In the back hall of the Meeker Mansion is a framed “Better Acquaintance Supplement” of the Puyallup Valley Tribune, dated 1930. It consists of 90 photographs of business leaders of the community, identified by name and business affiliation. Near the bottom left corner is a photo of a man with a sash across his chest that reads: DEMOCRAT. The sign underneath announces him as “Ed Watts, 28 years continuous service in confectionery service.” Community lore informs us that he believed himself the only Democrat in town.
In the January 15, 1948 edition of the same newspaper, we found a small article on page one entitled “Razing of Building Recalls Much of Early History Here.” In addition to relating the history of the old building, it recalls Mr. Watts and his quirky personality. Portions of the fascinating article follow:
“Ed Watts was what is known as a ‘Character.’ Coming to Puyallup in the 1890’s, he built and opened a small store where Gerstmann Brothers now have their Men’s Shop (note: NW corner of Meridian and Pioneer). This was a small place, ten feet wide and somewhat longer. Here, ‘Ed’ as he was always called, ran a confectionery store, selling also cigars and soft drinks…. Ed then bought 25 feet at the corner still known as the Watts building (note: corner of Meridian and 2nd Ave SW). In the enlarged store, whose sign, ‘The Fountain,’ above the door was kept revolving by the wind, Ed put in a larger stock. It was a favorite place for teen-age boys to gather and discuss affairs over their ice-cream sodas.
“Mr. Watts was an ardent Democrat. So much so that when local merchants had their pictures taken, he had a large-lettered sign ‘Democrat’ made which he pinned across his chest, distinguishing him from theirs. He allowed no one to speak against Woodrow Wilson. This the boys soon found out and quietly, but loud enough for Ed to hear, would say something against Wilson. It always ended in all the boys being sent flying through the doors, with the same thing repeated a few days later. A man of decided character, if he liked you, you could do no wrong. If he didn’t, he let you know it.
“An old newspaper man from Kansas, Ed kept up with the times and wrote many political articles, adulatory if he liked you, quite the opposite if he didn’t. He was frank and out-spoken and told the truth as he saw it. Now nearing ninety, Ed is living out his years in a quietude unknown to him in his earlier — and stormier — years.”
A check with the cemetery showed that Mr. Watts was buried there in May 1948, just a few months after this article was written. If you have a photo of The Fountain, or of Mr. Watts in his place of business, we’d love to see it.
Andy Anderson is the historian of the Puyallup Historical Society at Meeker Mansion. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through the Meeker Mansion at 848-1770.