It was a stormy Christmas eve in 1917. Outside the log building which constituted the Bayview School, the wind was blowing and snow was falling. Inside, the big room was cozy, warmed by the wood stove with its long black pipe which reached through the ceiling to the chimney. The room was filled with happy parents and children as a Christmas program was in progress.
Suddenly, the holiday festivities were shattered by a big bang. Soot sprayed over everyone and everything as the stove pipe clattered to the floor. Consternation was equaled by curiosity, but six-year-old Henry Dassel solved the problem with 132 the obvious answer: Santa Claus was trying to come down the chimney, but with the wind and snow, he missed his footing and knocked down the pipe. Nobody came up with a better answer. While the adults were cleaning up the mess inside, the youngsters were outside peering up at the chimney and expecting a miracle.
This is just one of the interesting recollections of Emmy Dassel Hunziker who grew up near the shores of Useless Bay along with her brother Henry. Three branches of the Dassel family settled near the intersection of Lancaster Road and Double Bluff Road between 1910 and 1912, twelve years after the Johnston and McMasters families had located on top of the bluff.
Carl, Henry, and Louise Dassel were born in Lamforde, Germany, in the 1890’s. Carl and his wife Elise came to the United States and settled in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Louise and her husband Otto Fey also migrated to the United States. When Henry Dassel was 23, he came to the United States from Germany for a visit, but was so impressed that he decided to remain. But he had a problem. His sweetheart, Dorothea Fehler, was back in Lemforde with her parents, so he made a quick trip back to Germany with marriage in mind. Dorothea’s father had different ideas. He had no intention of letting his 19-year-old daughter go traipsing across an ocean and a continent. For a time, there seemed to be an impasse. Finally, love won out. Henry and Dorothea were married, sailed for the United States, and finally settled in Denver, Colorado, where Henry earned their living at his trade as a house painter. Their son Henry Jr. was bom in Denver in 1911.
In 1910, the Carl Dassels had left Indiana and moved to a twenty-acre farm in the Double Bluff area of South Whidbey Island. Their glowing accounts of the island induced Henry to join his brother on the island paradise. In 1912, when baby Henry was a few months old, his father and mother moved to South Whidbey Island, having purchased ten acres at the intersection of Double Bluff and Millman Roads. Soon Louise and Otto Fey joined their relatives, purchasing property on Lancaster Road.
Emmy Dassel was born to Henry and Dorothea in 1915, and she has written an interesting account of the way neighbors helped each other in the early days around Double Bluff.
“My parents were invited to stay with the Carl Dassels until they could complete a three-room cabin on the ten acres they had purchased. They also built chicken coops and a bam. When there was a barn raising, the farmers in the neighborhood would all come to help and in no time a good-sized bam would be built. My parents had land to clear. Again, the neighbors would come together and pull stumps with their horses and stump-pullers. When World War I broke out, all of the Dassel and Fey families were glad to be here, but greatly concerned for their loved ones back in Germany.
“Carl Dassel was a carpenter by trade. My father, Henry Dassell, and Otto Fey were painters, but that sort of work was scarce around South Whidbey. So, all three men found work in Everett, commuting for a time. German was the only language spoken in our home until my brother, Henry Jr., started first grade at Bayview school—which was about three miles from home. After he had been in school two weeks, the teacher sent a note home saying that Henry couldn’t understand English, and the family must refrain from speaking German at home. From that time, I didn’t hear the German language spoken at home except when relatives visited.”
By 1919, Henry Dassel and Otto Fey had become tired of commuting to their jobs in Everett, so they moved their families to that city, but retained their island property. Carl Dassel continued to commute to Everett from his Double Bluff home. After living in Everett for a few years, the Henry Dassels and the Otto Feys became so homesick for their Whidbey Island home that they moved back to their Double Bluff property. Henry and Dorothea Dassel remodeled their original cottage into a larger home which became a land-mark in the area. In later years, it became known as the Peacock Inn.
Although Emmy started first grade in Everett, the remainder of her schooling was at Bayview grade school and Langley High School. She recalls riding to school in an open bus with roll-up side curtains. Clouds of dust from the dirt roads billowed after—and into—the bus in good weather, but when the weather was rainy, the mud-holes became so bad that the children had to get out of the bus and walk part of the way. Sometimes the older boys would help the driver, Fred Jensen, push the bus out of the mud.
Growing up in the Dassel and Fey families was filled with fun, as Emmy recalls. Sometimes there was also mischief, such as the time when seven girls around 12 years of age went skinny- dipping in the warm water that filled the coffer dam across part of Useless Bay. Two girls were kept on look-out to be sure that no one would catch them at their fun. Imagine their surprise when, upon arriving home, each of the girls was greeted by an irate mother prepared to introduce her to the “board of education.” They had taken such careful precautions to make certain they were unobserved that it seemed impossible that their mothers could know about their swimming in the buff. The mystery was solved when they were told that a Mrs. Treackel, who lived on the hill-side above the bay on what was later the Burner property, had been watching them with a spyglass. In righteous indignation, she had called the mother of each of the seven mermaids and suggested that spankings were in order.
Enjoyable but much less risky were the monthly neighborhood birthday parties which were held in various homes by a group of neighboring women including the Dassels, the Feys, the Josephsons, and the Dahlmans. Summer picnics on the beach with the neighborhood mothers and children were part of the fun.
When Emmy entered Langley High School, she soon became aware of a certain handsome husky football player, Walt Hunziker, whom she pretended to hate during her freshman year. By their sophomore year, they were going steady off and on. This situation continued after her graduation in 1933, but it was not until the big storm of 1935 that Emmy became certain that it was true love. South Whidbey was beset by a violent wind storm that uprooted trees, including an entire stand of old-growth timber near Baby Island.
At that time, Walter was working on the Wilkinson’s chicken ranch not far from Clinton. [Note: the Hunziker story is told in Volume III of this series, “The Village by the Sea.”J Walter had been dating Emmy regularly, driving the approximate ten miles from the Wilkinsons to Double Bluff each evening. On this particular day, several roads were blocked with fallen trees and branches.
Emmy tried to look out the windows of the Dassel home across the tide flats from Useless Bay, but found the glass covered with salt spray blown in by the wind from the bay over a half mile away. She felt it was useless to expect any suitor living ten miles away to keep a date under the circumstances, but the poets are not wrong when they say that “Love will find a way.” Walter arrived late, but he kept his date. He had pushed his car through fallen branches and even had to stop on the road near the Patzwold ranch [The Patzwold story is told in Part III of this volume.] to help other struggling travelers cut through a large tree which had fallen across the road.
Walter’s activities that evening were not especially romantic. He spent the time helping Emmy’s father prop up his fruit trees against the wind, and helping her mother scrape the salty sea off the windows before it caked on. Walt and Emmy were married in 1938. As this is written, they make their home in Langley and are looking forward to celebrating their golden wedding anniversary in a couple of years.
Emmy’s mother died in 1946; her father later married Anita Clyde, a sister of Norman Clyde, who was a leader in the Langley community. The other descendants of the Dassel and Fey families have moved from South Whidbey.