CHAPTER THREE A Center of Torpedo Instruction
The town of Keyport and the Pacific Coast Torpedo Station were indeed on a true peninsula of
land in the early days. As you can see from this mid-1920's panorama, the body of water that
makes up the current lagoon, stretched all the way around the Station property making it and
the town (shown with its pier in the lower right corner) nearly an island. Much of that
waterway was later filled in to add acreage to the Station.
Commander Lloyd S. Shapley
June 21, 1920-July 6, 1922
Commander Willis W. Bradley
July 5, 1922-August 25, 1924
Commander Harold V. McKittrick
August 25, 1924-January 26, 1927
Commander Thomas E. Van Metre
January 26, 1927-September 23, 1929
Commander Robert C. Giffen
September 23, 1929-June 18, 1932
By the 1920's the Pacific Coast Torpedo Station was
well established and became a center of instruction with a fully equipped torpedo school.
Students from all parts of the Fleet came to Keyport for three months training in the
fundamentals of torpedoes and ranging.
The Mark 8 and 9-1 torpedoes provided the Station's workload in 1920 and a triple torpedo
tube was installed in USS Goldsborough (DD-188), the first ship to bring torpedoes to Keyport.
Recreational facilities were added this year to help boost morale since a real lack of
entertainment existed. A bowling alley was built, complete with pool tables, a movie projector
and screen, and a ships service store was opened.
Commander Bradley obtained a wartime sub chaser, the SC-309, to make daily trips to
Bremerton and Puget Sound Navy Yard. The 309 was replaced later by tug 98, which had better
freight capacity than the
The new Marine Barracks stand tall, destined to be a Station landmark, in this 1920
photograph. Today, buildings and trees separate the barracks from the wharf and waterfront.
The new acreage, purchased in 1929, was thick with virgin timber to be cleared. Station
laborers were hardly experienced in the logging business and enthusiastically tried anything to
make the clearing job easier and less time-consuming. Harvey Jensen filled a couple inner tubes
with dynamite and wrapped them around the top of two trees...
Boom! The explosion...
309. The 98 was used until the advent of highways made travel by land more efficient.
Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt visited the Station in 1921. He was
greeted by the sight of a bustling, growing Naval base with at least 100 men.
In 1924, one employee was sent to Rhode Island to learn the business of manufacturing and
assembling torpedo igniters. Upon his return, he passed his knowledge on to his coworkers and
PCTS began working with igniters.
Down come the tops...
Perfectly topped trees-no sawing required!
This practice, however, came to a screeching halt after one harrowing incident. It was nearing
the four o'clock quitting time; the laborers, in a hurry to finish, set the charge, and let 'er
Unfortunately, the tree fell across the Station's only exit and started a fire that spread 50
around the tree. According to longtime employee, Don Gilham, there were "a lot of hungry
sidewalk 'superintendents' giving us the word about slowpokes..." From then on, he said, "all
large trees had to be cut the 'old fashioned' way..."
A panorama of the Station in this late 1920 photo shows the water towers, officer quarters, and
marine barracks. The home
to the far right is Quarters D, formerly the Norum home and at that time, the residence of the
Commanding Officer. To the left of Quarters D are (from right to left): Quarters E, F, J, and K,
all of which are still in use today. (photo courtesy of Alice Norum Peterson)
Torpedoes began to increase in size and capability.
State legislation was passed in 1925 for the building of a highway between Keyport and
Bremerton. The highway was later extended to Port Gamble and Kingston.
Navy officials agreed that the 1914 purchase of land was not adequate to cover the needs of the
expanding torpedo station. Sixty-one additional acres of land, south and west of the original
boundaries, were purchased in 1929.
The Keyport School children and Navy personnel held a holiday exchange that year. The military
men took up a collection for gifts for the children, and the children thanked them by putting
costume play at the barracks.
By deed dated and recorded September 16, 1929, 61 acres of land were added to the Station's
boundaries. The Station fence-line was extended to include this additional land, partly for
security, but mainly to keep unwanted cows and other farm-life from wandering into the base.
This fresh water supply reservoir was replaced in 1921 with two deep wells.
By 1922, employees were using automobiles to get to work causing base roads to deteriorate. In
the winter months, the
roads were mud holes and in the summer, dust. With no sidewalks, pedestrian journeys were no
less than ordeals. This photo, taken to the south on "B" Street, shows Quarters E and D.
The Station railroad was built to relieve laborers of the tough job of hauling torpedoes from
shop to dock with hand-drawn carts. In 1922 an electric car replaced a locomotive which had a
tendency to throw sparks and set off grass fires.
By the mid 1920's Radio Hill added some homes to accompany the Radio Station and one of its
towers. Though the Radio Station and its towers are long gone, the homes remain and are still
used as quarters today. (photo courtesy of Darlene Munroe)
The torpedo station had a baseball team in 1926 that would do us proud even today. It played
forty games and lost only five. A huge Puget Sound Navy tug transported most of the fans to
the Keyport team in the Northwest championship game. Though no official count was taken, it
was estimated that over 1,000 people attended. Keyport pleased the fans and took the
The twenties brought a flood of employee automobiles to Keyport Leaving their cars here, there,
and everywhere on base, employees got together and decided a parking lot was definitely needed.
With management's approval, each employee donated a day's work and cleared a designated spot
for the new parking lot.
