ARLINGTON — The Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Hall and Museum welcomed visitors to celebrate the return of their annual “Pioneer Days” on Saturday, Sept. 21.
While the hands-on activities and artifacts drew attendees of all ages, what amused many parents and grandparents was how quickly their kids and grandkids took part in interactive demonstrations that the older folks had performed as chores when they were children themselves.
“I was born and raised in North Dakota, so I wanted my grandkids to see the kinds of things I grew up with,” said Adrian Doll, who was joined by his wife Kay and their two grandchildren, Shaelyn and Gregory. “These displays are really authentic. I’d like to see this knowledge kept alive for generations down the road. It’s part of our cultural heritage. I’m Russian-German, so I’ve met with a few folks here who share my heritage, but our grandkids are African-American, so it’s neat to show them what we came from. It’s all a big melting pot.”
“The curling irons were really cool,” said Shaelyn Doll, 13, as she and grandma Kay watched Bette Van Ausdal demonstrate how to use a leather-punch. “I’d never seen curling irons like those before. I think it’d take a long time to do your hair.”
“All the kids are really surprised at everything kids had to do in the old days, and glad they don’t have to do it themselves,” laughed Renee Miller, who’s accompanied her daughter, Jennifer Richards, in guiding children through grinding wheat and churning butter for the last three years of Pioneer Days. “They’re amazed that they put grain in and flour comes out, and that it doesn’t just come from the grocery store. They gave me more wheat this year, because I ran out last year from so many kids wanting to grind their own.”
“I like to see them trying out fresh butter,” said Richards, who spread the children’s hand-churned butter on crackers so they could taste it for themselves. “If they decide it tastes better, hopefully they’ll want to create some of their own at home. They get a real sense of how easy they have it now.”
Wes Shaw, who brought his grandchildren Easton Shaw and Ty Kolling to the Pioneer Days for the first time this year, was impressed with just about everything on display.
“This is really outstanding,” Wes Shaw said, as Ty watched his cousin Easton using his foot to manually pump a 19th-century treadle sewing machine. “It’s all hands-on stuff, and you can just tell that the kids love it. I don’t think they realized how much work went into everything, back when we didn’t have electricity. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sewing machine this old.”
While Dezarae McKinney is a mom rather than a grandparent, she’s enough of a history buff to want to pass on that interest to her daughter.
“We hadn’t come before because the kids weren’t old enough to appreciate it yet,” said McKinney, who was joined by her two nephews and their grandmother as well. “It’s really neat to see how things used to be, so long ago, in people’s day-to-day lives, and how that’s changed over time. I’ve been looking to get my daughter into this sort of stuff, and so far, she really seems to like it.”
While Harley Robb encouraged youngsters like Kimberly Rodriguez to help him saw wood, Dick Prouty marked what he guessed to be his 10th year of splitting shake shingles with kids at Pioneer Days.
“The one year, I had to take a break from it because I’d broken my arm before,” said Prouty, in between writing children’s names on the shakes that they split under his direction. “I’ve been using up the shake bolts on my farm since 1973, and I only have about 10 left now, but that should get us through another four or five years here. What I’ve learned from working with so many kids is that, while one or two might actually be bad, most of them are just fine.”
“Our ‘Pioneer Days’ festival is a terrific opportunity to experience the rich heritage of the Arlington area with superb examples of early homesteaders,” said Myrtle Rausch, president of the Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Association.
The Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Hall and Museum are located at 20722 67th Ave. NE in Arlington. For more information, call 360-435-7289 or log onto www.stillymuseum.org.