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Another era on Vashon comes back to life over social media

This 1940s-era photo helped spur the creation of a Facebook page devoted to Vashon’s past. - Gene Sherman Photo
This 1940s-era photo helped spur the creation of a Facebook page devoted to Vashon’s past.
— image credit: Gene Sherman Photo

A treasure trove of old photos has been making its way out of dusty photo albums and onto the internet, filling a Facebook page aimed at celebrating Vashon’s past.

The Facebook group, named Old Vashon Pictures & Stories, has garnered more than 2,000 members and become the go-to repository for many historical photographs that otherwise might never have seen the light of day.

And as the group’s name suggests, the site also serves as a place where a rich, if somewhat random, oral history of life on the island is being recorded on the fly.

The page is the creation of two islanders, Brian Brenno and Jim Sherman, whose families have deep roots on Vashon.

Both men said they have been delighted and surprised by the response to the Facebook site, which now boasts more than 1,700 photographs, documents and videos.

“I wouldn’t have ever thought it would get that much attention,” said Sherman.

“People really connect with it,” said Brenno. “It’s about stories — people who lived here and the things they did.”

The two men are well qualified to be the caretakers of a page dedicated to Vashon’s past.

Brenno, 54, is a fourth-generation Islander, the great-grandson of two Norwegian immigrants who landed on Vashon’s shores in 1918.

And Sherman, 47, has a family history that stretches back to 1877, when his great-great grandparents moved to the island. Months later, his great-great-great grandfather moved here to join his son and his family. Sherman, a sixth-generation islander, now lives on a piece of the family’s original homestead property, located near Quartermaster Harbor.

Sherman and Brenno launched the page three years ago, after Sherman posted a 1940s-era photo of a Brenno’s Service tow truck on his personal Facebook page. The photo caught Brenno’s attention, and after a brainstorming session between the two, Sherman was spurred to sit down and create the Facebook group.

“After that, the members just started flying in,” Sherman said.

Old photos belonging to the Brenno family are now a staple of the Facebook site, and Sherman has also contributed steadily to it, digging through his family’s collection of memorabilia that dates back to the dawn of photography.

“My family never threw anything away,” Sherman said. “There are pictures in my family from the 1880s.”

Sherman credits his grandfather, Gene Sherman, who is now 94 and has lived on Vashon his entire life, with helping him tell the stories behind many of the family’s photos.

“His memory is incredible, and I can get him to answer questions and get stuff corrected,” Sherman said.

Sherman says that one of his goals with the site is to “get the story straight behind the pictures, to really get it written down and recorded for future generations.”

And indeed, a trip to the Facebook page, on any given day, provides snapshots of the island that are like micro-exhibits in a history museum.

One member recently posted photographs of Vashon-Maury veterans who lost their lives in the Vietnam War.

Another post shows a photo of Vashon Bowl, an island establishment that produced two championship professional bowlers.

There are photos of The Little House when it was red, not yellow, and a long thread recalling the 1970s-era glory of the building next door to The Little House, the Spinnaker Restaurant.

Other photos — some posted by site regulars that include historian Bruce Haulman and long-time islanders Stan Elleflot and Ruben Arnot — skip back and forth between decades, forming a crazy quilt of impressions of Vashon through the years.

But for Brenno, one theme is a constant — the site provides a record of a time he defines as being “when Vashon was Vashon” — before larger ferry boats transformed the island from a rural community to one with a commuter culture.

“There is this nostalgia for the past that is key in this whole thing,” he said.

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