Across the Aisles is the biography of Sid Snyder, one of the most respected politicians Washington state has ever seen. It was written by Image Award-winning author Jeff Burlingame, who grew up in Aberdeen, one of the many coastal communities Snyder served during his dozen years as the senate’s Democratic leader.
As did his biographer, Snyder grew up in a small Southwest Washington town—Kelso—where he was raised by a widowed mother who instilled in him an unmatched work ethic that he brought with him to each of the many jobs he had. In elementary school, he hauled his wagon around town to deliver the laundry his mother cleaned for area bachelors. In junior high, he worked seven days a week at the corner grocery store for one dollar’s pay. In high school, he pumped gas at a service station, stacked lumber in a mill, and mopped the floors of his brother’s barbershop.
Snyder bought his first grocery store in 1953 in Seaview, four years after he had begun his 53-year run of employment at the Capitol by accepting a patronage job as an elevator operator. As Snyder grew his store, a community bank he founded in 1969, and other business ventures on the Long Beach Peninsula and beyond, he also grew his career in Olympia. He worked in and supervised the bill room, served as assistant chief clerk of the House and as secretary of the Senate, and, in 1990, began serving the people of the 19th Legislative District as their senator. Then majority leader, Snyder retired from the senate in 2002 but continued to work at his Seaview grocery store well into his 80s. His retirement from politics came the same year he was chosen national legislator of the year.
Today, streets in Snyder’s hometown of Long Beach and leading onto the Capitol Campus in Olympia bear his name. “Sometimes streets are named for giants or gentlemen,” Burlingame writes in Across the Aisles. “And sometimes one name can symbolize both.”