Reliable issues, year in and out

There’s nothing like a saunter through the Review’s “morgue books” – the dusty old volumes of newspapers past, in

newsroom parlance – to remind us that many of our island preoccupations transcend years, decades, generations even.

A fixation with population growth? Indeed. Demands for reliable ferry service? Unshakable. A school construction bond on the

horizon, and faith in the ultimate support of voters? Reliable as ever.

True, all-island government and a locally crafted Comprehensive Plan have rendered quaint some of the concerns of decades past. Today, socio-economic heterogeneity is threatened less by “mass housing” than by the size and price of new houses themselves. And our sensibilities have in some spheres shifted – today’s east-looking islanders are clearly not interested in a bridge to Bremerton.

But we are still much the same Bainbridge as we were 50 years ago, as demonstrated by this commentary by Walt Woodward,

which appeared in this space on Dec. 29, 1955:

* * * * *

“The title of the year-end Review editorial last year was both an exclamation and a question: ‘Bigger! Also better...?’ It was prompted by the marked population growth of 1954. But the attendant

commercial growth caused us to say that there is no virtue in a

community’s merely becoming bigger. It also, we said, must be better to satisfy most of the inhabitants.

“Saturday, we’ll flip the pages of the calendar into yet another year. The time is here again for a classified look at both the effect of 1955 on this Bainbridge of ours, and what 1956 might bring.

“POPULATION: We are even ‘bigger.’ The establishment this year of the Nike (missile) base here augmented the continuing steady growth of year-round Seattle commuters. This year saw many new homes being built, yet there is no ‘boom’ in the sense that there is in other fringe areas of Seattle, where vast acreages are leveled for the mass production of houses. As a matter of fact, an island man who was planning a career of home-building here on a modified ‘mass’ scale, this year moved to another community; Bainbridge, he said, just isn’t ready for that kind of development yet.

“We can’t see anything but a continuation of that steady,

‘non-boom’ growth in 1956. We think such growth will please most islanders, for it is a growth we can absorb without suffering the pains of a too-rapid increase of population.

“SCHOOLS: Capt. Wilkes School is operating for the first time in the North End, and the new addition to Bainbridge High School is in use (the new gymnasium won’t be in use until 1956, but that is the contractor’s fault, not that of the taxpayers who voted the money in time for ‘55 completion). Still, that won’t be enough. This growing population must mean even more grade school classrooms by 1958, school officials say. And ‘old’ Bainbridge High needs some refurbishing to keep it in useable condition.

“We’ll bet on the Bainbridge taxpayer. He hasn’t failed his school system yet in putting up classrooms in time for their use. We don’t think he’ll destroy that proud record in 1956. It is our forecast that tax money will be voted next year for both grade school classrooms and high school remodeling.

“PLANNING: Although the start of 1955 was marked by a great step in planning (the state highway was kept free of a ‘Main Street’ commercial development), little else was done on an island-wide basis for a planned growth. We’d guess that what is needed is professional help to activate the adoption of area master plans now before the County Planning Commission. The excellent volunteer commission can do little without an adequate paid staff toward giving Bainbridge Island a master plan which will assure sensible growth. In 1956, the commission should ask, and receive, our help in persuading the Board of County Commissioners to appropriate more funds for planning commission staff assistance.

“TRANSPORTATION: This year, of course, forever will be a red letter one in Bainbridge history, for it was in 1955 that the asinine plan to force island commuters to use a roundabout cross-sound bridge at Vashon Island was given the ‘deep freeze.’ Instead, we’ve been left with a greatly improved direct ferry route to Seattle, a

route which now dominates all others in truck travel and which is challenging the Bremerton run for both automobile and passenger supremacy.

“In 1956, we should be ready to consolidate our transportation gains. But for the moment at least, we no longer need to shoulder the leadership we had to grasp to defend our commuters. We should be ready to help others: North Olympic Peninsula people are pushing for immediate construction of the Hood Canal bridge; some Bremerton leaders are showing great interest in the proposal to consolidate ferry traffic by building a Bremerton-Bainbridge bridge.

“These are major material issues on this island. Most of them are concerned with our being ‘bigger.’

“Bainbridge is also a ‘better’ community in which to live. It was

the place, for example, which in 1955 oversubscribed its needy

family Christmas Fund by 100 percent without a single donor acknowledgement.

“Bainbridge Island – a way of life – still remains a wonderful place to sing out: Happy New Year!”

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