From the interview with Jeffrey D. Wheeler of Camano Island, WA conducted by phone by Patience Rogge on March 20, 2007 from the Fort Worden History Center. Mr. Wheeler is a Ranger at Cama Beach State Park on Camano Island. The son of Joseph Wheeler, the founding director of Centrum, he grew up in Port Townsend and began his career as a park aide at Fort Worden. Here he describes youthful adventures at the Fort with his best friend, Blaine Bellerud, son of Glen Bellerud, the park manager:
“I pretty much grew up in the park with my best friend, Blaine Bellerud. I dated one of the other Belleruds. I was there quite a bit. The night security guy knew my car from all the times I drove in and out of the park. From junior high on we played in the bunkers and ran in all the tunnels. We got to go in a lot of them and explore before they were welded shut. My last year of high school, we used to hide our beer in the cistern until the park welded it shut. When I was working there six years later, someone broke into it. I went up there as staff to make sure it was okay. I thought maybe I’ll find my beer down there, but it was gone. I later asked Park Manager Bellerud about it and he told me that the rangers had searched the cistern before they welded it shut and had found the beer and taken it home that night. So, my beer was long gone. I don’t know how well Rainier would have aged over six years anyway.
My friends and I used to go up on Artillery Hill with my brother and his friends and have pinecone wars, kind of a game of “get the flag.” One group would take a bunker and defend it by throwing pinecones at the group trying to take the bunker. We had a lot of entertaining Saturdays doing that. Because Blaine was in our group and his dad was the manager, we also had access to the gym. We used to go in there and play dodgeball for hours on end. It was the older kids against the younger kids. I was one of the younger ones and they usually beat us, but occasionally we won. We had our own set of balls and kept them in a big bag we hid in the basement when we weren’t using the gym. We had a lot of fun in that gym.”
The cistern, now named in honor of the late Dan Harpole, is used as a performance space noted for its long reverberation time, which makes interesting sound effects. The gym, now home to Madrona MindBody Institute is used for teaching and performing the movement arts.