Tag Archive | Yakima

Roller Skates

‘Rinkmania’ was all the craze in Victorian England

January 4, 2022

There are days in history on which an invention so novel arrives, that it becomes all the rage – at least for a time.

An early ‘concept’ of a roller skate as well as a quite humorous interpretation.

One such invention was the four wheeled roller-skate, patented on January 4, 1863 by American James Plimpton.

Unlike an ice skate, the wheeled variety did not require a flat frozen surface and could be enjoyed in a variety of settings.

During the late 1800’s, it also was the catalyst for a ‘sexual revolution’ of sorts.

The roller skates story begins in 1743 when a pair was used in the theatre in Great Britain. John Joseph Merlin patented his version of the skate in 1760. But they were difficult to steer and, because there was no braking system, stopping at will was problematic.

It was Plimpton’s 1863 design which proved to be commercially successful. The Infallible Wikipedia informs us that Plimpton invented what was known as a rocking skate:

“… (He) used a four-wheel configuration for stability, and independent axles that turned by pressing to one side of the skate or the other when the skater wants to create an edge. This was a vast improvement on the Merlin design, one that was easier to use and drove the huge popularity of roller skating, dubbed ‘rinkomania’ in the 1860s and 1870s, which spread to Europe and around the world, and continued through the 1930s. The Plimpton skate is still used today.

1950’s era roller skaters

Eventually, roller skating evolved from just a pastime to a competitive sport; speed skating, racing on skates, and inline figure skating, very similar to what can be seen in the Olympics on ice. In the mid 1990s roller hockey, played with a ball rather than a puck, became so popular that it even made an appearance in the Olympics in 1992. The National Sporting Goods Association statistics showed, from a 1999 study, that 2.5 million people played roller hockey. Roller skating was considered for the 2012 Summer Olympics but has never become an Olympic event. Other roller skating sports include jam skating and roller derby.

Roller skating popularity exploded during the disco era but tapered off in the 1980s and 1990s. Sales of roller skates increased during the COVID-19 pandemic as people sought safe outdoor activities.

Roller skating saw a revival in the late 2010s and early 2020s, spurred on by a number of viral videos on the popular video sharing app TikTok. Many popular brands sold out to the point of back-order, with many people taking up the hobby during COVID-19 quarantines across the globe.”

One aspect of the roller skates history which intrigued was the claim that it inspired a sexual revolution back in the 1860’s.  This is attributable to the stodgy Victorian moral codes of the day in Great Britain.

I’m not quite sure what the heck was going on here… but everything about this photo is intriguing!

According to one article, the skating rink proved to be the one place where romantically inclined young Brit’s could meet other young people.

“By the mid-1870s, a craze for indoor rollerskating had come to Britain, with 50 rinks in place in London at one point. The press dubbed the phenomenon ‘rinkomania’, but the healthy exercise that Plimpton had boasted of was not all that attracted the young ‘rinkers’.

‘The skating rink is the neutral ground on which the sexes may meet,’ reported Australia’s Port Macquarie News of goings-on in London and elsewhere, ‘without all the pomp and circumstances of society. The rink knows no Mother Grundy, with her eagle eye and sharp tongue, for Mother Grundy dare not trust herself on skates, and so the rinker is happier than the horseman of whom Horace sang.’

Holding hands and whispering sweet nothings became easier without Mother Grundy – a contemporary term for a stern matriarch – and her ilk tagging along. Prolonged eye contact with one’s intended replaced stolen glances.”

Skating rinks were also built all across the United States and remained wildly popular for one hundred years. In the late 1990’s and into the early part of the 21st Century, many were shuttered.

1960’s era metal roller skates. Very adjustable, you could make them fit your tennis shoes exactly.

But thanks to the global pandemic of 2020, roller skating has emerged as a great way to get exercise. Roller rinks are seeing a revival in popularity.

I must admit that when I came across this topic, it produced nostalgia. It’s been about 15 years since I’ve been out roller skating. A fear of falling and breaking something keeps me from pursuing this particular activity.

But as a child, I was fearless. In fact, I cannot remember a time when I didn’t roller skate. It was in 1966 when my parents did a home remodel and our carport was converted to a family room. The driveway was relocated and became a large, flat expanse of concrete. It was perfect for a child with a pair of all metal roller skates which attached to her shoes. I spent many hours in the driveway skating around. No doubt I skinned my knees dozens, if not hundreds, of times. But I was undaunted.

When the weather turned inclement I’d sometimes get to go to my Aunt’s house a couple blocks away and skate in circles around their basement.

The current exterior of Yakima’s Skateland

But the holy grail of experiences was on the days when I got to go to Skateland, Yakima’s very own roller rink. I loved everything about Skateland. How it smelled. The wood cubbies where one stored their shoes and coat. The flashing lights suspended over the rink. The planked floor with numbers painted on it for when they had a contest. The sound of hundreds of wheels rolling across it. The impossibly loud music. Dancing the hokey pokey.

September 2001 was the last time I went skating at Skateland in Yakima. The occasion was my niece’s ninth birthday. We are pictured skating together at the left side of the photo.

I feel quite confident that roller skating is in my rear view mirror but I wonder if there is some inventor out there who could create a contraption that would allow all us Baby Boomers to skate once again. Places like Skateland in Yakima, or Skagit Skate not too far from where I currently live, could make it a real thing.

What we BB’s need would be akin to training wheels or even a walker like device. Something that would allow all the old fogies to stay upright and be able to recapture a few fleeting moments of our youth. Ah yes, those were the good old days.

A few links:

First up is Jim Croce’s classic ‘Roller Derby Queen’ – his explanation at the beginning is great!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roller_skates

https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31831110

Washington Wineries

The State takes it’s place in viticulture

September 21, 2021

View of Mount Adams from the Red Willow Vineyard. The vineyard has, historically, produced grapes for Columbia Winery but now grows for a variety of other wineries.

With over 940 wineries and 14 distinct American Viticultural Areas, Washington State is one of the most diverse grape growing regions in the world. The majority of grapes are grown in the rich valley’s East of the Cascade Mountains in a climate which is just about perfect for the crop.

Although Washington’s earliest settlers planted grapes at Fort Vancouver in 1825, it is unknown if they used them for wine production. By the 1860’s and 70’s both Italian and German immigrants were planting grapes and producing wine.

With the advent of prohibition – Washington State was an early adopter in 1917 – every commercial winery went out of business.

It wasn’t until the late 1960’s when the fine wines which have made the state a leading producer finally emerged.

The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

This map shows the various AVA’s

 “The roots of the modern Washington wine industry can be traced to the middle of the 20th century when a group of professors from the University of Washington turned their home winemaking operation into a commercial endeavor and founded Associated Vintners (later renamed Columbia Winery) and focused on producing premium wines. The Nawico and Pommerelle wineries were merged into a new winery that would eventually become Chateau Ste Michelle. Both Chateau Ste Michelle and Associated Vintners became the driving force in premium wine production for the early modern Washington wine industry.”

