Ralph Tronsrud, Business Man

Bob Davis is standing in front of his grandfather’s former gas station and holding a photograph of him wearing a bow tie and white jacket as the owner of the first gas station in Snohomish on the corner of 1st and Cedar.

snohomish storiesRalph Tronsrud in 1924, wearing a white jacket and black bow tie, ready to service the first automobiles of Snohomish at his station on the corner of 1st and Cedar.

Yes the charming little red brick building that many have asked what was it built for? And now we know. With the first autos, gas was available only in cans at the hardware store. Knowing that, it’s easy to imagine how driving up and asking, “Fill it up,” plays a developmental role in our love affair with the automobile.

snohomish stories Within five years, Ralph is promoting the addition of a hydraulic lift with this dramatic ad published in the Snohomish County Tribune on March 3, 1929. It invites readers to: “Bring Your Car in and See How “She” Looks Underneath” — sounds like an invitation to first base of the affair to me! (Click image to enlarge)

The lift looks to be outside, but it was before Bob’s time so he doesn’t know its location. The building is best known as the office of the Thurston Insurance Agency, but now serves as the office for the Feather Ballroom in the former Eagles Hall across the street.

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In the 1940s, Ralph opened a larger station on 2nd Street at Maple, where the SnoTown Brewery and Ixtapa Restaurant are located today. In addition to playing baseball with the Snohomish Indians for many years, Ralph served as president of the local association that sponsored the team and built the ball park featured in last month’s story.

Opening the new gas station with his son Neil prevented Ralph from continuing on as an elected council member and after ten and half years of service he resigned. For several years Ralph was the Mayor pro-tem, sitting in for the elected Mayor when needed.

Ralph Tronsrud, 1950s
Ralph Tronsrud, 1950s

His daughter Lorraine married Hugh Davis and Bob was born in 1947. In 1951, Bob’s family moved to Yakima, where his father got in on the ground floor of the local television business. Four years later his mother was stricken with a severe case of polio, just a few months before the Salk vaccine became available. Immediately the grandparents sold everything, including the Union Station on 2nd Street, and moved to Yakima to care for Bob, his brother Jim, and their baby sister, who was only three years old at the time.

In 1976, when Bob, Joan and their two daughters were living in Seattle, Ralph came for a visit, and Bob drove his grandfather to look up one of his old team mates, Eddie Blau, from the Kirkland team, circa 1904/10, “and the two 80 year olds had a grand time reminiscing – and remembering all the details — of their great plays,” Bob tells me with wet eyes.

Ralph died two years later on March 7, 1978, in Yakima, he was 86 years old. I couldn’t find an obituary for him in our local paper.

  • Thanks Lauren for the email, always appreciated.