Dan Still Remembered November 27, 1977

 

Dan Still Remembered

By Dan Wheat  The Daily Olympian  November 27, 1977

YELM — Most towns erect monuments to city founders, mayors or other notable community leaders. Not Yelm. It has a monument to a man who came to town as a hobo and left 33 years later as a beloved legend.

Dan Maslowski wasn’t a typical tramp. Nor was he a city founder, but many say he was the top citizen of Yelm. He was a respected and trusted community member. His memory is lodged in the warmest spot of many a heart. Maslowski earned himself a niche as Yelm’s Mr. Clean.

Townfolk who remember the old hobo have their favorite stories to tell. And all have nothing but good things to say about their old Dan. Some resent him being called a tramp.

The drinking fountain ‘monument is in front of Yelm’s fire hall on Main Street. It reads, “Keep Yelm Clean. In memory of Dan Maslowski — 1971.” It was placed there a year or so after old Dan’s death in July of 1971.

Yelm grocer and former -state legislator Hal Wolf, and the late Bob Ellis, who once owned Bob’s Tavern, gathered donations for the monument. They sold bumper stickers that read, “Keep Yelm Clean For Dan.” Ellis’s son-in-law Jim Forrester, present owner of Bob’s Tavern, said some people thought the stickers were in reference to  Gov. Dan Evans. It became something of a joke to keep people straightened out on the matter.

Ellis and Mel Johnson spent hours installing the fountain monument. “There’s not many tributes in this town and this is the only one on Main Street. Nobody else got into the hearts of people here,” Wolf declared.

Wolf was a young man when Maslowski hit town. He remembers his dad and others liked to buy Maslowski’s breakfast because they were so pleased with the way he kept the town clean. “He read a lot and sometimes gave the impression that he’d once had a formal educcation,” Wolf recalled.

“Since old Dan died, we’ve had a real problem in trying to keep the town clean. We’ve never solved it. Whenever something needed to be done for the city, Dan would do it. This town hasn’t been the same without him There aren’t any hobos left today.”

As the story goes. Maslowski left his Wisconsin home at age 13 because of family problems He rode the rails across America until finding Yelm in 1938 He once told Ellis, “The first night I got to Yelm they didn’t throw me in the can. So I just stayed. It was the first place where they didn’t throw me in the can.”

His first night in town, he bummed a handout at the door of Martin Gruber, then co-owner of the Gruber-Docherty Lumber Company and later treasurer of Thurston County. But that was the last time he begged for food After that he swept floors, chopped wood, cut grass and did scores or other odd Jobs about town. in return people gave him meals or maybe some change.

 

At first he slept in a little house behind Gruber’s, then city hall was his home until Ellis gave him a room in his notes in the early 1960s, Ellis tore down the top story of the hotel and turned the first floor into a tavern and Laundromat.  Masiowski squeezed into a small room between the two.

That’s where he lived until his death except for three  months he lived at the McKenna rest home.

As the years went by street cleaning became his forte ‘He’d be up at four nearly every morning sweeping the streets whether it was rain,, snow or shine.” recalled Forrester.

“The town has never been as clean since old Dan died He swept parking lots, porches, sidewalks and not only Main Street but every street in town.

Others said he could often be seen outside shaking a fist at a horse rider going through town. if the horse dirtied the pavement.  After many years, the city finally put him on the payroll for his cleaning efforts. He got $25 per month.

Forrester said Maslowski was good at sweeping out Bob’s Tavern until carpet was put in “He didn’t like the carpet because he couldn’t sweep it. ”

There’s not been many in the world that could smoke a cigar like Dan. He was the most contented, leisurely and relaxed smoker. But he had to quit drinking during his last three years because the doctor told him his heart was going bad. He obeyed doctor’s orders.”

Mrs. Evelyn Fall, who remarried after the death of her husband Bob Eilis. remembers she and Ellis were newlyweds when Maslowski found Yelm. “He stacked wood and picked strawberries for my mom and dad and all the little kids loved him. if everyone was as good as old Dan was, this would be a great world,” she said.

Maslowski was completely trustworthy. The Ellises often would send him to the bank with their earnings for the day It was common to see him talking to himself while working and he loved cats and plants.

He served many a night as town watchman and was especially helpful in that capacity during Yelm Prairie Days in the summers. City Clerk Roger Eide remembers giving Maslowski free haircuts at his barbershop. “I’d say have one on the house and sometimes he’d pay and sometimes he wouldn’t,” Eide said with a grin. “He very seldom would work for anyone who wouldn’t give him a meal.  And he’d eat enough for a week.”

Eide wasn’t the only one to mention Maslowski’s appetite. The fact that the old boy could eat is something all comment on.

Mayor Lora B. Coates remembers Maslowski helped her and her husband harvest Christmas trees. “He was certainly a legend. He was as typical a small town character as you could find. But he was part of a vanishing breed.”

Maslowski died of a heart attack July 26, 1971. The town was shut down for the hour of his funeral.

A Daily Olympian story about the funeral hit national and international news wires. Mrs. Frieda Young, of Selkirkshire, Scotland, thought she might be related to Maslowski and sent a letter of inquiry to Yelm. Mayor Coates sent all the information she had about Maslowski to Mrs. Young.

The two corresponded for about a year. and Mrs. Young last wrote that she positively felt she was related to him.

Mrs. Connie Turner is one Yelm resident who still thinks often of old Dan. She visits his resting place in the Yelm cemetery at least once a year. She planted shrubbery on the grave since Maslowski liked “anything growing.” And she still takes care of the grave.

Mrs. Turner says Maslowski reminded her of her father. So she sort of adopted him as a second fattier. One New Year’s Eve she got him on the dance floor, despite heavy bets that he wouldn’t. Most of the time he shied away from females.

