Looking Back: A history of garbage collection in early-day Edmonds, Part 2

Chauncey’s Boat House, 1930. Source: Edmonds Tribune-Review

You can read Part 1 here.

In April of 1930, when North End Disposal Co. of Seattle began its weekly door-to-door garbage pickup service in Edmonds, it seemed as if the town’s long-standing problem of rubbish disposal had finally been solved.

Whether it was because of the financial troubles of the Great Depression, when perhaps 50 cents a month for the service was an expense that was considered unnecessary by some residents, or there were other reasons, it appeared that many householders did not take advantage of the handy garbage pickup service.

In addition, because of a lack of house and street designations, the drivers of the trucks were having difficulty locating those who did sign up and pay for the service. As a result, there were some complaints about missed garbage collections.

Problems seemed to increase when North End Disposal Co. found they had no local place to dispose of the garbage they did collect. To help solve this problem, the city placed a notice in the newspaper stating: “Available places on city property have been filled and the company would like to find a gulch or depression in or near Edmonds which the owner wishes filled — the fills are kept covered and sanitary at all times.”

It then appeared as if Edmonds was left without its garbage collection service, and the city was forced once again to take an active role in the business of rubbish disposal.

Along with the city fathers, a new resident of Edmonds would eventually become involved in the disposal of the town’s rubbish. In March of 1930, R. P. (Richard Potter) DePue of Seattle, purchased a large building on waterfront property — near the south end section of today’s Port of Edmonds Marina.  The building was located on the southwest side of Yost Marginal Way — a road we know today as Admiral Way. The building had previously housed a pulp mill, and the business had closed due to bankruptcy.

The first floor was cleared of the machinery from the pulp mill and then filled with boats of various sizes to be used as rentals. Renamed Chauncey’s Boat House, the business became a familiar sight on the waterfront of Edmonds, until the 1950s when the old building and the land was purchased by the newly formed Port of Edmonds, and the building was then demolished.

For a time, Chauncey’s Boat House gained notoriety in the sporting world, when in 1936 the second floor of the building became the training camp for world boxing champions. First, middle weight boxing champion Babe Risko trained there when he was preparing for a match with Freddie Steele of Tacoma. The following year, “Wild” Bill Boyd, the Navy’s heavyweight boxing champion of the Pacific Coast, trained in the same quarters.

You are an official old-time Edmonds resident if you remember Chauncey’s Boat House, and the time when the present-day Admiral Way was known as Yost Marginal Way. Also, join the ranks of really old-timers if you remember the garbage dump located at the southwest end of the former Yost Marginal Way.  Yes, it was right on the shore of Puget Sound, on property leased by the city from R. P. DePue; and next to his boat house business.

With this move, once again the City of Edmonds had become involved in the business of garbage disposal. Under its Oct. 5, 1934 headline, “Garbage Controversy is Settled by City Council,” the Edmonds Tribune-Review reported: “Long drawn out difficulties over the disposal of city garbage is now believed settled after action by the council, Tuesday evening. An agreement was entered into with R. P. DePue for a tract of land on the west side of Yost Marginal Way on the south waterfront for use as a garbage dump. The council agreed to keep the garbage covered properly, engaging Anton Stuk to do the work. He is to be paid $15 for the first month and $10 per month thereafter, as long as the council considers it desirable.”

Not to be forgotten, in the 1930s and for many years, there was another landfill, or garbage dump, serving the area. Much larger than the Edmonds waterfront garbage dump, it was located just south of Holmes Corner. Established and owned by the neighborhood’s Seattle Heights Improvement Club, the dumping ground was managed by them, until its later years when it became a county garbage facility. As a county landfill, it became the major garbage disposal site for the area. As you may imagine, the garbage dump was not considered a pleasant neighbor by the residents who lived nearby. In the early 1960s, Stevens Hospital (Swedish-Edmonds Hospital) was built over the landfill of this garbage dump.

An additional tidbit of Edmonds history was the operation of two garbage disposal businesses in the city during the 1940s, one by George (Bud) Jones, and the other by Richard (Dick) Slye. For a very short time, the two companies became competitors, until Bud Jones ended his business.

