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A Snapshot of South Hill in 1972

by Carl Vest

On April 26, 1972, a group known as The South Hill Community Development Organization completed a survey on South Hill.  An objective was to get the opinions of local people about the future of their community.    The work was done by local citizens with support from the University of Washington.

A total of 1,532 households were targeted with mailed questionnaires.  Seventy-three percent completed and returned them.  Visits were also made to 420 families.  The results varied.  Some folks refused to answer the questions, others were not at home, and some houses were vacant.  In total, 1,112 households provided data.

A large number of the questions had to do with the demographics of South Hill at the time.  It was found, for example, that only two percent of the families had lived on the Hill for 40 years or more.  Generally, the population consisted of comparatively newcomers, most having arrived after World War II, between one and 15 years before the survey.  Only six percent worked on South Hill, with the rest traveling to other places -- 32 percent had jobs in Tacoma, for example.

The citizens tended to be a well-educated and skilled group. Forty percent of the collection considered themselves to be professional, technical, and managerial level people.  Eighteen percent of the males were college graduates as were 12 percent of the females.  High school and technical school graduates numbered 43 percent for the males and 50 percent for the females.

Respondents were asked where they shopped.  For gasoline, 42 percent bought it on South Hill or in Summit.  For groceries they traveled to Puyallup (67%) with some buying on South Hill and in Summit (11%).  If they were in the market for clothing they went to Tacoma (54%) with just over a third shopping in Puyallup (36%).  Hardware and building supplies were bought mostly in Puyallup (48%).

When asked about developing some heavy industry locations on South Hill, most were against it.  Forty-nine percent were strongly opposed to locations near Thun Field and 35 percent were against locations along Meridian Avenue.  It was the opinion that convenience shopping should be concentrated in large shopping centers or malls (76%).

At the time of the survey most people wanted to keep small farms on South Hill (81%), saying that they provided a sense of open countryside.  Also liked were the farms in the Puyallup and Orting valleys because of the local agricultural products (94%).

People were not satisfied with recreational opportunities on South Hill.    Fifty-five percent wanted more neighborhood parks around schools and a large community park on South Hill.  Also, 84 percent wanted some trails for walking, bicycling and horseback riding. 

These thoughts and recommendations were made some four decades ago.  Not all their wishes came to pass, but many did.  The farms have disappeared, but the shopping malls were developed.  And, the sites for heavy industry did not materialize.  This group didn’t visualize the strip malls along Meridian, but you can now buy your groceries closer to home.

Carl Vest, PhD, is a founding member and Research Director for the South Hill Historical Society.