It’s been said that no one ever captured the heart of Yelm as did Dan Maslowsi.  And no one had since.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yelm, McKenna and Roy July 23, 1972

Yelm, McKenna and Roy

Small towns that make you want to sit down and stay

The Seattle Times  July 23, 1972

By Byron Johnsrud

 

 

This is another in the continuing series on communities in and around the Seattle area.

ROY SCULLY and I sat hunched over our coffee at the counter in Dottie’s Cafe in Yelm. Five men and women, all in their 40s, sat behind us having their morning coffee at a table.

“I don’t care if it’s here in Yelm, in Roy or McKenna or wherever, I like to give new things first,” a woman said.

“Yeah. If you can,” a second woman said.

We gathered they were discussing how to help the victims of house fires or other family disasters.

‘”It’s the kids that bother me most.”

In the mirror behind the counter we could see the speaker was a great hulking bear of a man.

“All their toys gone and they’re too young to understand.”

“At that age they forget quick,” one of the … women said,

“I know. But the kids still get to me most,” the big man said.

Now here, by happy accident, was a great start on what Roy, a baseball buff, had insisted on calling our “Tinker to Evers to Chance Expedition.”

In our continuing pursuit of life as it is lived and enjoyed in smaller communities we had chosen that day to visit Yelm, McKenna and Roy. Yelm was on first, and right off the bat we had run onto one of the heartwarming facts M small-town life — the neighborly rally-’round-the-cause spirit of helpfulness in time of trouble.

Not that an urban center like Seattle has a heart like a drying olive in a dirty martini glass. Look at Neighbors in Need.

But in urban centers, such enterprises require organization and leadership. They lack that person-to-person, one-on-one quality. In Seattle, help for the stricken requires a great deal of planning and thought. In Yelm — or Roy or McKenna— it’s spontaneous.

LEAVING the kindly party in Dottie’s we walked down the sun-washed street. A sign in the window of The Chief Tavern intrigued me.

“Female pool players wanted,” it read. The woman on duty explained.

“It’s for a bit of a tournament we have every Tuesday night. Maybe we can get enough good players to go to a big tournament in Seattle. You gotta make your own fun in a town like this, Mister.”

“How about the boys?” I asked.

“Maybe we’ll give them a shot on Thursday nights,” she said. “They’ve already asked if they can come Tuesdays if they wear miniskirts.”

I rejoined Roy and we strolled on down the the street until we spotted the office of The Nisqually Valley News, a weekly. Dailies are delivered from Olympia and Tacoma, but little communities like their own local newspapers.

Inside we met Don Miller, the editor-owner. He is a pleasantly round (not fat), youngish man who obviously enjoys his life.

“No,” he said in answer to a question. “I gave up job printing quite a while back. Figured a guy should have some time off.”

What’s the social life like in Yelm?

“It’s a great sports town,” Miller said. “We’ve had some really great high school teams.”

Yelm schools, kindergarten through high school, enroll more than 1,500 youngsters, which is more than double the town’s official population. The kids come from surrounding communities.

“Of course you can’t spend all your time going to high-school ball games,” Miller said. “Like any place else, we have our civic hassles now and then. Got to have something to keep the blood stirring.”

BEFORE coming down we had read a prominent Washington historian who wrote that the original name was Chelm, meaning “heat waves rising from the earth,” which, it was behev were sent by the Great Spirit to make the earth bountiful. Somehow those heat waves had made much sense to us. They didn’t to Miller either.

“OK,” he said. “But we always heard started out as Yelmum, which was Indian Prairie Flower, or something like that.”

Roy, a flower lover, insisted on making it the official version. Question settled.

We asked about an attractive log building had noted that housed the Lions Club and Chamber of Commerce. Miller told us the W erhaeuser Co. had donated the logs.

“And some they don’t know to this day they ‘donated,'” his assistant added.

Miller then sent us to see Yelm’s mayor, Mrs. Lora B. Coates. She operates a sizable antique shop that looks like a warehouse on the outs and a fairyland inside.

“I sell to people from all over the state a beyond,” she explained. “I’d go broke if didn’t.”

Our “heat wave” historian wrote that the area was settled first by the Longmire family  on “Yelm Prairie” late in 1853. No, insisted Mrs. Coates, the Chambers family came first, as far back as 1846 and the area outside town was a still is known as Chambers Prairie. But such is the way of the frequently all-too-sketchy Washington State history.

“Not that the Longmires weren’t important here,” she said, explaining that a different Longmmire family branch was the one associated with Mount Rainier.

“They were a very energetic family,” s said, “and in the old days expeditions wc formed up here to start for the mountain.”

Mrs. Coates, as had Miller, noted that Yelm in Thurston County, was surrounded on thi sides by Fort Lewis, Olympia and Tacoma. (It is sort of a bedroom community for the fort.)

Industrially, Yelm consists mainly of a sizable wood-fabricatin plant and the General Cable rewind plant. The wood-fabricating plant makes the big spools on which the other plant rewinds cable. The wood-fabricating plant also specializes in interior finishings for mobile homes. And, of course, there are the stores and other enterprises dealing in the usual goods and services required by all the residents, even those who work elsewhere.

It’s enough for now, Madame Mayor said. “We don’t want to be ruined as a comfortable small town by some big, rampaging industry.”

We agreed heartily and spun on down the highway a piece to see how things were doing in McKenna.

THINGS were very much all right in McKenna — meaning that life’s quiet, peaceful way had changed but little.

Yelm lies on a plain between the Nisqually and the Deschutes Rivers. McKenna sits on a wide, shaded bend of the road with the Nisqually chuckling cheerfully at its back door. Or the front door, depending on the direction of your approach. You can park virtually anywhere except the center of the road, and that’s nice.

