You can't do justice to Adele Ferguson's laugh with
only one adjective. It's earthy, infectious and punctuated with delight. Although
it's been nearly 50 years since she became the first woman to invade the old boys'
club that was the Capitol press corps at Olympia, her blue eyes are still mischievous.
In her prime, the Bremerton scribe was feared and loathed, respected and courted.
Her column is still carried by some 30 newspapers around the state. While her daily
paper penetration has declined in recent years, she's now being cussed and discussed
During his five years as Majority Leader of the State Senate in the 1980s, Ted Bottiger
of Tacoma warned his freshmen members about three things: "Adele Ferguson, Adele
Ferguson, Adele Ferguson."
Ralph Munro, Washington's former longtime secretary of state, says, "Adele is the
only legitimate tsunami to ever hit the state capitol. Elected officials would rush
to the one news stand that carried The Bremerton Sun in the Legislative Building
to see who she had drowned in her column this week. Those who weren't totally dead
from the wave would often take weeks to recover their ego and energy. Adele knew
how to hit and hit hard."
"A-dell," who never spent a day on a college campus, let alone at journalism school,
is one of the most influential writers in state history. She told some brazen lies
to get her foot in the door of a newsroom in 1943 and never looked back.
A natural born storyteller, she's a blend of Molly Ivins, Ann Coulter and Annie
Oakley, the perky sharpshooter who boasted to an arrogant man, "I can do anything
you can do better!"
Her worst enemies lately assert that she "truly represents the cold-hearted, racist,
fascist Republican of today" – "a whack job from top to bottom." Even admirers say
she can stray over the top. Notably, Adele views as outrageous the celebrated Boldt
Decision that upheld Indian treaty fishing rights. She rarely misses an opportunity
to tweak the tribes. But her fans – whom she characterizes as "the ship-fitter who
lives down the road" – love her call-'em-as-she-sees-'em bluntness.
Adele Werdell Ferguson was the second of 10 children born to a Norwegian immigrant
and an Army sergeant with hillbilly roots and a gambling problem. She grew up during
the Depression. She can cuss like a sailor in a Bremerton bar, loves a good joke
and has worked hard all her life. She's smart, stubborn, opinionated, loyal and
sentimental about some things, especially dogs and cats. An affectionate Lab named
named Wiccy – short for "Wiccan" – and Daisy, a sweet Springer Spaniel, nuzzled
our knees as we talked. The Scarlet Pimpernel, a tabby, was hiding under Adele's
bed. Once when she was on the outs with Gov. Dixy Lee Ray, Adele began an interview
by noting the absence of one of the governor's beloved dogs, who had recently died.
Suddenly, they both had tears running down their cheeks.
Adele's husband of nearly 60 years, John Philipsen, whom she called "Phil," died
in 2005, so she talks to her pets now. They adore her.
Adele Ferguson as a young reporter for
The Salute, the Bremerton Naval Shipyard's newspaper, inspects an octopus that was
discovered tangled in the propeller of a vessel in 1944. She padded her resume,
claiming she had worked for two fictitious newspapers in Missouri to get her foot
in the door. Adele Ferguson's scrapbook.
Adele absolutely maintains that "a woman's weight, age and salary are her own business,"
but she has no inhibitions about sharing her naiveté about sex as a young bride.
Men are such fools, she says, offering an array of stories – which have the added
advantage of being true – about how she humiliated all the guys who pinched her
thighs and propositioned her when she was a young reporter. And what a knockout
she was, working on the shipyard newspaper in 1945, covering Bremerton City Hall
and the "cop shop" for The Sun in the 1950s.
The lioness in winter is still a handsome woman, with those bright eyes and a perky
hairdo featuring a tinge of red. She puts her hands on her hips in a confident way.
Moreover, she can cook. Her fruitcake recipe, shared annually with her readers at
Christmastime, is legendary. (The secret to producing a fruitcake that doesn't taste
like a Presto-log? "No citron," Adele reveals.)
