Down Bald Hill Road to Elbow Lake and Moonshine Valley (June 21, 1964)

Down Bald Hill Road to Elbow Lake and Moonshine Valley

(Tacoma News Tribune and Sunday Ledger   June 21, 1964)

(Author’s note:  This article on the Bald Hills was part of series articles written for the Ledger which detailed interesting day trips for it readers.  The other two articles from four decades earlier provide an explanation for why an area in the Bald Hills was known as Moonshine Valley.)

FOUR CORNERS, Thurston County — Follow the Bald Hill Road to Elbow Lake, where true-blue Washingtonians laughingly camp in the rain . . . and on to Moonshine Valley, a hollow of enchantment beside the Deschutes River and once a haven for nudists.

Moonshine Valley owes its name to a thirstier, rugged era when homemade stills flourished on creeks and springs back in the tall firs and the wild brush. Later it was promoted as a spa for naked sun-worshippers, who collected from all over the country (some arriving by airplane on a private field) to convene in the raw.

But now some 130 acres of romantic Moonshine Valley are converted into a family resort, for weekend and summer pursuit of outdoor recreation. And it well could become a Palm Springs of the Northwest.

The Bald Hills are south of Tacoma, by way of Roy and McKenna, and the country is blessed with famous fishing lakes … such as Clear, known the state over for its plentiful trout, and Lawrence, which opened for the season this morning after a poison treatment restocking by the Game Department.

And the best sources of information, advice, history and what the future holds for this “last frontier” is philosopher-grocer Tom McMonigle . . . proprietor of the Four Corners General Store.

The most popular item in the store is free … a three – page Mimeographed map showing the routes to the many attractions of the Bald Hills. Tom said local teen-agers produced the map for him . . . and he estimates that already this year he has handed out 10,000 copies. (If this is hard to believe, don’t forget that the Game Department reported more than 10,000 fishermen hit Clear Lake the day it opened in April.)

A native of the area, Tom frankly admits he makes his living from the users of the lake resorts . . . and that the rains of tune are an economic menace and that his disposition is a weather vane, cloudy or sunny, depending on the complexion of the sky over his beloved home country.

The day of our visit was excessively wet. But the grocer, sensing a return of the sun, treated us with only respect and courtesy, We’ll say right here that Tom McMonigle puts out the best free map to be found at Four Corners.

And we ventured forth down the rainy road . . . met a 13-year-old capitalist. Young Ken Bean raises worms, sells them to fishermen and puts the money away for a college education. He is an orderly, determined captain of industry, who covers his worm bins with straw in the winter . . . and stands guard spring and summer against marauding birds.

He entered the worm business three years ago. Last season he had terrific competition. But he expanded his inventory to include red gold worms imported from Texas and which turn different colors under water, proving irresistible to finny creatures.

Ken has taken in his sister, Barbara, 11, as a partner.

Last spring their mother, Mrs. M. W. Bean, promised them $10 each if they could earn $100 apiece from their worms. She had to pay up. And Ken’s money went into a fund for the time he enters college to become a mathematician or a doctor.

The future Dr. Bean uses two front-yard signs to attract customers. If he is at home, his signs reads: “Honk horn for service.”

But if he is away for any reason, he relies on an honor system . . . and his sign announces: ”Self Service Worms—20 cents a dozen.”

Waiting for the Mail

Our first report on the good bass, crappie and perch fishing to be enjoyed’ at Elbow Lake came from two freckle-faced boys on bicycles. Brothers Pete and Roy Ehrlich, 13 and 11, were waiting for the mailman to arrive at their box on the Bald Hill Road.

“You can get about 18-inch bass out of Elbow,” Pete informed me.

They would have told us more, except that the mailman—a woman—suddenly appeared . . . and they were fast on their way home with the day’s delivery.

We turned off to Elbow Lake on the Piesner Road . . . near two old school buildings no longer in use . . . with broken windows and grass growing out of the roof shingles . . . the grounds haunted with ghostly figures playing hopscotch and kickball.

And we reached the lake by a meandering route and strict adherence to the several signs . . . and we could see fishermen in yellow slickers out on a raft. We were at Elbow Lake Park, a public recreation area provided by the Weyehaeuser Co.

Soon we were sipping coffee at a camp site occupied by two Tacoma families. They were there with tents and badminton equipment and spears for hunting long-legged frogs at night . . . and their own recipe for fun in a leaky outdoors.

The husbands—Don Lemon and Harold Greenwood — had gone fishing, hopeful of repeating their previous day’s success. The wives had the coffee pot on. Several boys were in a car, playing cards.

“There’s a technique to camping in the rain,” Mrs. Lemon confided. “You go to the library and get a stack of books like this’—she moved her hands far apart—”and you wear the latest from Dior, rubber boots, old riding clothes, you know.”

And Mrs. Greenwood chimed in: “Our tent smells like I don’t know what . . . Wet tennis shoes, I guess.”

Hypnotizing Frogs Mike Lemon, 17, explained how frogs are hunted for the legs that many people relish as a delicacy. A strong light is worn on a head band and focused on the frogs … which become hypnotized and are easy targets for long, three-pronged spears.