Yelm and Roy (the town, not Scully), I’m sure, would be happy to agree that McKenna is the prettiest spot of the three. It spreads out on a fertile flat created by the Nisqually. Tall trees filter the sunshine and a knoll here and there dots the landscape. It was named after a man from Wisconsin who established a sawmill at the townsite in 1906.

Roy (Scully, not the town) decided the light and shadow at the moment weren’t the best for picture-taking. So we went into a place labeled with beautiful simplicity “Tavern.” The tavern’s shadows didn’t do much for us. The proprietor wasn’t sure his establishment was the former town hall or the old company store of Mc-Kenna’s early lumbering fame. So we left.

“Them newspaper guys come around every couple of years,” he said as we walked out.

He may be right. But The Seattle Times archives show that the last visit of any consequence by a Times reporter was by Alice Staples back in 1958. (Mrs. Staples recently retired from her latter-day post as real-estate editor.) Her beautifully sensitive account in 1958 goes just as well for today.

In the early days of McKenna’s lumbering activity, the town was “a jumping, jiving community where the lights never went out,” Mrs. Staples wrote. The depression of the 1930s hit the town hard. Why didn’t it become a ghost town as did many another in those days?

“McKenna was a good place to live and raise our families,” an old-timer told Mrs. Staples. The people here were like one big family and when one needed help the others pitched in.

“I can remember when there weren’t any jobs and our menfolk banded together and cut and sawed firewood. They hauled it to Tacoma and sold it and everybody got along. When some got jobs, they helped those who still didn’t have work.”

The spirit is much the same today. People stay on because “it’s such nice place,” although many now commute to earn their daily bread.

ONE REASON McKenna survived was because “the company had a heart.” In sore straits itself, it made things as easy as possible for its former workers, turning over to them the company-built houses on whatever kind of in-stallment buying the residents could manage. The company itself managed to pay off most or all of its debts and still maintains an existence of sorts.

The company originally owned the town’s water system and still does, although its liquidators wish the town would buy it up. There are no water meters. In 1958 residents paid a flat $2.50 a month. Now the monthly tab is $3.50. Ah, inflation.

Members of the Daskam family, as they have since its inception, still run the business of the water system for what’s left of the corporate life of the lumber company.

Most of the company-built homes still exist, many of them substantially unchanged.

“They ought to,” a descendant of one of the original families said. “They were built to last, made out of the finest lumber available anywhere.”

Some of the “civic” structures still are there, too. The old lumber mill bunkhouse beside the Nisqually River now is an old folks’ home. The original company store still exists, although the original town hall has burned down.

The Hull name is large in McKenna history. Members of the family live atop a knoll at the town’s edge. Edgar Hull is the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Hull. The elder Hull was the mill’s chief machinist. He came to town in 1912 when the mill was founded. Edgar was a child then. Glenn Hull was born in McKenna, as was Alfred Hull. Kirby Hull, a nephew, lives across the street from Edgar in a handsome old home shaded by towering trees.

But McKenna has its influx of new blood from time to time. There’s young Warren Lasher, for one. He’s from New York state. He works in the town’s only service station.

“I’ve been here a year,” he said. “And I’m going to stay. I like it. I’m sick of big towns for more reasons than I can say.”

But back to the Alice Staples 1958 account:

“The town, a well-kept, quiet little community, seems a world away from the hectic, pell-mell bustle of modern-day living. McKenna has a constable and a justice of the peace but neither has any business to speak of.”

That couldn’t be said any better today.  It’s a spot that says “sit down and stay.”  Several generations have.

But, since the sun wasn’t quite sinking in the west, Scully and I moved on down the road to Roy.

ROY, and Yelm as well, to a degree, remind the visitor of Midwestern villages, perhaps because they lie in a prairies setting of somewhat drier country lacking the lushly verdant qualities common to most Western Washington areas. But there are trees, hillocks and valleys aplenty to dispel any notion that one has been plunked down in the center of North Dakota.

We drove down Roy’s main street, turned the first corner and stopped to inspect an old, heavily weathered barnlike building. A time-dimmed sign read:  John Napora Horseshoeing.

A very old man with a cane was tottering up a slight rise in the road about 50 yards away. Scully and I wondered if he could make it and whether we should offer him a hand. We needn’t have worried. When he saw us examining the old building he came on like Riva Ridge and by the time he hit the downslope he was fairly flying, his cane scarcely stirring the dust of the road.

He turned out to be the John Napora of the weathered sign and a swell old gentleman he is.

He said he was 92. Later, others in town told us that 92 maybe was more than half of it, but not much. He said he had shoed horses and done blacksmithing jobs in Roy for some 70 years. But he had quit, he said, and wasn’t about to begin again for anybody or anything—this despite the fact that little Roy has a large fame for its annual rodeos, the next installment of which is scheduled for September 3 and 4.

A pretty young woman wandered up and joined the conversation. She said she wasn’t a native but had been “farmed out” to relatives in the town “every summer since I was old enough to have a memory.”

“So I feel like a native,” she said.

But now, freshly graduated from college, about to be married and move elsewhere, she had her mind on things other than Roy.

“Oh, but I’ve had some very happy times here,” she said just a bit wistfully.

She said she was interested in writing and pointed out Murray’s General Store across the railroad tracks. She said she’d taken lots of pictures inside and out and had written a piece on the place.

“It’s been in the same family in the same place since 1889,” she said. “Now that’s really something.”

Roy and I gave her some advice (probably bad) on selling her work and decided not to spoil her chances by concentrating overmuch on Murray’s store in our piece.

“Young talent should be encouraged,” we agreed.

WE CAN also get pretty lazy sometimes on these excursions, especially when clear running water goes rollicking by and a sweet, cool breeze frolics in the trees.

