Meet the king of all beachcombers — and now he's going to Japan
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Christi Baron/For Peninsula Daily News
John Anderson and some of the tons of items he's combed from local beaches. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

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FORKS — Forks’ only licensed plumber, John Anderson, recently hung up his plunger and retired.

While he will no longer hear the satisfying sounds of the swish of a clear unobstructed drainpipe or the whoosh of a successfully unplugged toilet, the resonance of water from waves crashing on the beach will be familiar and welcome music to his ears.

Beachcombing, an activity that has until now only has been a hobby — albeit an extreme one — will become his full-time endeavor, taking him to places he never dreamed possible.

In 1973, Anderson alternated working as a logger and working on clogged pipes with another local plumber, Chuck Archer.

He bought Archer’s plumbing business when Archer retired in 1989.

Anderson admits that the profession of plumbing has its allure: Every day is something different, and there is always a challenge — and sometimes a surprise.

His most memorable plumbing story is the time he was called to a local drinking establishment to unclog a toilet.

The clog, much to his surprise, was a set of false teeth.

After removing the obstruction, he was showing the set of dentures to the business’ owner when a woman came through the door.

She said: “I have been looking for those! I borrowed them from my sister, and I have got to get them back to her.”

As the two men stood speechless, the woman grabbed the misplaced molars and headed out the door.

Anderson finally found his voice and hollered after her:

“Be sure to boil them.”

It was around 1976 when Anderson began bringing things home from the beach.

Today, he has amassed tons of items combed off local shores.

A trip to his home in Forks tells it all: A tower of colorful floats is the centerpiece in his yard.

The driveway is lined with various rusted ironwork from shipwrecks of the past, including the 1903 wreck of the Prince Arthur, plus fossils and pillow rocks.

A look inside his home reveals beautiful glass floats and a notebook full of “messages in a bottle,” some of which Anderson has answered.

In another building, there are 25,000 floats in a container that reaches the ceiling, buoys of all kinds and athletic shoes.

Athletic shoes?

Back in the 1990s, when a storm-tossed cargo ship dumped containers in the Pacific, shoes washed up on local beaches.

Anderson and many of his beachcombing friends exchanged lefts and rights and sizes until they got matching pairs, then they wore them.

A gray whale skull, which is huge, stands at the top of a second floor, which displays even more items: A Boeing 727 engine spinner cone, sake bottles, deep-sea glass spheres used for various experimental equipment, and so much more.

Anderson’s love of beachcombing has taken him to Florida and Texas.

And then there is the time he saved a Seattle area Boy Scout troop from drowning while he was beachcombing at local Rialto Beach.

Like plumbing, beachcombing is different every time, too.

You never know what you are going to find.

Ironically, Anderson’s most memorable beachcombing discovery includes teeth — actually a tooth.

It was one big mammoth tooth, but the mammoth didn’t want it back.

Last January, when Anderson started collecting tsunami debris from the March 2011 Japanese earthquake disaster, his “hobby” caught the attention of National Public Radio, which did a story on him.

More recently, Toronto filmmakers who are making a documentary called “Lost and Found” also found him.

Anderson soon will be leaving for Japan, where he will be featured in the movie production while returning some of his discoveries to their former owners — including a soccer ball which has the players’ names on it.

Anderson hopes one day to display his many treasures in a beachcombers’ museum.

This is no pipe dream — plastic or galvanized.

But he will have to take some time off from beachcombing to make it happen.

Christi Baron is a longtime West End resident and Forks High School alumna who is an administrative assistant at Forks City Hall. She and her husband, Howard, live in Forks.

Phone her at 360-374-5412, ext. 236, or 360-374-2244 with items for her column. Or email her at

Her column appears on the Peninsula Daily News' Commentary page every other Tuesday. Her next column will appear April 23.

Last modified: April 08. 2013 11:33PM
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