County history book looks at communities, industries and personalities

Published on Thu, Sep 4, 2003 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

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County history book looks at communities, industries and personalities

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

Laura Jacoby can�t remember the first time she heard her grandfather talk about history. She can�t remember the first time she saw one of his old photographs. But she can vividly remember her grandfather�s love for history � his material collection of which will soon be out in book-form for everyone to discover.

Jacoby is the granddaughter of the late Galen Biery, a local man largely responsible for the collection of county historical materials and the oral distribution of its contents. He was the sole individual behind the Magic Lantern slide shows, hand-crafted presentations of the past complete with original glass slides and an antique camera.

�We grew up working in the dark room,� Jacoby said of her childhood and family. �Our childhood was filled with his stories and pictures. Whatever he was working on, he would take us along.�

Biery was the man behind the books Looking Back 1 and Looking Back 2, publications that revealed area history�s people, places and industries. The original has been sold out since 1995, and the family has been working together for years to create this new 400-page book, entitled Looking Back, The Collector�s Edition, which is a collection of the previous two with an additional third volume. The book will hit the stands in November, coinciding with celebrations throughout the county, including the 100 year anniversary of Bellingham and the 150 year anniversary of white settlement in the area.

�This book looks at all kinds of history about Whatcom County,� she said. �Logging, fisheries, coal mining, people. Between the two books, there are a lot of personal recollections of what life was like then.�

Family members designed, edited, collected materials and published the historic book. �It�s really nice after all these years to see everyone getting their hands in becoming involved,� Jacoby said of working with her family on this project. �Grandma approved everything.�

Biery had a collection of more than 35,000 photographs � many were his own, but others came from people across the county. �When people had historical items, there was no museum then, so they would give it to my grandfather,� Jacoby said. �He preserved a lot of Whatcom County history at a time when the community didn�t have a place to care for historical materials. He was a history caretaker and this is really the community�s collection.�

Many of his photographs appear in the book, including one shot that shows his own shoes. �He had climbed to the top of the hotel in Bellingham, which was the tallest building at the time and it had a big antenna. He was with a friend, David Morse, and they took a picture looking down, and their shoes were in the picture,� Jacoby said, smiling. �They dropped the camera and it broke, but they had the picture.� Biery was 18 and Morse was 17 at the time.

Jacoby will be at the Blaine Senior Center on Wednesday, September 10 at 12:30 p.m. and the Ferndale Senior Center on September 16 at 12:45 p.m. to share a Magic Lantern slide show.

�I love doing these slide shows and sharing stories with people. Many times the audience has stories they share with me and some about grandpa,� she said. �He was a really wonderful family man and he was just a great pillar in the community. This (history) was a labor of love for him. He enjoyed the people and what he learned and he just made life really amazing for all the people he touched.�

Introductory orders, at a cost of $39.95, will be taken until October 31. The price will increase to $49.95 on November 1. To order this book, visit online at, call Jacoby at 599-1711 or send mail to Grandpa�s Attic, P.O. Box 30007, Bellingham, WA 98228.

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