Only on Vashon – The Weekly Rundown 08/19/2022

We want to keep the Sealth on the South end route to replace the Chetzemoka. Not just because it’s bigger and fits more cars, but because it’s not a maze and I can find the bathroom without getting lost in some side corridor. Also, we hate driving down that one tunnel on the Chetzy. It’s so cramped and isolated. As one islander put it, “It always feels like the side tunnel of shame. Like a car time out 🥺☺️

But there are some issues with the Sealth. 

First off, the vending machines are mostly empty. And I feel so sorry for the poor soul who suffered this fate: 

Also, the Sealth is an Issaquah class. “Sooner or later it will run amok and take out Anthony’s Restaurant,” a commenter reminds us. 

Not all of us like the Sealth on that route. One person says, “I miss Chetzemoka… Today Sealth pulled out of the dock and there was a sailboat directly in her path. Sealth just casually ducked to stern, adding at least 45 seconds to the trip. Chetz would have just Naptimed that sucker!”

Yes, we need an agressive, brazen boat. Some people are even more nostalgic and miss the Rhododendron. “That boat was awesome. Until you were stuck parked next to one of the poles and couldn’t open your door 😂

And speaking of nostalgia, we miss the Portage Store. First we have to disagree on when it closed down. Some say it was over 20 years ago, some say it was as recently as 2001, which I now realize is more than twenty years ago, despite feeling like maybe 12 years ago, max. 

What was so special about this store? For one thing, they used an abacus to add up your total purchases.

They offered an eclectic mix of wares, from candy to baseball cards to orange juice and paintings by local artists, and even the occasional kitten. They had comic books in the fridge, which was held closed by a shopping cart. 

“It used to have a post office and a meat market,” one islander remembers. What a great idea to have a post office combined with a meat market. That makes it so much easier to send meat.

Another islander remembers his varied purchases. “My last purchase there was a jar of peanut butter and a copy of the Complete Works of Shakespeare copyright late 1800s for like 50 cents (later stolen out of my house during a party–easy come, easy go).”

Kids used to bike there, or row there, or walk over the beach at low tide, or ride horses there to go get a popsicle. Some kids used to collect old pop bottles to make money in order to buy candy there. One kid would always stop there for ice cream after pirate camp. 

Wait, what is pirate camp? Do you learn how to steal boats? Dig up the legendary treasure by Judd Creek? Kids today are always encouraged to follow the law and not commit Grand Theft Boat. But back in the day, they learned those skills at summer camp. Times sure have changed. 

They also sold pickled eggs at the Portage Store. One islander says, “I dearly miss the pickled eggs. I still remember the taste and absolutely loved that they weren’t rubbery. If anyone has a good recipe please share ❤️

So we share competing pickled egg recipes. One includes adding canned beets and onion. Alternatively, you could make them with  garlic, a dried pepper, caraway and dill seed. And if you save the brine, you can add it to bone broth. 

Then we discuss a topic of great interest to me- how to boil eggs from backyard chickens. An isalnder expresses a burning question of my soul when they ask, “but you can’t successfully hard boil fresh eggs, right? Is there a workaround I’m missing?”

I noticed this too. When you peel boiled fresh eggs, most of the egg white comes off on the peel. I thought there was just something wrong with my chickens, but apparently their eggs were just too fresh. We have a workaround, which involves letting fresh eggs sit out for three days, then steam them for 13 minutes, then dump the eggs in cool water, and keep changing the water until the eggs cool. “Then bonk the egg once or twice to crack it (ideally at the air pocket), and drop it back in the cold water. When they’re all cracked, drain the cold water and pour all the eggs into the hot water. slosh it around to get ’em all warmed up, then back into cold water again until they’re fully cool before peeling.” 

It’s as simple as that. 

I put this long quote here mostly for my sake because things disappear on Facebook and I need this recipe for reference. 

Ooh! Someone should start a Vashon Recipes Facebook group. If anyone starts that group, please add me.

But back to the Portage Store. Two islanders reminisce on the wood floor’s pleasant smell, and another remembers  “the creaky wooden floors”  and  “the slamming of the wooden screen door.”

We also have descriptions of the man who lived upstair. He would talk to the crows and his plants, play backgammon, and he even officiated an island couple’s wedding. One islander tells us, “He painted and designed his own coffin.” 

We all agree that someone should make a movie about it. As it turns out, it was used as a backdrop for some scenes in the movie “The Beans of Egypt, Maine.” I’d never heard of this movie before, and had never imagined the words beans, Egypt, and Maine could come together in a single sentence, let alone a coherent movie plot, but here we are.

Thankfully, there is a 7 minute video of the store on YouTube! It’s a fun trip to the store where the cameraman chats with the shopkeeper and the customers, and they talk about all the art on the walls. 

Why did such a beloved place close? According to knowledgeable islanders, it was for environmental reasons related to being so close to the harbor. 

And speaking of things changing, property assessments came in and they are 25-30% increase over last year. 

You can appeal by proving that the house is run down. 

Maybe I should try this. It’s hard for me to believe my house is worth 700k when the kitchen sink routinely clogs, the ceiling leaks when it rains, and the dishwasher is one we got off the side of the road. It hooks directly up to the sink, and, because the cord on it is so short, it has to face sideways to reach the faucet, so if the dishwasher door is open, it blocks the front door. Then there’s all the rats that’ve taken up residence in the chicken coop.

Not to mention all the bodies buried in the backyard. Just kidding! The kids from pirate camp dug those up ages ago. 

Anna Shomsky
Author: Anna Shomsky

I'm a former teacher and a data engineer living on Vashon Island. My writing has appeared in Five on the Fifth, Women on Writing and on the Post-Culture Podcast. I wrote and produced the radio show Whispers of Vashon for 101.9 KVSH. I’ve had short stories published in the anthologies Island Stories and Chicken Scratchings, as well as through the Open Space Literary Project.

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