Friday, March 21, 2014

3rd Sumas Border Station (part 2 of 3)

 Photograph taken by Burl Brooks Beane (circa 1970) from a location on the International boundary, looking S.  The building behind and to the left of the Border Station is the Maple Leaf Tavern that faced E onto Cherry St.

Photograph taken by Burl Brooks Beane (circa 1968) from a location just south of the International boundary looking SW.  The building on the right side of the picture is the Elenbass Feed & Seed Mill.  Behind the mill can be seen the south slope of Moe' Hill.
 The skiers still wanted to cross the border even when the roads were impassible.  
Photograph taken by Burl Brooks Beane (circa 1972) from a location looking NW at the Border Station toward Canada.  Vehicle under inspection by Customs Officer and K-9.
The Sumas Border Station (built 1932, see 19 March Post) was a landmark building in Sumas for many years.  It served as the office for the U.S. Customs and Immigrations personnel.  This building was witness to many travelers heading to the United States from Canada. 
Arthur J. Moe (of Moe's hill fame) was Deputy Collector In Charge from 1927 until late 1960.  He witnessed many changes to the local border crossing.  During Arthur's time, Border Station I and II(see 31 Jan Post) were in use.   Burl Brooks Beane replaced Arthur as Deputy Collector in Charge starting in 1961. In 1965, the top job title changed to Port Director.  Burl was involved during the Hippie Era and the drug culture which grew from it.  When Burl retired in 1976, Daryl Barnes took over as Port Director.
The end of World War 2 brought many changes to the port.  The Alaska Highway had been constructed by the U.S. Army and was joined by the John Hart Highway in Northern British Columbia with an improved highway in the Fraser Canyon.  This construction provided a direct route between the west coast and Alaska with the Port of Sumas being the logical crossing. 
'Lynden Transport, a local firm, pioneered a trucking service to Alaska and soon secured contracts which included the U.S. mail.' (pers. comm. B. Beane, 1976)
June 1, 1949 , the Sumas Border Station, which was previously closed daily from midnight to 8am, became a 24 hour port. 
The construction of Ross Dam between 1937 and 1949 (approximately 60 miles E of Sumas) brought a growth of traffic through the port
Customs Guards were designated Port Patrol Officers in 1947 and given more opportunities for search and seizure. This resulted in a sharp increase in the discovery of both illicit drugs and merchandise.
The 1960s and 70s brought an increase to the drug culture and smuggling was prevalent.  These times brought protests, rock festivals and free spirits.  For the Customs and Immigration Officers this presented a whole new set of challenges.
"The second floor of the Border station used to be the office (for support staff) with holding area (jail cells) first by the U.S. Customs Patrol and then by Customs and Immigration.  The basement had a large walk in safe.   Outside in the back of the building next to the car impound garage was an incinerator where they burned seized items." (pers.comm. H. Stokes, retired Sumas Customs Officer)   
As a child I remember visiting my father (Burl Beane) at the office.   I remember that when entering the front door, his office was to the right.   To the left was the immigration office.   I also remember the yellow insignia by the front door designating the building as a fallout shelter in case of nuclear war. 
In the next posting we will discuss the community's fight to save the grand old building, it's ultimate fate and the 'swallows that return to Sumas'. 

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