Eleanor who? An icon in the field need not be famous, she can be anyone, and catch my eye even when her history is obscure. So I celebrate Eleanor Addleman (born Eleanor Dickinson) whose snapshots I found during a recent backpacking trip to the Staircase area of the Olympic National Forest, near the town of Hoodsport, WA. She is a woman lost to time but whose image totally captivated me.
While charging my phone in the ranger station at the trail head, I flipped through the stack of photo albums of local park recreational history on the table nearby. Grainy black and white images of men and mules against backdrops of snow and trees; staggeringly massive tree trunks dwarfing a single token ranger for scale; stone faced campers in front of canvas tents surrounded by dark woods. The first album showed a world of late 19th and early 20th century, the era before comfortable shoes and power tools; before paved roads and reliable transportation. The people in these photos chose to be here, and their choosing wasn't the weekend warrior-type dashing in like I was--these folks were tough.
Incongruously, this dazzling blonde kept showing up in the photos--hair perfectly coiffed and cheekbones catching the light in every frame in which she appeared. She photographed naturally well and she clearly enjoyed looking good. And that she made the effort in this remote region, where few would see or care? Well, clearly, she cared. I was smitten.
As soon as my phone revived, I snapped every image of her in the album, along with an accompanying article about her brother Floyd Dickinson, a former park ranger. Eleanor and her husband Dick dominate the 1930s section of photos in the album. It was the same years her brother Floyd began his career as a ranger at the park; in fact it may have been him who took the snapshots of his sister.
So what does a fan girl do in the face of not much to go on? Purely from the photos, I take it Eleanor celebrated the obvious of her surroundings: the mammoth trees, the hiking parties, and sharing it with others, as evidenced by her smiling face in group photos.
Later internet searches yielded not much more: Her parents ran the Staircase resort in the area. She came of age in the 1920s, was married to Dick Addleman by the 1930s, and was an active member of the Hoodsport community, her name popping up in 1940s newspaper clips from Shelton-Mason County Journal. She died in 2005.