1938’s first county baby reflects on 75 years

It was the year Nazi Germany invaded Austria and attacked Jews in the Kristallnacht riots. On the East Coast, a great hurricane killed more than 500 people. Orson Welles panicked Americans with his “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast, a tale of alien invasion.

The nation’s unemployment rate was nearly 20 percent. Minimum wage was 25 cents an hour. And in Everett, Don Girven was born.

On Thursday, I had a chance to chat with Girven — Snohomish County’s Baby New Year, 1938.

His wife, Judy Girven, had called to say that her husband, as a newborn, was pictured in The Everett Daily Herald for being the county’s first baby born that year.

Sure enough, a peek at Herald microfilm shows him in a front-page photo in the Jan. 3, 1938, paper. He’s being held by his mother, Edith Girven, (in the caption she is “Mrs. Chester Girven of Route 2, Everett). Little Donald was born at 2:55 a.m. Jan. 1, 1938 — a Saturday. There was no Sunday Herald then, so the picture was published a couple days after the birth.

Girven will celebrate his 75th birthday on New Year’s Day with a football-watching party at his Getchell area home near Lake Stevens. The couple will host their neighbors.

Seventy-five may be a milestone birthday, but for seniors today it’s hardly advanced age. What’s remarkable is hearing how life has changed since Girven was born. Consider the first-baby gift his parents received from Everett’s Providence Hospital, now Providence Regional Medical Center Everett’s Pacific campus.

“Don’s parents received a case of cod liver oil,” Judy Girven said. This year, it was a nice gift basket that Swedish/Edmonds hospital gave the parents of Weston Isaac LaFon, born at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 1.

“I’ve got rosy cheeks,” Don Girven joked about the fish oil prize.

Except for his Army duty, which took Girven to Korea in the mid-1950s, he has lived nearly all his life on the Getchell land where his parents built a house in 1940. The family lived in Everett when he was born.

Girven remembers the tiny house, just two bedrooms for a four-child family. “I always had wonderful parents, but they were poor,” he said.

“It was sort of a family joke. My father built a two-bedroom house, and they had three girls and me,” he said. There was an outhouse, and the bathroom had a tub but no plumbing. “I slept in a sleeping bag in the bathtub,” he said.

“It’s hard to believe the changes at Getchell,” said Girven, whose home isn’t far from the state-of-the-art campus of Marysville Getchell High School.

From first through sixth grades, he went to a tiny Getchell schoolhouse which had one teacher. “She taught first grade for one hour, then taught the other kids. There were five or six of us in each class,” he said. Girven went to middle school and high school in Marysville.

A retired truck driver who worked for Associated Sand &Gravel, Girven built a house in 1963 on his parents’ 10-acre property. He and Judy were married in 1964. They’ll soon celebrate their 49th wedding anniversary.

Chester and Edith Girven both died in 1970. The family sold five acres, but today Don and Judy Girven’s son, Dale, also has a house on the Getchell property. “We’ve all got too much grass to mow,” he said. The couple also have a daughter, Lisa.

Looking at that 1938 Herald, some long-ago news has an eerily familiar ring. Except for the president’s name, the 1938 headline “Roosevelt demands business reform” might easily apply today.

Baby New Year 1938 has hopes for 2013, but steers clear of politics. “I’m just hoping for good health, for me and my family and neighbors,” Girven said.

Here’s my reply, borrowed from the headline on his 1938 baby picture: “Happy New Year-Happy Birthday.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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