She knows where the skeletons are in the closets at the Capitol, and has a long
memory for those who've crossed her. You don't dis Adele and not pay the price,
sooner or later. Usually it's sooner.
As for juicy stories, over the years Adele saw a lot of extracurricular activities
between consenting adults, and in her view, it was rarely newsworthy. (After a veteran
Olympia operative got an advance look at the transcript of her oral history, he
paused in a capitol corridor and declared, "Well, it could have been worse!")
When Adele broke the gender barrier in the Capitol Press Corps in 1961, only one
of the guys would talk to her, and he wanted her to fork over copies of everything
she wrote. You can guess where Adele told him to stick it.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's reporter had her kicked out of his seat in the
press gallery when she sat there unwittingly one day. She told the senior correspondent,
the AP's Leroy Hittle, "You know something, Leroy, if this ever happens again and
I'm down there sitting, and they have the Sergeant-at-Arms come and throw me out,
there's going to be blood and guts all over this chamber. And it isn't going to
Over the next few months, the guys came to realize they had a formidable competitor
who gave as good as she got.
"I was no pushover," she says. "I earned their respect."
Adele Ferguson, capitol correspondent
for the Bremerton Sun, takes a break outside the legislative chambers in the 1960s.
Adele Ferguson’s scrapbook.
Adele bristles at duplicity, injustice and bureaucratic nincompoopery. She hates
sexism, too, but she expects women to have gumption. She listens to Rush Limbaugh
and admires The Wall Street Journal. She's fiscally conservative and socially libertarian.
There's not a PC bone in her body.
Dan Evans – a Republican with liberal tendencies – is her pick as Washington's greatest
governor. Al Rosellini, a Democrat "and the best friend the ferries ever had," is
the runnerup. She admired "Scoop" and "Maggie" – U.S. senators Henry M. Jackson
and Warren G. Magnuson, and holds in high regard former senator Slade Gorton, whom
she first met when he was a rising young Republican legislator. She's pro-choice,
but was fond of the late Ellen Craswell, an Evangelical Christian who was trounced
by Gary Locke in the 1996 race for governor. Adele says she warned Craswell that
"all that Jesus talk" would never go down with the body politic.
After 47 years with the Bremerton daily, Adele left The Sun on Feb. 25, 1993, taking
pains to avoid any fuss. The paper couched it as a retirement, but Adele says she
resigned because she'd had it up to here with a new editor and arrogant whippersnappers
who didn't know the difference between material and materiel. "They'd change stuff
without even consulting me and make me look ridiculous."
Noting that "the office is vacant, but the aura lingers on," staff writer Julie
McCormick told The Sun's readers that Adele left behind "a classic Ferguson touch."
It was a brown paper "Disposable bull****" bag, "its message to the future as blunt
as the sender."
Adele can spot BS at 100 paces. Her old friend and sometime adversary, the legendary
political operative C. Montgomery "Gummie" Johnson, said she was "an elephant among
mice," willing to write things no other political reporter would touch.
The Sun quoted Dan Evans as saying that catching hell from Adele was like being
"stabbed from in front." (Actually, it was Al Rosellini who said it, and when Adele
pointed that out to Evans, he shot back, "Well, I wish I'd said it!")
"You hadn't arrived until you'd been skewered by Adele," Gummie Johnson emphasized.
The late Bob Torseth, who'd been at The Sun even longer than Ferguson, told a classic
story that illustrates her salty sense of humor: One day, she strolled into the
newsroom hard on the heels of a shy young intern. Making certain they were within
earshot of the staff, she wrapped an arm around him and declared, "Thanks, honey.
That was fun!"
Bob Partlow, who covered the Capitol for The Olympian from 1983 to 2000, says Adele
always called Olympia "a place where zippers never rust."
"She wouldn't let anyone get away with anything," Partlow says. "And she was just
‘Adele.' It was one word, like ‘Pele.' You didn't have to say her last name.