The water in this case was Muck Creek, only a few yards from where we were chatting. The creek isn’t mucky, even murky and we didn’t find out the origin of the name.  We did learn that an early-day land company had thought the stream needed more dignity and had renamed it the Douglas River. But pioneer honesty soon prevailed and it became Muck Creek again. The town, too, once was named Muck, but was renamed “Roy” after the son of James McNaughton, who platted the townsite in 1884.

Scully then spotted a tiny white church straight out of New England and we rushed off to get a picture of it as if it were about to disappear.

The Town Hall was just across the railroad tracks, and I strolled through its unlocked rooms and corridors unmolested. Not a soul could I find.

The upstairs, I decided must be the courtroom and the spot where civic decisions were made. The town jail occupied a small corner of the big downstairs room. The barred door stood ajar. Inside were two cots. They looked as though they hadn’t been used in a long, long time.

Next we took a look inside the Murray store and it was a good thing we had decided not to poach on our young friend’s writing prerogatives. The dark-haired young woman minding the store was much too busy to talk.

True, most of the customers in the cavernous old building were small boys and girls making their deeply thoughtful and elaborate choices of penny candy. But that can be a busy and important business, too, and the young woman transacted it with great good will and infinite patience. However, she did take time to point us the way to the home of Roy’s mayor, Leon (Chief) Rediske.

The mayor was away, at his paying job in Tacoma, but his wife did the honors—after we had surmounted certain hazards, the chief of which was a sign on the yard gate reading: “Beware. Vicious Dogs.” And there was a great amount of yapping going on. But Mrs. Rediske assured us it was all a joke.

“Our friends thought our dogs needed some status,” she explained. “One of them is Poodle and something or other else and the other is thoroughbred dog pound.”

No, Mrs. Rediske said, there wasn’t much industry in town. The most prideful is the Silva-seed plant.

“It was founded by Charles Manning,” she said, “He invented a new way to extract the seed from fir cones. Others use the same system now, but his plant here was the first.”

Another was the Sazik Lumber Co. beside the railroad tracks bisecting the town.

THE TERRITORY around once had been mostly farmland, she said, but much of it had been taken over by the Fort Lewis expansion. Now, she said, horse-raising and horseback riding were big and there still were some dairy farms, a big hop ranch and nurseries producing fir, pine and spruce seed.

We told her we had read in a history that many fine old buildings still existed in the area, and she sniffed a bit at that.

“A few,” she conceded. “But it’s a shame the way some of the fine old houses have been allowed to run down. And some of them have been ‘modernized’ until you wouldn’t recognize them.”

She reverted to the Fort Lewis expansion and the changes it had brought about in area life.

“But maybe it’s a blessing in disguise,” she said. “I certainly wouldn’t want to see the town much bigger, anyway. I really wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the world. Just the way it is.”

That’s the way it is with small towns. Their people love them and they very seldom leave them by choice. It’s a way of life that seems to breed a happy philosophy for living.

But now the sun really was sinking in the west (wherever else?), as the travelogues say, and Scully and I had to set off for home.

That meant we had to miss Rainier, another little town in the same area. We regretted that. But there will be another trip another day, Rainier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deputy’s A Yelm Fixture November 19, 1979

Deputy’s A Yelm Fixture

by Dan Wheat

          (The Daily Olympian  November 19, 1979)

YELM – Charles S “Chuck” Donaldson is something of an institution in Yelm.

His father and uncle wen cops, and Donaldson has worn the deputy marshal’s badge in Yelm for 37 years Despite his fringe of silver hair and 75 years, the old law man is a familiar figure 01 the streets. He’s usually ii full uniform with a cigar stub between his teeth and his .32 20 caliber pistol at his side.

The gun is at least 50 years old. He has to special order its bullets from a firm back East. Small printing on the barrel indicates the first .32-20 were made in 1884; the last in 1926.

Donaldson’s uncle, Ave Hill, owned the gun when he was Sunnyside Police Chief and a deputy sheriff in Yakima County. Hill put one notch in the butt, a reminder of tin one man he killed.

His nephew has never added a notch, hopes he never has to, but says he’s no: afraid of anybody and will “plug” anyone who tries to get him.

Donaldson was born in Fredonie, Ky., and his family moved west to Zillah, a small town near Yakima. Donaldson finished high school and worked on his father’s farm. He married and moved to Yelm in the mid-1920s. After working on a farm, at a logging camp and a sawmill Donaldson began driving a Yelm school bus and serving as a deputy Yelm marshal.

He served as the town’s marshal several times, usually after another marshal left or had been fired. One was even shot on Yelm’s main street, but that was in the 1920s before Donaldson joined the department.

Dan Carew was one of the more famous marshals Donaldson served under. A man of short stature but much courage, Carew was known for packing a Colt .45 revolver on each hip.

Donaldson’s been a special Thurston County Sheriff’s deputy just as long as he’s served Yelm – since 1942. He still carries his commission cards from Sheriffs Frank C. Tamblyn, Lawrence Huntamer, Clarence Van Allen, Don Redmond and Dan Montgomery.

Yelm had gravel streets and few sidewalks when Donaldson became a lawman. The Yelm marshal and his deputies used their own cars on the job or walked.

“It wasn’t a bad town at all ’20s they made moonshine up in the (Bald) hills, and it was a tough town then,” Donaldson said.

He remembers during prohibition Sheriff Claude Havens once offered a Bald Hills moonshiner’s son a dollar if the boy would tell Havens where his dad was. The lad is said to have replied, “You give me the dollar now because if you go up there you aren’t coming back.”

“I guess Havens kept his dollar and left. He finally located the still later,” Donald-son recalled.

town’s old jail built out of two-by-fours that stood where the new Town Hall now stands. The next town jail was a iron cage in Brown’s garage.

