I have found a number of different stories while I’ve been spending time in Bremerton, Silverdale and Port Orchard for the past couple of months.
One of the most interesting came from the mayor of Black Diamond, Rebecca Olness, which is next door to my hometown, Enumclaw.
I was talking with her on the phone recently concerning a story when the subject of Bremerton came up.
Olness found out I was staying in Bremerton and said she was raised in Bremerton. Her parents were both prominent citizens in the city and Kitsap County. She met her husband, Ron, in Bremerton when she was in high school.
She said her grandmother, who worked at Harrision Medical Center, signed her husband, Ron’s, birth certificate. There is some synchronicity.
The best part of our conversation was her story about not being allowed to carrying a canvas bag and throw papers.
Olness and a friend were walking home from school one day when they decided delivering papers or being paper boys would be fun and a good way to spend time after school.
“We thought why can’t we be paper boys,” Olness said.
She and her friend went to the local daily, the Bremerton Sun, and asked to deliver papers.
“We thought it wouldn’t be a big deal,” Olness said.
To their surprise the girls were told no because only boys could be paper boys.
I mean really… be serious girls, sheez. This was the early 1950s and girls just didn’t deliver papers, or do a lot of other things.
“I think we complained,” Olness said. “They said, ‘No girls can’t do this.’”
Sounds like another world doesn’t it.
Olness said it was her first experience with discrimination, and probably not her last. Over the next decades incidents like that would be major battles in the country.
Being told she could not be a paper boy certainly didn’t deter Olness in life. She worked as a teacher for 32 years and has spent the last three years as mayor of Black Diamond. Neither one can be characterized as easy-pleasy gigs.
Even with her successes in life, which have been many, getting gypped out of carrying a canvas bag continues to be alive for her.
“I’m still mad,” she said.
How things have changed…. I hope.