Despite the steady drizzle, Mrs. Lemon urged Don to set up the badminton net.

It was a magnificent display of the tenacity of the female spirit. We were ashamed for every complaint we had ever voiced about the blankety-blank weather.

We intend to travel up the Bald Hill Road again—under a blazing sun. But we don’t expect to find Moonshine Valley any more peaceful and hauntingly beautiful than it appeared with gem-like raindrops on the green slopes and in the branches of fir and cedar and spruce. Bob Thurston and Mike Johnson are the developers of the valley, nestled between Clear Lake and Deschutes Falls. When the property was a nudist colony a fence blocked the passage of unwelcome visitors

Now there are signs everywhere, pointing the way to Moonshine Valley, newly opened as a conventional resort . . . with a stone swimming pool . . . cabins and tent sites . . . a hall for snacks and dancing . . . and access to fishing in the river.

Thurston calls the Bald Hills country a “last frontier.” He and Johnson are betting on the increased leisure time of the workingman and on Tacomans’ and Seattleites’ great zest for the outdoors.

They have many definite plans and many sketchy dreams.

Yelm: 1930

Yelm:  1930

 Isabel M. Campbell  Box 445 Olympia, Wash.

 American Guide – Cities of Washington

 Yelm Pop:  384

Name:  A post office and town whose site was named by the Nisqually Indians and used by the Puget Sound Agricultural Company as early as 1849 to designate a farm site,and herdsman’s station located there.’

Geography:  Situated in the south east part of the county, elevation 550 ft.) lat. 46 57 longitude 122.56} 18 miles southeast of Olympia in the center of the Yelm I i irrigation District in an open fertile valley irrigated by the glacial waters of the Nisqually River.

History:  The James Longmire family, pioneers most closely associated with the bringing civilization to this section, set out from their Indiana home in March 1855for the west and arrived some weeks later. Receiving notice from the Hudson’s Bay Company not to Settle on land north of the Nisqually river, they accordingly crossed this river to Yelm Prairie and buying a house from one of their three white neighbors located near as was a large Indian encampment, they settled there “where tall grass grew rank and herds of deer wandered leisurely as cattle in the pastures at home,” acquiring a donation lard claim the following winter.

Government: Yelm is a Corporation with the Yelm Irrigation District a municipality of itself governed by a board of directors elected by the property owners of the district.

Transportation: Yelm is situated on the NP, GN, and O-WR & N railroads and Yelm-Rainier road.  Bus transportation is available daily out of Tacoma by private line known as the  Yelm-Rainier Stage Company. The Railway Express Agency Inc. is also located here.

Accommodations: The town is well built and adequately, supplied with a smart business section dating back to the time when this was the outfitting center and starting point for those attempting to scale Mt. Rainier, the Yelm Hotel, Puget Sound Power and Light Co., Yelm Realty, post office, Yelm Telephone Co., Olympia Federal Savings and Loan bank, good general stores, drugstore and sanitary meat market are among the business houses in the shopping district.

Clubs: The Grange, Odd Fellows, Masons, and American Legion number among the organizations contributing to the community’s fraternal and social activities together with such service clubs as the Yelm Commercial Club.

Points of Interest:  Happy in the distinction of being the blackcap center of Washington’s Pacific Coast, this valley, once the site of Ft. Stevens during the Indian uprising 1854-1856, is irrigated over several thousand acres and is Thurston county’s one irrigation project.  Here by a system comprised, of many miles of canal, the silt laden waters of’ the glacial Nisqually are conveyed to the high point of every subdivision in the district where berry growing is the chief enterprise and a rare quality and heavy tonnage results.  To the northeast is the Nisqually Indian Reservation.

Industry:  While the berry industry is the chief enterprise in the Yelm Irrigation District, it is surrounded by timber affording lumber and logging operations. A pickle factory, dairy products plant and berry receiving stations are also located at Yelm.

Education:  The accredited high school numbering 177 students and 8 teachers is one of, the leading schools in the county. In the matter of elementary education, as well, Yelm rates high, with its good grade school and 13 teachers. Large comfortable busses convey students living at a distance.

 Churches: Yelm supports three churches and a fourth Catholic, within two miles the town.

Social:  The Yelm Garden Club is of active interest, and in the Social Hall located in the M. E. Church, the annual flower show, strawberry festival and many other events including the annual flower show many other events including piano recitals etc. take place. Dances are weekly events, in the Odd Fellows Hall and Grange Hall being popular.

Hunting and Fishing:  Abundant small game in. season to delight the hunter, and from the numerous lakes close by, or from the rushing Nisqually river, Deschutes and Skookumchuck rivers within short miles of the town, the fisherman may count on lively sport.