"She was just a reporter's reporter. She could drink with the boys, cuss with the
boys and in every way hold her own with the boys. She came on the scene at a time
when there weren't many women in the press corps. It's a tough job being a capitol
correspondent. … She had to fight and claw into the male establishment and cut through
"I did a lot of investigative work over the years and she was like a role model
and mentor to me. Her work put spine in my conscience. Not that I needed a lot,
but it was always a reminder of what a reporter's job really is.
"And she was hilarious, too," Partlow continues. "She wrote this great story about
being at the Governor's Mansion for a dinner and being served these tiny Cornish
game hens. Adele went into great detail about how pathetically little they were,
with their tiny folded wings. How I wish I had a copy of that story. She just had
this incredibly wicked wit."
Partlow observes, "I'm sure she would rather cut out her tongue than call herself
a feminist, but she was a role model for other women to follow. On the whole, she's
just an incredible person."
Doubtless, an Adele autobiography would be a regional best seller. But for now at
least, she's too busy writing columns about the present to spend much time on the
Bette Davis once observed that "getting old is not for sissies," so there are aches,
pains and inconveniences. ("Damnit! I have to go to the bathroom again!" Adele declares.)
But she still likes her McNaughton's on the rocks. At least one a day; maybe two,
and sometimes three if it's the weekend.
From her cozy house at Hansville at the tip of the Kitsap Peninsula she has a million-dollar
view overlooking Admiralty Inlet, with Whidbey Island across the channel and Mount
Baker in the distance. This is Skunk Harbor, and when you suggest that her worst
enemies would say the name is a perfect fit, she tosses back her head and laughs
A legislator she admired, the late State Sen. Bob Bailey, a former newspaperman
from South Bend, was the district representative for the redoubtable Democratic
Congresswoman Julia Butler Hansen of Cathlamet. Reminded that Bailey once quipped,
"Julia never wore a mini-skirt because she didn't want her balls to show," Adele
is convulsed in laughter. At the suggestion that the line might fit her, too, she
grins. After all, this is the woman who once brought the U.S. Navy to its knees
when they refused to let her take a ride on the USS Nautilus when it visited Bremerton.
Describing her award-winning article on the escapade, Irwin S. Blumenfeld, director
of information for the University of Washington, told an awards banquet in 1958
that "Adele wanted to go on a short trip on the automic submarine, but the Navy
accused her of being a woman.
"She confessed this was true, and wanted to know ‘So what?' The Navy hemmed and
hawed and finally admitted the reason she couldn't go was that the Nautilus had
no little room labeled ‘Ladies.'
"Adele replied with irrefutable logic that in her own home where there is mixed
company, there is no little room labeled ‘Ladies.' However, the Navy prevailed and
the Nautilus sailed without her.
"The story she wrote of her battle with the Navy was so hilarious that the Associated
Press picked it up and it was used all over the world."
In the end, the Navy capitulated (gave up the ship), and the Sun's star reporter
took a ride on the Nautilus. On the deck, they had erected an outhouse labeled "Ladies."
"She handled this rather delicate subject with superb humor and excellent taste,"
Blumenfeld told the crowd. "You might even say it was uncanny."
Adele chortled and whispered to another Sun reporter, "Oh, I wish I'd said that!"
The banquet story, a classic in the genre by her colleague James E. Hanson, was
headlined "Adele Ferguson Does It Again, Only More So."
Adele had "scored an unprecedented sweep of writing honors" at the annual press
awards banquet in Seattle, "surpassing even her own formidable record of previous
years." She won first prize for "distinguished reporting" for her coverage of a
Shelton murder trial, first for feature writing with the Nautilus yarn and an honorable
mention for column-writing.
Her column, "The Farmer's Daughter," which appeared in the Sun every Friday through
the gardening season, had won an award from the press association "every year since
she started writing it" in the early 1950s, the story noted.