During the 1970’s new vineyards proliferated from Yakima to Walla Walla, Goldendale to Grand Coulee. Today there are over 80 different grape varieties grown in the state.

Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Washington produces a full spectrum of wines ranging from mass-produced to premium boutique wines. It also produces nearly every style of wine including rosé, sparkling, fruit, fortified, still and late harvest dessert wines. Some years can even produce favorable conditions for ice wine production. In 2006, The Wine Advocate gave two perfect scores of 100 points for Cabernet Sauvignon wines made by Quilceda Creek Vintners using grapes from several Washington AVAs. Only 15 other American wines have ever been scored so highly by The Wine Advocate, all from California. Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is the largest producer in the state, owning more than a third of all vineyard land in Washington.”

Chateau Ste Michelle Rieslings have been a staple in the household for decades

For the complete experience, one should do a tour of some of the Eastern Washington vineyards. The hubby and I did such an event waaaaay back in the early 1980’s when there were only a handful of wineries to visit. Along with my parents – with my teetotaler mother behind the wheel – we started the day by driving down to Patterson from Yakima and going to Chateau Ste. Michelle.

In those days the people running the tasting rooms had not yet been overwhelmed with wine enthusiasts and were eager to share a variety of wines – all for free.

At that first stop the guy behind the bar must have decided I was cute because it seemed that my tasting glass was filled fuller than either my Dad’s or hubby’s glasses. Not wanting to be rude or waste perfectly good wine, I drank all the wine he gave me, which was at least three different varieties.

What a fun day that turned out to be. I was buzzed before we left Ste. Michelle to work our way back north. I know there were other stops, but I couldn’t tell you where.

There was another memorable trip with a group of friends who – during the past 30 years – formed a monthly luncheon group. One year we decided it would be fun to do a girls’ only weekend wine tour. We rented several hotel rooms, arranged for a limousine, and away we went.

All over the lower Yakima valley the limo carried us to a variety of wineries. Some were fancy and others were converted barns. We sampled reds and whites, sweet and ice wines. Everything was going great until  the driver of the limousine we had rented informed us that she was lost!

For those who have ever traveled around the dirt roads of Eastern Washington, you will know that most of the roads follow the contour of the land OR they go in straight lines and then go at 90 degree angles tracing the edges of farms. It’s easy to get turned around.

The Benches Vineyard near Pasco on the Washington side of the Columbia River.

We were someplace east of Benton City and the one person who had grown up in the region was pressed into service as the navigator. Yes, that would be yours truly. A half hour later, I directed the driver well enough that we emerged from our wilderness wanderings, finally back on track.

The driver felt so bad about getting lost that she agreed to pick us up at our hotel later and transport us to dinner. It was a bonus!

Last year, I had an idea to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary with an Eastern Washington wine tour… sadly, the hubby and I had to postpone due to the Covid shut downs.

I have a hunch that when we do get to do the tour, there will be more wineries to visit than we could go to in a weekend, a week, a month, or even a year. Cheers!

A few links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_wine

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chateau_Ste._Michelle

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_Winery

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Willow_Vineyard#:~:text=Red%20Willow%20Vineyard%20is%20a%20grape%20-growing%20estate,Yakima%20Valley%20AVA%2C%20within%20the%20Yakama%20Indian%20Reservation.

https://longshadows.com/vineyards/the-benches-at-wallula

The International Order of the Rainbow for Girls

April 6, 2021

99 years young

The official emblem of the Order

My mother in law has often said that the toughest job in the world is being a kid. Her argument being that kids have so much to learn and are faced with ever changing rules and expectations, that figuring it all out is a difficult job.

I would add, however, that it is the teenage years which are the most challenging for any young person. You take hundreds of puberty driven boys and girls and put them in giant Petri dish called school and, well, it’s a tough few years.

For many teenagers – if they are lucky – find their salvation through sports, music, other arts, or outdoor programs like Scouts. My saving activity was The International Order of the Rainbow for Girls. It was founded on April 6, 1922, now just one year short of its 100th anniversary.

Its beginnings were humble enough. A group of adults who belonged to the Mason and Eastern Star organizations in McAlester, Oklahoma, had learned of a group for teenage boys, The Order of DeMolay, and decided that they would start their own similar program but for girls.

At the time, it was vogue for such groups to have ceremonies of initiation as well as those which were followed to open and close their meetings. Thus it was a Methodist minister, the Reverend W. Mark Sexson, who wrote the ceremonies for the organization, basing them on the Biblical story of Noah, the great flood, and the rainbow of promise.

Each Assembly consists of 20 officers who include the president, known as the Worthy Advisor, and a set of four additional elected officers who, in succession, become Worthy Advisor. Additionally, there are a Secretary, Treasurer, Chaplain, Drill Leader, Musician and Choir Director. There are also seven officers who represent the seven colors of the rainbow and, finally, two officers who let people in and out during the meetings.

Fun activities such as a weekend at Potts of Gold – a Rainbow Camp on Hood Canal – make up the varied program.

For the record, I do consider myself an expert on the organization and was able to write all of the above without research. Even so, I was curious what the Infallible Wikipedia had to say on the subject. I discovered the following:

“The International Order of the Rainbow for Girls has Assemblies in 46 states in the United States as well as in several other countries. The states that do not currently have Assemblies are Delaware, Minnesota, Utah, and Wyoming.

The countries outside the United States that have assemblies are are Aruba, Australia (in Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia), Bolivia, Brazil (in Parana, São Paulo, Distrito Federal, Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso do Sul, Tocantins, Para, Espírito Santo and Santa Catarina, Canada (in Ontario and New Brunswick), the Philippines, Italy, Mexico, and Romania. Rainbow has had assemblies in the following countries, mostly due to American military presence: Cuba, Germany, France, Panama and Vietnam.

Its headquarters are at the International Temple in McAlester, Oklahoma built in 1950-1951 for the Order’s use.”

Over the years, the focus of the organization has changed. The early years were ones of expansion with the opening of more and more assemblies being the primary mission.

Community Service is a huge part of the organization’s focus. Here the girls’ are collecting donations for MEOW cat rescue.

By the 1940’s and WWII, the first indicators of a change of mission were seen with the members stepping up to aid in the war effort. After the war, the social aspects took precedence. The organization grew to its largest in the 1950’s boasting an international membership of over 250,000 girls. Today the group primarily emphasizes community service, public speaking, and personal development of the young women who are its members.

I became aware of the Rainbow Girls through my older sister who was invited to join by a friend. Off my sister would go to this mysterious place every two weeks and was often gone for activities on the weekend. So, like any self-respecting younger sister, I bugged her until she relented and brought home a membership application one day in March 1971.

