A Newsletter of the White River Valley Museum

October 2004

Auburn‚s Named Corners

by Marjori Rommel

The Corner: It was an American institution in the 20s, 30s and 40s -Ų a drive-up counter or mini mom-and-pop store that, before the days of superhighways, popped up along the roads that went from here to there, serving -and making a living from local custom and passing trade.

Little places, often not much bigger than a breadbox, some Corners had gas pumps, some did not, a few even had motels or cabins, but all spread their awnings at the beginning of the business day, offering soda pop, candy bars maybe even milk, bread, and other necessities --őtil sunset, when they closed their doors, folded their awnings, and their proprietors went home to supper.

A Corner was a local landmark whose name often far outlived its original function, as did Auburn‚s four special Corners, each named for the family who ran it, each serving a neighborhood, a road, and the people who traveled it, defining an era now all but gone.

Meredith Corner, later the Meredith Grocery owned and operated by Ann and Virgil Swanson, served the Meredith Hill community on the eastern slope of the West Hill from its position at the Southwest corner of 37th and the West Valley Highway. An animal hospital now stands in its place.

Meredith Corner, 1937
Meredith Corner, 1937 Built in 1921, located at
the corner of West Valley Road and 37th Street. (PSRA# 158060-0031)

Gallagher‚s Corner, on the northwest corner of Main and what was then known as the West Valley Road, is best remembered as a drive-up A&W Root Beer counter, serving hamburgers and popųreal root beer, orange soda, and a thoroughly disgusting combination of the two, known as „Swamp Waterš --to at least two generations of Auburn teens. The orange and brown sign could be seen from the steps of City Hall; so could the big brown A&W Root Beer barrel on the counter.

Kenny Bradford, who worked 45 years in the meat department at Massey‚s on Main and D Southeast, remembers Mrs. Gallagher‚s six-foot-long marble counter, and that she kept the thick glass A&W Root
Beer mugs in the freezer, so her drinks were always frosty cold. „And her hamburgers were sooooo good!š

Gallagher‚s Corner, 1937
Gallagher‚s Corner, 1937 Built in 1923 at the base of the hill on the West Valley Highway
and Main Street, across from the current Yahn and Son‚s Funeral Home.
(PSRA #142104-9013)

Those hamburgers were so good they continued to draw young customers on Friday and Saturday nights through the 50s and into the early 60sųadolescent Boomers who drove an endless slow „loop,š west on Main to Gallagher‚s, then east again, munching and sipping, one hand on the wheel.

In its heyday, Gallagher‚s Corner also benefited from the presence of two car repair businesses across the road, on the southeast and northeast corners of the intersection, and a series of funeral homes --built by Lightle in the 50s, then owned by Edline, and later, Yahn & Son, south across Knickerbocker (the old winding road up Cemetery Hill).

The West Valley Road, now more familiarly known as the West Valley Highway, was a main road between Tacoma and Seattle until the 40s, and still showed some of its brick surface near Algona and Sumner, recalls Mountain View Cemetery Director Arnie Galli, Jr.

In the old days, before it was an A&W, Galli recalls, Gallagher‚s Corner was a lot like Burson Lucky‚s place on 22nd and the East Valley Road, which had a gas pump and a tiny store where you could get bread and milk, candy bars and pop. Like the others, Lucky‚s was the convenience store of its day, Galli said. „We didn‚t stop there very often. You could get a soda for a dime, but it was the Depression, and you didn‚t have a dime, so too bad.š

By the time the Japanese returned to the Valley after World War II, said Valley long-timer Sauce Shimojima, the pump in front of Lucky‚s wasn’t working, and neither was the store, though Burson, „just lived there.š

Auburn was smaller in those days, Bradford recalls. Scarff Motors marked city limits on the north, Hoskins Corner marked city limits on the east, and you could stop at any one of the Corners and not risk getting run over, crossing the road. „You sure couldn‚t do that now.š

As was the case in other American communities, Corners were usually located in undeveloped rural areas on the edge of town, and had little if any connection to downtown. Here in Auburn, „Gallagher‚s and Cooper‚s were way out in the boondocks,š long time resident Virgil Ungherini says. „You had no possibility of being run over by anything other than maybe a horse-drawn carriage.š

Horses are rare on any Auburn road these days. For years, now, increased vehicle traffic on the West Valley Highway has led to road improvements that have eaten away at the former Gallagher‚s lot, leaving only a patch of bare gravel at the foot of Cemetery Hill, --and a lot of memories.

Hoskins Corner, at the Southeast corner of Main and R, was another mom-and-pop outfit, long, low, and once whiteųa wooden building running parallel to Main Street a block north of the railroad tracks. It sat right on the curve, too close to the street to have an actual awning, but did have a narrow wooden cover, and a couple of gas pumps, recalls Johnny Hamakami, who, as a kid, lived a block away.