Donaldson says he’s seen a lot of “awful wrecks” and helped successfully investigate two murders.

Yelm still is known for occasional bar fights. Marshal BUI Ruddell says he or another officer might have to wrestle someone to get a fight stopped.

“But, if I sent in Chuck all he’d have to say is ‘that’s enough’ and the guys would escort the troublemaker out.  Chuck has the confidence, trust and respect of everyone in town because he’s known most of them since they were kids. If I accomplish anything in my time, I hope it’s to gain half of that confidence and trust,” Ruddell said.

Ruddell says he never would send Donaldson into a barroom brawl. But, Donaldson, unpaid, still helps in investigations, funeral escorts, parades and football games.

And he brings an apple or a pear to the department’s dispatcher every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colorful Citizens

Colorful Citizens

By MIKE WALES

The Olympian

Editor’s note: This is the ninth in a series of stories intended to introduce readers to the people of the southern Puget Sound region.

Asked to describe Yelm, a former resident said simply, “It’s a town of extremes.” Scattered among its 1,440 citizens are a 77-year-old pilot who has lived in Yelm 39 years, a 75-year-old town marshal who has held county commissions under five sheriffs, and a lot of folks who remember the town’s legend —- a hobo who lived there 33 years.

The hobo’s memory is inscribed in everlasting stone on a drinking fountain in front of the fire hall on main street.

The deputy marshal, Charles S. “Chuck” Donaldson, is still in Yelm and can be seen walking the streets, his uncle’s old pistol snug at his hip, his cigar clamped in his teeth.

Floyd Phillips, the pilot is still flying.

The extremes crop up in Yelm when you take a close look at the old and the new.

To the uneducated eye the town resembles a thousand other small towns in America, each with its past and most at rope’s end as the world passes them by.

Although Yelm can boast that its first hotel still stands, it can also boast of new blood coming in. Yelm has experienced an influx of young people that has increased the population from 970 in 1979 to 1,440 in 1981.

This almost guarantees Yelm is not slated for the boneyard of old towns. Longtime residents prefer the status quo; young folks seek change.

An example is Jim and Elizabeth Slopak, who designed and built Yelm Frontier Village at the corner of Mossman Street and Highway 507. The young couple’s 10-shop center has been a major boost to Yelm’s economy, as have several other construction projects around town.

Virgil Baker has about completed an office and business complex just west of the main section of town, and ground is being broken for a new Maxwell station.

While new businesses are appearing in Yelm, old businesses such as Wolf ‘s Department Store, which has been in Yelm since 1922, are healthy and thriving despite the sometimes grim economic picture faced by businesses in bigger population centers.

The town’s tax base remains as solid as Wolf’s store, with a total valuation of $21.1 million.

Yelm raises money through a 3.072 millage rate per $1,000 evaluation, a 4 percent business and occupations tax on all businesses except Yelm’s independent telephone company, electric company and natural gas company.

There is nothing unusual about Yelm’s budget. Of the $647,456, the biggest amount, $138,238, goes to the police department with other departments cutting up the rest.

If one person has left her mark on Yelm it has been the mayor, Lora B. Coates, who has held the position for 13 years.

The first Coates came to Yelm by ox cart in 1889, and the family has lived there ever since. Mrs. Coates operated an antique store on the Rainier Highway for 26 years, helped guide the town through its growing pains and still oversees the five-member council.

A conservative, Mayor Coates has been a strong supporter of law and order, a fact that the younger and more liberal residents of the town seem to accept.

There are other old-timers who have left their mark on Yelm. Lee Edwards, Bill Mossman, Emmett Stewart, Rod Coates, and the first Longmire, Robert, who operated the first store in Yelm when the town was simply called Yelm Prairie and was little more than a railroad stopover for the Northern Pacific.

At times Yelm has needed a tough law enforcement agency. It has had its share of shootings, beatings, rapes and kidnappings, and many of its residents, loggers, farmers, day laborers and soldiers from Fort Lewis, live close to life in the raw.

For Yelm: Growth Olympian December 26, 1979

 

 

 

For Yelm: Growth

By Dan Wheat

Olympian     December 26, 1979

In 1970, Yelm’s population was 632. Last April, it officially was 970, and undoubtedly it is over the 1,000 mark by now.

Along with that growth, Yelm built a new City Hall, new elementary school, new high school and has remodeled two old elementary schools.

The fire district serving- Yelm and the surrounding countryside built two new substations, and the town’s water system was updated in 1977 with the installation of a new water tank and water lines.

Among the new businesses opened during the last 10 years were Jayhawks Department Store, Herter’s Clay Pigeon Plant, a veterinarian clinic, a Bank of Olympia branch and a couple of small shopping centers.  Yelm gained a doctor, two chiropractors and three dentists.

In politics, Lora B. Coates was elected the town’s first woman mayor in the fall of 1969. She took office in 1970 and has served a full decade, being re-elected in 1973 and again in 1977, at age 72. Her present term expires in January of 1982.

 

In 1971, the arrest on vagrancy charges of six of the town’s better young people led to many complaints against Yelm Marshal Bill McCluskey. As the result of a Daily Olympian investigation, a budding bail-bonds racket was exposed, and the town attorney and town judge both resigned.

In 1976, Mayor Coates and the town council were miffed when the town’s three deputy marshals joined the Teamsters Union without first notifying the mayor or council. As a result, the council considered disbanding the Yelm Marshal’s Office and contracting with the county sheriff for law enforcement services.

However, the council decided to keep its marshal’s office because contracting with the sheriff would have been just as expensive and the town would have lost control of its law officers.

