Apr 26 2016

One of our rooms at the Anderson School in Bothell, WA, is named for a colorful character named Elmer Carlberg. Born into what were still frontier conditions in the years just after Washington gained statehood, Elmer would live long enough to bear witness to the futuristic Space Age of the 1960s and beyond - always keeping an eye on the past.

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Born in 1894 to Swedish immigrants, Elmer Carlberg and his four siblings were raised in the Hollywood area of Woodinville, WA, (near Bothell), the same area known today for the silky reds and crisp whites produced at the Chateau Ste. Michelle winery.

As a member of one of the town's pioneer families, Elmer solemnly accepted as his duty the roles of both steward and historian, exhibiting an unwavering enthusiasm for conserving the histories of local families. His home became a museum of sorts, filled with Bothell-Woodinville artifacts, treasures and other assorted odds and ends that he collected and curated. He also proved to be an industrious chronicler of pioneer stories; his historical articles frequently appeared in The Bothell Citizen, which earned Elmer the nickname, "Sage of Woodinville."

Never one to shy away from civic responsibilities, Elmer ran no less than two campaigns for public office, including a 1924 bid for the Washington State legislature and a race for lieutenant governor in 1936. Despite memorable campaigns ("Every Woman a Queen" was one of his notable slogans), he garnered only a small fraction of the vote in each race.

In 1962, the publisher of The Citizen assigned the now 68-year-old Elmer to cover the World's Fair in Seattle (see image), with the hope that Elmer's observations would entertain readers with a pioneer's perspective on the futuristic aspects of the fair, including the iconic 605-foot Space Needle and the ultramodern monorail that transported visitors to the fair from downtown Seattle.

To the possible surprise of his publisher, Elmer embarked on an exploration that expanded far beyond the reaches of the towering Space Needle. While offering up tales from his adventures at the fair, he also freely dispensed his musings across an eclectic assortment of topics, from space travel and modern architecture to fine art and international cuisine (which tickled yet perplexed him). Elmer himself became a bit of an attraction for fair goers, dressed as he was in his signature black trench coat, brimmed hat and ruffled silver beard.

Following Elmer's death in 1987 at age 93, his lifelong commitment to preserving the area's history was acknowledged and honored at the Woodinville Heritage Museum. There his compositions and diaries -- even his red long johns -- are archived together in one room devoted to the man and his work.

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