It is a very distinct memory I have of sitting on the floor of my room, the sun streaming in the western window, as I filled out the paperwork. I was stumped when I got to the first blank.

“What’s the name and number of the Assembly?” I yelled to my sister in the next room.

“Yakima number one,” the shouted reply proclaimed.

Well, that’s cool, I thought. Who wouldn’t want to be in the number ONE assembly?*

I finished the application and it was turned in and then, one month later on April 19 I became a member. It was love at first sight. Everything about the Rainbow Girls appealed to me and played to my strengths (which were not sports, band, or wilderness survival!). It was Rainbow where I learned to plan and organize things; I loved being with just girls at a time in my life when boys were icky and awful. I got to hang out with older girls and adults who were patient in teaching me how to be a valuable member of a team. I had activities that were wholesome. Mostly, I seized every opportunity to improve myself, take on responsibility, and learn to be a leader.

In January of 1974 I was my Assembly’s Worthy Advisor and then repeated that job when one of the members had to step down in May 1975. I supported my sister when she became the president – the Grand Worthy Advisor – of the state level program for Washington and Idaho the next month. A year later I was selected to serve as the Editor of the jurisdiction newspaper and then subsequently elected to one of the top five jobs at the state level the next year, completing my time in the order.

My sister presents me to be installed as Worthy Advisor of Yakima Assembly #1, January 1974

Or so I thought. Over the next decades I found a multitude of ways to give back to the organization which gave me so much. I served as an adult advisor in a variety of capacities, motivated to insure Rainbow would be there for my own daughter when she arrived in those perilous teenage years. My stated mission was to successfully get her from childhood to adulthood in a safe place without falling prey to the many temptations modern society presents. In that mission I succeeded.

There’s a song which was written for the order and it has a line in it which is “Rainbow, you’ll always be mine.” For so many of the women I know who have belonged, this thought – more than any other – encapsulates just exactly how we feel about The International Order of the Rainbow For Girls.

My final meeting as Mother Advisor for Bellevue Assembly #120, January 2010

*Yakima was the first Assembly in the state of Washington, not the world. I plan to tell that story on August 3, 2021… so stay tuned.

A couple of links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Order_of_the_Rainbow_for_Girls

https://www.gorainbow.org/

www.nwrainbow.org

Answers to the Facebook questions:

Order of the DeMolay, now known as DeMolay International, was founded March 24, 1919 in Kansas City, Missouri

The Order of Jobs Daughters, now known as Jobs Daughters International, was founded October 20, 1920 in Omaha, Nebraska.

EEE 161 Rides Again

The Ford Mustang, redux

March 9, 2021

It was on March 9, 1964 when the first Mustang automobile rolled off the assembly line at Ford Motor company’s Dearborn, Michigan plant. Today, the Mustang continues as one of the best selling and most popular cars ever produced by Ford.

For those who have been reading my blog for several years, you may recall that three years ago I posted about the 1965 Mustang here: https://barbaradevore.com/2018/04/17/1965-ford-mustang/

Today’s Tuesday Newsday is going to be a bit of a departure, as I have nothing particularly new from the Infallible Wikipedia to share on this topic. You can, of course, go there and read up on everything you might hope to learn about the Mustang.

1965 White Mustang convertible

What I do know is that the Mustang was a huge hit from the day it launched and has spawned clubs for owners, like the Mustang Club of America, matchbox cars, models, and an almost cult like following for the distinctively designed vehicle.

As with the Volkswagen beetle, or the Porsche, or the Corvette, the Mustang’s of the 1960’s are instantly recognizable and highly collectible.

While the majority of the early Mustangs have ended up in junk yards and recycled, some have been lucky enough to survive down through the years. This is the story of one such Mustang.

We pick up the story of the Mustang my Dad purchased slightly used circa 1966. It is now July 11, 2020 and my father has been gone just over 10 months. Despite being in the middle of the Covid Pandemic, I have estate business to tend to and have traveled to Yakima and am staying with my sister. Her home is situated in the middle of apple, cherry, and pear orchards just west of Selah – a smaller city four miles north of Yakima. Yakima County boasts a population of just under 250,000 people so it is not huge, but is certainly not small either.

On this particular Saturday it’s sunny and warm with a high in the low 90’s. In the mid-afternoon the two of us drive down into Selah with a load of items to be donated to Goodwill. From there we head south to a Safeway store in Yakima for a few dinner items. Our intended route is actually a big circle as we head to her place via the ‘back’ way which is to travel west on highway 12, then north on Old Naches Highway, and finally head east up Mapleway Road.

My sister is driving and we are, as is our nature, chatting away. Just as we reach the crest the hill I notice a white convertible about 500 yards ahead of us. It’s distinctive Mustang back end causes me to blurt out, “Look, it’s Dad’s car.”

A wave of nostalgia washes over me. Oh those summers when we drove around with that black rag top down, flirting with boys during forbidden runs up and down Yakima Avenue, not a care in the world with real life still a few years away.

A moment in time captured…. it was May 28, 1973. My sister (in the purple), my best friend Pam, and me were headed out early that morning to take the Mustang to the Yakima Memorial Day parade. We belonged to the Rainbow Girls and were riding in the parade. Also in the photo are my Mom supervising and my Dad working to put the cover over the stored top.

Of course, I didn’t really think it WAS my dad’s car. After all, he had sold the car in the 1980’s and the family lost track of it over the years. Realistically, what were the chances the car still existed? Even so, I urged my sister to get a little closer so we could at least see the license plate. She obliged and I strained my eyes to make out the letters and numbers.

EEE 161.*

“It IS dad’s car!” I exclaim. “Follow him!”

The Mustang, now at a stop sign where the main road goes right, turns. A minute later we are at the same spot and also turn right. A minute after that, we sail past the road which leads to my sister’s house and are headed back down into Selah, retracing our route from earlier.

On we go, now in hot pursuit of Dad’s car.

“I want to talk to him,” I tell her. From behind we can tell it’s a middle aged man sporting a baseball cap driving the car.

We travel past the school, city hall, the bank, the telephone company, and turn north on Wenas Road. My eyes are fixed on the Mustang wondering just how far he’s going to drive. From my perspective, it didn’t matter. Catching up with him was my goal; being with the car once again important somehow.

My sister pulls into the left lane to try and get up next to the car but then the driver signals a right turn into the parking lot of the True Value hardware store. We sail past.

It takes us several minutes to get turned around but at last we pull up next to the parked – and now empty – car and wait for the driver to return.

Not wanting to be creepy or draw suspicion, I force myself to sit and wait. And wait. And, after five interminable minutes our quarry emerges from the store headed to his car which was once my Dad’s car.

I climb out of the passenger seat of my sister’s vehicle and step forward, catching his attention.

“This will be the weirdest conversation you’ve had all week,” I say and then continue, “But this was my Dad’s car.”

