For writer Jack Kerouac, Everett in the 1950s was a soulless place. Belching cars, crass waitresses. In his autobiographical novel, “Desolation Angels.” Kerouac longed for the solitary refuge of the North Cascades and work as a fire lookout for the U.S. Forest Service. Everett was a mass-society pimple, a drive-through everytown.
Kristen Shaulis, a 39-year-old registered nurse from Illinois, had her Kerouac-Everett moment in March. She was motoring through. She stayed one night at the Best Western on Pacific, shooting for Bellingham to catch the Alaska ferry. Shaulis had decided to uproot and work on an Indian reservation in Metlakatla, a small town on Annette Island southeast of Ketchikan. The promise of the American West, to begin anew.
“In my career, I was feeling like I needed to work with people who really needed my help,” she told The Herald. “Working with the reservation, I could fulfill that need.”
But Shaulis wasn’t feeling the love. That night, her U-Haul truck and trailer were stolen. Her life folded and pressed and packed away. From the replaceably trivial to the irreplaceably personal: The latter included her grandmother’s quilts and her own quilting supplies and sewing machine. Gone.
For Everett-ites, the crime spurred the better angels. Readers phoned The Herald and the Everett Police Department offering help. Shaulis was given clothes, money, even a pair of shoes. Within 48 hours, the U-Haul box truck, trailer and her Chrysler Town and Country minivan were recovered near Lynnwood. Everett police had disseminated video footage and surveillance stills, and residents were on the lookout.
By that time, Shaulis was on the ferry to Alaska, driven up to Bellingham by Kristi Myers, chief development officer at the American Red Cross. Shaulis had to start work as an RN at the Indian health clinic, donning scrubs donated by Everett’s Providence Regional Medical Center.
The narrative comes full circle, as Everett resident Karl Myers hopped the same ferry Friday, hauling Shaulis’ minivan and recovered possessions. Yes, he’s volunteering. As The Herald’s Dan Catchpole writes, Dwayne Lane’s Chrysler of Everett fixed the van’s jammed ignition system, cleaned it and put in a new battery. A-1 Auto Service Center in Everett provided an oil change. Conaway Motors replaced a headlight and water pump.
Shaulis may have misgivings about Everett, the drive-through everytown where she was robbed. But now she knows the community has a soul. And a very big heart.