Local school teachers and children enjoy a ride on the USS Saratoga (CB-3). The visitors were
invited to spend the day at Keyport for what was to become an annual event for many years on
Armed Forces Day. (photo courtesy of Ruth Reese)
Tin Pail Lunchboxes: A History of the Keyport School
These young school chums pose on the steps of the old Keyport School. Note the tin pail lunchbox
held by the boy in front. (photo courtesy of Rosemay Olson)
From classmates to co-workers: many of the children who went to the Keyport school together,
went on to work together at the Torpedo Station. Those school years were the beginnings of deep
kinships and fond memories to last a lifetime.
The Keyport School traces its roots back to March 2, 1886, when Kitsap County
Superintendent, Miss Lizzie Ordway, appointed a school board to establish School District #14.
On May 1st of that year, Keyport residents gathered together to decide where to put the school.
Charles Sjolund offered his property which was near what was to become the southwest border
of PCTS, and a sum of $40 was collected for a building fund that evening.
The school opened its doors to 18 children for the first time on July 12, 1886. For a monthly
salary of $30, Miss Nellie Kiddie from Port Madison taught the first session, which lasted all
three months. The students couldn't attend in the winter because, although the $40 collected to
build the school was considered a "tidy" sum in those days, it just didn't go far enough to
anything more than rough, unfinished walls inside with no insulation and no heat.
In those early days, the children sat on benches set against the wall. Lunches were brought in
little, round, tin pails and the children took delight in swapping tidbits such as homemade
doughnuts and Norwegian flat bread. Fresh water was available from the school creek, about one-half mile away, and it was the boys' duty to retrieve water for the class. The children took
drinking from the "community" dipper; one
Students pose in front of the final Keyport School building in 1930. Built in 1908, it was used
until the 1940's. The structure
was eventually sold to the North Kitsap Baptist Church and is now used as a restaurant in
Poulsbo, Washington. (photo
courtesy of George Liaset)
graduate later mused that it was a wonder epidemics didn't sweep through the student body.
A second school soon followed that first little one room schoolhouse. This one was near the
Lake Cemetery, and was used until 1908, when a new school was built in South Keyport, just
outside of the southern boundaries of what was to become the Torpedo Station.
"Potato bakes" were a favorite activity of the students of the third schoolhouse. Teacher, Mr.
Fairfield, arranged for the students to bring potatoes to school every now and again; they all
would spend the entire afternoon outside, baking potatoes over a roaring bonfire and learning
Hannah Norum Langer, now of Port Orchard, remembers her school years in the early part of
the century: "Attending school took us on an extensive
walk. We were often a little frightened to walk through the wooded areas for there were rumors
of cougars about ...(the parents) had arranged for some of the older boys to guide (us) but the
boys had no attraction to that job, so they simply walked away."
This school building was used until the 1940's, when the Keyport School became part of the
North Kitsap School District. It was abandoned and later sold to the North Kitsap Baptist
That same building is now used as a restaurant.
In 1952, Hilder Pearson Elementary School was built for the children of Keyport, Pearson and
the surrounding areas, and today carries on the tradition of the old Keyport School.
Some things seem to stay the same forever. Many things about the street leading to PCTS' main
gate in 1924 have changed
since then, but if you look to the left, a sign says "Keyport Garage." If you drive up to that
today, and look to the left, you'll see a business still devoted to the repair of autos. (photo
courtesy of Rosemay Olson)
Keyport Was the Place to Be in the 20's and 30's
A rather self-sufficient town developed outside the gates of the Pacific Coast Torpedo Station
the 1920's and 1930's. Real estate brochures hailed Keyport as the New Naval City, abound
with opportunities for merchants, tailors, doctors, dentists, druggists, moving pictures, garage
and automobile agencies, builders, contractors, and "many other lines."
Whatever its potential, the town was still rather isolated from the rest of Kitsap County with
horse and buggy remaining the mode of transportation among residents.
The community club, church, school, and the torpedo station were the focal points for past
time. Town's people looked forward to community functions with great gusto. The annual Sunday
School picnic brought out the town's entire population-churchgoers and non-churchgoers alike.
Keyport-living in the 1920's was great fun for these town folks who gathered at the pier for a
July 4th celebration. (photo courtesy of Ruth Reese)
The Keyport Community Church, shown here in 1962, was built by volunteers-churchgoers
and non-who labored throughout much of the 1930's to piece it together. It was dedicated in
1937 and has served as a center of community activity ever since. (photo courtesy of Ruth
Community effort was certainly a way of life for the people. The church building, which still
stands today in Keyport, was built over a number of years in the 1930's with all volunteer
labor. Volunteers worked diligently until the building was dedicated on May 2, 1937.
The Liberty Lunch restaurant and Shoe Repair shop were set up side by side in the late 1920's.
The restaurant was owned by Sofia Kugener and the Shoe Repair by her brother-in-law,
Remackel Kugener. Remackel was a carpenter and orthopedic shoemaker. (photo courtesy of
The Keyport Hotel and Room and Board owned by Ellen Petterson, was a favorite hangout for the
base sailors and workers in the 1920's. The Station Commanding Officer wanted to discourage
the young men from partying there and asked Ellen to deny them business; she was not inclined
to do so and as a result was at odds with the Navy much of the time. The hotel, which was
near today's town fire station on Pacific Avenue, was torn down in later years. (photo courtesy
of Ruth Reese)
The community bulletin board, 1920's style.
Some figures of Keyport's past pose in front of the Merchantile and Post Office. (photo courtesy
of Rosemay Olson)