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.
Whooo doesn’t love ice cream? And whooo doesn’t love sundaes, floats, and concoctions with names like “cherry phosphate” and “egg cream”? Whoo has fond memories of Owl Drug in Wenatchee, Washington?
The history of Wenatchee’s Owl Drug predates the formation of Chelan County. In 1894, only a year after the incorporation of Wenatchee, Owl Drug opened in the city’s downtown. Business boomed, and despite times of economic difficulty, Owl Drug persevered and prospered. A soda fountain was added to the pharmacy in 1926.
In 2001, after 107 years of business, Owl Drug fell victim to economic hardship and closed. The soda fountain remained open under the name “The Owl”, selling sweet treats and gifts. After a year of no economic improvement, The Owl’s owner decided to close permanently and liquidate all assets.
Customers and staff alike were saddened by the loss of their beloved landmark. Pam Higgins, who started working at the Owl soda fountain in 1971, didn’t want to see Wenatchee’s only soda fountain sold piece-by-piece, so she and her husband, Frank, bought it. At first they had no idea what to do with it, but at the suggestion of local business owners, they moved everything two blocks north to the Commercial Building.
Now located at 25 N Wenatchee Ave, the counter, cabinets, stools, equipment, and Hamilton Beach mixers were all purchased from the original Owl. Pam and Frank also bought the pharmacy’s original cash register and 1926 Toledo Scale Company scale. These scales are said to be the most accurate scales in existence, and this particular scale was borrowed for military use during WWII. It was shipped to Moses Lake, Washington and used to weigh soldiers before they were sent out for duty.
The Owl is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30am to 6pm, and on Sunday from 12pm-5pm.
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!