“Really? He must have sold it to my Mom back in the early 1980’s. What was his name?”

“Vincent DeVore. I’ve never forgiven him for selling it.”

This elicits a chuckle. I forge on. “Unfortunately my dad passed at the end of October. But I think it would please him to see what great shape the Mustang is in.”

“I’m sorry about your Dad. My mom died in December. The car was stored in her garage until January when it came to me.  She had the leather seats recovered and the whole thing has been repainted. She used to take it to the classic car shows. She loved this car.”

“It looks amazing,” I say and mean it.

“Yeah. I learned to drive in this car,” he says and to which I reply, “So did I! It was the best.”

What then followed was the snapping of a couple of photos of both my sister and I with the car. We also learned that he lives less than a mile from my sister and is the neighbor of my brother-in-law’s best friend. And that day was the first day he’d had the car out and driving around with the top down, reliving just for a short time, his sweet teenage memories in the car of his – and my youth.

My sister enjoying being reunited with EEE 161.
Maybe next time I’ll get to sit in the car once again

As for me, it was only one of several surreal events following my Dad’s death. In a way I found it comforting and, every once in a while, am reminded that even though Dad is gone, his spirit lives on.

*In 1958, license plates in Washington were assigned by county. All plates in Yakima County started with the letter “E.” The Mustang’s plate was likely issued new with the car in 1965. Visit this website for how this all worked. http://staff.washington.edu/islade/counties/index.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Mustang

Mount Rainier

The Mountain Is Out

March 2, 2021

The Mountain Is Out.

These four words, for anyone who grew up or has lived in the Greater Puget Sound region, mean but one thing: it’s a clear day and from all vantage points, one can see Mount Rainier.

Photo taken by the author one cold January 1980 morning near Graham, Washington

Of all the natural features which define Washington State it is, arguably, Mount Rainier which is most associated with the state. And is it any wonder? At 14,411 feet it is one of the highest peaks in the United States. What gives Mt. Rainier its prominence, literally, is the fact that you can see an uninterrupted 13,210 feet of the volcano, making it the largest mountain in the contiguous 48 United States and the fourth largest mountain on the North American continent.

It was on March 2, 1899, when Mount Rainier National Park was established as the nation’s fourth national park (after Yellowstone, Sequoia, and Yosemite).

My parents on the White Pass ski lift headed up for a hike.

The Infallible Wikipedia provides us with some fascinating geologic facts:

“Mount Rainier is a stratovolcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc that consists of lava flows, debris flows, and pyroclastic ejecta and flows. Its early volcanic deposits are estimated at more than 840,000 years old and are part of the Lily Formation (about 2.9 million to 840,000 years ago). The early deposits formed a ‘proto-Rainier’ or an ancestral cone prior to the present-day cone. The present cone is more than 500,000 years old.

The volcano is highly eroded, with glaciers on its slopes, and appears to be made mostly of andesite. Rainier likely once stood even higher than today at about 16,000 ft (4,900 m) before a major debris avalanche and the resulting Osceola Mudflow approximately 5,000 years ago. In the past, Rainier has had large debris avalanches, and has also produced enormous lahars (volcanic mudflows), due to the large amount of glacial ice present. Its lahars have reached all the way to Puget Sound, a distance of more than 30 mi (48 km).

The hole in the middle is the entry to the Paradise Ice Caves

Around 5,000 years ago, a large chunk of the volcano slid away and that debris avalanche helped to produce the massive Osceola Mudflow, which went all the way to the site of present-day Tacoma and south Seattle. This massive avalanche of rock and ice removed the top 1,600 ft (500 m) of Rainier, bringing its height down to around 14,100 ft (4,300 m). About 530 to 550 years ago, the Electron Mudflow occurred, although this was not as large-scale as the Osceola Mudflow.

After the major collapse approximately 5,000 years ago, subsequent eruptions of lava and tephra built up the modern summit cone until about as recently as 1,000 years ago. As many as 11 Holocene tephra layers have been found.

In the world of geology, a thousand years is like a blink of the eye. Which is one reason why Mount Rainier is one of 16 mountains worldwide known as ‘Decade Volcanoes.’ To put it succinctly, it means that these volcanoes have given indications that they are likely to erupt AND they are located in areas where an eruption would no doubt result in catastrophic property destruction and/or a large loss of life. 

With my parents at the Paradise Ice Caves early 1980’s

That could mean that we will witness such an eruption of Mt. Rainier in our lifetime or, perhaps, it will be hundreds of years from now.

It’s hard to imagine Mt. Rainier as being any different than how it’s been during my lifetime. I simply cannot recall a time when I did not know of it. Perhaps my earliest memory would be on a trip from Yakima to Long Beach, Washington with my family including my grandmother – my Dad’s mother – in the 1960’s.

The most direct route to the coast was via White Pass which, coincidentally, follows a route just south of the southeast park entrance. And there is this spot on the other side of the summit where you come around the corner and, on a clear day, feel as if you can touch it. Over the years that moment has always been the one which says ‘welcome to Western Washington.’ My grandmother snapped a photo from the back seat of the car. It was only the first of many photos I have of the mountain.

I would venture that I’ve driven through the National Park well over 100 times and have visited both Sunrise and Paradise multiple times. Back in the early 1980’s, the hubby and I – along with my parents – hiked up to the Paradise ice caves. It was a truly ethereal experience to be standing in a blue translucent cave made of ice. Today, they are gone.

The hubby in 1980 something on one of many trips to the mountain.

As a newspaper reporter in Eatonville in 1979-80, I learned that the folks in Pierce County think of Mount Rainier as ‘theirs.’ Afterall, it was originally named Tahoma or Tacoma by the natives of the area. And it dominates the region. 

One summer evening shortly after I moved to Eatonville, I was on the phone with one of the town council members to ask him a few questions about a story I was working on. It was around 8:30 p.m. and getting on towards sunset. We were talking when all of the sudden he says, “Strawberry Ice Cream.”

“Excuse me,” I replied, “What’s this about strawberry ice cream?”

“The mountain,” he replied, “Looks just like strawberry ice cream… and then it will be blueberry.”

And so it did. Although I didn’t have a view from my place of the mountain like he did, it only took a few steps outside my apartment and to the north for me to have a nice view of Pierce county’s ice cream ‘Sundae.’

White Pass viewpoint with the hubby in 2016. On this particular day we were treated to a phenomenon known as lenticular clouds.

But it was on a trip from Nashville to Seattle a few years ago which reminded me that not everyone understands what an impact Mount Rainier has on those who see and enjoy it regularly. I was seated on the aisle and as we approached Seattle, I knew we would be passing the mountain to the north. As its massive white flanks came into view through one of the windows a row down and across the aisle, I craned my neck for a look. My frustration grew as the couple directly across from me kept their window covering closed. No longer able to hold back I said to them, “You really should open your window. Mount Rainier is right next to us.”

