Oh! So You’re from Orting WA!

It’s a little place, really…Orting that its.  Little, but not without it’s impact on us.

There was Tony Cammarano; during the first World War he started what was to become the Mazza Cheese company when Charles Mazza took it over in 1929. Charles’ son, Louie bought the operation in 1934 and ran it with his son, Edward, and wife, Darlyne, until he retired in 1974.   Though Darlyne took over the reins, she relied heavily on Louie’s assistance until his death in 1977.

In 1963, the company was still in Orting and marketed to the Pacific Coast from California to Alaska.  Enid Bennett worked in the plant then.

In 1989 the company moved to a 95,000 sq. foot plant in Sumner processing 1.2 million pounds of milk and 1 million pounds of whey per day and was featured in a 1990 issue of Food Engineering Magazine, and then, 

Mazza Cheese plant, built in 1989

they disappeared.  In 1991 overwhelming financial difficulties led to Mazza’s sale to Beatrice Cheese which about that time became a property of ConAgra.  Today, the building houses Shining Ocean, Inc., a company specializing in Japanese style seafood products.

There was Casy Carrigan, a 1969 graduate of Orting High School, who was a pole vaulting member of the 1968 U.S. Olympic team in Mexico City.  Unfortunately, he was disqualified when his pole fell forward, breaking the plane of the bar, even though the bar remained in place.  There was an appeal claiming that an assistant actually knocked the pole forward, but the ruling stood.  That rule that was changed the following May.  The event did nothing to blunt the pride in this elite athlete’s accomplishments.

public domain pole vault photo

public domain photo

A self taught vaulter who trained without a coach, at home, in Orting. He began to seriously pursue the sport in 5th grade; his Dad would take 8 mm films of collage vaulters for him to study and his brother Andy got him into weightliftng.  In 2004 he still held the the state high school record of 17′ 4 3/4″, although he cleared 17′ 10 3/4″ when preparing for the ’76 Olympics. Unfortunately, an Achilles tendon injury ended his pole vaulting career.

In 1995 he married his wife, Dione, and by 2004 he was captain of the Long Beach, CA, Fire Dept.

jackie mcmahon

1990 Mrs. Washington USA Pageant – Photo courtesy of Mrs. USA Pageant

In 1986, Jackie McMahon was crowned Miss Washington.  She came from an Orting family; parents Jack and Judy (Wright) McMahon were both Ortng High graduates and Jackie followed in their footsteps.  She graduated cum laude and went on to Seattle Pacific University to study law, then returned to Orting where she maintains a law practice today.

In 1990, Jackie continued her pageant activities; she was in the top 10 competitors of the 1990 Mrs. Washington America pageant.

From food, to athletics, to aesthetics and on to music.

Born to John and Doris Buckingham, in Seattle, WA, in 1923,  Bonnie Buckingham was raised in Redondo Beach, WA, later moving to Auburn.  Around the late ’60’s she lived on an 82 acre ranch outside Orting.

Her Dad, and her uncle Bert were both fiddlers and her brothers took turns playing an old flat-top Gibson Guitar.  They had it to themselves until Bonnie turned thirteen, then passed it on to her.  She stepped up the game competing in local talent shows, winning her first at Seattle’s Rialto Theater.

More talent shows followed; touring the region with a musical review during the depression she honed her skills and developed her talent and by 1942 she took the stage name Bonnie Lane.  She studied with several prominent local pickers, including Paul Tutmarc. By 1943 Tutmac, 27 years older than Bonnie, became not only her instructor, but her husband.  They were together until 1955 and had daughter Paula, (who became a performer in her own right), in 1950.

Working together, Bonnie and Paul were recruited into a country group called the K-6 Wranglers who had a radio show on KVI from 1944-1947.  They played venues like the Eagles Nest Lounge–above the old Eagles Auditorium–and the Silver Dollar Tavern. Bonnie also guested with several orchestra’s; Abe Brashen’s, Wyatt Howard’s and Norm Hoagy’s as examples.

