By Sharon Boswell
and Lorraine McConaghy
Special to The Times
Three writers who helped shape our distinctive way of life crossed paths in the pages of The Seattle Times in the 1950s. These free spirits ranged boldly through that buttoned-down decade, inspiring secret dreams and small rebellions among its organization men and women.
Jim Stevens, June Burn and Irving Petite crafted a literary heritage of respect for land and sea, of carefree irreverence, of love for the past, the journey and the songs of the road. This Northwest inheritance is always there, to be read and claimed for one's own.
A PR man, a journalist and an essayist -- each posed self-consciously before the public eye, and none was artless or craved obscurity. But all three fashioned compelling visions of freedom from their own Northwest experience.
Associated Press, 1937
Jim Stevens: woodsman poetOnce upon a time there was a free man ... (He) voyaged on the waterways that flood inland from the North Pacific, he toiled on tugboats, he rafted logs, he felled trees on steep shores, he screw-jacked timber down to tidewater, he took love and gave love, he had a friend, he roved coastwise and southerly to Walt Whitman's redwood trees, he trailed back northward by land into the reach upon reach of the virgin forests of the Willamette, and he came to the Columbia, to books again, to an old love and freedom's end. Enough, more than enough for a book of poems, a Walt Whitman book.
From "Big Jim Turner," 1948
More on Jim Stevens
And at the last, our homestead island, Sentinel, where we began 40 years ago ... From the top of that parklike island we can look out over blue
channels, snowcapped mountains and islands all around. Ferries pass and small boats. Our hearts are always honing for Sentinel. We live for the day when we can feel it is time to retire there once more with a little milk goat,
a few chickens, the fish right around us, a world of beauty at our feet.
We've had our gravy! And together is home.
From "Living High," 1958
Seattle Times, 1941.
More on June Burn
Seattle Times, 1965.
This is one of any year's rarest days. But every day has this same quality.
There has never been a time when something of beauty was not happening --
whether it be as commonplace as the sound of rain moving forward on leaves across the nearby forest
... or the upsurgence of puffball mushrooms ... or simply the smell of apples or of grass.
Nothing of Nature's can I label "trivial." Just to watch the sun come up, to walk out in
the full moon's light strikes my soul till it vibrates like a tuning fork ...
From "Life on Tiger Mountain," 1968
Historians Sharon Boswell and Lorraine McConaghy teach at local universities and do research, writing and oral history. Original newspaper graphics courtesy of the Seattle Public Library.