The man slid the opening up and both he and his wife exclaimed over how close and how immense it was.

Then he proceeded to say to me “Are you sure that’s Mount Rainier?”

I suppressed a laugh at the absurdity of the question. It’s easily one of the most recognizable peaks in the world, especially when you are right next to it and its larger than life.

“Trust me,” I replied, “I grew up here and that most definitely is Mount Rainier. Isn’t it nice for the mountain to be out today?”

Bobsledding Along

The Debut of Sledding in the Olympics

February 9, 2021

Over the years, a variety of competitions have been added to the Winter Olympics. On February 9, 1932, the two-man Bobsled made its debut and has been a fan favorite ever since.

Photo of a USA 2 man Bobsled team at the 1932 Olympics

For anyone unfamiliar with the event, think sledding but much, much faster. The first competitions, predating the Olympic Games, occurred in St. Moritz, Switzerland in the 1800’s.

The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“Its foundation began when hotelier Caspar Badrutt (1848–1904) convinced some wealthy English regulars to remain through the entire winter at his hotel in the mineral spa town of St. Moritz, Switzerland. He had been frustrated that his hotel was only busy during the summer months. By keeping his guests entertained with food, alcohol, and activities, he quickly established the concept of ‘winter resorting’. Within a few years, wintering at Badrutt’s St Moritz hotel became very fashionable in Victorian Britain. However, with increased numbers this led some guests to search for new diversions. In the early 1870s some adventurous Englishmen began adapting boys’ delivery sleds for recreational purposes.”

The hotel guests loved the sleds and soon they competed in races down the streets and alleys of St. Moritz. The ‘runs’ became longer and the speeds faster which led to crashes and injuries. Complaints from the townspeople increased.

Sledding the streets of St. Moritz circa 1903

(Badrutt’s) “solution was to build a basic natural ice run for his guests outside the town near the small hamlet named Cresta in the late 1870s. Badrutt took action because he did not want to make enemies in the town and he had worked hard and investing a lot of time and money in popularizing wintering in St. Moritz so he was not going to let customers stop coming due to boredom.”

The Bobsled – either the two-man or four-man – is controlled by a steering mechanism in the nose of a bullet shaped ‘car.’ The participants sit in a crouched position facing forward inside the car which is guided by the pilot. The additional participants serve as pushers to gain initial speed and then as ballast which helps the Bobsled go faster down the icy track.

Besides Bobsled another winter event, the Luge, also involves excessive speeds. The Luge, however, is sport where the participant lays face up on an open, lightweight sled and uses his or her feet to guide it.

You can ride an actual bobsled on the Olympic Track from the Whistler games… just a six hour drive from Seattle!

Both sports are rather heart stopping at times. The world record for Bobsled speed is 125 mph! Lugers generally race between 75 and 90 mph.

Given a choice between watching the summer or winter games, I’ve always been a bigger fan of the snow sports whether it’s skating, skiing, or sledding.

I think this may stem from my childhood days growing up in Yakima. While most of winter in Yakima tends to be marked by sunny, cold, and dry, there are usually a few big enough snow events which made sledding – which is an inexpensive pastime – possible. The street I grew up on was perfect for a beginner sledding experience. It had a slope, but was gentle enough that a five year old could manage it.

As the years went on, I graduated to bigger hills. A walk south to where 31st Avenue crossed Tieton drive brought we adventurous sliders to the top of a rather daunting slope. At the bottom of that slope lived my cousins. When we got bored with our pedestrian hill we ventured to theirs.

Then, the year I was twelve I was allowed one day to head to the holy grail of all sledding hills in Yakima: Franklin Park.

From top to bottom, the hill is probably about 60 feet. The center of the 45 degree slope is flat like a cookie sheet. But on either side are terraces, each of the half dozen around 10 feet high. After a big snow, of course, the hill comes alive with hundreds of kids and every one of them wants to slide down the sloped ‘cookie sheet’ in the middle. It doesn’t take long for the snow to reveal the un-slidable grass from the activity of all those kids.

Franklin Park in Yakima is a magnet for kids after a big snowfall. The center section was always the most popular spot but when the snow was gone even the terraces (the lumpy looking sides) beckoned the brave.

On the particular day I was allowed to go I ended up relegated to trying to figure out how to sled the terraces. I lay down on my sled, hands on the cross bar and inched my way to the top of the highest terrace; the sled dropped down over the edge and I flew. For exactly 10 feet before the sled lurched to a stop in the deep snow.

This was not, you might imagine, a particularly successful method of sledding. But I persevered and dragged the sled to the next terrace ledge, lay down and once again pushed the sled over the ledge, pretty much bouncing down the next terrace with a similar result.

Now I cannot recall for sure on which terrace disaster struck, but strike it did during this, my first and only time sledding at Franklin Park.

Down the slope I went and when I got to the bottom of the third level, the front of the sled reared up and smacked me in the face. I rolled off the sled, the stinging pain letting me know my decision making abilities were not very good. But the worst part of all was that my glasses, which I needed for distance vision, lay broken in two in the snow.

Despite that experience, I have persisted. There’s nothing quite so exhilarating as when you gain momentum and go hurtling down a slippery slope, knowing that you are likely out of control, but loving the speed and the flying sensation.

Kids having fun sledding at the family cabin near White Pass

Our family cabin was, for years, a destination for New Year’s or President’s Day weekends. When the kids arrived, we introduced them to the joys of sledding and everyone looked forward to those trips.

On one particular afternoon, we were all outside playing in the snow and my dad had driven up from Yakima. He had to have been in his late 70’s at the time, but there he was sliding down the hill with the kids and having a great time. Or he was right up until the boat sled in which he was riding sailed over a berm and he landed hard, bruising his tailbone. It was at that moment he declared his sledding days over. About five years ago I did the exact same thing in the exact same spot and, like my dad, ended up bruised and battered.

We all frequently ended up sprawled out on the snow at the end of the sled run

I have my doubts that I’ll ever get back on a sled but I haven’t counted it out quite yet. After we sold the cabin this past summer, two of the metal boat sleds came to live in my garage. Now all I need is a snowy day. Not too far from where I live is an epic hill which would be perfect for a run.

But, with no big snow storms on the horizon, I’ll do the next best thing. I typed in ‘virtual luge’ on my computer and got hundreds of hits. For best results, view it on a full size TV. And for a couple of minutes you can see what it would be like to ride a two man bobsled. And you won’t even need to wear a helmet or your mittens. But a cup of hot chocolate with a dollop of whip cream would be heavenly.

And a couple of links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobsleigh

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luge

Facebook answers, clockwise from upper left corner: 2 Man Bobsled, Ski Jumping, Single Luge, Ice Hockey, Ice Dance

Like A Song on the Radio

Thank you, Mr. Marconi

June 2, 2020

 

Marconi RadioThere is a saying that he who gets to the patent office first matters more than who invented it. This is likely true for the invention of radio. Guglielmo Marconi – first to the patent office – filed on June 2, 1896, eclipsing others also working on the budding technology.