Record deals, concert dates with folks like the Everly Brothers, the Del Vikings, Jerry Lee Lewis and others followed.  Appearances on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch and the Grand Ol’ Opry; even the Ed Sullivan show.  She played with Eddy Arnold, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Marty Robbins…and the list goes on.

At some point she hooked up with record producer Fabor Robinson of Fabor Records.  He convinced her that she needed a more marketable stage name and Bonnie Guitar was born.  Bonnie_GuitarShe was a ground breaker in the industry, moving into numerous positions not previously open to women.  At the same time, recording tunes like; Honeycomb  and That See Me Later Look In 2007 she did an acoustic home video version of Shenandoah along with some friends and daughter, Paula, which includes conversation about playing this song for a special gig at Antoine’s, (now Mama Stortini’s), in Puyallup.

In Orting, she married Mario DiPiano and they raised quarter horses on the ranch outside Orting together, but she never fully left the music scene.  Some time after Mario’s death in 1983 she took a gig in Soap lake, WA and subsequently moved there. She lives there still; she turned 89 on March 25th,  and her music lives on.

510 S Washington Ave., Symbol of the Death of the Farm in Orting WA

510 Washington 2

510 Washington Ave.

I don’t know why I developed a fascination with the Engfer farm; perhaps it was just something about the big red house at 510 S Washington Ave. that stood as a last bastion of a way of life as you entered the City of Orting.  I actually drove past it for years, always wondering who lived there, then if someone still lived there and finally who had lived there.  It wasn’t until June of 2012 that I stopped and really looked around.

As is always the case with me and abandoned houses, (or cars, or trucks, or factories….), I wanted the house to speak to me—to tell me about its history and its people, but it remained mute, so I had to go looking for answers.  I found some.  Enough to paint a small picture.  I never have met a member of the Engfer family nor had the opportunity to talk to them about their history but perhaps I will someday.

Karl Engfer and his wife, Pauline (Arndt) Engfer Came to Orting in about 1903.  Like many of Orting’s residents, they were of German descent, having migrated to the sugar cane fields of Hawaii for work and from there moved on to Orting; lots of work was advertised in Orting and by 1903 there was already a substantial German community there.   They brought with them their children, Karl Jr., Minnie, John, Edith, Dora, Bertha, Margaruite/Margaret, Elizabeth, Ernest, Max and Erna.  They were a busy couple.

The house that has held my attention, as far as I can tell, was established in 1912 by Karl and Pauline, worked, and later leased, by the family.  John took over from the lessees in 1932, presumably with his wife, Margret/Margaruite Deatry.

John and Margaret had four children; Frederick, Minnie, Herman and Martin.  According to the 1940 census, Margaret was 19 years younger than John and they lived with 4 ½ year old Fred.

In an November 2000 article from goodthings.com, I found that Fred, Barbara and their son John were hard at work providing organic produce to the local are and while they weren’t a certified organic operation according to the article, “‘It is going to take a lot to convince me to use pesticides,’ says Fred. He does not like the idea of using poison on his food.”  Apparently it was a great place for lady bugs to live and work.

They sold to Associated Grocers for awhile, but doing so didn’t leave enough to go around for the local clientele, so they gave up AG and focused on the people they knew.

In 2006 Eijiro Kawada wrote, in Tacoma’s New Tribune, that John Engfer and his mother, Barbara,  were growing just enough for themselves and leasing the rest of the land for pumpkin growing.  Fred had passed away in 2003 and they were hoping to keep the place open until their centennial year, 2012.  It didn’t happen.

For awhile, they leased part of the land to Chet Sidu, who came to America from Punjab, India in 1998 to farm.  He grew raspberries there until it appeared the land would be sold in 2008.  The deal didn’t go through, but by that time Mr. Sidu had pulled out all of his irrigation equipment and moved on.

Orting, and many other small towns are hemmed in by the boundaries they agreed to in the Washington Growth Management Act of 1990.  Since they can’t expand outside that area growth comes from paving over farm land.  In the case of the Engfer land and the Gratzner land just north of it, it provides the only space for commercial growth for the city.  Overwhelmed by the proliferation of houses, the City put a moratorium on them.   “They want to see a mix of stores and offices on that land—and the tax revenue that comes with it,” Kawada wrote.

