Part One – Peace Arch Personalities
By Richard Clark
Occasionally, I think I should have left her alone. For nearly 70 years the Peace Arch had kept her secrets. Curiosity prompted me to uncover them, first as an essay that I wrote for university credit in 1989. And then, nearly 15 years later, I completed a 358-page manuscript that unlocked far more secrets than I could have imagined.
On the one hand, I violated a daughter’s privacy. And more so, because she – proud Child of a Common Mother – stood tall. On the other hand, I discovered more than mere secrets. Like fortune cookies, they held surprises. My decision to demythologize the portal’s past only sharpened those surprises. I now wish to share them with my Peace Arch city, initially by introducing prominent Peace Arch personalities to readers of The Northern Light. To wit:
Samuel Hill, born in 1857 in North Carolina, was the Harvard-educated Quaker who conceived, constructed and conveyed the Peace Arch to us – we Children of a Common Mother – some 83 years ago. Being an egotistical playboy as much as an eccentric philanthropist, Hill was also a wealthy road builder. He it was who created Pacific Highway that became U.S. 99 that became I-5. He was an indefatigable traveler who loved to hobnob with “important” people like Albert of Belgium, Joffre of France and Marie of Romania.
Still, I would gladly see Samuel’s bronze statue standing tall in the Peace Arch city, his right arm outstretched and reaching for world peace.
R. Rowe Holland, a prominent Vancouver lawyer, became the founding president of the International Peace Memorial Association of British Columbia in 1921. He devised a scheme for funding the portal’s provincial park. Upon introducing Samuel to Vancouver Sun editor Cromie, Holland said it would cost $25,000 to produce the park. He proposed the novel idea of soliciting money from provincial schoolchildren. The editor fell for it and spread the word. To a minor extent, it worked. Some $2,250 was raised by 1930.
Washington state superintendent of instruction N.D. Showalter thought that was a great idea, so he appealed to the state’s schoolchildren, telling them $15,000 would be needed to produce the state park. Again, to a minor extent, it worked. Some $1,500 was raised by 1931.
Washington state representative Andrew Danielson, a Blaine real estate agent similarly interested in the park, used a subtle and most successful approach. One month after Samuel had become frightfully paranoid, dying in 1931 in a Seattle home that looked like a fortress, Danielson asked Olympia’s assembly to dedicate $35,000 toward development of what was then called Samuel Hill Memorial Park. They ponied up $15,000 – about 10 times as much as the children had donated.
It wasn’t the first time Danielson succeeded. At his behest a bill had passed in 1929, drawing $16,000 from state road funds to pay for Peace Portal Drive right-of-way costs. Travelers were thereby assisted to drive from Samuel’s Pacific Highway to the Peace Arch.
Rogan Jones, an energetic 29-year-old altruist, bought Bellingham radio station KOMO in 1929. By April of that year, Blaine musician Paul Lustermann was heard conducting the 40-member Peace Arch Chorus of Blaine in an hour-long program that featured choral works by Schubert, Dvorak and others. Had the broadcast been delivered by television, viewers would have seen the male songsters wearing black suits and bowties, the women wearing white dresses, and all covering their hearts with Peace Arch patches.
Jones became founding president of the International Peace Arch Program Association in 1937. He initiated yearly broadcasts at the Peace Arch, highlighting annual celebrations and relaying them to 90 radio stations strung across the country and Canada. On one occasion, a program was sent overseas via military radio. Served by the Mutual and Don Lee broadcasting systems, it was an amazing accomplishment. Nobody did more to spread the Peace Arch message from 1937 through 1941.
Now that I’ve introduced you to Samuel Hill, R. Rowe Holland, N.D. Showalter, Andrew Danielson and Rogan Jones, did you encounter any surprises? If you can’t wait for part two, you may find my manuscript, Sam Hill’s Peace Arch: Remembrance of Dreams Past, in our local library, or you may access the first draft at www.thecshop.com. I wish to express my thanks to The Northern Light for running this series.