The story begins decades earlier and, as is often the case, the Infallible Wikipedia sums it up:

“The idea of wireless communication predates the discovery of ‘radio’ with experiments in ‘wireless telegraphy’ via inductive and capacitive induction and transmission through the ground, water, and even train tracks from the 1830s on. James Clerk Maxwell showed in theoretical and mathematical form in 1864 that electromagnetic waves could propagate through free space. It is likely that the first intentional transmission of a signal by means of electromagnetic waves was performed in an experiment by David Edward Hughes around 1880, although this was considered to be induction at the time. In 1888 Heinrich Rudolf Hertz was able to conclusively prove transmitted airborne electromagnetic waves in an experiment confirming Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism.”

Fascinated by the possibility of transmitting sounds via Hertzian (as radio waves were called at the time) waves, Marconi began experiments building the equipment needed in the attic of his home. He was only 20 years old.

“A breakthrough came in the summer of 1895, when Marconi found that much greater range could be achieved after he raised the height of his antenna and, borrowing from a technique used in wired telegraphy, grounded his transmitter and receiver. With these improvements, the system was capable of transmitting signals up to 2 miles (3.2 km) and over hills. The monopole antenna reduced the frequency of the waves compared to the dipole antennas used by Hertz, and radiated vertically polarized radio waves which could travel longer distances. By this point, he concluded that a device could become capable of spanning greater distances, with additional funding and research, and would prove valuable both commercially and militarily. Marconi’s experimental apparatus proved to be the first engineering-complete, commercially successful radio transmission system.”

Encouraged by his parents, he left Italy for England – his mother accompanied him – and was able to gain the interest of the British Government and, eventually, financial backing. While Marconi’s system was used primarily for short distance maritime communications at first, his company continued to experiment and expand the distance the radio waves traveled. It was Marconi’s system which made it possible for 700 passengers aboard the Titanic to be rescued.

GE F-96

My brother had a radio like this one given to him by our grandparents. His is currently in a storage locker… this beauty belongs to someone who graciously posted it on the internet.

Innovation in radio proceeded at an amazing pace with the commercial side of it soon eclipsing the more mundane maritime uses. By 1938 four of every five homes had a radio. Families gathered around for favorite programs, whether they were music, ‘theater,’ or the news of the day. The radio became an essential part of society.

 

All of today’s wireless digital communications via phones, pads, and portable computers, began with the invention of the radio.

Marconi – along with Karl Braun – shared the 1909 Nobel Prize “for their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy.”

transistor radio

My sister was the queen of the transistor radio with one nearly glued to her ear for several years.

By the 1960’s, despite the fairly recent addition of commercial television, radio was still king. Especially for teenagers. It was radio which helped foment the rock and roll revolution; it was radio which unified the baby boom generation. Every town seemed to have at least one radio station and the wise ones were spinning the popular teen records of the day.

 

In Yakima – where I grew up – there were three stations of note in the later 1960’s and early 1970’s. I remember my dad always wanting to listen to KIT. At 1280 on the dial it featured news and WWII era music. As a card-carrying teen that was not on my list of cool radio stations. There were, however, two stations I listened to: KMWX and KQOT.

Being that I kept a diary (note to my younger self – what you wrote about was mostly ridiculous) and that listening to the radio was so important, I recorded this gem from April 25, 1971:

“Today was Pete’s Birthday. He liked the Grippu Sue and I gave him.* We went on Daylight Savings, so it stays light till almost 8:30. That means KQOT stays on the air until 7:45 and on May 1st, they will stay on until 8:30. That means I get to hear Neal Gray all through the ‘Sommer.’ (Sommer? Get it? Bob Sommers D.J.) YEA!”

Three days later, I posted this entry:

“Today was an interesting day, you see, today was Patty Hooper’s dog’s birthday, so I told her I would dedicate “Me and You and a Dog named Boo” to her dog, Sairy, if I could get through… well I got through and dedicated it but it is really weird to hear Bob Sommer’s voice on the radio and telephone, then your own. Patty was listening and called right after the song was over. Command Performance is kind of fun.”

It was, apparently, about this time that I became radio obsessed, even going so far (Two days after that!) to try to figure out the trick for getting through to the D.J.’s. For one of my dialing adventures, it took me… 292 times to get through.

Scan_20200602

The author at age 14 in my room. Cassette recorder, radio (it was an older one my parents had). I’m not sure where the clock radio is… and you can see my blue 1972 diary off to the side. I was kinda messy.

The rest of the 1971 diary has occasional references to the two radio stations. What I do recall during those years is sitting on the bed in my room, listening to the radio and waiting for my favorite songs. I cannot recall what sort of radio it was, but it was my daily companion. I was given a cassette tape recorder for my 13th birthday, and a new clock radio for my 14th. Together they afforded me the opportunity to ‘record’ songs when they came on the air. Many a tape was filled with badly recorded favorite songs AND, often, the D.J.’s playing the live requests. Those tapes were played over and over.

 

In today’s world, the importance of radio for young people has faded. Kids pop in their earbuds and open their Spotify or Pandora** apps on their phones; in an instant their favorite songs begin to play. Somehow I think they are missing out on the experience of calling the radio station, requesting ‘the’ song, and then listening for hours to hear it.

I’ve included a video of Al Stewart’s ‘Song on the Radio’ as it seems to capture the spirit of the 1970’s

For those of us who grew up during AM radio’s golden age of rock and roll we did not realize at the time that it wouldn’t always be that way. No doubt there will be more amazing innovations for wireless digital communications and, one day, I imagine the teens of today will pine for the good ole days. It’s the way of the world.

 

*I have no idea what this thing was… in another entry I write that the gripper is ‘a big blow up plastic hand.’ Who knew?

**It’s highly likely that Spotify and Pandora are ‘last year’s’ hot apps. I await correction from those in the know.

A couple of links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_radio

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guglielmo_Marconi

KQOT operated as a ‘rock’ station from 1962 until 1979 and is now Christian station KYAK: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KYAK

 

Still Going…

The Energizer Bunny

October 29, 2019

In the world of advertising, this campaign was particularly brilliant. The story begins in 1983 when Duracell featured a dozen stationary, identical light pink bunnies, all battery powered, drumming on snare drums. The announcer intoned that the one with the Duracell battery would last longer. Eventually, all the batteries die with the exception of the one powered by Duracell.

On October 30, 1988, however, a new bunny emerged on the advertising scene and stole the show from Duracell.

energizer-bunnyThe Energizer Bunny was also pink but instead of being one of a crowd which outlasts the others, this rabbit had attitude. It wore hip sunglasses. It was hot pink. It moved around the room on blue flip flop sandals. And it had a big ole bass drum with the word “ENERGIZER” emblazoned across the surface. In short, it had important elements of a great advertising campaign in that it was memorable and humorous. The bunny has appeared in over 100 commercials and has been featured on TV shows and in movies.