And so, this year, the Engfer place came to an end.  I was able to spend some time photographing what was left of the farm and present a gallery of some of those haunting photos.

Meanwhile, my research continues on Orting, and the Engfer’s, and perhaps some other folks along the way.

Check out more of my photography at Flickr.

Titlow Beach, WA

Titlow Beach is really part of the City of Tacoma, but it stands as a place with its own bit of history; named after Aaron Rosser Titlow, a prominent attorney in Pierce County and the Democratic Prosecuting Attorney for the County from 1897-1898.  Not a native Washingtonian, he was born in Ohio in 1858 to Aaron and Sophia J (Casase) Titlow and arrived in Washington shortly before statehood was granted, Nov. 11, 1889.

You may see Mr. Titlow’s portrait by following the Aaron R. Titlow link.

A man of means, he decided that Washington needed a good resort on the shore of Puget Sound.  To that end, he purchased 200 acres located at the far west end of 6th Avenue, in Tacoma, and built the luxury hotel which he named Hesperides, (nymphs who tend a blissful garden in a far western corner of the world in Greek mythology,) in honor of his young daughters, Lone, Marcella, Constance and S. Lucille.  What the “S.” stood for I have yet to determine, however since Mrs. Titlow’s name was Stella, Stella is as good a guess as any.

Hesperides Luxury Hotel
Used courtesy of Tacoma Metro. Parks

The original three and a half story building cost $50,000 to build, had 30 guest rooms, a formal dining room, billiard room, barber shop and a ladies parlor.  It was constructed so that each room had its own balcony overlooking the picturesque Puget Sound.  And state-of-the-art hot and cold running water; both fresh and salt water according to one source I read.

Supplied with the finest china and silver, columns of Douglas Fir supporting beamed ceilings, the dining room was illuminated by twenty-two Tiffany lanterns and equipped with a brick fireplace at one end.

This was the kind of place where guests might arrive in their Roll Royce’s, their 1917 Locomobile Coupe’s; perhaps a Stutz Bearcat, or a Duesenberg!  And think of how our colloquialisms would have been lacking without the Deusenberg to give us the phrase, “Hey!  Isn’t that a Doozy!”  

Of course lodging was provided nearby for chauffeurs, although with somewhat fewer amenities I’m sure.

To provide the best food for his guests, Titlow added a farm to the property.  Not only was the meat and produce fresh and local, he added ostriches for the entertainment of his guests.

The grounds included a swimming lagoon, which was described as crystal clear.  Apparently it was designed to fill with the high tide, then hold the water so that the sun could warm it for swimming.  By 1938 the clarity was gone – but more of that later.

By the 1920’s the luxury hotel business was waning; the hotel was used During WWI—1914-1918— to house troops.  The Hesperides was closed by the time Mr. Titlow died January 6th of 1923.

The land was acquired by the Metropolitan Parks Dept. In 1926 and the hotel was reopened as the Titlow Beach Lodge in 1928, but the age was over and the hotel never regained its former grandeur.  It closed in 1937

If you go to Titlow Beach now, you’ll see a small lodge, one and a half stories, used as a community center.  Between 1937 and 1941, the WPA was asked to demolish the hotel; the parks dept. felt they could no longer afford to maintain it.  All of the interior decor was

Titlow lodge today

Titlow Lodge Today
Copyright – Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott

auctioned off, but persistent Titlow Beach Improvement Club members protested the removal of the building.  A compromise was reached; the size of the building was reduced to the current one and a half stories. The remaining building was converted to a dining room, kitchen and living quarters for the Parks Superintendent and his family.

I must insert here a thanks to Melissa M. of the Parks Dept. for providing me corrected information.  The original story we had heard was that the top stories were removed because the building was sinking.  She shared information she had found that refuted this theory.  The reduction was about money, not gravity.

Carl Larson lived at the lodge with his wife Geneva and Daughter Betty, (who later became Mrs. Martin).  Carl was the Superintendent in 1945 and held that position until his death in 1955.  Geneva took over the position and held it until 1973.  Betty grew up on the beach and in the park.