"Considered from any angle, it was a triumph without precedent: Only woman to win
a first for 1957 writing; only writer ever to win two firsts in one year … took
two of three firsts in the under 50,000 circulation class (she didn't enter the
third, editorial writing.)"
The Sun referred to her as "Miss Ferguson (who in private life is Mrs. John Philipsen
of Pioneer Road, Seabeck)."
"Adele's reaction to the awards? ‘For heaven's sake, where are my shoes?' – she
was wearing, intermittently, a new pair of shoes and was resting her tortured feet
each time a new Ferguson honor was announced.
"A Seattle Times man, winner in another division, jestingly said to another Sun
staffer after the banquet: ‘Boy, it's a good thing she doesn't take pictures, too.'
" ‘Oh, but she does,' said The Sun man. ‘She's got some dillies she's considering
entering in the photo contest next year.'
" ‘Oh, no,' cried The Times man, beating his forehead and staggering away.
"So at the moment, only the sports writing division appears safe from the Ferguson
threat. And even that's not certain. With Adele, you never know."
In point of fact, Adele had covered hockey earlier in her reporting career at Bremerton.
Adele's adventures as a brassy gal reporter are replete with stories like the Nautilus
incident. The Oct. 12, 1961, edition of The Sun featured her on the front page telling
"How She Became First Gal to Tread Needle" – the Space Needle, that is.
In her breezy, conversational style, Adele wrote:
"You will be the first woman up in the space needle, said Century 21 officials.
"A couple of reporters from Seattle newspapers have snuck up but they were only
men—no woman has gone up before and this will be a great day."
Adele recounted how she outfoxed an interloper:
"At the needle site, a public relations man hurried up.
" ‘You've got trouble,' he said. ‘There's another woman here who says she's going
up. She's waiting in the construction shack.' "
Ewen C. Dingwall, manager of the Century 21 Seattle World's Fair, was Adele's tour
"Mr. Dingwall's brow furrowed. He disappeared into the shack for a few minutes.
" ‘Her name is Mrs. Lamb,' he said on return, ‘and she's an antique dealer who's
going on a trip east and wants to tell her friends she's been up in the needle.'
Adele shot back: "She can go up for all I care… but not with me."
"Mr. Dingwall went back into the shack and returned.
" ‘She's a friend of Howard Wright, the man who's building the space needle, and
she says he said she could go up.' "
"She can go up as soon as I come back down," Adele replied.
Mr. Dingwall conferred itn the shack again.
" ‘Well, there is this little problem. Century 21 doesn't OWN the space needle …
Mr. Wright does. How about her being the first Seattle woman and you being the first
Bremerton woman to go up?'
"If she goes up with me, she will be the first Seattle woman launched into space
from the space needle, I said."
Adele threatened to write that "the needle sways in the wind" if they let anyone
up before her.
Guess who got to be the first gal to tread the needle?
You guessed it. The Sun gal. And at the top, she and Mr. Dingwall each ate a salami
sandwich "so we could say we also were the first to dine on the needle."
Adele summed up the adventure like this: "It was worth all the trouble we'd had,
Mr. Dingwall said, wiping spatters of yellow paint from his coat. Only he'd been
so excited he couldn't taste his sandwich. Mine was the only salami sandwich I ever
ate that tasted like lamb."
Adele had a love/hate relationship with Washington's first female governor, Dixy
Lee Ray. Adele characterizes the former head of the Automic Energy Commission as
a brilliant scientist whose views on global warming "still make the most sense."
But Dixy lacked political savvy, to put it mildly, Adele says, and she quickly ran
afoul of the media. Although Adele warned the guys not to ridicule her and was generally
more supportive than other commentators, the governor bristled at any criticism
and intermittently gave Adele the cold shoulder.
