Wrestling an octopus, performing as “Ming Toy” in an Oriental Wonders show, crafting homes out of driftwood, shells, and cement – Henrietta Finley embodied her belief that “One can’t be original and proper.”
Oft-told stories, sketchbooks, and also photos preserve the vibrant life of Henrietta “Bubbles” Finley (1903-1985), one Anacortes’s most colorful historical characters. Bubbles stands apart in a city where most memorable residents were dreamers, schemers, salt-crusted fishermen, or lumberjacks.
Bubbles moved to the city with her grandmother from North Dakota about 1909. The ensuing exploits and interests of this independent and spirited woman were unique for their nature, style, and diversity. Consequently, she preferred the name “One Bubble” toward the end of her life.
At age 16, Henrietta Finley struck out for Guemes Island and built herself a log cabin. Smugglers burned it down because she had the audacity to take a hatchet to casks of rum they’d stowed on her beach.
Engaged four times and married three, Henrietta Finley recorded her escapades through cartoons. She went touring local towns as a scantily clad dancer. She canoed the islands from Fidalgo to Alaska to hunt and camp in the wilderness. She also decked out her handcrafted homes with skulls and dragon sculptures, and threw legendary parties.
Dip into more of Anacortes’s colorful characters and colorful history at the Anacortes History Museum and the Snagboat Heritage Center. Visit aboard one of two remaining snag boats in the contiguous U.S. Placed into service in 1929 (until 1983), the WT Preston sternwheeler kept rivers free of navigational hazards. The Sternwheeler was also an icebreaker, and dredge-essential tools for early coastal cities and towns. And if you stop by the WT Preston and Heritage Center on any Saturday, May through October, 9 am – 2 pm, you’ll also catch the Anacortes Farmers Market.