Interview with Karl Dehmer

From the interview with Karl Dehmer of Sammamish, WA conducted at the Fort Worden HistoryCenter on July, 13, 2002 by Cynthia Walker. Mr. Dehmer spent his early childhood at Fort Worden, where his father was employed at the Juvenile Diagnostic and Treatment Center. His family, which included seven children, lived in Quarters 4 East on Officers Row. Here he recounts some memories:

(His parents had warned him to stay away from the older kids at the Center) “I would sneak over to the canteen in the back that sold ice cream bars and some candy. …I remember trying to sneak over in my older years when I was here, probably around five, six, or seven, sneak to the canteen to get an ice cream bar. That was a tough thing to do because you got a big wide open field, so you couldn’t walk straight to it. You had to kind of go along the edge or go down to the beach and then come up the side. I had a sweet tooth and I still do, so that was an adventure.

…Going down to the beach, there were no stairs when we lived here. So instead you would kind of have to navigate this big cable that was standing on its own because the hillside had eroded some, and you worked down the path, going all the way down. It was always neat because the ants walked across that cable.

…I remember the beaches. You found a lot more things, you found a lot more sand glass, more interesting rocks, because now there are so many people here. But before no one ever came through there. I remember at low tide I even found a double ax head and I thought that was totally cool. Up in the hill where the sand cliffs are, I remember going up there and finding some trails that weren’t from people, they were from animals traveling along there. I remember finding a deer antler. There were some neat things to discover, versus now it’s pretty well cleaned out.

…The bunkers were from my perspective very interesting but very scary, because I don’t know how stories got into my head, but as a kid you either make them up or you think about (things). We thought some monsters live in there and stuff. I remember going into the lower bunkers, but I never went up on the hill bunkers because that was too wooded and too isolated. I remember hearing stories from my brothers about the open doors that led to caves and they were off limits that you shouldn’t go into. So we’d go to the lower ones and play on those, but the upper ones I never touched because I just wasn’t ready for those. I remember also the obstacle course in the back woods,there’s still a little remnant of part of it. …I also remember my brothers working back in that area where they were digging up old bottles. I think there were some antique bottles that I’m sure are either buried or gone now.

(I mostly played on the beach or under the pier) You’d hang from those bars under the pier and they’d swing down and you’d walk out on them to look into the water and things like that. I wasn’t at the age where I was gutsy enough to jump into the water, and it was still pretty cold.”

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