December 20, 2014

Remembering Bremerton During World War II

Victory Gardens and Barrage Balloons
Victory Gardens and Barrage Balloons
Victory Gardens and Barrage Balloons

I love reading memoirs, but I especially love reading them when they are about where I live. I just finished reading Frank Wetzel’s World War II memoirabout growing up in Bremerton, Washington before, during and after World War II. The book was published in 1995, and and contains WWII era, and before, photos of Frank and all of his friends. One of those friends was none other than Bill Gates. No, not the gazillionaire tycoon, but his father.

Shirley Sinclair and Bill Gates
Shirley Sinclair and Bill Gates

Take a look at this picture from page 111 in the book. You can sure see the resemblance between father and son, can’t you? Did you know that the Gates family had an association with Bremerton, WA? “In March of 1940, Bill Gates, Sr. (grandfather to the Microsoft Bill Gates) obtained a permit to build and lease out a new Ice Creamery on Sixth Street”. I haven’t looked into it in depth, but I suspect that Bill Gates’ family were some of Washington State’s pioneers.

The book was borrowed from friends who had found a hardbound signed copy of it during one of their antiquing forays this summer.  The contents of the book written by Frank Wetzel give you a “behind the scenes” view of what it was like to be a teenager during war time in a town who’s largest employer was (and still is) the United States Navy. While the east coast of the U.S. was worried about the war in Europe, Bremertonians were scared silly after Pearl Harbor and the attack on Wake Island by the Japanese. The shipyard here was one of two on the west coast (Mare Island the other) and PSNY would have been a logical target on the mainland after Wake.

I hope you will consider reading this book if this kind of first hand history interests you. There is much more to the book than what I can explain here. The link above is an affiliate link, but I just included it in case you want to buy the book so that you can find it easily.

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