While the air is starting to hold faint traces of autumn, it’s still summer! We have one more week to enjoy barbeques, sandals, and vacations! It’s not too late to go out and find something like this:
This 1950s/early 60s postcard shows a lovely apple orchard with mountains and the Columbia River in the background. The photo was clearly taken from the side of a road, likely a highway. Maybe Alternate Highway 97 through Wenatchee, Entiat, and Chelan?
The back of the card acknowledges Washington’s bustling apple industry.
Today, I’d like to deviate slightly from the blog’s usual content and bring you a look at an image you won’t find anywhere else on the internet. Straight from my great-uncle’s photo album, check out this picture of Lake Wenatchee c. late 1930s!
I believe this specific photo was taken from the shoreline at Lake Wenatchee State Park, with Emerald Island visible on the right side.
Lake Wenatchee (Labeled “Wenatchee Lake” in the photo album) is located 18 miles northwest of Leavenworth off of State Route 207. The glacier-and-snow-fed lake is five miles long and surrounded by private homes, campgrounds, and a 489-acre park. Today, the park is a popular spot for all kinds of outdoor recreation–from fishing to swimming to camping–but this scenic lake has a history rooted in logging and farming.
The area around the lake was originally a resting spot for several tribes who camped, fished, and gathered berries along the shores en route to the coast for trading. in 1811, fur traders visited Chelan County, and by the end of the decade, pioneers settled in the area, clearing thick forests for farms. Logging continued as a major industry around the lake.
It was in this area that a hunter from a local tribe bragged about killing two white men, which many believe triggered the Yakima Indian War (1855-1858).
After North Shore Drive was built along the lake in the early 1920s, Lawrence Dickinson opened a gas station, store, and dance hall near where he lived with his family on Crescent Beach. It proved to be one of the most successful attempts at making Lake Wenatchee a tourist destination.
In the late 1940s and through the 1950s, the Wenatchee YMCA developed a camp on the southern end of the lake that remains in use today.
Although the air may feel brisk and many areas of the country are still getting snow, Spring has officially arrived, and soon will the leaves and the flowers.
Over the next few months, events like the Tulip Festival, Daffodil Parade, and Apple Blossom Festival will celebrate the coming of spring, flowers, and warmth. And Wenatchee and its environs may start looking something like this:
While I love the touristy nature of this 1950s postcard, it’s a memento of the times before the Space Needle and before the wineries when apples and apple tourism were a big deal in Washington state.
Apples first came to what is now Washington in 1826, before the organization of either the Washington or Oregon Territories. By 1889, the year of Washington’s statehood, commercial orchards were planted near rivers and advanced irrigation systems. Apple production continued to increase, and by the end of WWI Washington’s apple industry was booming. However, high production and transport costs as well as cheap (yet lower quality) apples from competitors drove the need for some sort of advertising campaign.
In 1926, Pacific Northwest Boxed Fruit formed to promote Washington apples in major markets around the country. Two years later the Washington Boxed Apple Bureau, but funding was voluntary and uncertain and by 1934, its future looked dim.
March 17th marked the 80th birthday of the Washington Apple Commission, the day Governor Clarence Martin signed into law the Washington State Apple Advertising Commission in hopes of helping an industry that had been hurt by the Depression. Over the next several decades, the commission researched better growing, storing, and shipping methods and developed a strong advertising campaign.
During the 1950s, advertisements praised apples for their nutrition and dental benefits, calling the apple “nature’s toothbrush”, and in 1961 Washington Apples released its first trademarked logo. In tandem with the unveiling of the logo, apple ambassadors traveled across the country to promote Washington State Apples. Throughout the 1960s and beyond, print, radio, and TV ads promoted Washington apples throughout the country. In the 1970s, Washington apples were available worldwide for the first time.
Currently, Washington is the #1 producer of apples in the United States, producing 64% of the nation’s supply.
My uncle remembers seeing a Washington Apples TV ad as a child. He thought they looked so good that he told my grandma, “We should get some of those Washington State Apples!”
Grandma pointed to the orchard outside and said, “What do you think those are?”
If you have 30 minutes to spare, check out this Washington Apples educational film, Appleland, from 1954. Happy spring!
In the 1870s, gold miners in central Washington began using a series of Indian trails to travel across the Wenatchee Mountains and between camps. As interest in the mines grew so did the trails, curving close around the side of the mountain and relying on switchbacks to offset the steepness of the terrain. In 1897, a Geological Survey made a map of the area and named this road “Blewett Pass.”
In 1915, Governor Lister dedicated Sunset Highway, the state’s first safely passable route across the Cascade Mountains. Seven years later, it was re-routed to include Blewett Pass, which was designed as a two-lane dirt-and-gravel road with one-way concrete bridges. The pass was paved in 1925.
Although considered safely passable compared to its wagon trail predecessors, Blewett Pass was hardly a safe road. Built into the hillside, it was narrow and windy, filled with switchbacks, and dotted with “caution” signs. Despite the safety projects carried out by the CCC in the 1930s, by the mid-40s the road was too outdated for modern traffic.
In 1956, a new pass was constructed through Swauk Pass, resulting in the demolition of the town of Blewett. The new road boasted less curves (37 instead of 248), passing lanes, and shoulders. The road, known for years as Blewett Pass Highway, US 97, and Primary State Highway #2, was renamed Swauk Pass Highway.
In 1991, the Department of Transportation changed the Blewett Pass signs to Swauk Pass, sparking a local outrage. While the state and Federal Board of Geographical Names hoped to be geographically accurate, the locals refused to change the nomenclature of their road. The state relented in 1992, and officially changed the name and the signs back to Blewett Pass.
The Old Blewett Pass still exists, and portions of it can be seen from the new pass, Unfortunately, the lack of maintenance and decades of weather have taken their toll and much of the road has fallen into Peshastin Creek. The white center line and rock bridge abutments can still be seen.
The Forest Service maintains a 13-mile stretch of the road that includes Echo Point and the old summit. The road is open to traffic April through September.
I had the chance to travel this stretch of road Monday with my dad, who vaguely remembers traveling over the original pass as a small child. Unfortunately, I forgot to take my postcard along as a reference, but I think I did okay taking a modern-day shot of Echo Point.
There are no more guardrails, and the surrounding flora looks a little different, but it was clear to tell when we had reached Echo Point. “How do you know?” my sister asked me. You just know.
If you park and walk a little bit off of the road, you can get a glimpse of the new road, a tiny look at the Red Top Mountain Lookout, and, of course, miles and miles of trees.
This particular postcard, sent from Cle Elum in 1955, spells Blewett as “Blewitt.” Although sent when the road was considered dangerous and obsolete, the caption tries its best to romanticize the pass. The message, sent to Miss Dessie M. Dunagan in Ferndale, WA, reads as follows:
“Dear Dessie May, I expect you are near home by now. I have been here two weeks: plan to stay until Armistice Day. Ralph will bring me home then. On the 9th we went to a golden wedding at Sunnyside. People they know. It rained hard all day. Heavy traffic in evening. Hunters going out to the (?). Some had deer. One bear. Hope you are well. Bye, Belva.”
Interestingly, the recipient of this postcard was the daughter of James Dunagan, a prominent farmer and mail carrier in Whatcom County. She was a graduate of the Whatcom Normal School (now WWU).