‘Mill Town Boy’ tells the story of an Everett Everyman

‘Mill Town Boy’ tells the story of an Everett Everyman

  • By Gale Fiege Herald Writer
  • Thursday, March 10, 2016 1:42pm
  • Life

EVERETT — High school wasn’t always an option for guys like him. Supporting the family came first.

But Raymond Fosheim was forever an Everett High Seagull. He lived in the best place in the world.

In a new biography — “Mill Town Boy” — by his son Gene Fosheim, the story of Ray Fosheim becomes a local Everyman tale.

It’s about immigrants, logging camps, the lumber, shake and paper mills in this City of Smokestacks, the Great Depression, World War II and neighborhoods of blue-collar, lower middle-class, union-member Americans.

Written primarily for his sons and granddaughters, Gene Fosheim’s book reveals what it was like to live in Everett through most of the 20th century.

In fact, local reviews of the book have included lots of kudos from others whose parents grew up here.

Former “Seems Like Yesterday” Herald columnist and co-author of “Snohomish County: An Illustrated History” Jack O’Donnell also praised the book.

“Read this heartwarming family history and learn a lot about Everett history as well,” he said.

Gene Fosheim is a founding board member of Historic Everett, president of the Everett Museum of History project and a former chairman of the city’s commission on history.

So Fosheim knew where to look for the information he needed. The book is replete with historic photos, maps, advertisements, posters, newspaper clippings and much more.

The backbone of the book, however, is Ray’s diary, which Gene rescued from the trash, along with family photographs, letters and interviews with his father.

Fosheim not only wrote the self-published book, but he designed it, too. Though it is a big book, close to 350 pages long, “Mill Town Boy” is easy to read because of all the visual elements.

The Fosheim family came to America from a small farm in Norway. They settled in the Puget Sound region, which must have reminded them of the fjord country back home.

“But it was a tough life in those early years,” Gene Fosheim said. “Injuries and deaths at the mills, labor strikes, 10-hour days, six days a week.”

Ray Fosheim was born in Everett in 1914. Before his death in 1997, he’d held down mill jobs over many decades, starting when he was 15 in a wooden box factory in order to support his family during the Depression and ending his career working at the Collins Casket Co.

He was a motorcycle enthusiast, he fished, he hiked through the Cascades and he served in the Army during World War II, first in the Aleutian Islands and then as a truck driver in Europe during the Battle of the Bulge.

Ray and his brothers returned to Everett after the war and never left. The mills gave them back their jobs and they were back to work in no time. They rarely spoke of the war.

Ray married Mabel Oberg, they bought a modest house on Pilchuck Path in North Everett with a view of the Cascades, and their only child, Gene, was born in 1951.

While family focused, the Fosheims also had a lot of friends.

Ray seemed to know everyone in Everett.

“We were driving down the street one day, and my dad pointed to a guy on the sidewalk,” Fosheim remembered. “He said, ‘I know that kid.’ The guy was at least 70 years old.”

There are so many stories.

“My dad gave me my love of history,” Fosheim said.

A 1969 graduate of Everett High School, Fosheim studied electronics at Everett Community College and industrial technology at Western Washington University. He worked on the 747 and the 767 at Boeing and then left to teach while gathering up several graduate degrees.

Fosheim hopes to follow the book about his dad with an autobiography, and a similar focus on Everett history.

For now, though, he is enjoying the reactions of people who have read “Mill Town Boy.”

“Ray was never rich and never famous,” Fosheim said. “He was a common guy. A proud Everett man.”

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

Learn more

To learn more about “Mill Town Boy,” join Gene Fosheim when he talks to the Northwest Neighborhood meeting, 6:30 p.m. March 17, in Room 105, Whitehorse Hall, Everett Community College; and to Historic Everett at 2 p.m. April 17, at Trinity Lutheran College, 2802 Wetmore, Everett. He will have copies of the book for sale for $20 at both events. The book also is available on Amazon.

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