Bickleton is home to hospitality



Ted Escobar

It’s tough to beat Bickleton for small-town charm.

I met some of the nicest people Saturday at the car show. I hadn’t been to Bickleton in 40-50 years.

I remembered the sharp climb from the Yakima Valley floor to the top of the mountains, but I no longer remembered the terrain once over the top.

After a while, I was reminded of Clint Eastwood in “High Plains Drifter.”

But, it was all good. That trip makes for a nice Sunday drive. Pat and I are thinking of going up there to visit the Alder Creek Pioneer Museum.

We have to go soon if we’re going to see it this year. It’s open Friday-Sunday through the end of September.

One display contains photos, information and memorabilia of Bickleton’s contribution to American military history, including the Civil War. It is a wonderful memorial.

The museum is round in shape, and the different spaces for displays are like a piece of cake. Each one contains a time in the community’s history.

According to curator Barbara Clark, the museum was built round in case it ever needs to house the community’s pride and joy — a historic vintage carousel. The 1905 carousel’s superstructure is stored in a building in nearby Cleveland, where the community has its pioneer picnic and rodeo.

The horses are kept in the museum, hanging along the perimeter wall. They are transported to Cleveland for their once a year run at the pioneer picnic.

The museum also has a grand collection of arrow heads from Montana country. They are displayed on loan from the Gordon Buelings of Yakima. There are hundreds of them in about 40 display panels. They were collected by Mrs. Bueling’s deceased parents.

The Buelings are members of the Central Washington Studebaker Club, which organizes and runs the car show as a favor to the community. The show raises funds for the museum.

Before I went up to Bickleton, Barbara Clark told me there would be homemade pies at the Rebekah Lodge building. Indeed, there were, more than 50, of 20 different flavors. Huckleberry was first to sell out.

I wanted some of that pie, but I forgot to take along some cash. Gordon, who was driving me around on a golf cart, stopped at the lone store in town, but he didn’t know if there was an ATM.

“Good morning sir,” the ebullient 35-ish server said. “How can I help you?”

“Are you the owner?”

“No, but I’ll get her for you.”

The owner came out and was just as friendly.

“I’m your ATM,” she seemed to sing. “Buy something, and I’ll give you what you need, or I can just charge you two bucks.”

I was hungry and thirsty, but I didn’t want to spoil the pie. So, I bought a bottle of water and got my 20 bucks.

Gordon and I headed over toward the pies and were confronted by three school girls selling breakfast pastries.

I’m a sucker for kids selling things because I believe strongly in free enterprise. Besides, they had this one glazed donut like a remembered from the old days at Olson’s Bakery in Sunnyside. I took it for a dollar.

One of the girls searched and searched for a $5 bill to go with a $10 and four $1s.

“It’s in your hand,” one of the other girls said.

Slightly befuddled, the girl started to pull the $5 from the four $1s instead of handing me the wad.

Feeling bad for her, I asked what the funds were for, and she said her church. I told her to keep the $9. The smiles on all three girls’ faces made my day.

Earlier, as I drove near the schools entering town, there was a sign that stated Bickleton was established in 1879. I had to wonder why. To my recollection, most valley towns were established around 1900.

My question was answered as I went through the museum with the Buelings.

A volunteer speaking to visitors about Bickleton’s history, mentioned that the highway that goes from Mabton through Bickleton and down to Roosevelt is the original route to the Yakima Valley from the Oregon Trail.

That fact alone makes it imperative for me to meet Bickleton old timer Dick Wilson.

I need to learn more about why Bickleton came into existence, why people decided to go there.

Ruth Hanauer, 81, who’s been baking pies for 16 years for Rebekah Lodge fund-raisers had the current reason. She and her husband John, 80, were looking for a quiet place to live after retiring from jobs in Vancouver.

They found 40 acres in the Bickleton area and built a house. They will celebrate 64 years of marriage in December.

“Nice people here,” Ruth said. “You’ll find humanity here.”

Yes you will.


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