Eric Truglas: Bringing an Inn back from the dead

My family’s history with the Captain Whidbey Inn started in the summer of 1967. My grandfather, Leigh was in the lumber business and made trips from California where they lived to buy lumber. His buddies on the island had some property for sale in Greenbank and My grandmother, her daughter Jan, and son Larry came up to look at it. According to my grandmother, she had been dreaming of moving to Washington ever since her friend from work had told her about how beautiful it was. When this opportunity came up, they were eager to see what it was all about.

The three had a flight from California to the island, and rooms reserved at the Queen Anne Motel. My grandmother was not very impressed with the room when they got there and they spent much of their time out driving, exploring the island. On one of their outings, they discovered Steve and Shirley Stone at the Captain Whidbey Inn. It was quickly decided that they would gather their things from the Queen Anne and move to rooms at the Captain Whidbey.

As the story goes, Steve was getting them checked in and my grandmother asked if they were going to get a key to the room. Steve paused, and then reached under the desk and pulled out a box of old skeleton keys, which he dumped out and started rooting through. After a moment, he stopped and looked up at my grandmother. “ Are you planning to lock yourself in or out?” he asked. A testament to the lack of need for security on the island, no one had ever asked for a room key before!

For some reason or another, the property in Greenbank wasn’t right, but my Grandparents were determined to make the island their home. They were sent to look at another property by Shirley Stone, and fell in love with it immediately. It was a Sunday, but they managed to find a real estate agent and wrote a check for the earnest money right there on the spot without ever seeing the inside of the house. They raised their family there, started businesses, played with grandkids, and retired, almost 50 years together in the house. My grandfather passed away a few years ago, but my grandmother, father, and uncle still live there.

It was another month before the house was vacated and the family was able to move in. During that time, they rented 2 cabins at the Captain Whidbey and became very good friends with the proprietors, a friendship that would last a lifetime. My father tells the story of Sunday dinners at the Inn, they would go every week with other island friends including Tony Turpin, after the guests had finished, and dine on what was left of the buffet and then take everything back to the kitchen and wash up. The grown ups would of course retire to the bar for drinks and the kids would be left to explore the inn and the grounds.

It would seem that it was Steve and Shirley more than anything that my grandparents were heading out there for, as the Inn changed hands and our family fell out of the habit of visiting often. I went there a few times in my childhood on the island, but it is not so much the place that I have memories of as it is the stories, the legend. I suppose things have their heyday and then they change, new people come in, new people come to visit them. We were excited to see new life coming to the inn, it’s been a long time since it was a place that we were excited to visit. The grounds and property have been in much need of some care and updating, and the restaurant was just plain terrible.

I would love to hear your stories and memories of the Captain Whidbey Inn! Please feel free to leave them in the comments below or email me at laura@chefhealthcoach.com

I had the pleasure of speaking with Chef Eric Truglas, the interim Chef tasked with getting the kitchen at the Captain Whidbey up and running until they can find a permanent Chef to run it. Eric is the owner of Eat restaurant in Bellingham and has a long history of making great food and running hotel kitchens. He loves this area and the ingredients we have available. If you have been to Eat, you know all about Eric’s magic with food. Head over to the Captain Whidbey to see what he is cooking up!

Laura Mcwilliams