 

‘Wild Man” Captured and Sent to Asylum December 6, 1906

‘Wild Man” Captured and Sent to Asylum

(Olympia Daily Recorder  December 6, 1906)

Captured in the woods near Yelm, where he has been acting the part of a traditional wild man, Harvey Dusenbery was today committed to the Western Washington hospital at Fort Steilacoom by Judge Linn. Dusenbery gave his home as Provo City, Utah.  He has been in the vicinity of Yelm for about a week but defied capture until yesterday when J. F. Rice ran him down and after a struggle succeeded in overpowering him.  The insane man threw Rice completely over his head during the struggle.  He was brought to the city by Rice and Walter Longmire, The demented man was but scantily clothed and had been sleeping out of door without covering.

Campbell Quickly Captured May 23, 1902

Campbell Quickly Captured

 (Morning Olympian  May 23, 1902)

Insane Man Never Came to Olympia But Turned Off at Woodland—Offered No Resistance.

The escaped insane man, R. D. Campbell, who was thought to have made a visit to Olympia, was captured by the wardens of the asylum on the Northern’ Pacific main line between Yelm and Tacoma. Campbell never came to this city at all. After reaching Woodland he left the line of the railway and followed the wagon road to Yelm, He paused tliat place during the evening and turned back towards Tacoma. Supt. Parks, at Steilacoom, was notified of the direction the demented man had taken and the wardens easily found him yesterday morning. The wardens who were here were notified by telephone of the capture and left immediately for Steilacoom.

The Olympian was in error yesterday in giving tae unfortunate man’s name as M. E. Campbell. A gentleman by that name is secretary of-the John D. Campbell & Co. spice mills in Tacoma, with which concern the demented man has been associated. Evening paper please copy again.

[Escaped Asylum Inmate May 22, 1902

[untitled]

  (Washington Daily Record  May 22, 1902)

Chief Savidge this morning received from Yelm stating that a man answering the description of  M. Campbell, the patient who escaped from the asylum at Steilacoom Tuesday night, was seen in that town this morning.  He is said to have had a handkerchief wrapped around his hand and was hastening east, probably to Tacoma.  The three attendants from the asylum who were sent here to search for the man left this morning, two returning to the asylum and the other going to Yelm.”

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 is Becoming Commercial Center Growth January 30, 2002

Yelm is Becoming Commercial  Center  Growth:  New Businesses From Surrounding area in North Thurston County

By Cecilia Nguyen  The News Tribune   January 30, 2002

Rural Yelm is acquiring some big-city amenities Yelm is at the center of much of the commercial and retail development in North Thurston County, with the construction of a Safeway grocery store, Rite Aid pharmacy and movie theater in the past five years.

Most recently, Starbucks opened a coffee shop off Yelm Avenue, the city’s main commercial and retail street.

Yelm is becoming the commercial hub for a lot of the rural communities in this area Yelm city administrator Shelley Badger said, “The big reason for the growth is because our location. We are the center of a very large rural area.”

Retailers who once traditionally looked retail centers in Olympia and Tacoma quickly realizing Yelm’s potential. In 1999, the Yelm Cinemas’ developers performed an area market study.

It identified a far larger consumer base than just Yelm’s 3,289 residents.  The study estimated 65,000 people within a 15-mile radius, 640,000 people within a 25-mile radius.

“What surprised us was the numbers were so high,” Yelm Cinemas spokesman John Thompson said.

Since the movie theater’s opening in December 2000, attendance has exceeded market study expectations, Thompson added.

“This is a growing area with an expanding economic base,” Thompson said. “Other businesses are starting to figure out that Yelm might be the place to locate.”

The additional tax revenue funded most of the city’s essential services last year, Yelm officials say.

In 2001, Yelm residents paid the city $555,000 in property taxes.  That same year, the city collected $727,000 in sales tax revenue and $480,000 from the business and occupation tax.

Sales and B&O taxes provide more than half- $1.2 million – of the city’s $2.3 million operating general fund budget, Badger said.

Badger commended past elected officials and the current City Council for their realistic planning approaches and foresight.

Officials prepared Yelm for the impending developments by upgrading the city’s infrastructure, such as increasing its wastewater treatment capacity, she added.

Yelm also continues to work on gaining more water rights and improving its systems to accommodate growth.

The next task for city officials, Badger said, is to address Yelm’s growing traffic problems.

The council is searching for a solution to address the high volume of vehicles that drive along Yelm Avenue, which turns into Highway 510. Constructing an alternate route to

bypass Yelm Avenue is one option, officials say.

 

Badger speculates as Yelm’s commercial core expands, more shoppers will discover they can accomplish most of their shopping locally.

“People used to have to drive to Olympia or Tacoma to get what they needed,” Badger said. “The choices are increasing here.”

City officials acknowledge hearing residents voice their fears that Yelm’s small-town atmosphere could diminish with added economic development. No formal anti-growth movement has formed so far.

“From time to time we hear people say, ‘It’s not like what it used to be Badger said. “But we also hear positive comments saying, ‘It’s nice to be able attend a movie and shop in town.'”

And Thompson believes Yelm’s close proximity to the smaller Thurston County communities meant the city was destined to grow.

“Yelm’s growth was inevitable -whether we wanted it or not,” Thompson said. “It’s just a matter of whether it was planned growth.”

 

 

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.