Perhaps Yelm’s most colorful figure in the 1970s was Joseph Agosto. Agosto built the Caravan Inn and Algiers Restaurant on the edge of town in 1972.

A short while later, Agosto was called by a federal grand jury to tell what he knew about the disappearance of some funds from Northwest Guarantee Savings and Loan Association. Later the Internal Revenue Service tapped his banking records, a car carrying his wife and children exploded near Ashland, Ore., (nearly taking their lives), and a car he was driving was shot at as he returned to Yelm one day.

In 1974, the Caravan Algiers complex burned. The state fire marshal said it was arson. Agosto had sold the business a year and a half earlier and opened the “Folies Bergere” show at the Tropicana Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas,

 

Prior to coming to Yelm, Agosto served a brief term in a federal penitentiary following a 1966 conviction for falsifying housing loan documents in Alaska. The US Justice Department, which says Agosto is an illegal alien wanted in Italy to serve a 10-year prison sentence for bigamy, has been trying to deport Agosto since 1968.

The 9th U.S. Court of Appeals ordered Agosto’s deportation in 1977, but then the U.S. Supreme Court heard his case and in June,1978, by a 7-2 decision, ordered that he be given a new trial. Agosto had last been seen in Yelm about a month before talking about opening a new bowling alley on property he still owned there.

Last May, Agosto was named in a FBI affidavit as a front man in Las Vegas for Kansas City and Chicago Mafia figures.

 

 

 

For Yelm: Growth Olympian December 26, 1979

For Yelm: Growth

By Dan Wheat

Olympian December 26, 1979

In 1970, Yelm’s population was 632. Last April, it officially was 970, and undoubtedly it is over the 1,000 mark by now.

Along with that growth, Yelm built a new City Hall, new elementary school, new high school and has remodeled two old elementary schools.

The fire district serving- Yelm and the surrounding countryside built two new substations, and the town’s water system was updated in 1977 with the installation of anew water tank and water lines.

Among the new businesses opened during the last 10 years were Jayhawks Department Store, Herter’s Clay Pigeon Plant, a veterinarian clinic, a Bank of Olympia branch and a couple of small shopping centers.  Yelm gained a doctor, two chiropractors and three dentists.

In politics, Lora B. Coates was elected the town’s first woman mayor in the fall of 1969. She took office in 1970 and has served a full decade, being re-elected in 1973 and again in 1977, at age 72. Her present term expires in January of 1982.

In 1971, the arrest on vagrancy charges of six of the town’s better young people led to many complaints against Yelm Marshal Bill McCluskey. As the result of a Daily Olympian investigation, a budding bail-bonds racket was exposed, and the town attorney and town judge both resigned.

In 1976, Mayor Coates and the town council were miffed when the town’s three deputy marshals joined the Teamsters Union without first notifying the mayor or council. As a result, the council considered disbanding the Yelm Marshal’s Office and contracting with the county sheriff for law enforcement services.

However, the council decided to keep its marshal’s office because contracting with the sheriff would have been just as expensive and the town would have lost control of its law officers.

Perhaps Yelm’s most colorful figure in the 1970s was Joseph Agosto. Agosto built the Caravan Inn and Algiers Restaurant on the edge of town in 1972.

A short while later, Agosto was called by a federal grand jury to tell what he knew about the disappearance of some funds from Northwest Guarantee Savings and Loan Association. Later the Internal Revenue Service tapped his banking records, a car carrying his wife and children exploded near Ashland, Ore., (nearly taking their lives), and a car he was driving was shot at as he returned to Yelm one day.

In 1974, the Caravan Algiers complex burned. The state fire marshal said it was arson. Agosto had sold the business a year and a half earlier and opened the “Folies Bergere” show at the Tropicana Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas,

Prior to coming to Yelm, Agosto served a brief term in a federal penitentiary following a 1966 conviction for falsifying housing loan documents in Alaska. The US Justice Department, which says Agosto is an illegal alien wanted in Italy to serve a 10-year prison sentence for bigamy, has been trying to deport Agosto since 1968.

The 9th U.S. Court of Appeals ordered Agosto’s deportation in 1977, but then the U.S. Supreme Court heard his case and in June,1978, by a 7-2 decision, ordered that he be given a new trial. Agosto had last been seen in Yelm about a month before talking about opening a new bowling alley on property he still owned there.

Last May, Agosto was named in a FBI affidavit as a front man in Las Vegas for Kansas City and Chicago Mafia figures.

“Dan Still Remembered” November 27, 1977

Dan Still Remembered

The Daily Olympian November 27, 1977

Yelm- Most towns erect monument to city founders, mayors or other notable community leaders. Not Yelm. It has a monument to a man who came to town as a hobo and left 33 years later as a beloved legend.

Dan Maslowski wasn’t a typical tramp. Nor was he a city founder, but many say he was the top citizen of Yelm. He was a respected and trusted community member. His memory is lodged in the warmest spot of many a heart. Maslowski earned himself a niche as Yelm’s Mr. Clean.

Townsfolk who remember the old hobo have their favorite storied to tell. And all have nothing but good things to say about their old Dan. Some resent him being called a tramp.

The drinking fountain monument is in front of Yelm’s fire hall on Main Street. It reads, “Keep Yelm Clean. In memory of Dan Maslowski-1971.” It was placed there a year or so after old Dan’s death in July of 1971.

Yelm grocer and former state legislator Hal Wolf, and the late Bob Ellis, who once owned Bob’s Tavern, gathered donations for the monument. They sold bumper stickers that read, “Keep Yelm Clean for Dan.” Ellis’ son-in-law Jim Forrester, present owner of Bob’s Tavern, said some people thought the stickers were in referent to Gov. Dan Evans. It became something of a joke to keep people straightened out on the matter.