For another look at Titlow Beach, take a look at René Fabre’s – Rainmaker –  blog, at Active Rain.

Stone Thing

Copyright – Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott

There’s more to the Titlow Beach story—Mr. Titlow’s personal history, ferries, swimming pool, the Beach Tavern— but we’ll save it for another time.  See more of my photography at Flickr.

Feather and Grass

Copyright – Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott

The Story of the Soldier’s Home Cemetery Orting WA

Copyright – Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott

In my last Orting post I referred to some of the residents of the Orting Soldier’s Home Cemetery, but the cemetery itself has a story to be told; it wasn’t always such a place of peace and refuge. In their 1987 book, Orting Valley Yesterday and Today: Including McMillin and Alderton, authors Mardel Robins, Alice Rushton and Louise Koehler, (writing under the name of Ms. Adventures), presented the saga of the cemetery itself.

Originally, the cemetery was located in the area now used as the baseball field; a nice, flat, area which might appear a perfect location for a cemetery.  Unfortunately, the water table is about two feet below the surface in that spot, which meant that our departed honored military personnel were effectively receiving an aqua-burial.  Many found this to be unacceptable – so much so that residents were choosing to be buried elsewhere.  In the early 1900’s this led to an attempt to move the Home.  Fortunately, two Orting businessmen—J. C. Taylor and James O’Farrell—came to the rescue and arranged to move the burial ground to a new location and in 1905 Paul Koehler became the first person to be buried there.

Mr. O’Farrell bought the land and made the necessary improvements to make it a perfect location.  He effectively became Orting’s first undertaker and owned and maintained the cemetery for the next twenty years.  After twenty years he left Orting and leased the land to a person, or persons, unidentified, who failed to maintain the property and even managed to lose all of the records.  According to Ms. Adventures, “…in a few years, the record states the cemetery was in worse condition than when [O’Farrell] had bought it.”

The town of Orting bought the property in 1937 and began the arduous project of restoring it.  Again, as per Ms. Adventures, “According to Margaret Groff, the Town Clerk of that time, ‘the whole thing was a mess.’”  Because the records were missing, they had no way to verify who had purchased plots or who was buried where.  A map was eventually made by, “two town employees who literally crawled all over the grounds, measuring and getting names from tombstones.”  If you go there today, you will see a well-kept, peaceful resting place.

Copyright – Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott

Hidden and almost lost to view under the growth of trees and vines, mere feet from south side of Orting-Kapowsin Hwy. is an old stone stairway leading up into the cemetery, forgotten it seems, since a newer drive in entrance was built.

Copyright – Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott

Directly across the Orting-Kapowsin Hwy. there is still productive farmland, but it seems to be being devoured by housing developments. How long can it hold out? Time will tell, but my belief is that the developments will win in the end.

Orting, like many other small cities, is bound by Urban Growth Boundaries set as a condition of Pierce County’s 1990 comprehensive plan for growth management, RCW title 36.chapter 70A. As a result, the only expansion of commercial properties within the city must come at the expense of farmland, and much of the productive farmland in the Orting Valley is already under houses and asphalt – with more about to be paved over.

You can see more of my photography at Flickr.

Shifting gears for a moment, I have been looking for blogs and websites about the towns I spotlight to provide a broader perspective and perhaps some fun stuff; when I find them, I’ll post a link.  I recently ran across a blog called Orting Valley Flyers, which is a model airplane group in the area.  

Lunch at Joe’s in Bucoda WA

As promised, I spent Wednesday taking a trip back to Bucoda, just so I could say I ate at Joe’s Place.   Well, that wasn’t the only reason, but I did have a top notch patty melt at that establishment.

Joe’s is unique, it has been owned and operated by the Wall family for the last 115 years.  Currently it is owned by Robert Sr., who drops in daily to make sure things are copacetic, and managed by his daughter-in-law, Judy.

Joe’s Bar
Copyright – Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott

The dining room is in front, with one table and several seats at the counter by the grill.   The remaining area is the bar and it resembles many, time-worn, small town bars throughout the west.

