Hagstrom girls to lead Maxwelton Parade

"Evelyn Hagstrom Varon peruses the draft of a book she is writing about her life.Jim Larsen, staff photoJoin the parade at MaxweltonThe Maxwelton 4th of July Parade will begin at 1 p.m. next Wednesday. Arrive early to find a parking space. Those participating in the parade should gather at the barn at the corner of Swede Hill and Maxwelton roads between 11:30 and noon. Organizers will meet tomorrow at 2 p.m. at the ballfield bleachers to make final plans.Call Dana Gilroy, 579-5930, with questions.Marlene, Alice, Jean, Evelyn to ride in lead convertibleAn oldtimer proudly leads the Maxwelton 4th of July Parade each year. But next Wednesday, they're going to need a bigger convertible.The lead car with the grand marshals will be carrying the Hagstrom girls, who were raised on a Swede Hill Road farm and played at Maxwelton beach, went to Ingleside School (now Bailey's Corner Store) and attended Langley High School.The Hagstrom girls seldom played in the Maxwelton tidepools together, however. We didn't make good playmates. We were born five years apart, said Evelyn Hagstrom Varon this week, sitting in the living room of her new house overlooking Cultus Bay.Their father, David Hagstrom, actually raised two families. He and his first wife Helen had four children, three boys and a girl: Clarence, born in 1906, Milton in 1908, Clifford in 1917, and Frances in 1911.After Helen died, David married Kathrine Moi, a recent immigrant from Norway, in 1920. She was the instant mother of four children, Varon said. They were married in Tacoma and David brought his new wife to the Swede Hill farmhouse he had built in 1911.David and Kathrine had four more children, all girls: Evelyn, born in 1921, Jean in 1926, Alice in 1932, and Marlene in 1937. These Hagstrom girls are all expected at next week's parade.The Maxwelton 4th of July Parade dates back to the turn of the century and Evelyn clearly remembers it from her childhood. One of her many old photographs shows women in the Neighbors Friends Club marching with one of the their quilts unfurled between two poles.They gave quilts away to the needy, Varon said. They didn't have welfare in those days.Varon also remembers the annual Maxwelton appearance of the Woodland Band, based up Maxwelton Road in Woodland Hall. The parade always had an orchestra, she said. It was a very talented band.There was food and fireworks, and an outdoor church service in the afternoon where Varon found herself in a bit of trouble one year. She remembers being very young and running past the church service in her woolen bathing suit.Mrs. French told me, 'Don't walk in front with your bathing suit on,' Varon recalled with a smile. There were some pretty strict old ladies around here. I was so embarrassed -- and mad, too.As for the wool bathing suit, she admits they could get a bit warm. But we didn't catch a cold when we had wool bathing suits on.Swede Hill was aptly named for the Swedish families living in the area directly above Maxwelton Beach. Varon remembers the Ericksons, Hjorsts, Swansons, Johnson, Applequists and others. But many were forced to move during the Depression when they couldn't pay taxes on their land. They just walked away and left. That's all they could do, she said.Although Varon is a young and vibrant 80 years old, she grew up in an entirely different world than today's Whidbey Island children. She and her family rode the steamship Atlanta from Glendale to Seattle when they wanted to go to town. We didn't have a car until I was five, and that was a used Ford with a crank, she said. Now we have four stop lights. That's all right, you have to accept it.David Hagstrom was one of the island's early commuters, taking the steamship to Seattle every two weeks to work as a wood lathe operator.Kathrine Hagstrom started the family chicken business. Initially she raised chickens in the family dining room in 1926, lining the room with felt paper. There were 500 babies in the dining room, Varon laughed. Soon, David built his wife a chicken house, and eventually the Hagstroms had 10,000 chickens and a substantial egg business. He quit his Seattle job to work full time on the farm.Everyone had chickens, Varon said of South Whidbey's economy of in those days. And we never went hungry. Varon, an ambitious girl, graduated from Langley High School in 1938 and went to Seattle to make my fortune.She found a good job in the dining room at Seattle's Glendale Golf and Country Club where she made $45 a week. Before long she was able to buy a 1936 Chevrolet for $350. It was in nice shape, she said. Dad signed for me.She met Ben Varon, who was in the service, and they were married in 1942. Their only child, James, was born in 1944. Ben became a a bakery salesman and later a real estate broker. James is now a corporate lawyer in California.Varon worked for Frederick & Nelson and a steamship company before finally returning to Whidbey Island in 1981, when she bought her parents' farm. Her husband died in 1976, her father in 1958, and her mother in 1988. She moved back to the island full time when she retired in 1986.Varon recently sold the farm and built a new house at Sandy Hook.All my farm helpers were dying off, she explained. The hay harvester and the wood cutter, and they're still dying off. She had another funeral to attend this week.From her new home, Varon can see Indian Head across the bay and the beaches she used to play on as a child. Just over the bluff is Maxwelton, where Evelyn Hagstrom Varon and her sisters will be a main attraction at the 2001 Maxwelton 4th of July Parade. "

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