There are trees, and then again, there are trees. Magnificent forests of conifers were an expected sight on South Whidbey in the early 1900s, but a forest of apple trees was not only unexpected and a conversation piece, it was considered downright ridiculous. C. G. Melendy’s neighbors didn’t hesitate to tell him so when they discovered he was planting 60 apple trees in the front yard of his new farm located at what is now 2598 East High¬way 525 in Bayview.
Melendy, who was a farmer at heart, was born in Vermont, but grew up in South Dakota. After his marriage to Ella Hart, the young couple remained in South Dakota for three years. They had heard of a “land of milk and honey” on faraway Whidbey Island from Ella’s sister. She had moved there in 1896 and was teaching school in a one-room log building there. They set out for the island to seek their fortune. In 1905, they purchased ten acres with a small house on what is now State Highway 525 adjacent to the Useless Bay Golf and Country Club.
He soon noticed that almost every farm had a home orchard with assorted types of fruits. Melendy became so entranced with the apples that he planted his entire front yard with the fruit that got Eve into trouble in Eden. He envisioned making a minor fortune by selling his fruit on the main-land each autumn.
His dream was short-lived when he found out, to his sorrow, that there was no market. He did discover, however, that there was an excellent one for another kind of fruit. “Hen fruit,” or eggs, were in demand, so the apple trees were replaced with chicken coops. Melendy was one of the original founders of the Washington State Cooperative Egg Association that began on South Whidbey.
Adjacent to the Melendy home was a big channel that went through marsh-land and, at high tide, a boat could come in as far as what is now the Whidbey Telephone Company property. The boat brought supplies and mail to a store that belonged to Ernie Meyer. It was located on a comer of what is now known as the McCloskey place. The Bayview Post Office had been operating out of the house the Melendys had bought, but the young Melendys had other things on their mind. They closed it out and then the mail was brought in from Langley on a rural route. Walter Hunziker was the mail carrier and he recalls riding out to Bayview on horseback to deliver and pick up the mail.
The Melendys had a son, Frank, who married Carrie Ramstad of Clinton. [Her story begins in the Clinton Section.] The following story of their married life is told by Carrie.
“At the time Frank and I were married, he was farming with his father who had become ill. Frank had been studying the electrical trade at a vocational school in Everett, but had come home to help his folks. He worked on the farm during the Depression years and we were never in want. We had 4,000 laying hens, a couple of pigs, and some cows, so we had our own meat and milk, butter, and eggs.
After the Depression, we lost all our chickens through disease. Then Frank went to work for the telephone company while it was still a cooperative. He and Fred Grimm worked together and they strung a lot of lines around here. After a couple of years, he left the phone company and logged for a while. When the Nobles took over the phone company, he went to work for them as a lineman for a number of years.
“Frank was active in several community organizations including the Woodmen’s Lodge, the county fair, and he was often called upon when neighbors were in need of something. I remember the year of the big snow in 1916, one of our neighbors died and their relatives on the main-land needed to be notified. All the telephone lines were down, so Frank and I drove to Coupeville after midnight hoping to find a phone line that was functional. The only place that was open was the county jail. We went in and Mr. Zylstra finally ended up getting our call through in the wee small hours of the morning. Then he took us home to breakfast.
“During the war years, 1942 through 1946, Frank first went to Alaska fishing, then came home and worked on the ferry. I also worked on the ferries for a while as a stewardess. I ran the food departments for both ferries for two years. During World War Two, when food was rationed, it was so hard to get even staples, that I got tired of the struggle and quit. Shortly after that I started working at the Bayview store, which was close to my home. I worked there for Harold Johnston for 26 years.
“Harold had owned the store since 1932 when he bought it from Bill Burk. (Bill’s son, Charles Burk, owned Burk’s Lumber Company in Langley.) For many years during the Depression of the 1930s there were a lot of people who really needed help. I know that Harold Johnston gave away food beyond what anybody realized. Boxes and boxes of groceries went out of that Bayview store that people never did pay for because they couldn’t.
“Although I didn’t work there at the time, Frank and I were close personal friends of Harold’s first wife, Marie, so we knew what was going on.”
Frank Melendy died in the 1960s after a prolonged illness. Carrie Ramstad Melendy remained active in the South Whidbey community until a few months prior to her death in 1983. Besides her work in Saint Peter’s Lutheran church she also served on several committees for the South Whidbey Historical Society. The editor of this volume is indebted to her, and her interviewer, Eva Simmons for the preceding comprehensive picture of early life in Clinton and later, in Bayview.