Yes, South Hill Has a History

Puyallup Heights Community Club

by Carl Vest

Until about the 1960s and 1970s South Hill was essentially rural.  In that setting there slowly evolved over time some community networks, all of which served to both facilitate social interactions and as a way of addressing common problems.  These clubs, as they were called, were usually organized around the boundaries of the various school districts of the period.  There was, for example, a community club associated with the Woodland School District.  Another one was linked to the Firgrove School.  A third was called The Puyallup Heights Community Club.

Puyallup Heights is a common name in early South Hill history.   The designation appears to have started in the 1890s or early 1900s.  Geographically it was an area at the top of the hill just above the City of Puyallup encompassing what are now the South Hill Mall, Willows Corner, and areas south to about present day 128th Street. 

The Puyallup Heights Community Club (PHCC) was organized on October 9, 1941.  It was a replacement for the Puyallup Heights Improvement Club, which had existed since the early 1900s, and also for the Puyallup Heights Parent Teachers Association.  PHCC did not exactly replace the Improvement Club in all its practices.  For years, for example, the old Club had been meeting in a Hall on Forest Grove School property.  But there was concern about this practice and while initially PHCC held some meetings at the school it rather quickly shifted to private homes and other locations.

 PHCC was never a big organization, its membership group averaging about 15 to 20 people.  Other than during the summer the members got together once a month.  The Minutes of the organization show the names of early Hill residents being active in its work, such families as  Barth, Goelzer, Kupfer, Abbott, Carlson, Johnson, Yazzolino, Zimmerman, and others.

Members of PHCC regularly interacted with personnel at the fire department, the Puyallup School District’s parent teachers association, the sheriff’s department, and other civic organizations.   They had particular ties to some fraternal groups, and specifically one known as the Improved Order of Redmen, Tribe No. 55.  The Redmen Lodge is the oldest fraternal association in the United States, being chartered by Congress and roots going back to 1765.

As a social force PHCC was active for some 40 years.  In the 1940s members supported the war effort in a number of ways.  Civil Defense was always an active project.  The interaction with military personnel took a great deal of time with dances and other activities.  Afterwards the group volunteered with service organizations and donated money to charitable groups such as The Salvation Army, Tacoma Rescue Mission, Red Cross, United Way, March of Dimes, Pierce County Heart Association, American Cancer Institute, and others.

In February 1980 PHCC closed its bank account.  Donations had stopped and the bank was assessing a monthly fee.  Finally, on January 17, 1984, at its last regular meeting, those members present voted to disband.  The club’s total assets of $51.90 were donated to the Tacoma Rescue Mission. 

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