Kirk Boxleitner/Staff PhotoRay Miller guides Nathan Perry through splitting his own shake shingles from old-growth cedar.

Pioneer Days passes down settlers’ skills, traditions

ARLINGTON — Anthony Phillips is only 12 years old, young enough that even his grandparents weren't old enough to live through the original settlement of the Stillaguamish Valley, but some of the toys at Pioneer Hall were still familiar to him.

ARLINGTON — Anthony Phillips is only 12 years old, young enough that even his grandparents weren’t old enough to live through the original settlement of the Stillaguamish Valley, but some of the toys at Pioneer Hall were still familiar to him.

“They had slingshots, yo-yos and spinning tops, just like we do now,” Phillips said Sept. 17, during the Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Association’s annual Pioneer Days.

The Granite Falls boy deemed all the exhibits “pretty cool,” although he confessed the cookies indoors were his favorite.

Dave Walter and Marty Rausch Jr., son of Pioneer Museum caretaker Marty Rausch Sr., helped Phillips and other kids work up an appetite for snacks by learning how to cut their own firewood with a two-man hand saw.

“This takes teamwork,” Rausch repeated to several children, emphasizing the importance of communication as well.

Phillips had lived in Arlington before, and happened to be visiting local friends that weekend, while Marcy Reneau and her 21-month-old daughter, Ainslee, came from Monroe to attend a relative’s birthday party when they saw the exhibits at Pioneer Hall.

“Today’s her first time milking a cow,” Marcy said of Ainslee, as she squeezed the simulated rubber udders under the wooden cow. “But she’s been back to do this a few times during the day.”

Mount Vernon’s Marie Larson brought her grandchildren to give them a glimpse of a more old-fashioned way of life, with activities “that don’t involve computers.”

Her 7-year-old grandson, Everett Fog, found it a bit harder than he expected to grind wheat.

Inside, Arlington’s Liz Vincenzi and her 8-year-old son, Franklin, received lessons on an antique typewriter from Dorothy Sturgeon, who had to tell the experienced keyboardist that he needed to strike the keys harder and slower than he would on a computer.

“If you type too fast, the keys will jam up,” Sturgeon said. “And back then, you couldn’t just go back if you made a mistake.”

While Franklin was intimidated by the typewriter, Liz expressed fondness for watching laundry being wrung through the vintage hand-cranked washing machine.

“One year, a boy just took off his clothes to run them through the washer here,” Sturgeon said with a laugh.

Lynnwood’s Maksim Ivanov, 6, tried his hand at an even older form of print, carefully drawing out his letters with a fountain pen.

“He likes to learn,” said his mom, Dayna. “I like visiting this area, and I like exposing him to older ways of doing things.”

Outside, Ray Miller guided 11-year-old Nathan Perry of Granite Falls through the process of splitting his own shake shingles.

“A lot of folks, even my age, don’t know much about this anymore,” Miller said. “It’s becoming a lost art.”

Miller recalled when “there must have been more than a hundred shake mills” between Port Angeles and Aberdeen, even as he estimated that less than half a dozen are left now.

Although it’s been more than 60 years since Miller first saw someone demonstrate how to split a shake off a log, he continues to find value in passing on the skill to others, not just for what they gain, but for what he still learns as well.

“You never quit learning,” Miller said.

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