Yes, South Hill Has a History

The Parks Sister's Childhood Memories

by Carl Vest

The Parks family first came to South Hill in 1930.  They were from the San Diego area and searching for work.  After living in Gig Harbor they relocated to South Hill, into a small house on the back of a relative’s 20-acre farm.  During the next decade their own log cabin was gradually built.  That house is still occupied and is located near the present-day intersection of 94th Avenue and 128th Street.

Recently, during a meeting of the South Hill Historical Society, two members of that family, Joan Parks Vosler and her sister Carol Parks Smith, both in their 80s, described for the group what South Hill was like during their youth.

The sisters remember the 1930s and 1940s South Hill as being a very rural and open-range kind of place.  There were lots of dairy farms and cattle roamed the countryside — with few fences.  Most of the dairy operations did not have milk processing plants.  Rather, each morning cows were milked, the milk put into cans (5, 8, and 10 gallon capacity), and placed alongside the road.  A milk hauler then picked up the containers from a number of farmers and took them to a milk handling plant.  The cans were returned later in the day.

Living on South Hill before World War II required self-sufficiency.  Jobs were hard to come by as it was the Depression era.  The sisters recalled that all families had a garden and an orchard.  In the orchards fruit such as apples, pears, peaches and cherries were grown.  Quince, blueberry and loganberry bushes were also common.  Each household likewise kept animals — cows, chickens, pigs, goats, and rabbits were commonplace.  These animals were not pets, but served as a source of food.  The sisters recalled trying to milk a cow named “Blackie” because she was tame, but to no avail.   Joan also remembered that a cow once stepped on her foot and the difficulty she had getting free.

During this period wild animals were a problem to residents, especially bears and coyotes.  Bears were particularly dangerous because they would regularly attack young domestic animals.  The sisters specifically remembered bears killing young pigs.   They recalled that a bear once came into the orchard of a neighbor, apparently in search of food, but was chased away and followed to the nearby Pipe Line Road where it was killed.  Coyotes could always be heard howling at night.  Also, common sights were large birds — quail, grouse and pheasants.

There were no utilities in those early days — indoor water, electricity, or indoor toilet systems.  The sisters described doing their clothes washing in a galvanized tub and hanging the items on a clothesline to dry.  In cooler weather the clothes would freeze and they snapped off the frost.  To iron clothes, three flat irons were used — rotated and reheated as the job was completed.

The sisters like South Hill as it is today.  But they also fondly remember growing up in a place that was much different.

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