Interview With Patricia S. Simpson

From the interview with Patricia S. Simpson of Port Townsend conducted at the Fort Worden History Center by Patience Rogge on March 6, 2008. Ms. Simpson worked as a secretary at the Juvenile Diagnostic and Treatment Center for two years, then operated a gift shop in Port Townsend, worked for Mary Johnson during the days of Port Townsend’s emergence as a arts community, and later spent several years working as Development Director for Centrum. After her retirement, she joined the Friends of Fort Worden and acted as secretary in addition to editing the Friends’ newsletter. Among the many stories she shared, here are some of her anecdotes about working at the Juvenile facility:

“In those days, we’re talking ’59 to ’61, you reached Port Townsend by calling 582. Every phone call coming into Fort Worden was the 582 and it went to a switchboard that is now the Park entry office. In front was an upright console, the receptacles where you could push in the cords and a headset attached to the cords. Dora was the one who took care of the switchboard. She’d be trying to route calls coming in and going out, pushing them here and pushing them there, and another phone rings, et cetera, et cetera. I happened to come in the hall door one morning and she was at the switchboard going like that. I stood there, she didn’t see me. She just ran her arm behind all of her cords and yanked them all out and said, ’There, let’s just start all over again.’

…I remember another time when we all went down to Gus Lindquist’s office (the Superintendent) because his secretary had gotten a new typewriter that we all wanted to see. We were just amazed because it was one where all of the letters were on a little ball and every time we typed a key it would twirl to the right letter. We just couldn’t believe that was happening. That was a modern thing–high tech at that point.

…This was also the time of the very beginning of running. Dr. Bill Shire was the first person in town who got into running. In the mornings about 6:30, he would run from Chetzemoka Park on the beach to Fort Worden and back. There were a lot of times when he got back to Chetzemoka,where the police would be waiting for him because someone had reported a runaway from Fort Worden.

…Fort Worden wasn’t used a whole lot by local people at that point. I remember when I would eat my lunch, I would go out here on the other side of Building 201 and that was the fartherest I went on the Fort Worden campus. There weren’t very many people here, especially up on Artillery Hill. There were a lot more animals here then–owls, coyotes and foxes. One of our god friends who worked here at night just to make sure everything was okay swore he saw a bear.”

Another, rather related story that took place in the early days of Centrum:

“…I had followed Bill Shire’s advice and become a runner. By that time I was not afraid to be at Fort Worden and run by myself. I would come out early in the morning and run over the top of Artillery Hill and back, sometimes with someone else. I didn’t work here but I had heard about the Fiddle Tunes festival in particular and how the people were just crazy about music and how they kept on playing all night long. Sometimes even they would go on top of Artillery Hill and play and so I’d see all these musicians along the way. One day when I was running early in the morning, I took the trail to the cemetery, then up the steep trail to the top. As I was going up the steep trail a fox jumped out in front of me. The fox continued running up the trail and I continued running behind the fox. Just behind the top of the trail, here was this young man stretched out across the trail, sound asleep with his arm over his fiddle case. The fox jumped over him and then I just jumped over him and we both kept on running and the guy never knew.”

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