Ellis and Mel Johnson spent hours installing the fountain monument. “There’s not many tributes in this town and this is the only one on Main Street. Nobody else got into the hearts of people here,” Wolf declared.

Wolf was a young man when Maslowski hit town. He remembers his dad and others liked to buy Maslowski’s breakfast because they were so pleased with the way he kept the town clean. “He read a lot and sometimes gave the impression that he’d once had a formal education,” Wolf recalled.

“Since old Dan died, we’ve had a real problem in trying to keep the town clean. We’ve never solved it. Whenever something needed to be done for the city, Dan would do it. This town hasn’t been the same without him. There aren’t any hobos left today.”

As the story goes, Maslowski left his Wisconsin home at the age of 13 because of family problems. He rode the rails across America until finding Yelm in 1938. He once told Ellis, “The first night I got to Yelm they didn’t throw me in the can. So I just stayed. It was the first place where they didn’t throw me in the can.”

His first night in town, he bummed a handout at the door of Martin Gruber, then co-owner of the Gruber-Docherty Lumber company and later treasurer of Thurston county. But that was the last time he begged for food. After that he swept floors, chopped wood, cut grass, and did scores of other odd jobs about town. In return people gave him meals of maybe some change.

At first he slept in a little house behind Bruber’s, then city hall was his home until Ellis gave him a room in his hotel. In the early 1960’s, Ellis tore down the top story of the hotel and turned the first floor into a tavern and a Laundromat. Maslowski squeezed into a small room between the two.

That’s where he lived until his death except for three months he lived at the McKenna rest home.

As the years went by street cleaning became his forte. “He’d be up at four nearly every morning sweeping the streets whether it was rain, snow, or shine,” recalled Forrester.

“The town has never been as clean since old Dan died. He swept parking lots, porches, sidewalks and not only Main Street but every street in town.”

Others said he could often be seen outside shaking a fist at a horse rider going through town, if the horse dirtied the pavement.

After many years, the city finally put him on the payroll for his cleaning efforts. He got $25 per month.

Forrester said Maslowskit was good at sweeping out Bob’s Tavern until carpet was put in. “He didn’t like carpet because he couldn’t sweep it.”

“There’s not been many in the world that could smoke a cigar like Dan. He was the most contented, leisurely and relaxed smoker. But he had to quit drinking during his last three years because the doctor told him his heart was going band. He obeyed doctor’s orders.”

Mrs. Evelyn Fall, who remarried after the death of her husband Bob Ellis, remembers she and Ellis were newlyweds’ when Maslowski found Yelm. “He stacked wood and picked strawberries for my mom and dad and all the little kids loved him. If everyone was as good as old Dan was, this would be a great world,” she said.

Maslowski was completely trustworthy. The Ellis’s often would send him to the bank with their earnings for the day. It was common to see him talking to himself while working and he loved cats and plants.

He served many a night as town watchman and was especially helpful in that capacity during Yelm Prairie Days in the summers.

City Clerk Roger Eide remembers giving Maslowski free haircuts at his barbershop. “I’d say one on the house and sometimes he’s pay and sometimes he wouldn’t,” Eide said with a grin. “He very seldom would work for anyone who wouldn’t give him a meal. And he’d eat enough for a week.”

Eide wasn’t the only one to mention Maslowski’s appetite. The fact that the old boy could eat is something all comment on.

Mayor Lora B. Coates remembers Maslowski helper her and her husband harvest Christmas trees. “He was certainly a legend. He was as typical a small town character as you could find. But he was part of a vanishing breed.”

Maslowski died of a heart attack July 26, 1971. The town was hut down for the hour of his funeral.

A Daily Olympian story about the funeral hit national and international news wires. Mrs. Frieda Young, of Selkirkshire, Scotland, though she might be related to Maslowski and sent a letter of inquiry to Yelm. Mayor Coates sent all the information she had about Maslowskit to Mrs. Young.

The two corresponded for about a year, and Mrs. Young last wrote that she positively felt she was related to him.

Mrs. Connie Turner is one Yelm resident who still thinks often of old Dan. She visits his resting place in the Yelm cemetery at least once a year. She planted shrubbery on the grave since Maslowski liked “anything growing.” And she still takes care of the grave.

Mrs. Turner says Maslowski reminded her of her own father. So she sort of adopted him as a second father. One New Year’s Eve she got him on the dance floor, despite heavy bets that he wouldn’t. Most of the time he shied away from females.

It’s been said that no one ever captured the heard of Yelm as did Dan Maslowskit. And no one has since.

The Intersection (Where Yelm Ave. intersects the road to Rainier, WA)

Postcards from the mid-seventies depict the intersection of Yelm Ave (east-west) and the road to Rainier (north-south).  Shortly after these photos were taken a tricolor traffic light replaced the “flashing” light.  The post cards were purchased at Pickett’s Drugstore.

Looking east on Yelm Ave. in the seventies. (Courtesy of Ed Bergh)

Entering Yelm from the south in the seventies. (Courtesy of Ed Bergh)

McKenna: The Former Logging Town Which Refused to Die, 1970’s

The Big Lumbering Boom Ended, But Many Residents Decided it Still Was a Good Place to Live

 By Alice Staples

 When the 20th Century was in its teens, the booming little logging town of McKenna, nestled on the Nisqually River 25 miles southwest of Tacoma was a “jumping, jiving community where the lights never went out,” old-timers say.

There were some 50 homes, a big boarding house, a saloon, a school, and the company store and post-office. The closest town was far away by carriage, or early day automobile, and business was good.

It was about the time of the big depression at the turn of the 1930’s that the log supply dwindled. The company found itself deeply in debt. The market slumped. Finally the mill closed and the lights went out.

