Ben Westmoreland Jr., 93, grew up in Everett, left for college and a job, then returned for good in 1942.
He lives in north Everett with his wife of 70 years, Charlotte Westmoreland.
It’s my privilege to share their history as told to me by the couple and their daughters. These are mem
ories we need to save.
His grandfather, Sawden Westmoreland, owned a meat market in the Riverside neighborhood of Everett. He died young of blood poisoning, an occupational hazard for meat cutters.
Ben Westmoreland Sr. owned Western Meat and Federal Meat Packing Co.
During his years at Everett High School, Ben Westmoreland Jr. froze fish he caught in the summer and sold them in the winter. He also sold magazines door to door.
The Saturday Evening Post went fast, he said, because it included serials.
“They had to see what was going to happen next,” he said. “I almost broke my neck getting them out.”
His wife, Charlotte Westmoreland, was born in Tacoma. Her family moved around the Northwest as her father had a series of small lunch counters and grocery stores. The family moved to Seattle so her older brother could attend the University of Washington. She attended the college two years later, and met her future husband at a church party.
“On Jan. 19, 1941, Ben proposed,” Charlotte Westmoreland, now 89, said. “He asked if he could marry me in six years.”
Her future husband wanted to wait until he graduated from the University of Washington Law School and got settled into a legal office. His father had other ideas. Ben Westmoreland Sr. said he would increase his son’s allowance so he could afford to get married.
The couple tied the knot in May of 1941. Her father, Odin Vick, died before he could see his daughter married.
The newlyweds lived in an apartment, with a Murphy bed, near the campus. In the summer of 1941, Ben Westmoreland was offered a job by Firestone. They asked him to go to Akron, Ohio, for training.
He was told that wives stayed at home, but when he arrived in Akron, he discovered other students brought their spouses.
They sent word back and forth, back and forth, debating if Charlotte Westmoreland should join her husband.
Finally, she got a one word telegram — “Come.”
Her father-in-law gave the train porter a hefty tip to watch over Charlotte Westmoreland on the trip to Chicago.
Their daughter, Anne Robinson, said she heard Akron stories through the years.
“Homes were not air-conditioned,” Robinson said. “It was hot and humid in their apartment.”
On a trip to New York, the couple sent home a postcard dated Aug. 9, 1941, with a penny stamp.
Ben Westmoreland took a job with Firestone in Portland, Ore. They returned to Everett in 1942 with twin girls. They have three daughters, Anne Robinson, Janet Bryant, and Mary Robinson. Although two of the women share the last name Robinson, they married men who are not related.
Charlotte Westmoreland said they raised their family in a $2,500 house on Grand Avenue for which they put $25 down and paid $25 per month.
Ben Westmoreland farmed on Smith Island from 1944 until 1954. His legs were injured from the work, making it hard for him to walk. He decided to finish law school.
They rented the ranch and Charlotte Westmoreland went to work as a bookkeeper for her father-in-law. The commute to Seattle on old Highway 99 was time consuming, so Ben Westmoreland stayed near the campus. He got a job teaching in the School of Business.
He began his legal practice in Everett at age 36 and practiced for 50 years. His wife worked as his secretary for many years. He served on boards for the Volunteers of America and Everett School District and guided the Snohomish County Sheltered Workshop.
The family was active in Bethel Baptist Church in Everett and were close friends with several missionaries. Ben Westmoreland often narrated the church Christmas cantatas because he read Scripture with such meaning. His daughters say when they read familiar Bible passages, they can hear their father’s voice. Their mother prayed at their bedsides every night.
The family owned boats they took back and forth to Alaska. Ben Westmoreland made his own crab pots and knew just where to set them to gather their dinner. He also fished for salmon and halibut.
Their boats were always named Legal Holiday.
“Those boats were the basis for so many wonderful family experiences and memories from 1958 to 2004, when the last boat was sold,” Bryant said. “They made 25 trips to Alaska in the Legal Holidays, the last one in 2002.”
The dinghy was called the Legal Tender.
“From Vancouver up, everyone knew the boat,” Ben Westmoreland said. “I could always find a place to dock.”
When he was a young boy growing up in Everett, he said the town ended at 10th Street.
“The roads didn’t go through,” he said. “I watched them dynamite stumps when they built 41st Street.”
He grew up at 1326 Grand Ave., one door from the 14th Street stairs the workers used to get to their jobs at the mills. This gave him easy access to the Everett waterfront which was his playground, Bryant said. While he was 15, he was allowed to take the family cruiser to the San Juan Islands.
Asked what he thinks about his city, Ben Westmoreland answered quickly.
“It’s a small town that’s kind of big,” he said.
Kristi O’Harran: 425-339-3451, firstname.lastname@example.org.