A Blizard in Summer

In 1926... Sallie Blizard's nostalgic poem was printed by newspapers from Washington to Texas—the same year baby Jacquelyn made Sallie a great-grandmother.

Oh! to have a birthday on Lummi

Listen here as Jackie Gaines reads her great-grandmother's poem on the 90th anniversary of its publication, as her own 90th birthday approaches. 

Sallie Blizard, also known as "Nanny" and "Sallie Anne", came to Lummi Island with her husband Leonidus (Lon) Blizard when their son-in-law Frank Taft discovered Lummi Island's peaceful shores and brought the whole family over in 1903.

Life's evening on Lummi

Lon Blizard served in the 4th Tennessee Cavalry of the Union Army, from the rank of private to captain, through most of the Civil War. In the 1890s Lon was still known as Captain Blizard, then an attorney in McKinney, Texas. But on the Island he was Colonel Blizard, somehow advancing in rank along the way. Lon would "spend life's evening on Lummi" until 1914 set, just shy of his 71st birthday.

Twelve years later his widow was an "aged lady," jostled and homesick during a visit to big city Seattle. You might think traffic in Seattle has gotten worse, but it's always been bad.

The city's mad rush

The city had just installed its first traffic signals in 1924. Stationed in a tower on the crux of downtown, one man would operate all the signals on Fourth Avenue between University and Pine, and on Pike Street between First and Fifth—while policing errant pedestrians. Busy boy.

Seattle traffic tower at 4th and Pike in 1925

Seattle traffic tower at 4th and Pike in 1925

This was more than the red, yellow, green light affair. Traffic lights for dummies were labeled StopTraffic Change, and Go. Not enough—Seattle needed more noise. So a gong would ring loudly before each signal change, shrilly punctuating the roar of crowding automobiles.

Seattle Times printed the daring title of "H--L'S BELLS" in 1926 as the mayor promised "relief from the incessant clatter and the nerve-wracking jangle of the traffic bells." A special committee was expected to "recommend installation of new gongs, not so harsh and devoid of the prolonged clangor of the ones now in use."

Seattle Times July 13, 1926

Longing for the hush, Sallie would write a poem about "slow and old-fashioned" Lummi Island which rings true even in the 21st century. To this day there are no traffic signals on the Island and lane markings have an agnostic following.

I would not trade the blessings

Sallie resolved her verse with value: she wouldn't trade her fortune for "Ma" Ferguson's seat and pay. Miriam Amanda Ferguson ("Ma" for her initials) was big news for any Texan. She was governor of the Lone Star State—the first woman elected as state governor in US history in 1924. Women had only gained the right to vote four years before.

"Ma" Ferguson, first female governor of Texas

The neighbors and children around you

Taft's sign in The Willows Inn reception

The Blizard's daughter Ruby and son-in-law Frank opened Taft’s The Willows in 1911, still in operation as The Willows Inn. 

Known as a savvy tourism promoter, was it Frank Taft that got Sallie's poem and a mention of "the quiet haven at 'The Willows'" in the newspapers?

Most of the original Taft property is now the Isle Aire neighborhood near Sunset Beach. Sallie's poetic sunsets are spectacularly appreciated here "as ol' Sol goes to sleep."

Sallie's ol' Sol. Photo by  Karen Myers Barker

Sallie's ol' Sol. Photo by Karen Myers Barker

There in my own even way

The Blizards left a legacy of confounding cartography. When The Tome of Lummi Island printed Sallie's poem in 1991, Public Works realized the namesake street name had been misspelled all these years as "Blizzard." Signs and maps were eventually corrected. Of course the newspaper editors spelled both of Sallie's names wrong too.

While Blizard Road once connected the Island from Lane Spit to West Shore Drive, only a tease of asphalt has made inroads on either side. So GPS navigation occasionally misleads drivers to an impassable dirt track. Some magic keeps it "away from the city's mad rush."

From The Tome of Lummi Island, January 1992

How Many Z's in Blizzzard?

In the October issue of the NEWSLETTER, we printed a poem written long ago by Sallie "Nanny" Blizard who was the great-grandmother of Jackie Gaines and Victoria Flynn. Whatcom County Engineer, Ed Henken, an avid NEWSLETTER reader noticed the spelling of "Blizard" with one Z and realized it was not consistent with the spelling of Blizzard Road. Ed knew the road was supposed to be named after the Blizard family, and he has taken the initiative to have the road signs corrected. Unfortunately, the new county maps have recently been completed and copied, so it will be some time before the maps are corrected.

Courtesy of Paul Davis, Editor.

Let me silently slip away

Sallie died on July 23, 1932 at the age of 86, buried in Lummi Island Cemetery just as she wished—"near the quiet and peaceful shore, close by the side of a loved one, who passed on long before."

Sallie and Lon buried together in Lummi Island Cemetary

Sallie and Lon buried together in Lummi Island Cemetary


Lummi is Favored.
Aged Woman Visits Seattle, Eager to Return.

Not all people like the clang and noise of the busy city, and the gregariousness of humanity which leads them to tolerate the harsh honking of auto horns, the screaming of sirens, and rumble of heavy traffic doesn't dominate the emotions of Mrs. Sally (Nanny) Blizard, eighty year old resident of Lummi Island.

Mrs. Blizard recently went to Seattle for a brief visit with relatives. Witness her reactions to the clangor of the busy center, set to rhyme. The first verse was written while in Seattle and bears the distinct mark of the mind and soul confused by the strange and unknowable surroundings. The rest of the following poem was written by the aged woman on her return to the quiet haven at "The Willows" where Mrs. Blizard lives with her son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Taft.

I am homesick to go back to Lummi,
I want to go back there to stay;
If I'd known I'd been homesick for Lummi
They could never have coaxed me away.

Yes, the slow and old-fashioned is Lummi,
There is never the roar of the crowd.
But I've often thought since I left there,
That no sweet sound is too loud.

Oh! to have a birthday on Lummi,
It is surely a wonderful treat;
For the neighbors and children around you,
Show love and respect that is sweet.

So let me go back to Lummi,
Away from the city's mad rush
Where every breeze that greets you
Seems to be whispering, "hush."

The sunsets I can see on Lummi
At the close of a summer's day,
Do make my heart beat lighter,
As ol' Sol goes to sleep in the bay.

Let me spend life's evening on Lummi
There in my own even way;
Then when my mission is finished,
Let me silently slip away.

Let me rest on dear old Lummi
Near the quiet and peaceful shore;
Close by the side of a loved one,
Who passed on long before.

I would not trade the blessings of Lummi
That come to me each day,
For any kind of fortune;
Not even "Ma" Ferguson's seat and pay.

—Sallie (Nanny) Blizard.