Everett photo journalist Marjorie Duryee begins an Everett Herald travel series on November 27, 1952.

  • By Margaret Riddle
  • Posted 11/28/2022
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 22602

On November 27, 1952, the Everett Herald publishes the first in what will eventually be 72 feature articles written by photo journalist and artist Marjorie Duryee, describing a 10-month trip through France and Spain. Not only does she keep journal accounts on her trip, Duryee will also take photos of people and places, using 20 rolls of film, 36 exposures each. Duryee, an Everett native, will gain renown as a photographer, painter, and poet before her death in 1991. 

Home and Abroad

Born, raised, and educated in Everett, Marjorie Duryee (1913-1991) loved adventure, and despite graduating from high school in 1930, at the beginning of the Great Depression, she found ways to pursue her loves of photography, art, writing, sports, and travel. Joining the American Red Cross (ARC) during World War II, Duryee was sent first to New Guinea but later worked as an editor for their ARC magazine Boomerang, with assignments taking her all across the Pacific front. Following the war, Duryee returned home to Everett making plans for new adventures.

One of Duryee's lifelong friends was actress Nancy Coleman of Everett, who married New York drama critic Whitney Bolton. The Boltons lived on Long Island and the couple visited Marjorie in 1954 when she was living at Priest Point on the Tulalip reservation. Describing that visit, Whitney wrote:

"It was a nice drive out to Priest Point, a rearing bluff rising high and abruptly from Puget Sound. In a grove of pines in a tremendous panorama of sky, water and wild woodland, she has built a cottage 20 x 30 feet, with living room, kitchen and bath. Its walls facing the water view are sheets of glass. She poured her own foundation, raised her own walls, roofed her own house.

"A few months ago she returned to this retreat from a ten month stay in Spain. When she elected to go to Spain, she did not fly to New York and thence to Spain, via luxury liners. Instead, she drove herself down to the Seattle waterfront and hunted up a freighter bound for Spain. She found one, drove back, packed up and boarded it that night. Thirty days later, being in no tearing hurry, she landed in Spain – and in 36 hours had gotten a photograph of a shy, camera dubious Cardinal. Three months later he was in the news and a national magazine was frantically combing picture agencies for a shot of him. Hers, already on file with a New York agency, was the only one available in the world. It was by any measure a total exclusive. The magazine bought it and was grateful" (Bolton).

Turns out, it was not a chance meeting with the Spanish cardinal; Duryee had done her research before the trip and tracked him down. Bolton's memories speak to the heart of who she was, but some of his details are slightly off. Duryee's first Herald story was subtitled "Slow Boat to France," and that essay described leaving from a Tacoma dock. Duryee's journal notes make it clear that her destinations were Europe and, particularly Spain. In another journal entry she described it as a freighter trip through Panama to Madrid. She noted that she found Spain the most photogenic country in the world, and she would frequently visit a friend, one she had met during her Red Cross years. The photos and writings she made from this trip would serve her well in the following years.

Everett Herald, October 27, 1952

"SLOW BOAT TO FRANCE

Everett Woman Embarks for Europe Aboard Freighter

(Editor's Note: Readers of the Herald are destined to become as familiar with a 'Slow Boat to France' as they were a year ago to a 'Slow Boat to China.' Miss Marjorie Duryee, daughter of D. A. Duryee of 501 Laurel Drive is on the MS Washington on route to Cherbourg. She will send items about the trip and will follow these with observations during her journeys through a number of European countries).

Duryee begins:

"Aboard the MS Washington on November 21. What is it really like to go on a freighter? Although I have watched (and heard) the boats loading and unloading at Weyerhaeuser's practically below my window, this is my first closeup look. There is the early morning drive to the Tacoma Pier, the air cold with the smell of almost snow, and the walk through the warehouses packed with Hillmans and MGs just in from England, and boxes and boxes of Washington apples bound for Bogota, Columbia, and then through the doors, the white hull of the French line motor ship Washington" ("Everett Woman...").

Duryee describes boarding by a gangplank with a flimsy rope handrail, happy to have her brother helping carry her luggage, a steward showing her to her small cabin, the French crew in their berets and the reality setting in that this will be a 35-day trip through the Panama Canal to Cherbourg. With a pot of hot chicory coffee awaiting in her cabin, Duryee watches from the ship's deck and thinks back in time to her World War II years:

"It was only when the hatches were covered and the lumber laid flat on the decks, in preparation for the trucks being swung up, over, and onto them, that, as I leaned from the upper rail, the Washington became, for a moment, the troop transport Noordam. I saw, sprawled before me, the thousands of GIs, with their sourgreen fatigues and brown backs, sleeping, playing cards, eating ZagNuts from the PX, or just staring at the sea, day after day on their way to war in New Guinea in January 1944. And below, instead of the copper, the grain and the long planks of wood, there were the rows and rows of tiers of bunks, stacked in the truly steaming holds of a ship in tropical waters.

"And then, the sharp breeze, still with the smell of snow, brought me back to Tacoma, Washington, where, truly enough, there was the familiar Army green on the docks, only this time it was the 15 trucks bound for Mutual Defense, somewhere in Europe" ("Slow Boat to France").

By 1954, 72 features completed and published, Duryee was back in the cabin she had built by hand at Priest Point on Tulalip Bay.


Sources:

"Everett Woman Embarks for Europe Aboard Freighter," Everett Daily Herald, November 27, 1952, p. 4; Whitney Bolton, Buffalo Evening News, July 28, 1954, p. 33; Gale Fiege, "Everett's Own Marge Duryee Featured in Art Show," HeraldNet, Everett Washington, August 6, 2016 accessed November 10, 2022; HistoryLink Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Duryee, Marjorie Ann (1913-1991)," (by Margaret Riddle), www.historylink.org (accessed November 15, 2022).


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