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Commercials after the first started out with the Bunny leaving the studio it performed the ‘Drumming Bunny’ ad in, then wandering into the sets of a couple of realistic-looking commercials for fictional products, interrupting them. As the campaign progressed, many of these ads were standalone (for fake products such as ‘Sitagin Hemorrhoid Remedy’, ‘Nasotine Sinus Relief’, ‘TresCafe Coffee’, ‘Alarm’ deodorant soap, etc.) and even a few featured celebrities (such as Lyle Alzado promoting a snack called ‘Pigskins’, and Ted Nugent doing an ad for a Mexican food chain called ‘Cucaracha’) only to have the Bunny march through, beating his drum, because he was ‘still going’ (one infamous commercial was for a fake long-distance telephone company with a couple in the United Kingdom talking to their son, who was supposedly in New York and exclaimed that he ‘sounded like he’s right next door’, and when the Bunny came in, he knocked down the divider to show they really were next to each other). Eventually real-life products and icons would do a crossover with the Energizer Bunny (Michael J. Fox doing a Pepsi ad, and the opening of TV shows such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents and ABC’s Wide World of Sports). The Energizer Bunny has appeared in more than 115 television commercials.”

The Energizer Bunny has come to represent something or someone which keeps going and going, seemingly without end.

In late November 2010 I was in Yakima staying to take care of my parents who were in crisis that week. My mom – who had dementia and mobility issues due to a stroke a year earlier – needed round the clock assistance. Between my Dad, a part time caregiver, plus help from both my sister and me, they had been managing okay.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, however, Dad collapsed and was discovered by the caregiver. 9-1-1 was summoned and he spent three days in the hospital. A difficult patient, he convinced the doctor to release him earlier than the Doc thought prudent, and arrived home on Friday, November 26th proclaiming he was just fine.

A little after 10 p.m, he went in to take a shower. I heard him calling for help a few minutes later and rushed in to discover him collapsed on the floor. After many struggles I was able to get him up onto the seat of my mother’s walker, but he was slumped to one side. He objected to the thought of calling 9-1-1 (again!) so I called my sister who, along with her husband, came over. Eventually we did call the medics who arrived and discovered his heart was pounding at about 200 BPM and suggested he go to the hospital.

No way was he agreeing to that and kept insisting that the medics just put him to bed. Which they did. Convinced by the EMT’s that he might not survive the night, my sister and I took turns with an all night vigil.

Around 8 a.m., and with Dad still with us, I was up and out in the kitchen contemplating how to deal with two parents in need of assistance. A noise to my left drew my attention. I looked up and here came my dad, using my mom’s smaller aluminum walker, advancing with purpose and determination and seemingly unfazed by all which had happened. That entire day he moved with frenetic energy, straightening things, switching from one thing to another, hardly sitting down all day.

I described the whole thing to my sister this way: “Dad is like the Energizer Bunny.”

For the next nine years, this has been the way we’ve described our dad. There have been countless episodes of the pounding heart which takes him down for a day or two. When he’s recovered, though, watch out! Because it was always back to Energizer Bunny mode.

Eventually, however, even the strongest, most durable batteries run out of energy. And so it was for my father on October 24. His strong heart – in spite of what I am now certain were Tachycardia events – was the battery which kept him going to the age of 96 and a half.

RIP our Energizer Bunny.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energizer_Bunny

https://www.shawandsons.com/obituary/vincent-devore

The First Tuesday in September

September 3, 2019

On Saddle Shoes and Pee Chee Folders

The first Tuesday of September was always a day which struck fear in my heart. In fact, no other day of the year caused more anxiety and distress than this one.

The reason, of course, was due to the fact that when I was growing up school always started on this day.

Unlike in today’s world, where we are inundated with back to school ads for supplies and equipment beginning in late July, in the 1960’s and 70’s, we didn’t much think about going back to school. That is until one day in late August my mother would ominously announce that school started the next week.

Pee CheeSo off we would go to get things. Our back to school supply list included Pee Chee folders, notebook paper, #2 pencils, and BIC pens. That was it.

For clothing, I was lucky to get one new outfit for the first day of school. And the most evil of all footwear ever invented: saddle shoes.

I’ll get back to those in a bit.  First off, however, I imagine you are wondering about the Pee Chee.  What is a Pee Chee? And why do so many people my age wax so nostalgic over a folded in half piece of cardstock? I knew it deserved Tuesday Newsday status. Since I couldn’t find the official day they were introduced, the first Tuesday in September seemed the perfect date to learn about them. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The yellow Pee-Chee All Season Portfolio was a common American stationery item in the second half of the 20th century, commonly used by students for storing school papers. It was first produced in 1943 by the Western Tablet and Stationery Company of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Pee-Chees were later produced by the Mead Corporation. (snip) These inexpensive folders are made of card stock with two internal pockets for the storage of loose leaf paper. The pockets are printed with a variety of reference information including factors for converting between Imperial and metric measurement units, and a multiplication table. The folders had fallen out of general use by the 2000s, but are available from Mead as of 2014.”

useful information.jpgNote the words “multiplication table.” This was probably the most valuable thing a Pee Chee provided as we were expected to memorize this table. By the time you got up to the twelves, it got a bit difficult. The handy dandy Pee Chee came to your rescue. Of course our teachers knew this and we had to put our Pee Chee’s away during test time.

When I walked home from elementary school I only carried a Pee Chee and rarely any books unless it was one checked out from the library. By the time I was in Junior High and High School, books were part of the equation. Along with the Pee Chee of course.

That brand new, unmarked, non-dog-eared Pee Chee was the best part of being forced to go back to school. And paper, pencils and BIC pens, of course. Oooh, and Flair pens starting in Junior High!

The worst part? From first grade through sixth I was subjected to torture by being forced to wear saddle shoes. Whoever invented this shoe should have been required to wear a new pair every week for their entire lives just so they would know what pain they subjected multiple generations of girls to endure.

Yakima NordstromMy mother would take me and my sister to Nordstrom’s Shoe store… in the 1960’s in Yakima that’s all it was… a shoe store. We would bypass all the beautiful shiny black patent leather shoes and the cute Mary Janes and go directly to the rack of clunky saddle shoes. There they sat, big, bulky, and ugly. They had brown soles thicker than a slice of French toast. Across their beige bodies was a second strip of stiff brown leather, with laces through the holes, just waiting to cinch your foot into bondage. Heaven forbid that you got shoes which fit… no, they had to be a bit big so you’d grow in to them and not grow out of them before the following June.