Hoskins Service Station
Hoskins Service Station, was located at 1546 East Main,
with the telephone number of 362-J, as noted in the 1934 City Directory.
(PSRA #158060-0031)

Bradford, who was born on Main Street, says he bought all his chewing gum from Grace Hoskins, who ran the place. Her husband, Sonny Hoskins, was an engineer on the Northern Pacific Railroad.

„Hoskins had a counter, snacks, some grocery itemsųbread and suchųit was there before the war,š remembers John Hamakami, who lived a block away, „and there was a son and daughter, all gone now,š he said, like the store itself. Apartments now fill the space where it stood empty, after the war.

Farther south, along A Street Southeast, on the old Sumner Highway near Cool‚s Cafe, was another little corner grocery, Virgil Ungherini recalls, „but I don‚t remember its name. That was in 1936, and that little place was way out of town, almost as far into the boonies as Cooper‚s Corner was.š He does remember, though, that Curly Baker, the owner, „had a motel there, and some pretty good-looking daughters.š

Cooper‚s Corner, six miles east and roughly halfway to Enumclaw on the Auburn-Enumclaw Road (State Highway 164), at one time was an old-fashioned country store. Galli remembers it as a rectangular little building with a wooden awningųa dingy white, wood-sided building that looked a little like a fireworks stand.

Cooper‚s Corner, 1939
Cooper‚s Corner, 1939
This is a wonderful view of a building that is now almost hidden
by the elevation of the Auburn-Enumclaw Highway. Cooper‚s Corner store
was located where SE 380th Place meets Hwy 164. 
(PSRA# 352105-9031)

Clemence Baker, whose family moved to Algona from Eastern Montana in the mid-30s, remembers Cooper‚s Corner as „an actual store you could walk into, when we first came. There were a couple of outbuildings, too, a garage, and what might have been a barn. We stayed a week in a big brown house behind the store --[the house is still there]-- but never went inside the store; we had no money.š She also remembers another country store half a mile further up the hill, at the Newaukum Grange.

„I used to wait on Mrs. Cooper at Massey‚s,š Bradford recalls. „She always wore a hat with a feather in it. A nice lady.š

The store at Cooper‚s Corner, said Hamakami, is still there, and still in useųas a collection point for aluminum cans and other recyclables.

Brown‚s Corner, half a mile west of Cooper‚s Corner on the south side of SR 164 where it intersects Academy Drive, had a gas pump back in the mid-30s, Baker recalls. The store is still in operation, the biggest and busiest gas station between Auburn and Enumclaw.

Brown‚s Corner, 1939
Brown‚s Corner, 1939
Built in 1925, on the corner where Academy Drive meets the
Auburn-Enumclaw Road, Hwy 164. Note, gasoline was 18 cents a gallon!
(PSRA# 272105-9097)

All photographs are from the Puget Sound Regional Archives (PSRA), King County Assessors Office Property Record Cards; the tax account number identifies each parcel of land.

by Marjori Rommel

Iseri Store and Service Station, c 1928
Iseri Store and Service Station, c 1928
This store was not mentioned in the article, but was an important stop
between Auburn and Kent, in Thomas. Perhaps more of a full service grocery store
than the corner markets, the Iseri Store even delivered and of course allowed purchases
on a family‚s account. Owned by Matahichi (Mat) Iseri. It started in 1924 and continued
in business until the family was interned in 1942. WRVM #2523

Locating Historic Photographs through the Puget Sound Regional Archives
If you are looking for photographs of, or other information about, a property or building in King, Kitsap, or Pierce County, the Puget Sound Regional Archives may be a good first stop. Their collections include a broad range of primary source information on regional communities, buildings, businesses, genealogy, land use, local government policies and actions, property ownership, roads, and more.

To locate property records through the Puget Sound Regional Archives, a tax parcel number is required. Numbers for King County may be found online by using Parcel Viewer at King County‚s Geographic Information System (GIS) Center (www.metrokc.gov/gis/mapportal/PViewer_main.htm). To contact the Regional Archives, call (425) 564-3940, e-mail Archives@bcc.ctc.edu, or write to Puget Sound Regional Archives, Pritchard-Fleming Building, 3000 Landerholm Circle SE, MS-N100, Bellevue, WA 98007-6484. For further information on accessing the archives, go to www.secstate.wa.gov/archives/archives.aspx and scroll down to „Local Government Archives,š then click on „Puget Sound Region.š

An interesting aside: many of the photos at the county repository originate from the Historical Records Survey of the late 1930s. This survey was part of Franklin D. Roosevelt‚s Works Progress Administration (WPA), a broad government initiative to create more jobs during the Depression. The Historical Records Survey, among other things, hired unemployed teachers, clerks, librarians, and archivists to research and compile records of buildings and properties in each county throughout the United States, and often to photograph them as well. The WPA was slowly phased out as the economy began to recover in the early 1940s, and has left us many wonderful legacies.