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Oral Histories

Oral histories offer us a deep and very personal understanding of local history. Hearing the stories of our fellow community members reminds us that we all share a common humanity. Here are stories that highlight the human experience, like love and loss, winning a fight, finding your voice, finding  your path, and starting fresh.  And while they spoke a lot about the past, narrators have shared their thoughts, hopes and observations for Issaquah’s future.  We’re grateful to our community narrators for sharing themselves with us. We look forward to meeting new narrators in the near and distant future.

Mary Scott


Born in Alaska, Mary Scott moved to Washington state as a child. An only child, Mary was adventuresome and visited many places in her two years in Peace Corps. After receiving her Masters degree at the University of Washington, she moved to Issaquah and became a middle school teacher and found herself on the school board for several years.

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Debbie Berto

Finding your voice.

Longtime Issaquah resident and editor of the Issaquah Press, Debbie Berto helped to tell the stories of Issaquah for over 40 years. Debbie raised a family, owned a business in Gilman Village in its early days and co-chaired Issaquah’s Salmon Days.

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Rhonda Brown

The past, plus thoughts, hopes, and observations for Issaquah's  future.

Rhonda moved to Issaquah with her husband Manny and two young children. Throughout her oral history, we see the challenges of living in Issaquah for a young African American family. Rhonda tells of her work as a longtime employee of IBM and antiracism work with her sister and with the Unitarian Church in Bellevue.

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Manny Brown

Finding your path.

Social justice activist and longtime Issaquah resident, Manny Brown was also an Assistant Coach to the Issaquah Eagles Wrestling team.  He is a member of the East Shore Unitarian church and is active in the Black Lives Matter movement; hosting events such as Flash Stance in cities around the Eastside.  Manny shares his story as a person of color living in Issaquah.

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Alicia Spinner

Starting fresh.

Born in Monterrey, Mexico, Alicia has made her home in Issaquah after living in San Francisco, Boston and West Virginia. Encountering racism throughout her travels, equity work has become a staple in her life. As the manager of Cultural Bridges and editor of their magazine at the time of this interview, Alicia helps immigrants navigate the education system and advocates for people of color in the Issaquah area.

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Fred Butler

Army veteran, longtime resident of Issaquah, mayor, councilmember, and active civic leader outside of government, Fred Butler shares his unique memories and insights of Issaquah.

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Vernon “Babe” Anderson

His extensive oral history covers his grandparent’s immigration to the United States and Issaquah, through his life growing up and remaining in Issaquah. Vernon worked at the Issaquah Creamery and was drafted for both WWII and the Korean War. The City of Issaquah acquired Vernon’s family’s land and buildings for part of the Confluence Park Project. Vernon requested recognition of his grandfather, Tolle Anderson.

In addition to buildings, land, and this oral history, both Vernon and his brother Rodney wrote letters home during their time in service, and these letters were generously donated to Issaquah History Museum’s by Rodney’s daughter. Some of these letters are available in our Digital Collections as well as other documents and pictures. Check out the full extent of the Anderson collection here.

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Elvin Barlow and Marie Chandler

Their parents were Finnish and Swedish immigrants who moved their family to Issaquah in 1906 and opened a dairy farm. They discuss culture and traditions of being brought up in a Finnish area of Issaquah and how people of other ethnicities would come to baseball games, barbecues and events.  Interesting stories of life in Issaquah in the early 1900s.

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Elvin Barlow, Circa 1931


Beryl Baxter

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Delores Kinnune Busby

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Girl in front is Claudia Miles. Left to right - Roger Kinnune, Charles (Chuck) Kinnune, Delores Kinnune, Betty Jo Isotalo, dog Micky, Ethel Marie Isotalo. Circa 1940

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Patricia “Pat” Louise Currie

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Patricia Louise Currie, Circa 1945

Dorothy Hailstone Beale


Dorothy Hailstone Beale was born in 1919 to James H. Hailstone and Emma Greenier Hailstone. Dorothy was interviewed in 2006 by Maria McLeod as part of IHM’s oral history project. Dorothy talks about growing up in Issaquah, logging, and the Hailstone family. Her extensive interview covers many families in Issaquah as well as some fascinating discussion about the KKK and cultural and race relations in Issaquah.

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Hazel Hicko (left) and

Dorthy Hailstone Beal (right), circa 1936


Bill Evans

William C. Evans Jr. was born in 1923 to William G. Evans Sr. and Ella Willig Evans. Bill was interviewed in 2006 by Maria McLeod as part of IHM’s oral history project; you can read the full transcript by clicking on Oral History Transcript above. In his interview, Bill talks about his grandfather’s work with Issaquah Water Department, growing up in Issaquah, and WWII. His interview is extensive, covering his upbringing in Issaquah, his time in World War II, and his adult life in Seattle and Issaquah. Bill was a charming man and an excellent story teller. Click here for one of the stories from his oral history.