McKenna should have become a ghost town like Fairfax, nearby where deserted structures, built by the Eatonville Lumber Co. during the logging boom of the early part of the century, became mournful reminders of feverishly busy days. But McKenna didn’t die.

The McKenna Lumber Co. according to the times, should have gone bankrupt. That didn’t happen either, although the company was deeply in debt and hasn’t paid a cent in dividends to its stockholders in 30 years.

Today the town, a well-kept, quiet little community, seems a world away from the hectic, pell-mell bustle of modern-day living. McKenna has a constable and a justice of the peace, but neither has any business to speak of.

The community is off the beaten track and there is no industry and very little business to disturb the peace and quiet. There is a family feeling among the residents. It has been that way since the mill closed. As many as four generations of some original McKenna families now live there.

The men drive 50 to 150 miles to and from their jobs. On weekends they gather on the porch of the old company store to talk, or they go fishing in the Nisqually.

A restaurant, post office, service station and tavern make up the town’s business district–oh yes, and the old lumber company office where Mrs. Virgil Daskam, secretary for the company, has her desk. Once a month Mrs. Daskam makes out the water bills (the company owns the town water system), totals the collections and prepares her report for the company president.

Newman H. (Zeke) Clark, Seattle attorney, says he became president of the McKenna Lumber Co. “by default.” Clark seems to have a “bull by the horns” and he can’t let go.

Clark wants to close the company’s books. He would like to sell the water system to the townspeople, but they like things the way they are, and no one else is in a mood to buy it. He would like to dispose of other company property in the town, but he isn’t sure just which properties they are, and neither is anyone else.

Clark was named vice president of the company some years ago after Horton Cawmont Force, then company president and a close associate, place 100 shares of stock in Clark’s name. He succeeded to the president’s post when Force died.

Now Clark has placed qualifying shares in the name of Harry R. Venables, young Seattle attorney, and has named Venables vice president, just in case the company outlives Clark.

There aren’t any water meters in the town. The residents pay $2.50 a family for the water they use. The system brings in about the enough to pay for collecting the money.

“Operators for an old folks’ home, which occupies the old boarding house, recently dug a well to supply their needs,” Clark said. “Now the home is getting stand-by service from the system for $5 a month. They were paying $20.”

Clark said some families which have occupied homes for many years have neither deeds nor records to show ownership.

“We have one family which has occupied a house for some 20 to 30 years,” said Clark, “and we can’t find any written contract agreement. We think about $900 is owing and they say they will pay it but they don’t.

“They are nice people and they are working. I’ve threatened suit, and that’s as far as I’ve gone,” Clark continued. “The company never has sued anyone, and I would hate to break the chain of events of the past 30 years, but I’d like to get out of business.”

The late W. N. Goodwin, Sr., foreman for the company, remained in McKenna disposing of the company’s holdings and collecting mortgage payments. He took his pay in property because the collections had to go for company debts. Today the company has paid more than 90 percent of about $100,000 it owed when the mill closed.

“Now I can find no commitments or obligations for the balance that creditors say we owe them,” said Clark.

When Goodwin died, with him went much information about the liquidation.

“I think Mr. Goodwin must have kept a lot of the records in his head,” Clark said.

Why didn’t McKenna become a ghost town? Why didn’t the lumber company go out of business? People like the Daskams, the Hulls, the Huttons, the Posts, the Kominskis, the Murvins and the Conicas know.

“The company had a heart,” said one townsman. “When the mill closed the people were given a chance to buy the homes they occupied, and it was pretty much on their own terms. It was depression days, but we weren’t pressed for payments. When the people got work, most of them paid up.”

“This was our home,” said 83-year-old Mrs. C. E. Hull, whose husband went to work for the company in 1912. “McKenna was a good place to live and rear our families. The people here were like one big family, and when one need help the others all pitched in.

“I can remember when there weren’t any jobs and our men folk banded together and cut and sawed firewood. They hauled it to Tacoma and sold it and everybody got along. When some got jobs, they helped those who didn’t have work.”

The town was intended for permanency, according to Alfred Hull, a son of Mrs. C. E. Hull.

“This town was laid out like a city,” said Hull, with its wide streets and large lots. The family-sized homes were well-built and attractively designed. McKenna was built to last.”

Three sons, eight grandchildren and four great grandchildren of Mrs. Hull call McKenna home. The children leave home to attend college, then return to rear their families in McKenna, sometimes driving long distances to work.

“You can’t beat these little towns for a place to live,” said Edward Daskam, Jr., who, with his wife and 2-year-old daughter, Danielle, were visiting over the week-end. “I own a home here, and I’d live here if my work wasn’t so far away.”

Daskam is in construction work in Vancouver.

Natives of McKenna think that at last inflation has hit their town. Prices range upward from $100 for a vacant lot up to $5,000 for a large house. One home has been for sale for $4,500 for a long period.

“Too high,” commented a diner at the Virgil Daskam cafe. “That’s why it hasn’t sold.”

When the mill closed many of the workers were in debt to the company store, but they didn’t “owe their souls” to it. Most of them were given a chance to work out their store bills helping Goodwin tear down the mill, clean up the property and guard the company’s holdings.

“The company was good to us,” said an old-timer. “I remember the time a new store manager put up signs stating that it was mandatory for workers to do all their trading at the store.

“It didn’t last long though,” he continued. “The big boss came to town and ordered the signs taken down.”

The “big boss” was Valentine H. May. He established the town about 1908. It was incorporated in 1914 with George R. Biddle, J. T. Gregory and H. R. Rolland as trustees.

May is remembered as “a man who never married, but one who loved everybody.”

Although they probably haven’t given much though to their holdings in the McKenna Lumber Co. of late years, the major stockholders today live in the eastern part of the United States. The estate of the late William E. Boeing, however, owns 60-1000 shares.