the uke; Harriette, the mandolin. All the others, young and old made up the chorus, which was sometimes lead by one of the fathers. The program always included "Old Black Joe", "Swanee River", "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny", and other old-favorites written in the key of G. Often Mrs. Hart would favor us with a solo accompanied by Aunt Frances and any others who could dub it in. This experience gave us a good outlet and a musical background of old songs which has no counterpart today. Radio and T-V are poor substitutes for the "do-it-yourself" entertainment of those early summers.

Adelaide Abbott

• • •

November 8, 1959

Dear Uncle Win:

Your history of Blacktail Beach is something we shall all treasure. It is not only a reminder of the happy days, but tells some of the early history that I, for one, didn't know.

A recollection I'd like to add is of the fairs that we children (and Parents) worked so hard on for several summers. Do you remember the one during the war whose proceeds we used, at Grandma Gilbert's suggestion, to buy a French war orphan?

With love,


4 October 1959

Dearest Uncle Win:

Addie gave us your account of the history of Blacktail Beach which we have thoroughly enjoyed. It is just right the way it is and we are looking forward to having a copy to keep - a real family treasure.

One of the best parts of reading it was all the happy memories it brought back. No trip could ever be as exciting as the train and boat trip to the lake. I remember how Conductor White used to stop the dinky every once in awhile so that Mother could get off to get a flower specimen. Then when we got to Bayview, the "big kids" were allowed to get off and spend their year's savings on the fleshpots of Bayview (vanilla ice cream cones, cracker jack and gum) while we younger ones had to stay on and ride down to the dock with our parents. I can remember Conductor White used to announce when we got to the dock, "Take your time and don't hurry. Both ends stop!"

My most vivid recollection of Bill Couper's culinary achievements was the chocolate cake with watermelon pickle filling. I can still remember Mother's expression when he offered her a piece!

Do you remember how hilarious we got over the contest to choose an official name for the beach, at the request of the post office? I would hate to mention some of the proposals and was grateful when we chose Sallie Johnsone's name .

I can't seem to remember any formal election to fill the position of mayor. Was it based on who could kiss the best? Or was it like Russia and a self-appointed office? Anyway, I know that everyone at B.B. feels that we have a most wonderful mayor however he managed to wangle the job.

We are certainly grateful for all the time and effort you have put in on the Blacktail Beach history.