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Lee Roy Hepler

Lee Roy Hepler served as mayor of Issaquah from 1930-1932. Hepler also operated a local Ford dealership. Image copied from mayoral portraits owned by the City of Issaquah.

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James “Pinky” Hailstone

James “Pinky” Hailstone was born in British Columbia in 1898 to Francis Hailstone and Ester Hooker Hailstone. He was interviewed in 1975 by Richie Woodward, a student at Issaquah High School. His interview has a lot of interesting stories including he and some friends burning a “fiery cross” and the KKK being blamed for it, the story of the only hanging in Issaquah, and a story about Ben Legg.

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Hailstone Feed Store. Left to right: Frank Hailstone, Nell Hailstone Falkenstein, Emma Greenier Hailstone (wife of James Hailstone). [IHM photo 2001-29-2]


Camilla Berg Erickson

Camilla Berg was born in 1918 to Charles Berg and Gesine Eliasen Berg. Camilla was interview in 2006 as part of IHM’s oral history project. Camilla talks about raising chickens (her family had 800), the Norwegian community and food (blood dumplings), and Issaquah during the depression. She also discusses changes in Issaquah over the years.

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Camilla Berg Erickson in her yearbook photo, circa 1936


Emery Cobourn Hill

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Eleanor Burke Harrell

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N.J. Burke General Merchantile Store -- Exterior. Store was located on Front Street.

Eleanor Wicklund Hope

This candid photograph of 1966 Clark Elementary staff offers a glimpse of the camaraderie among some of Issaquah's best-known and much-loved residents at that time. Pictured from left to right are, (front row) Jean Jaekel, Luella Grant, Bob Eiene, Sue Smith, Polly Heft, Janie Link, Louise Quistorff, and Ron Reed; (middle row) Clella Menold, Emma Crow, Mary Boyden, Sylvia Bender, Pearl Deering, Agnes Hammond, Carol King, Joan Krivasha, and Bob Reed; (back row) Mary Whelus, Betty Evans, Ruth Colingham, Shirley Hayes, Marian Oules, Eleanor Hope, Margaret Medalon, Agnes Houdek, Mabel Miles, Cleo Somsak, Joe Zimmerman, and Ray Upton.

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Jake Jones Jr.

Jacob Jones Jr. was born in 1881 to Jacob Jones Sr. and Mary Anderson Jones. He was born in Washington and lived in Issaquah until his death in 1959. His interview is from 1958 and contains many first person accounts of Issaquah’s early days. His interview is a fascinating picture of what life was like in early Issaquah.


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Irja Maunus

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John Hircko

An occasion (possibly first communion) at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Issaquah. The priest next to the high official is Father Carey. Also present in the photo are Joseph Rutkowski (front row, far left), Joe Neukirchen (adult male in back row, beneath window), Joseph Donlan (directly in front of Joe Neukirchen), John Hircko (the closest to the front of the four boys between the Bishop and Father Carey), Mary Lotto (just behind the Bishop's shoulder, the first of the little girls), Alice Neukirchen (back row, standing on something to make her the tallest in the back row, closest to the window on the right), Anne Rutkowski (directly behind the shorter girl in the front row), Marie Neukirchen (to Annie Rutkowski's left), and Anna Suess (Mrs. Joe) Neukirchen (second from the right, wearing the white hat).

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Josephine Cornick Ross

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Ruth Kees

Ruth Moore Kees was born in Nebraska in 1923 to Paul Moore and Myrtle Schultz Moore. Ruth was interviewed in 2006 by Maria McLeod as part of IHM’s oral history project. Her interview covers her work as a government inspector during WWII, getting her pilot’s license and working at Boeing, and the impact Issaquah’s development has had on the environment and her effort to protect it. If you’re interested in local environmental issues, both of Ruth’s interviews are amazing reads. You can also visit the Ruth Kees Big Tree Trail on Tiger Mountain if you’re in the mood for a hike.

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Ruth Kees (left) and Fred Nystrom (right) walk along Issaquah Creek ca late 1980s. 

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Mary E. Lewis

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Mary Colton Lucas

Mary Colton Lucus lived from 1898 to 1982. She was  a teacher in the Upper Squak School. In this interview, she discusses her experience there in 1917-18.

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A. J. Peters

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AJ Peters on the job as an insurance agent


Walter Seil

Walt Seil was born in Issaquah in 1920 to Edward Seil and Josephine Wood Seil. He had seven brothers and sisters, many with family remaining in the area. Walt was interviewed in 2006 by Maria McLeod as part of IHM’s oral history project. Walt talks about growing up in Issaquah on a ranch and in Snoqualmie where his father was a logger. He also talks about accidents he had, Alpine Dairy Football Team, and his role in WWII. He was a great story teller.

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Walter Seil in his senior yearbook

photo, circa 1941

Oral History Project Sponsors

The Oral History Project is made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom.


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