We would wear them around the house for several days before school started in a futile effort to ‘break’ them in. It never worked. The first few weeks of school our feet bore witness to the horrors of saddle shoes; oozing red blisters were covered with adhesive tape and we’d limp through the day. Eventually the leather softened and the blisters abated… usually by October. Kids today just don’t realize how lucky they are to have been spared the scourge of saddle shoes.beige and brown saddle shoes

Even now the first week of September is my least favorite time of the year; despite the fact I do not have to go back to school nor do my children.

I am, however, very, very tempted to go hang out in the office supply store and indulge myself in the smell of paper and ink and the plethora of notebooks, papers, pens, and paperclips. Anyone who has seen my office knows that I have stacks of spiral notebooks, hundreds of colored paperclips (many with decorative tops), and a collection of G-2G 2 pens pens of every hue. In fact, just writing about it inspires me to head to my nearest Office Depot Max to see what’s on sale. Unlike saddle shoes, office supplies never go out of fashion!

As always a couple of links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pee_Chee_folder

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saddle_shoe

Yes, it is true. In 1960 Nordstrom’s only sold shoes. The store in Yakima was one of only 8 stores at the time.

https://shop.nordstrom.com/content/company-history

 

 

That’s The Pits!

Cherries!

July 2, 2019

The item which caught my attention for this week’s blog is the amusing ‘contest’ of cherry pit spitting. Yes, it’s a thing.

cherry spit site.jpgHeld annually in Eau Claire, Michigan, since 1974, the record ‘spit’ of a cherry pit is 93 ft 6.5 inches. The competition has been dominated by one family with the patriarch, Rick Krause, holding the record for longest spit (over 72 feet) until 1993. Since then, his son, Brian ‘Pellet Gun’ Krause has won 10 times with his record breaking discharge occurring the first week of July in 2003. In recent years Brian’s sons have also competed.

rick krause.png

Patriarchal Cherry pit spitter Rick Krause in 2010. Photo from Lifecompassblog.com

Others have stepped up to put their spitting skills to the test, but the Krause family continues to dominate.

It is appropriate, therefore, as we celebrate all things red, white, and blue this week, to pay tribute to one of my favorite red things: the cherry.

Every July I can hardly wait for the harvest of this fruit to begin in the Yakima Valley. For there is truly nothing better than picking a cluster of the ruby orbs and (after they’re cleaned off) biting into the soft, juicy flesh. As a fan of the sweet varieties such as Bing and Sweetheart, an explosion of flavor reminds me how much I’ve missed them since the previous year.

The cherry has a long history of cultivation with evidence that the fruit has been grown since prehistoric times. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The English word cherry derives from Old Northern French or Norman cherise from the Latin cerasum, referring to an ancient Greek region, Kerasous (Κερασοῦς) near Giresun, Turkey, from which cherries were first thought to be exported to Europe. The indigenous range of the sweet cherry extends through most of Europe, western Asia, and parts of northern Africa, and the fruit has been consumed throughout its range since prehistoric times. A cultivated cherry is recorded as having been brought to Rome by Lucius Licinius Lucullus from northeastern Anatolia, also known as the Pontus region, in 72 BC.

Cherries were introduced into England at Teynham, near Sittingbourne in Kent, by order of Henry VIII, who had tasted them in Flanders.

Cherries arrived in North America early in the settlement of Brooklyn, New York (then called ‘New Netherland’) when the region was under Dutch sovereignty. ”

In the United States, the first record of cherry trees being planted was 1639.

Bing cherriesSweet cherries are grown most successfully in Washington, Oregon, California, Wisconsin, and Michigan (hence the location of the cherry pit spitting contest). Most sour cherry varieties are grown in Michigan, Utah, New York and Washington.

To successfully grow cherries, the climate must have cold winters although varieties have been developed recently which have allowed California to compete in cherry production. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Most cherry varieties have a chilling requirement of 800 or more hours, meaning that in order to break dormancy, blossom, and set fruit, the winter season needs to have at least 800 hours where the temperature is below 45 °F (7 °C). “Low chill” varieties requiring 300 hours or less are Minnie Royal and Royal Lee, requiring cross-pollinization, whereas the cultivar, Royal Crimson, is self-fertile. These varieties extend the range of cultivation of cherries to the mild winter areas of southern US. This is a boon to California producers of sweet cherries, as California is the second largest producer of sweet cherries in the US.”

My relationship with the cherry has not always been an enjoyable one, however. In the 1970’s, my father took over managing a cherry orchard which my grandfather – a banker – had gotten as way of repayment of a loan gone bad some years earlier. In those years Dad had two jobs: Junior High School history teacher and orchardist. My first summer ‘job’ as a teenager was picking cherries.

By early July in Yakima the weather usually turns quite warm. It is common for there to be a spate of days when the thermometer inches into the upper 90’s and low 100’s.  It’s then that the cherries ripen and harvest begins. For the pickers, work commences shortly after daybreak while the orchard is still cool.

One summer, with my then boyfriend and his younger sister, we arrived – along with all the migrant workers – to begin our job. Each person was assigned a tree, given a ladder and a bucket. Now when I say bucket, we are not talking about a pail like those favored by children at the beach. Nope. The metal buckets I knew held a lot of cherries, some 4 1/2 gallons worth, and it seemed to take forever to fill one up.

ladder in cherry orchardPicking cherries requires a delicate method. You must hold the fruit at the very top of the stem (stem less cherries are not saleable in the fresh market) and gently twist so that the stem is removed from the branch without pulling the spur off the tree. Then you place – do NOT drop – the fruit into the bucket. Lather, rinse, repeat. My rough estimates are thus: 80 cherries for a gallon times 4.5 gallons equals 360 cherries for one bucket. It takes a long time to pick 360 cherries plus, with one’s assigned ‘tree’, you also had to climb up 12 to 15 feet while balancing a bucket of heavy fruit.

Now what, you may ask, is ‘the spur’?” It’s a knobby growth at the end of a branch and if it’s pulled off that branch will not produce cherries the next year. My father the orchardist was rather persnickety about those spurs being preserved.

By noon time – having been there picking since 5 a.m. – the heat would have arrived and I would have picked… seven buckets of fruit. That’s 2,420 cherries each day of harvest… and be paid seven whole dollars. Some of the migrant workers could pick up to 200 buckets a day. I’ve never figured out how.

Okay, the job truly sucked. Although seven bucks went farther in nineteen seventy something than it does today. But it wasn’t a lot of money.

My experience as a cherry picker makes me appreciate the delicious fruit even more. When my sister brought a bag of the freshly picked delights to me yesterday, it was a taste of heaven. For the next few weeks I will jealously guard my cherries, making the bounty last until late July. By then I will have satisfied my craving for the fleshy fruit for another year.

The best part? I didn’t have to pick them!

patriotic pie

Happy 4th of July everyone!

A couple of links for you:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherry

http://memory.loc.gov/diglib/legacies/loc.afc.afc-legacies.200003151/default.html