In a commentary in the Seattle Argus on Dec. 14, 1979, Adele wrote:
"Well, now I know what it's like to be on Dixy's list. "I didn't even know she was
ticked at me, though I probably have given her reason. I thought I wrote as much
favorable stuff about her as bad. Maybe she only reads the bad."
Adele goes on to tell how the governor greeted her frostily at a "Meet Your Governor"
night in Bremerton.
Arriving 35 minutes late, the governor was "all smiles until she saw me, and the
temperature in the hallway dropped about 20 degrees."
"Hi, Dixy, I said, what kept you?"
"I thought YOU would be at Senator Walgren's party," she said as she swept out of
the hallway into the main dining area."
The governor was no fan of Gordon Walgren, the Senate majority leader, whom she
viewed as a potential rival. Adele and Walgren were a mutual admiration society.
"About that time I wished I was at … Walgren's $250 bash in Seattle, the atmosphere
undoubtedly being much cheerier than it was here," Adele continued. "When a reporter
showed up from the local radio station, Dixy fell on him with such joy you would
think he had discovered nuclear energy, and answered all his questions, all the
while ignoring me.
"I was beginning to enjoy myself now. Especially when a dinner guest who had been
watching all this said to her, ‘Why don't you give Adele a story, Governor?'
"Oh, no" said Gov. Ray. "I don't talk to her. I suppose she'll write THAT down."
"I didn't," Adele concluded. "I figured I wouldn't have any trouble remembering."
Walgren told us, "The first thing you did when The Sun arrived was to turn to Adele's
column to see if you were in it and if you were, what had she said about you."
At a Washington News Council roast for Adele and three other veteran reporters in
1999, Walgren quipped that "The Farmer's Daughter" column honed her ability to be
a good political reporter … Because she was "working in the dirt and manure."
When Walgren was convicted of complicity in the controversial "Gamscam" influence
peddling sting in 1980, Adele stood by him, saying he was the victim of dirty tricks.
One veteran Olympia reporter wrote that Gov. Ray was so pleased at the indictments
that she "almost danced a jig" before the Capitol press corps. Adele was disgusted.
Walgren, now practicing law and lobbying, will never forget her loyalty.
Adele Ferguson and Superintendant of
Public Instruction Frank "Buster" Brouillet leave a ceremony in the legislative
chambers in the 1980s. Adele says her most fervent fans are "the ship-fitter who
lives down the road." Adele Ferguson’s scrapbook.
Even those who will never get a kudo in her column can't help but admire her crusty
integrity. At the News Council roast, Congressman Jim McDermott quoted filmmaker
Michael Moore as observing that the relationship between politicians and the press
"is like a dog and a tree." As for Adele, "There never was any doubt where she was
coming from … and she made it clear that a liberal psychiatrist from Seattle was
not her cup of tea."
McDermott told the crowd that when he was in the Legislature "you knew where to
find her at 5:30 every day when the Legislature was in session – in Lt. Gov. Cherberg's
office" for cocktail hour.
Adele interjected with a smirk, "Don't ever run statewide!"
Former AP writer David Ammons, whom Adele rates as one of the best reporters ever
to cover the Capitol, considers her one of his early mentors, "both in understanding
the crazy Legislature and in her admonition to ‘just write for the ship-fitter who
lives at the end of the country road.' Don't talk ‘government,' just real people.
"I never forgot that language, and spent the rest of my journalism career translating
government-speak. She's great at that," says Ammons, now communications director
for the secretary of state.
Gordon Schultz, the retired longtime United Press International Olympia Bureau manager,
says most people know Adele for her columns, "but she was also a damn good reporter,
as demonstrated by the news articles she wrote about her legislators and government
officials." And her antennae never drooped. "She would be working on one or more
crossword puzzles while we sat at the press table when the House was in session.
She was a great multi-tasker, and I swear she could hear ever word said by anyone
on the floor while working on a puzzle at the same time," Schultz says.
