History comes to life at Arlington's Pioneer Days

ARLINGTON — Gray skies and drizzling rain couldn’t keep visitors away from Pioneer Hall on Sept. 17, as the Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Museum’s annual “Pioneer Days” attracted a large number of first-time attendees to the event, not only from neighboring Marysville and Everett further south, but also as far away as Moses Lake.

Emma Rose Tanis, 5, came with her mom from Moses Lake to see her grandmother work the old-fashioned spinning wheel, but she wasn’t the only first-time attendee to be roped in by a family connection. Arlington’s Calvin Miller, 6, gave his arms a workout grinding wheat with his grandmother, Renee Miller, who was demonstrating how the wheat-grinder worked, while Calvin’s aunt, Jennifer Richards, showed other children how to churn homemade butter that they could spread on crackers.

“It’s great for kids to be able to see how these things used to be made,” said Calvin’s mother, Amy Miller. “We don’t even think about where butter comes from today, other than the supermarket or the fridge.”

Darrington’s Korbin Bryson, 5, also had a go at grinding wheat during his first “Pioneer Days,” but he much preferred the hands-on demonstration of how to milk a cow, complete with rubber udders under a flat wooden cow. Korbin’s mom, Megan Bryson, was more fascinated by the spinning wheel, since she’d never seen one being operated before.

“I think we realize now how much harder things were back in the day,” Megan Bryson said.

Like Calvin Miller, 7-year-old Everett resident Andrew Hoff found that shake-splitting was his favorite activity at Pioneer Hall.

“I really enjoy working with these little kids,” said Dick Prouty, who helped the children drive the blades through the wood. “I tell them that I’m a great-grandfather, so they have to help me do it. I can start it for them, but they have to finish it. Fortunately, once any kid has hit the blade in once or twice, they’re an expert at splitting shakes,” he laughed.

Prouty wrote each child’s name on their segment of wood, so that they can display their work proudly at home.

“In 100 years, people will be able to look back on their work, just like we’re looking back on what the pioneers did 100 years before,” Prouty said. “There used to be shake mills everywhere around here.”

The Smucker family of Arlington found plenty of activities for their children during their first “Pioneer Days,” as 7-year-old Patrick rode a scooter made from an orange crate with roller-skate wheels, while 5-year-old Eliza cranked some wet clothes through a wringer after having scrubbed them against a glass washboard.

“We’ve only lived here for a year, but we saw this in the newspaper,” said John Smucker, their father. “We’re already very interested in homesteading, so it’s fascinating to see all these old things, and how much work it took simply to survive back then.”

Darrington’s Eliza Davies is 9 years old now, but she’s been attending the “Pioneer Days” for so many years that she was practically able to explain its exhibits to visitors herself.

“When the pioneers wanted water, they couldn’t just turn on the faucet,” said Davies, while wearing a bonnet and apron, and demonstrating how to operate an old-fashioned water pump. “They had to go to the well, dredge up a bucket of water and carry it back to the house. I’ve been coming here since I was 4 years old. I like it. There are lots of fun things to do with my family.”

Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Association President Myrtle Rausch agreed that this year’s “Pioneer Days” saw an above-average turnout from first-time attendees, a trend that she hopes to see continue on into the Pioneer Museum’s 100th anniversary picnic next spring.

“The kids get an idea of what it was like to do chores without machines, when you had to wash your clothes and milk your own cows by hand,” Rausch said. “Even the sewing machines had a trundle that you had to use your feet to run. We’re lucky that adults like seeing all this stuff too.”


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