Wanna play pool?
Copyright – Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott

When I walked in at about 12:30, there were two or three guys at the bar who appeared to be regulars.  Of course, in a town this size most anyone there would be a regular.  One in particular appeared to be stationed there for the day; newspaper, bag of candy…even brought his own fly swatter.  A while later a man and what I believe were his sons sat up front and ordered Jumbo Joe Burgers.  Judging from the conversation I heard, these burgers have everything you can think of on them…twice.  A tall, shapely, blond woman with pigtails came in and sat at the counter, but she wasn’t there for the long haul and we were joined by a gentleman who, like myself, had been in town once before some time ago.

After the long drive on a hot day a beer was a must and Joe’s still carries Oly on tap.  Some of you may have been around when Olympia Beer was actually made here, in Olympia…well Tumwater to be absolutely accurate.  Joe’s has perhaps the oldest continuous acct. with the company having maintained their account with Olympia since 1898, even after Pabst took over and moved it away in 1984.

Copyright – Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott

Jean was running the place while I was there, “Mean Jean,” to kids who come in and shoplift.  She ran a mean grill, and, was helpful with some historical insight – she knows a little about the place, she’s been working there for 25 years.   She told me that she’s 80, but I’m not buying it.

The original building that housed the restaurant burned down in 1930, but the original bar was saved. This would be the same bar Joe Wall died behind as he worked.

As per regulations that followed, the current building is concrete.  The pool table shows the wear of many a game, the many fans around the room tell the story of hot days with no air conditioning and the pictures on the wall tell the story of the Joe’s and a bit about Bucoda.

If you’re looking for a spotless new tavern with sparkly everything, don’t bother stopping in, but if you’re passing by with a dry throat or a belly full of hungry, and you want the feel of history around you while you take care of all that, stop in and have a bite and a brew.  I’d recommend the Oly…and leave Jean a good tip.

After lunch, I spent some time driving around town, and it really doesn’t take that much time to drive around town.  Most obvious are the improvements that have been made to the Odd Fellows Hall—now the community center—since I was there four years ago.  Nice to see.

Now the Bucoda Community Center Copyright – Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott

community center side for blog

Looking good!
Copyright – Optical Reflex/ray Elliott

Following Jeans directions, I found the site of the infamous Seatco Prison, now commemorated only by a stone monument and bronze plaque.  I’ve also discovered that I’ve been pronouncing it wrong; it’s not “seat-ko,” it’s “se-AT-ko.”

The mills, the manufacturing, logging, mining—all gone; but the town goes on.

1940 GMC Flatbed at rest
Copyright – Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott

I leave you with a photo of an old-timer from town; I believe this is a 1940 GMC flatbed.  One that’s done some working.

For more of my photography, check out my photostream at Flickr.

Bucoda nee Seatco Intro. WA

I’m not nearly finished with Orting, but I felt the need to take a break and decided to do it with Bucoda.  When I first found the name I pondered over whether it was pronounced, Byou-ko-da, or Boo-ko-da. then someone sent me a note saying it was Buh-ko-da. Recently I found this at the Bucoda website, “During the Regular Town Council Meeting on September 10th The Town Council Adopted a Proclamation for the name BOO-CODA for the month of October.  Wherever possible, within and promotional item, BOO-CODA shall be the Town Name in order to create a branded identification for Bucoda, Washington.” So ends the cogitation on this subject.

Located between Centralia and Tenino on Hwy 507, along the Skookumchuck River in Thurston County, WA, it was named using the first two letters of the names of three of the founders of the city, James. M. Buckley, Samuel Coulter and John D. David.  Not the most imaginative method, but it worked.

Aaron Webster Arrived in 1854 and was the first settler at the site.  He established a small saw mill, Apparently also had a farm which he sold to Oliver Shead. The original name of the town was Seatco, and I’ve found two explanations of how it came to have that name. First, that the Indians gave it the Chinook name which meant, “ghost,” or “devil,” when they saw  Mr. Webster’s saw mill eating up the trees.