Paul O'Connor, one of Gov. John Spellman's press secretaries during 1984, Spellman's
last character-building year in office, once referred to Adele as "the conscience
of the uninformed." "He meant it as an insult," Bob Partlow says, "but over the
years as I watched Adele at work I felt it was more of a compliment than an insult.
She was writing for the people who didn't give a damn about the details of the political
infighting at the courthouse. They wanted to know about the impact on them as taxpayers.
She was their conscience – the reporter who was always able to put things in human
"She's one of kind."
Ammons recalls that Adele was well known for her cut-to-the-chase questions at news
conferences – "usually the very question the average guy would ask."
She once asked Gov. Booth Gardner "if he wasn't happy that mass-murderer Ted Bundy
was now a ‘grease spot.' "
Ammons and Partlow both have vivid memories of a news conference where Gardner was
easing out his chief of corrections, Amos Reed. "He tried to put a pretty face on
it," Ammons says. "The official word was that he had resigned," Partlow adds, "and
the governor was up there saying nice things. Then Amos got up to say his goodbyes."
When it came time for Q&A, Adele piped up: "Didja get canned, Amos?"
"She has the most marvelous skill in getting at the guts of an issue," Dick Larsen,
then of The Seattle Times and himself no shrinking violet, told Ammons for a 1991
story on Adele's 30 years at the capital. "When the shock of her question wears
off, very often we get real, usable information.
"So many of us in the press use sly and intellectual language," Larsen added. "She's
so blunt. She's no-nonsense. It's beautiful. She makes it hell on those who slip
below the level of her expectation. She's a tough political street guy."
Adele has had her share of scoops, but doesn't believe in gotcha journalism. She
recalls the time when Senator Majority Leader Sid Snyder of Long Beach told a Seattle
P-I reporter that Sen. Linda Smith, R-Vancouver, was a "miserable bitch." He immediately
thought better of it – or at least at the wisdom of saying it – and asked the reporter
not to print it.
"Of course she did," Adele says.
Many journalists would argue that Snyder, a savvy politician, knew the rules of
engagement and shouldn't expect to be able to retract something that deliciously
revealing. Adele isn't buying that. "I never did anything like that to anyone,"
she says. "We all speak out of turn. I'd stop and ask someone, ‘Do you really want
to say that?' I'd never hang anyone out to dry like that."
Gov. Spellman tried to woo her: "We went fishing out on the Sound, with (Bremerton
Mayor) Glen Jarstad as the mediator, a couple of times … It was an attempt to reach
more favorable relations. Not that it ever worked!"
Spellman says Adele did a good job of walking the tightrope between being a reporter
and a columnist. "She was very accurate, and people were equally afraid of her.
… She had nicknames or characterizations for everyone. I think I was ‘The rube in
the pumpkin patch …'
"Adele always had a zinger," the former governor says, "but she was fair. Mean,
yes, but fair."
Adele Ferguson in her office at her home
in Hansville overlooking Puget Sound. She broke the gender barrier in the Capitol
Press Corps in Olympia in 1961. John Hughes for The Legacy Project.
Today, working from her home, Adele is surrounded by old bottles, vintage political
buttons and knickknacks. She also collects postcards and pens. Tables are piled
high with books. She does crossword puzzles – the tougher the better – and jigsaw
puzzles. She has a remarkable memory.
She reads four papers a day – The Seattle P-I, The Seattle Times, The Kitsap Sun
and The Wall Street Journal, which she anoints as "very good." There are piles of
clippings. All of her some 7,000 columns are neatly scrapbooked.
Profligate use of the taxpayers' money and bad English are two of her pet peeves.
