Remembering Grandma, and the church organ | Home Again

By Joanne Peterson | Feb 24, 2017

My grandparents left their little apartment in our family home at Fourth and Dayton in Edmonds in the early 1950s and moved to their cabin on Camano Island. After years of building that little red cabin and spending weekends there, they were ready to retire and begin living their dream.

It was not easy for me when they moved out of our home. I knew, though, that my parents and brother and I would visit them often, sleeping in the open one-room upstairs of the cabin.

And I knew I would spend chunks of my own vacation times with my grandparents, picking Grandpa’s raspberries, exploring the woods, playing with Grandma’s goats, collecting eggs from the chicken house, walking to the beach, reading for blissful hours – and attending church at Camano Chapel.

Last Sunday, the Everett Herald published an extensive article about Camano Chapel, featuring a photograph of a large education hall, 10 years in planning and building. The article noted that 800 people now attend Sunday services.

To me, that’s a staggering number of people, considering my recollections of the chapel on the Sundays my Grandpa and Grandma and I drove in Grandpa’s old Ford to services there.

Perhaps there were more than 25 or 30 people attending the church then, but I recall only a small group on those Sunday mornings.

More important to me than Sunday services at the chapel? My grandmother was the organist! On Wednesdays, Grandpa would drive her (and me, when I was visiting) to the chapel for her organ practice.

I loved listening to Grandma practice familiar old hymns and standing with the congregation on Sundays to sing as she played “The Old Rugged Cross,” “Lead On, Oh King Eternal” and other ancient hymns.

Prior to my grandparents’ permanent move to Camano, and prior to her service as organist, my grandmother was thrilled to hear that the famous evangelist Billy Graham was going to be in the area and would attend Camano Chapel to participate in its 1951 dedication.

Because they were spending most weekends on the island, my grandparents had begun to consider the chapel their church home. In their early years together, if they did not find a Methodist church near where they moved, they started one.

I wasn’t with my grandparents the weekend of Graham’s visit, or I’d remember the “hundreds of cars and thousands of people” mentioned in the Herald article. I do not doubt those numbers.

I do remember my aunt and uncle taking me to an enormous Graham rally in Seattle that week, a service overwhelmingly unlike worship at my family’s old Hughes Memorial Methodist Church at Fifth and Dayton in Edmonds – and a dramatic contrast to services at the Camano Chapel.

It’s easy to imagine the excitement the day Graham dedicated the chapel.

I currently attend Edmonds United Methodist Church, where the soaring sounds of a pipe organ fill the sanctuary. Sometimes I attend services and concerts at Trinity Lutheran in Lynnwood, which also has a fabulous pipe organ.

The sounds of those mighty organs always prompt memories of my sweet grandmother playing a small electric organ for the congregation at little Camano Chapel while a proud young granddaughter sat in the first row.



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