Friday, May 24, 2024

A look back in time: The fine art of lettering the fish ponds


Gene Parker was in Leavenworth for his 60th high school reunion last weekend and dropped by Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery to see if any of his original artwork was still here after 60 years. “Well” he laughed, “not exactly what you’d call art.  But around 1962 I painted the numbers on the original Foster-Lucas ponds and just wondered if you could still see them.” I grabbed my hat and camera.  “Let’s go look.”

We had no luck going down the first row of the fish rearing ponds, constructed in 1939.  Barely visible, stenciled numbers in red were on a few.  But looking on the next row, we found some chipped and fading remnants of Parker’s work done in 1962.  “I had been doing well in mechanical drawing in school, got a summer job helping at the hatchery and was told to get stencils and paint numbers on both sides of all 40 ponds (26 of those remain today). But I decided too freehand them. The Hatchery Manager, Alfred Gastineau saw my work in progress and was very impressed.”

Parker was a hatchery neighbor and in 1952, at the age of eight, his family bought the farm on the southeast corner of Icicle and Fish Hatchery roads. Part of their barn remains on the property. They had 500 chickens, a dozen cows, and earned money selling eggs and milk to staff members and other neighbors. When their raspberries were ripe, he’d pick and then go door-to-door selling them, good training for a later career selling defense electronic systems to the military, he said.

Later, Parker’s half-brother Andree Boughey lived in a house at the end of the hatchery housing units, but he was unsure if he was a staff member.

Gene Parker, 78 now lives in Miami, Florida. He would be delighted if you would visit the hatchery sometime and view his “artwork”.


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