Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Stehekin We Remember ~ reprinted from the 2008 Stehekin Guidebook

 To introduce you to the history of a special time and place written by our mothers.

 Born in 1919, 1921, and 1926; Irene Myra Buckner, Harriet Olive Buckner (Hobbie) and Elizabeth Joy Buckner (Bucky) were raised on the family ranch in the remote Stehekin Valley at the head of 55 mile-long Lack Chelan. Accessible today only by passenger boat, trail, or float plane, as it was then, the Valley and its year-round residents are still entirely dependent on the daily boat, what they can raise or grow, and their own ingenuity. The lower Valley contains approximately 18 miles of road, with a dead end at each end, and vehicles arrive on the weekly barge.

 The Buckner Ranch began with an existing log cabin and grew to a self-sustaining, productive apple ranch. As you read the reminiscence of Irene, Hobbie, and Bucky, you can’t help but realize the hard work, ingenuity, and great experiences that created these memories and how they are truly a reflection of the many chances of the early 1900’s; oil lamps to electricity, horses and sleighs to cars and trucks, outhouses to indoor plumbing, and much more.
What a special childhood these girls and young woman shared! By the standards of many who don’t know Stehekin, the environment of their childhood may sound like one of hardship and isolation. Quite the opposite was true. Idyllic might be a more appropriate description.

 The Buckner Ranch was a place of family, friendship, and community, and it stills is today. As a self-sufficient homestead, you would think that there was little time for more than hard work. Hard work there was; but a rich quality of life for these young women was the product, not something that was sacrificed.
We hope you will enjoy these thoughtful reminiscence of a unique and special place in our America heritage. Now aGrowing up in a small pioneer community in the remote North Cascades of Washington State, the Buckner sisters led a life most of us can only relate to as something from Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House on the Prairie.

 As the oldest grandchild of the early pioneers, Harry and Olive Buckner and son of Irene, the oldest daughter, it is my privilege, on behalf of my cousin and siblings,  part of the North Cascade National Park Complex, the Buckner Ranch is open to the public for walks through the orchards and in and around the various buildings that remain today. Coupled with this book, you cannot help but relive a part of the lives of the Buckner Girls and the Stehekin Valley.
~Herb Sargo 2007

Chapter One
Home Sweet Home
  We are often asked, “What was it like, growing up in Stehekin?” Since it was the only “growing up” we knew, that’s hard to answer. We assumed our life was just as normal as anyone else’s. So we didn’t have movies to go to or a town to go shopping in or a large number of friends. You don’t miss what you don’t know. We had loving parents and each other and the whole outdoors for a playground.

 We now realize that we don’t know the hardships that are generally attributed to early pioneers and homesteaders. After the W. V. Buckners turned the running of the ranch over the Harry and Olive, we feel sure the expenses and possibly wages were paid by our grandfather, “Daddy Van”. After his death in 1936, the ranch became the sole property and responsibility of our parents. Money was tight and, like many others in those depression years, our father did a lot of worrying, but we always managed what seems in retrospect to have been a reasonably high standard of living.

 The house we grew up in evolved over a period of years, and began its existence as a one room sleeping cabin in about 1913. A year or two later it was doubled in size and become “Frank and Irene’s house”, as our Uncle Frank and his bride lived on the ranch the greater part of the next four years. The new addition was divided into two rooms – in our memory the one to the east was the kitchen and the other, the dining room, although that one may have served as a bedroom at first.

 After Aunt Irene’s death and Daddy’s return from service in World War I, the ranch became his to manage and the house became “our” home. The Cabin (the Buzzard homestead house) was used for several more summers by our Buckner grandparents and as a guesthouse or rental in the years to come.   

Apple Trees at Buckner Homestead

  The original room of the new house became the living room, with a native river rock fireplace on the west wall. On either side of the fireplace was a half-round fir log, with the bark still in place, running from floor to ceiling. Daddy’s hunting rifle was hung on the upper part of the up-valley log, and below it were the big Bowie knife, and the poker. His bow and quiver of arrows hung on the other log, as did the matching bow holder, and Daddy Van’s pistol and sharp –shooter medals. Daddy Van had served as the first sheriff of Kings County, California, 1893 until 1910 and again from 1930 to 1934. The recessed mantel, which ran between the side logs, was also a half-round fir log; cut (and polished) side up. In the center was a seven –day Seth Thomas clock, which struck the hours and half-hours. Every Sunday night it had to be wound with the key, which was kept under the clock. On either side if the fireplace were book shelves, about 4’ wide, floor to ceiling, well stocked with books. Across the room, under a wide window, were more bookshelves and a shelf for the U.S. Weather Bureau barometer. On the down-valley side of the fireplace, in front of the bookshelves, was a table, which held the radio, and beside it was Daddy’s chair. On the up-valley side were two rocking chairs, (the one closest to the door was Mother’s) and behind them was the window seat – an alcove projecting out beyond the front wall of the house with a built-in seat which also served as storage area. It had a hinged top that rose up to reveal all the National Geographic magazines from about 1904 on. We were permitted to sit in Mother and Daddy’s chairs only if they were not in the room. We all knew without question that if they came into the living room to sit down, we immediately gave up their chairs.

