Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Town With A Split Personality

When I first started hearing about explorers in school, I had strange ideas of what it might be like to be one of them. They had names like cars (DeSoto, Pontiac ... oh wait, was he a native?), got around the world a lot, and came home rich from being given so many things by the people they discovered. It wasn't until reading about people like James Swan that I found these discoverers weren't the good guys who were given presents. But that's another story for another author.

But I always wanted to be the first to "find" a small town which no one knew about, where people were always good to each other, where everyone was happy and no one complained, "and everybody knows your name."

I think I may have found it, but I'm thinking I might be too late.

Kris re-opened her quilt store here in Port Gamble on April 20th, about four months ago. Then she had her "grand opening" on May 1, and let me tell you it was grand!! A lot of people came, a lot she knew, but even more she didn't know, but wanted to get to know. It was so busy that day that she hauled me in from taking photos to run a cash register, which I did reluctantly, because I thought it was more important just to find out more about this area and this town.

So to do that, one of the things I did with just about each customer I ran into was ask them where they lived. Expecting "Bremerton" or "Port Townsend", I got instead an incredible number of the same answers: "Hi, where are you from?" "Hansville." "Hi, where do you live?" "Hansville" "How about you?" "Hansville." "And you?" "Hansville"

"Did you folks all come from Hansville together?" "No, we don't even know each other." And so the day went. By dinner time I was convinced that "Hansville" was a nickname for "Seattle" and most of the quilters from there had come by ferry to see us.

I really didn't want to wait too long before I saw this "town" call "Hansville", although I had been there years before on vacation with our family at a place called the Last Resort. But finally Kris and I took our quick "tour" through the area ... and I guarantee you it won't be our last.

Now I was on the City of Port Angeles' Planning Committee for many years, even the chairman once, and like so many other cities we felt our job was to organize the place. "OK, all the really nice houses go over here, the single lot houses over here, businesses here, doctors' offices here," until we got to the point that you could not get lost in our city, because it was just like yours. (Did you know the streets of Port Angeles are laid out just like Cinncinatti (I think it is) EVEN DOWN TO THE NAMES?)

Hansville, it seems, is just the opposite. On the waterfront might be a 3 zillion dollar home next to a beach cabin owned by a hermit. Somewhere inland may be a 4000 square foot Cape Cod home on three acres of property that has not been mowed in years next to a half acre lot you can't see the house in, because of all the incredible landscaping. Hansville has defined the word "eclectic".

On the map it appears there is a "hub" of a city quite a ways north of where we stopped, but we had started north from Albertsons and the signs seemed to indicate that we were in Hansville all the time. If that's the case, Hansville must be huge, at least 15 miles by 6 miles, by appearance all full of residential property of a wide variety of types and sizes, with many of the "residents" being the four legged kind.

A day or two later I finally made my trek north to the end of the town, at least the end according to the map, and I think I got to the "city center". Recently I talked about Kingston and their incredible amount of parking stalls used by all their businesses (see the July 4th blog .. not to be bragging too mmuch, but it was a hit in Kingston). There were signs up for the celebration of "Hansville Days", I think it was called, but I could locate ... ready for this? ... only one business. ONE business. A kind of downsized, but efficient, Seven Eleven.

I mention all this because I honestly think Hansville has more residents in its borders than just about any town  on the Kitsap Peninsula, certainly more than Poulsbo, which claims to have only 8860, a claim I remember it having on its "Welcome to Poulsbo" signs when I played basketball against them in high school. I don't want to tell you how long ago that was, but I'll just tell you the Hood Canal Bridge was still a pipe dream.

But those people in Hansville are spread out just the way they want to be, each one on a spot of property that was probably worked out with the former owner ("Now your north corner is that bend where the creek goes around that tree, except if you don't mind I'd like to keep my garden, so maybe we can bend the East line by twenty feet to take it in...." I'm sure they worked it out years ago and still know in their head, but not on paper, just how much property they have. And that's probably the smart way to do it. Kris and I recently sold our house in Port Angeles (after having it on the market for seven days, but that's another story) and the new owner wanted our 6.3 acres surveyed. Mind you it's perfectly rectangular, two adjacent properties had already been surveyed, but still it cost $3600 to have it done. I like the apparent Hansville system better.

So my hat is off to another unique town in this county, one that has got to be seen for all kinds of reasons, its beauty, its eclectic houses, its unique farms, and the even more unique ways some of them sell their goods, but most of all, you've got to meet the people, although I don't know where you got to do that. Maybe the quilt store, or the general store in Port Gamble. After all, they don't have many stores of their own.

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