Reviewing the tight race for state superintendent of public instruction in 2008,
she got in some digs. Terry Bergeson, the incumbent is "well known here (in Kitsap
County.) The first time she ran and lost, Central Kitsap School District created
a new position for the former Washington Education Association president with a
top salary so she could subsist comfortably until the next time when she ran and
won," Adele wrote. "School districts seem to be able to find money when they need
it. Bergeson's not one of my favorites, but at least she can talk. Randy Dorn, the
Service Employees union head who seeks her job, can say reading and writing but
anything else ending in ‘ing' stumps him. He says bein' and sayin' and goin' and
extendin'. The (state superintendent) should at least be able to speak the English
An avid fisherwoman, Adele is also still profoundly PO'd over the landmark 1974
decision by federal Judge George Boldt, who allocated 50 percent of the annual catch
to treaty tribes fishing in their "usual and accustomed" places.
Bob Partlow observes, "There were parts about Adele I didn't like. I thought some
of her views were racist – certainly about Indians. But I don't think it ever got
in the way of her reporting. She savaged everyone equally."
Adele insists that her beef with the Indians has nothing to do with race: "I'm not
anti-Indian. I just do not believe that anybody, even if they were Norwegian, should
have the fish that belong to the people of the State of Washington. And I'm mad
at the judge who gave it to them."
In recent years, other ethnic groups and civil rights advocates have been outraged
by her columns. Exhibit A would be her 2006 offering, "Why do blacks continue to
"One of these days before I die," Adele wrote, "I hope to see a shift in the attitudes
of so many of my black brothers and sisters in this great country we share, from
perpetual victimhood, to pride in their achievements on the road from slave to American
"Remember Ronald Reagan's story about the kid who had to shovel a huge pile of manure?
He went about it with such joy he was asked why and said, ‘With all that manure,
there's got to be a pony in there somewhere.'
"The pony hidden in slavery is the fact that it was the ticket to America for black
people. I have long urged blacks to consider their presence here as the work of
God, who wanted to bring them to this raw, new country and used slavery to achieve
it. A harsh life, to be sure, but many immigrants suffered hardships and indignations
as indentured servants. Their descendants rose above it. You don't hear them bemoaning
their forebears' life the way some blacks can't rise above the fact theirs were
slaves. Besides freedom, a job and a roof over their heads, they all sought respect.
But even after all these years, too many have yet to realize that to get respect,
you have to give it."
Verily, this is The Gospel According to Adele – child of the Depression; self-made
woman in a man's world. It's "Stop sniveling and deal with it!"
In his second Inaugural Address, Lincoln surmised that "The Almighty has His own
purposes," adding that American slavery was something God allowed but "now wills
to remove" through "this mighty scourge of war." But, to put it mildly, Adele is
no Abe. With malice toward some, she just wades right in when the muse strikes her
and opens fire.
Predictably, the pony manure hit the fan when the slavery column appeared and –
if you'll forgive the mixed metaphor – spread like wildfire on the Internet. Outraged
readers lobbied papers to pull "the racist rant" or apologize for running it. The
Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal, one of the papers that ran the column, reportedly
received 1,500 e-mail protests.
Shocked, awed and appalled, Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Joel Connelly,
one of Adele's least favorite people –and the feeling is mutual – reprised the uproar
in an April Fools' Day roundup of that year's most memorable stumbles.
"She was once the archconservative of the Olympia press corps," Connelly wrote,
"a formidable crone whose columns …criticized Native American tribes and even tossed
darts at the driving habits of Asian Americans. Still, few would have expected that
Adele Ferguson would hold forth on race relations as she did …"
No apologies from Adele on that one or any of the other hand grenades she has lobbed
since 1965 when her column began syndication in Northwest newspapers.
Some, however, suggest that Adele has strayed farther right and become ham-handed
because she no longer has the benefit of strong editing and wise counsel from the
likes of her late editor Gene Gisley. They say he knew how to temper her more extreme
instincts. Adele gives high marks to Gisley, but denies being a loose cannon without
him. However, she does have some regrets over the column she wrote in 2002 about
how to bring an end "to the suicide bomber terrorism inflicted on Israel by the
"So what is my solution for ending this carnage?" she wrote. "It stems from the
words of the late, great Prime Minister Golda Meir: ‘This won't be settled until
they love their children more than they hate Jews.' The next time a bunch of Arab
youths are throwing rocks at the Israeli tanks, mow them down. Kill them. Keep doing
it until the Arabs decide whether they really hate the Jews more than they love
"I don't think the Israelis would have to dispose of many Arab children before the
white flag would go up. The world would hate them for it, a world that has been
surprisingly tolerant of the Arabs slaughter of Jewish children, but I'd bet the
suicide bombings would stop."