  The rock fireplace structure on the outside of the house made a marvelous way for kids to climb up on the roof – which we did with great frequency in winter.

 One of our childhood memories is of sprawling on the rug in front of the fireplace on Monday afternoons when we came home from school. This was when we read the “funny papers” (also know as comic strips) from the Seattle Sunday Times, which had come in the mail on that day’s boat. We also combed the rotogravure section for pictures of our favorite movie stars. Not that we went to the movies, but we could always dream. The rotogravure was a newspaper pictorial section, often 2 or more pages, printed on a rotary press using etched copper cylinders.

 The radio is also a part of our memories, as it was an important part of our lives. Daddy rigged up an aerial that ran clear over to the knoll, which was about 400 yards from the house. We really had a great radio reception – Seattle and Spokane stations, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and even WOAI in San Antonio, Texas. After school every day we would agonize over the trials and tribulations of “Little Orphan Annie” and sometimes “Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy” or “Buck Rogers in the 21st Century A.D. “Little Orphan Annie” was sponsored by Ovaltine, and there were all sorts of things just to be had by sending in one of the tinfoil seals from the top of the Ovaltine can. We got a can of Ovaltine and immediately sent off for a “Little Orphan Annie” shaker or mug or something, which eventually came and almost lived up to expectations. But we all hated Ovaltine, so one prize was all we ever got. For all we know, the can of Ovaltine is still up in one of the cupboards somewhere.

 Daddy always listened to one or more news broadcasts, and in the evenings there were a number of entertaining programs, mostly comedy, but a few verging on soap opera. (“Myrt and Marge” was one of the latter). “Amos and Andy” were hilarious, as were “Lum and Abner” – both 15-minute programs, daily. The weekly ones were half an hour, and involved many husband-wife teams. Foremost among these were George Burns and Gracie Allen, Jack Benny and Mary Livingston, and Fred Allen and the Portland Hoffa. Then there were “Fibber McGee and Molly”, who contributed humor which still crops up once in a while. Fibber would come up with something which he considered exceedingly funny and would go off into gales of laughter until Molly brought him back to earth with, “Tain’t funny, McGee”. Or he would open the closet door, and sound effects would paint the graphic picture of a multitude of stuff falling out, and “Fibber McGee’s closet” is still a very descriptive phrase.

View of Buckner Ranch from the Rainbow Loop Trail

 Two other weekly programs which we girls never missed were the Bing Crosby Show, and the Hit Parade. Sunday afternoon programs in the winter were some of our favorites, as we got older. “One Man’s Family”, “Grand Hotel”, and “Little Theater Off Times Square” offered stories in the same setting or with the same people every week but each one complete in itself. Sometimes when we were very young, Daddy and Mother used to listen to tales of Foo Man Chu which were scary in the extreme, and sent us to bed in a state of terror.

  Our very first radio was an Atwater-Kent with earphones. You had to be wearing the earphones to hear the radio so obviously we girls never listened to that one, but Daddy and sometimes Mother did. There were actually two sets of earphones, and one of Irene’s early memories is of inadvertently unplugging one set with her foot as she walked – or ran – by when Daddy and Grandfather were intently listening to something. It was Grandfather’s set that she unplugged; it made a horrible squawking noise and he was not happy. We soon acquired a more advanced radio, however, that everyone could listen to. But Daddy had principal control of the set even then. (Forerunner of today’s TV remote?) We all remember his listening to the baseball games in the summer – the Seattle Rainier’s, broadcast by Leo Lassen, on one of the Seattle stations. He would simultaneously read Times Magazine, and doze after a hard day’s work – but could always tell the score accurately even though he’d been asleep for ten minutes or so. In the winter he often ate peanuts in the evening while reading and listening to the radio, and the hearth in front of the fireplace would be covered with shells that didn’t quite make it into the fire.

 Back to the house – the next addition (in the early twenties) was Mother and Daddy’s bedroom, which extended the west of the main house, forming and ell. For a time, the girls also slept in this commodious room. It’s possible that the bathroom was added at the same time as the bedroom, as there was a door into the bathroom from both the dining room and the bedroom. That area was originally part of the old back porch which ran across the entire width of the building. This bathroom had no running water, but did have a bathtub and a toilet – water being carried to both fixtures from the pump in the kitchen in large bailed kettles, which could be heated on the stove for bathing purposes. There was no washbasin, and we always washed our hands and faces (and combed our hair) at the kitchen sink. Only after the advent of electricity and electric pump on the well did we become fully modernized, with running water and the installation of a washbasin in the bathroom.

 About 1930, Daddy did a major addition to the house, building a new kitchen and big bedroom and closet for us girls – the first extending to the east, and the other to the south, thus turning the ell into a cross. At the same time he removed the wall that separated the old dining room and kitchen, making one large room of it. This was necessary, as where could we keep the pool table, if not in the dining room? The phonograph (and later, the jute box) also lived in the dining room.
(Printed with the permission of the authors.)

Hobbie and Bucky June 2016