As Lynnwood nears its 60th anniversary, city historian Betty Gaeng says farewell

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Lynnwood-Alderwood Manor Heritage Association President Cheri Ryan read Betty Lou Gaeng’s “Looking back: Growing up as a child of the Great Depression.” The article includes insights into what early life in Alderwood Manor was like. (Photo by Larry Vogel)

As the City of Lynnwood prepares to turn 60 years old, the Lynnwood-Alderwood Manor Heritage Association (LAMHA) Saturday presented a program looking back on the city’s history — and also featured a meet and greet with local historian Betty Gaeng, columnist for Lynnwood Today, My Edmonds News and MLTnews.

Presented by LAMHA President Cheri Ryan, “Looking Back as Lynnwood Turns 60” included a look at the city’s growth over the decades. Heritage Cottage displays a then-and-now photo series of Lynnwood that the LAMHA created over two years. When the project was complete, Ryan said that heritage association officials realized Lynnwood is changing faster than they can keep up.

“As we put it up, we realized a lot of the ‘now’ has changed,” she said. 

Lynnwood was incorporated in 1959 by a group of business owners, including the city’s first mayor, Jack Bennett. The program highlighted past businesses in the city’s early years like the Shop and Save Market and Cinema 12 movie theater as well as those that stood the test of time like K.C. Martin Auto Repair and Lynnwood Bowl and Skate.

The “Looking Back as Lynnwood Turns 60” program also explored the early logging in the area by The Puget Mill Company, which established a planned community. The company intended to market the land to urban citizens looking to build farms in the countryside. In 1917, land was divided into five-acre plots for citizens to purchase. The community was called Alderwood Manor, and the residents would be known as “Little Landers.” A 30-acre demonstration farm was used to teach new farmers to grow crops and raise chickens.

“They built this demonstration very smartly, right on the Interurban (railway) line so they could bring folks, especially out from Seattle,” Ryan said.

Lynnwood’s Official City Historian Betty Lou Gaeng has played a key role in preserving the history of Lynnwood (Photo by Larry Vogel)

One of the families to trade in an urban life for the country was Gaeng’s, whose parents Walter and Marie Deebach purchased a 10-acre chicken farm in the planned community in 1933. During a reading from Gaeng’s “Looking Back: Growing up as child of the Great Depression” column featured on Lynnwood Today, Ryan recalled Gaeng’s experience moving from her family’s Seattle home to the farm, which Gaeng described as “ugly, certainly not one of the pretty little farms often pictured in story books.”

The reading chronicled Gaeng’s story, and also the growth of the area that would one day become Lynnwood. The Deebach family not only witnessed Lynnwood’s growth, but they helped to establish Lynnwood to what it is today. In 1935, Walter Deebach, who once was a commercial artist, painted the first road signs for Alderwood Manor.

“I can still picture him with his many different brushes and paint jars, working on our large kitchen table, busily painting the rectangular signs white and then carefully, the names in black,” Ryan read from Gaeng’s “Looking Back” column.

Lynnwood’s Official City Historian Betty Lou Gaeng has played a key role in preserving the history of Lynnwood (Photo byTeresa Wippel)

Now a Lynnwood resident, Gaeng has played a key role in preserving the city’s history through her work with the Lynnwood-Alderwood Manor Heritage Association, the Edmonds Cemetery Board, the Edmonds Historical Museum and the Sno-Isle Genealogical Society. Gaeng has also been a regular contributor with her “Looking Back” column for Lynnwood Today, My Edmonds News and MLT News. Gaeng is often recognized for her extensive knowledge of the town’s history, and was recently honored by the Lynnwood City Council as Lynnwood’s historian.

“I start with my own memories,” she said. “Then I go to all the different research places I can until I can’t find anymore.”

Now, at age 92, Gaeng has decided to move to Anchorage, Alaska to live with family. The decision was made after Gaeng recently was injured in a fall when she was out walking. An aggressive motorist startled her, causing her to trip, and she broke her hip and shoulder. After impressing doctors with her recovery, Gaeng said she is ready to start a new chapter.

“As I lay there I thought ‘This is how it ends,’” she recalled. ”But, luckily it didn’t end.”

Though she will be leaving south Snohomish County, Gaeng said she will continue contribute to the preservation of Lynnwood and Edmonds through her writing. Gaeng said she plans to write about Peter Schreiber, an early settler after whom Scriber Lake is named for. She will also write about the memories of the former town of Mosher, previously recorded in “The Memories of Mosher and McDonald Logging Company.”

Gaeng was also a member of the Edmonds Cemetery Board, and fellow Edmonds Cemetery Board member Joan Longstaff said Gaeng will be greatly missed as a person and as a historian for the area.

“She has been such a blessing in my life,” Longstaff said. “She’s such a wealth of information and we’re going to miss her.”

For more information about the Lynnwood-Alderwood Manor Heritage Association, visit their website here.

–Story by Cody Sexton

2 COMMENTS

  1. I want to thank everyone for a wonderful day to remember at the LAMHA cottage. Also, my thanks go out to all who sent me flowers and get-well and birthday cards during my ordeal, as well as the many who visited me at the hospital, during my rehab at ManorCare and after my return home. A traumatic encounter with an inattentive and aggressive motorist made me realize just how many wonderful people there are all around us–right from the young couple who came to my aid when they saw me on the ground, the man who held me in his arms until the aid car came, the efficient and caring medics, the doctors and staff at Edmonds Swedish Hospital and the great people at ManorCare–I will always remember them. I especially will never forget the therapists at ManorCare who were so important in my recovery–they are the best. Thank you Noy, Joy, Jim, Ernie, Anthony and Rachel. The entire therapy staff made a difficult recovery seem like fun.

  2. Betty – Thank you so much for your contributions to this community over the years – you will be missed!!

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