Apex Garbage Co.’s first advertisement in the Edmonds Tribune-Review (1946)

Richard (Dick) Slye, a local young man, graduated from Edmonds High School in 1937. He served overseas during World War II, and when the war ended he returned to his home in Edmonds and decided to take advantage of the federal government’s program to grant low-interest loans to qualified veterans wishing to start his/her own business. Dick Slye had a vision for a dependable garbage service in Edmonds, and he chose government assistance to start that business.  He submitted the necessary forms required by the Veterans Administration, and early in 1946, he became co-owner of a locally operated waste disposal business to serve Edmonds.  With his innovative idea for this much-needed business, he became successful with the operation of Slye & Williams Apex Garbage Co.

Many residents were reluctant to sign up for garbage service and continued to handle the matter of disposal on their own.  Problems arose with this, as the official garbage disposal sites were sometimes ignored and individual residents were disposing of their refuse at unauthorized places in the area.  In April of 1946, the city reminded Edmonds’ residents that a county garbage disposal facility was maintained near Holmes Corner, and refuse could be left there on Saturdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., and in Edmonds, the waterfront garbage dump could be used on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Another problem that needing solving was the increasing number of rats at the disposal facility on the Edmonds’ waterfront. Residents were warned to keep their pets inside when it became necessary to use poison to control the rat population.

In February of 1949, the city council once again tackled more issues arising because too many individuals were acting on their own in the dumping of garbage at the waterfront facility. Mayor Paul McGibbon announced that there would no longer be a place for them to dump garbage in the city of Edmonds — mostly because of the rat problem. It was then reported that the rats had been destroyed at the waterfront facility. However, the land was scheduled to be covered with earth and the dump closed.

Unocal’s (Union Oil of California) asphalt refinery. Chauncey’s Boat House is the large building on the upper left in this photo. The garbage dump next to the boat house was no longer there when this picture was taken. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

The council reported that several property owners in the city were in favor of opening another garbage facility, and Councilman Gordon Maxwell suggested the tideland flats owned by Union Oil Company (Unocal) next to Point Edwards, or the property of A. B. Miller between Main and Dayton might be available.  Councilman Sproule McGinness suggested that a better solution might be to make it a requirement that all residents had to sign up for waste disposal service.   Without the council being able to agree on any solution, the entire garbage problem was referred back to a committee.

The next news regarding the city’s waterfront dump was that the property had a new owner, P. F. Kaluche; and Mr. Kaluche announced that the site had now been filled, covered over with earth, and permanently closed for use as a garbage dump.  The city council was expected to designate a new place where the garbage firms and individuals would be able to dump garbage in the future.

At a meeting on March 15,1949, Mayor Paul McGibben and the city council again took up the problem of garbage disposal. As a preliminary to perhaps establishing compulsory garbage service for all residents of the city, the council asked for bids on disposal sites. More will follow on that issue in Part 3 of the garbage history.

Dick Slye sold Apex Garbage Co. in February of 1952 to Bob Smith and Mel Lehman, and although the home base for the company then became Alderwood Manor (Lynnwood), the new owners continued to provide pick-up service to the Edmonds area.

In our time, it seems difficult to imagine that Edmonds actually operated a garbage dump right on the waterfront. Thankfully, since those earlier times, the waterfront has drastically changed and now offers a more pleasant view — as well as being more pleasing to our sense of smell.

All the former shingle and lumber mills, the manufacturing businesses, Union Oil Company’s bulk fuel facility, its oil tanks, the asphalt refinery, and, even the large concrete building which once belonged to the Northwest Fur Breeder’s Cooperative, have all disappeared into history. Now, a boat harbor, restaurants, boating related services, parks and condos have become more fitting tenants along the Edmonds’ waterfront.

Following the sale of Apex Garbage Co. in 1952, Dick Slye did continue in the garbage business in Edmonds when he later established Sound Disposal. He sold Sound Disposal in June of 1977 to Donald and Evelyn Nicholson, and under management by the Nicholson family, the company continues to provide waste removal service to downtown Edmonds.

Active in city affairs, Dick Slye served as an Edmonds City Councilman, and as a member and chairman of the Edmonds Park Board. He died in 2002.

Presently, most of us have become so used to the large waste disposal trucks picking up our garbage, yard waste, and recyclables on regular schedules, we probably give the matter of rubbish disposal little thought—except, maybe when the bill arrives and needs to be paid.

To be continued: Looking Back: A history of garbage collection in early-day Edmonds, Part 3—including more on unsightly waterfront businesses and garbage problems in Edmonds. 

— By Betty Lou Gaeng

Betty Gaeng is a former long-time resident of Lynnwood and Edmonds, coming to the area in 1933. Although now living in Anchorage, she occasionally writes about the history and the people of both early-day Lynnwood and Edmonds.



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