The "Voices of Palestine" Web page went ballistic over the "hate-filled" column
and The Eastside Journal published an apology for running it.
Her sin, Adele says, was in being too blunt – too Adele.
"I should have listened to my husband." In fact, that's how she began the column:
"Don't write that," she quoted him as advising.
Golda Meir fundamentally had it right, Adele insists, adding that she guesses they
both just flunked Political Correctness 101.
Julie McCormick would seem to deserve an "A" for the ending to her story about Adele's
unhappy sayonara to The Sun: "And now she's gone. Who's going to take on the brown
When we asked her about the "Disposable bull****" bag, Adele looked startled. She
had never bothered to read the 1993 story about her departure from the newspaper.
"I never left behind a brown paper bag!" she insists. "Someone else must have left
it on my desk."
That makes the symbolism just that much better. The staff understood her legacy:
Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
There will always be a never-ending supply of Bull****. But there's only one Adele
And she's still writing a column.
The famous fruitcake recipe Adele learned from her friend Cornish Southerland, who
learned it from his mother:
Two cups pecans
16 ounces pitted dates
8 ounces candied cherries
8 ounces candied pineapple
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
Bowl 1: Put half the flour in a large bowl, together with the dates cut into small
pieces, so they don't all stick together. Add halved cherries and pineapple cut
into small pieces. Add nuts.
Bowl 2: Mix remaining flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and vanilla. Beat the eggs
and put them into the flour mixture. Pour over floured fruit in Bowl 1 and mix well.
"Line one standard loaf pan or two small ones with waxed locker paper. Spray pan
first, then paper. Press the bake mixture into place. What you see is what you get
– it doesn't grow any – so pick your pan accordingly.
"You do not have to use waxed locker paper if you are good at getting a cake out
of a plan without breaking it up. I find it easier to lift the paper-wrapped cake
out, then peel off the paper. The original recipe called for using regular waxed
paper, but I could never get the stuff off the cake so I switched to locker paper,"
"Bake for 2 and 1/2 to 3 hours at 300 degrees, with a pan of water under the cake
on the shelf of the oven. If you use a glass loaf pan, one reader advises that you
should lower the temperature to 250 degrees. Otherwise the cake may be too crusty.
"When cake is done, cool it in the pan. Next, dip an old piece of sheet fabric or
some cheesecloth in rum, brandy or sherry and wrap the cake in it. Wrap that in
aluminum foil and put the cake in some cool spot to season. Check it weekly and
re-soak the cloth if it has dried out. The cake will ripen in a couple of weeks,
but the longer the better. By the way, don't worry about how hard the cake is when
it comes out of the oven. The seasoning time will mellow it marvelously.
"Also, it doesn't matter what size the eggs are. There's no butter or shortening
in this recipe, so don't let the absence of that worry you. Under no circumstances
The cake can be decorated while it's still hot by glazing it with a mixture of white
Karo syrup, a little brown sugar, some hot water and a little plain gelatin. "I
don't know the quantities,"
Adele says. "Cornish Southerland says she does it by feel. I don't decorate mine
If you want to turn Cornish Southerland's Mother's Fruitcake into Bill's Fruitcake,
use a quart of whole brazil nuts, almonds and pecans instead of just pecans. Otherwise,
the recipe is the same.
The cake keeps beautifully, Adele says. You can put it in the freezer and save it
until next Christmas. It can be cut straight from the freezer.