Depression drives headlines, human nature in last half of 1928-33

The information and photos in this story were compiled by the Poulsbo Historical Society.

The information and photos in this story were compiled by the Poulsbo Historical Society.

In 1928-33, the dawn of a complicated era was on the horizon in Poulsbo. It was no longer the innocent rural town in which a sock in the nose was front-page news. It wasn’t a slow transition, either. Right after the stock market tanked in October 1929, business burglaries

Keep it local

During a mass meeting for the unemployed in November 1932, the prevailing attitude of locals first — a sentiment widespread during the Depression —

Some months later, it was reported that Poulsbo’s First National Bank was closed, but it wasn’t reported why the bank was closed. In the May 26, 1933, edition, the bank used the Herald to thank its customers for their continued loyalty and announced it was reopening.

When financial times were tough, residents had to cut the fat out of their household budgets. In the early ’30s, the telecommunications industry took a beating, as was evidence in the Poulsbo Telephone Company’s year in review for 1932-34 in the Jan. 12, 1934 Herald.

“The financial depression got worse all the time. Customers who had been with us from 10 to twenty-five years found that they had to part company with friend telephone, in increasing numbers. We had to cut our employees 10 per cent in order to try to break even,” the phone company reported. In addition, new state and federal taxes — including the ever-mysterious “occupation tax” was created to put more money in the government coffers. Those taxes added to the company’s financial woes.

Return to sender

Poulsbo residents scratched their collective heads in amusement and wonderment when they learned you do, in fact, get what you pay for. On May 25, 1928, Irene Alexander mailed a letter to Aberdeen, Grays Harbor. Eight months later, the letter boomeranged back into her own mailbox. Just for the record, snail mail was quite affordable back in the day. Rather than the 41 copper pieces it takes to mail a letter today, letters delivered within Poulsbo were 2 cents, while letters to the outside world were 3 cents.

Cops and robbers

In a story that could be ripped from the current headlines, a rash of burglaries plagued Poulsbo and the North End. In this case, the thieves left private citizens alone and focused on businesses. Borgen’s grocery store was burglarized via the removal of a French window in February 1930. Burglars made off with $20 and an automatic revolver. “It was rather a bold stroke to do, as Borgen’s store is located right in the middle of town, with a street light burning right near the front. As far as could be found out, no merchandise was taken,” the Herald editorialized.

Vincent’s Service Station was also burgled. Thieves took three tires and three or four slabs of bacon.

Burglaries continued well into April and got more brazen as time went on. On April 25, 1930, the safe at Hostmark Motor Co. was blown open with nitroglycerine, and $150 cash was stolen.

Although it’s not clear if the burglaries were related, they seemed to taper off after September 1933, when four men — a father and three sons — were arrested and charged with robberies throughout the state. When the men were arrested at their camp on the Hood Canal, authorities found more than $3,000 worth of stolen goods. Because some of the robberies were committed at post offices, the men were tried in federal court in Seattle. The results of the trial weren’t reported.