Carnation Verbatim – Introduction

Produced by Pacific Northwest writer, photographer and composer, Jerry Mader, Carnation Verbatim–A Celebration of Elders, is a documentary containing oral histories and photographs of elder citizens native to the Snoqualmie Valley and the community of Tolt/Carnation (est. 1912).

Mader began the project in 2005. Over the next two years he photographed 28 elders, octogenarian and nonagenarian, and recorded 25 life histories. Mader also assembled excerpts from 22 of the audio recordings of life histories, composed some original music to accompany them and produced a 2-CD album. Also featured on the album is an accordion performance of “Listen to the Mockingbird” by Helen Sinnema, one of the elders in the documentary. In addition to the portraits, Mader also has made several photographs of Snoqualmie Valley landscapes, farmsteads and interiors of farm houses and residences of several of the elders as additions to the documentary.

In 2006, Mader received a grant from King County 4Culture Heritage Special Projects to help complete the project. The grant made it possible to transcribe the oral histories, produce the audio CD and prepare exhibition-ready prints of all the photographs. The entire collection will be archived at the Tolt Historical Society Museum in Carnation.

In 2007, Carnation Verbatim became a traveling exhibit with its first opening at Miller’s Community & Arts Center in Carnation on September 22. The exhibit was on display through November 25. It has been offered to all historical museums and appropriate art galleries in King County including the 4Culture Gallery in Seattle.

The elders presented in this documentary came of age during the 1920s and 1930s in the community of Tolt/Carnation where they remained, married and raised their families. Their grandparents were among the first settlers in the Snoqualmie Valley who ultimately founded the township of Tolt/Carnation in 1912. Now, as octogenarians and nonagenarians, they offer a unique perspective on Pacific Northwest rural life during the first half of the 20th Century. Their stories record the minute particulars of daily life in a small community supported by dairy farms, subsistence agriculture, the timber industry and the railroads. The following pages contain text excerpts from their oral histories, enlarged presentations of the portraits and audio clips from selected interviews.