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They have a friendship that’s outlasted time

Es Singer and Harold Dahl celebrate their 80th birthdays along with classmates Jim Hajek and Glen Pearson. They began elementary school together in Silverdale in 1941. - Leslie Kelly
Es Singer and Harold Dahl celebrate their 80th birthdays along with classmates Jim Hajek and Glen Pearson. They began elementary school together in Silverdale in 1941.
— image credit: Leslie Kelly

They’ve played ball together. They’ve dressed as hula girls and performed during a school assembly. They’ve sought shelter under school desks in the dark for practice bombing raids during World War II.

They’ve shared their first jobs. They enlisted in the military service together. And they’ve even stolen each other’s girlfriends.

But they’ve never had a fight and they’ve never lost touch with each other. For four 80-year-old men, that’s tried and true friendship.

For Harold Dahl, of Silverdale, Ed Singer, of Everett, Glen Pearson of Bellingham and Jim Hajek of Kelso, turning 80 this year is made all the better because they can share it.

And that’s just what they did. Last week the four, along with family and friends, gathered at the Yacht Club Broiler in Silverdale to celebrate Ed’s birthday. It was a surprise for Ed, who turned 80 on Feb. 12.

Glen, who turned 80 in January, arranged the party through Ed’s daughter, Regan, who lives in Edmonds.

She picked up her dad and headed for a restaurant in downtown Edmonds, but instead got in the ferry line.

“I said to her, ‘You missed the turn,’ ” Singer said. “But then she told me, ‘No dad, we’re going to Silverdale for your birthday lunch.’ ”

And when he got to the broiler, there they were, Glen, Jim, and of course, Harold.

“I was surprised,” said Singer. “But it means the world to me.”

Dahl said the party had to be at the broiler because it sits on the same land where the four guys played as kids.

“This is where we grew up,” he said. “This is where we hung out.”

In fact, Dahl brought an old photograph showing the lumber store that was around at the time the four met in grade school. They all started the first grade in the fall of 1940 in a four-room school house that was where the Silverdale Library now sits. They went on to attend school in the building that is now the Central Kitsap School District’s administrative building. And they all graduated from Central Kitsap High School together in 1952.

The men recalled many things about growing up in Silverdale when there wasn’t much except Old Town, the feed store, and Dahl’s father’s construction shop which was next to the Silverdale Hotel on Dyes Inlet.

Lawrence Greaves, who was at the party, recalled when his father, who had the grocery in town, gave Harold, Ed and Glen, their first job.

“He told them to divide up some 50 pound bags of potatoes into five and 10 pound bags,” Greeves said. “Dad told Ed to hold the 50-pound bag open and Glen to take potatoes out of it and put them in the smaller bags and then Harold would read the scale.”

Nobody even remembered what they got paid for the job, but they all remembered it was their first paying job.

“Probably potatoes,” Dahl joked.

Singer said Dahl’s father, Olaf, was a craftsman. During World War II when they were kids, he took three-quarter inch plywood and made them Tommy Machine guns, so they could play war.

“There were no toy guns then because all the metal went for the war efforts,” Singer said. “So these guns were really something special to have.”

Singer said one of his favorite memories was when he and Harold would sneak into the kitchen at Harold’s house, just after Harold’s mom had pulled fresh homemade bread from the oven.

“We’d slice off the ends and put butter and jam on them and run off,” Singer said. “His mom would be yelling, ‘Stop Harold and Eddie.’ ”

They all recalled when several of them were “talked in to” dressing in hula skirts and dancing on stage for the entire high school. And they remembered, too, that Singer was always the boy that all the girls wanted to date.

“Look at him,” said Dahl. “He looks like he could be Tony Bennett’s brother. He’s always been the best looking of us.”

Even Mary Lou Sampson Dahl agreed.

“In high school, he was hitting on me all the time,” she said. “And then he’d dump me for the new girl.”

Meanwhile, Harold said he sat in-waiting, reading comic books, ready to pick up the pieces. He and Mary Lou ended up dating, got married and have been together ever since.

They all spent time in military service, most of them were in the Air Force during the Korean War era. They all married and had families. Their careers took them various places in Washington. Singer worked many years for Boeing and also sold cars with Jim. Jim owned the Bremerton Datsun dealership at Sixth and Naval in Bremerton. Harold took over his father’s business which became Dahl Glass and is now run by his son. Glenn has his own business and was a helicopter pilot.

But throughout the celebration of their 80th birthdays (Jim will be 80 in September and Glen will be 80 in October), they kept coming back to their friendship. Although they all played sports and competed against each other, they claim they’ve never had a time when they weren’t talking to each other.

Harold thinks it’s because they bonded so well when they were young.

“It was war time,” he said. “We were all scared. We all had to go through bomb drills and blackouts and somehow, that just made our friendship stronger. There were no iPads or computers. Our lives were about being together and sharing time.”

As it is today, he said.

“I make sure to get on the phone and call each of these guys regularly,” he said, “because when you’re 80, you really don’t know how much more time you have.”

 

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