According to Indian legend, Seatco is the evil one; demon of the dark forest.  In the form of a large Indian, he robs traps, breaks canoes, steals food and goods and when bodies are found dead without explanation, their deaths are attributed to him.  In short, he is responsible for all unexplained bad things.  I think this explains how they felt about Mr. Webster’s saw mill.

The second. according to Neal Corcoran, one time mayor of the town, is that Oliver Shead chose that name and that it was probably a reflection of Shead’s personality.  More on Mr. Shead and why the name might apply later.

Probably the most documented piece of history relating to this little town is that it was the home of the first Washington Territorial prison.  Seatco prison deserves a whole post, or maybe two, all to itself.  For the moment I will merely say that it was called, ” Hell on earth,” and Mr. Shead figured prominently in its reputation.

Poured concrete Odd Fellows Hall, 2009
copyright-Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott

Bucoda Odd Fellows Hall 2009
Copyright – Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott

I visited Bucoda in 2009 on a whim.  The main building, and the one that caught my eye, was what turned out to be the Odd Fellows Hall; unique in that it is a two-story, poured concrete building. Recently I read that there has been some renovation done to this building, one more thing to check out.

Officially incorporated as Bucoda on June 7th, 1910, this little town has a rich history in the coal, timber and railroad industries and as I further research and photograph it I will post more information about this.

According to an undated newspaper clipping, from an unidentified newspaper languishing in a file at the Tacoma Library, “In its heyday, Bucoda was a town of 400; saw mills, two coal mines, box factory, shingle mill, brickyard, door factory. Town consisted of 2 churches, 3 general stores, drug store, 2 barber shops, 2 pool halls, 5 saloons. Fir Tree Saloon, still standing in ’65, had been converted into a church. Had railroad passenger and freight station. Blacksmith shop. Seatco prison, 60×120 feet, two stories but had been converted to town hall and civic center. Became a liability in 1936 and was torn down.”

The other prominent structure on Main street is Joe’s Place, which advertises good food. Joe’s, it is said, has been in operation since the aforementioned heyday.  I didn’t get the chance to try the food, but I will be making the trip back soon.

Joe’s Place, Main St., Bucoda, WA
Copyright – Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott

As I noted in my first post, not every photo will be on subject, and this one is a favorite of mine that I took a few miles up the road on this trip.  More on Bucoda at some future date.  Meanwhile, if you’d like to see more of my photography, visit my photostream at Flickr.

1948 Dodge Club Coupe at rest
Copyright – Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott


Onward with Orting WA



Entrance to Garfield Hall copyright by Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott


Portico at the entrance to Garfield Hall
copyright Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott

As I wrote my last post, I was wondering about the fate of Garfield Hall.  When I was there in 2008 there was talk of razing the building due to the cost of renovation.  I contacted the Washington Dept. of Veteran’s Affairs and found that the plan is for renovation, however,when that might happen is uncertain; funding has not yet been found for the project.

Among the residents who passed their last days at the Soldier’s Home were: Joseph Marion Gale, who passed away at the age of 77 in 1913.  Mr. Gale, born in Illinois, was a teacher, a newspaper editor and a soldier in two Indian wars and the civil war.   And Isaac Newton Hall, the last living soldier from the Grand Army of the Republic, who passed away in Oct. of 1940, as well as Medal of Honor winner, Sgt. William H. Sickles.

William Sickles        Photograph credit:  Home of Hero’s.com

William H. Sickles was  born Oct, 7, 1844, at Danube, New York, son of George and Eliza Sickles, and brother of Gertrude.  William joined the service at Columbia County, Wisconsin at the age of 16.

According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, while a member of Company B of the 7th Wisconsin Infantry,  he was awarded the Medal of honor after he,  “With a comrade,” Corporal Albert O’Connor , ”attempted capture of a stand of Confederate colors and detachment of 9 Confederates, actually taking prisoner 3 members of the detachment, dispersing the remainder, and recapturing a Union officer who was a prisoner in hands of the detachment, “ at Gravelly Run, VA, March 31 1864. Sgt. Sickles and Corporal O’Connor, also a Medal of Honor recipient, both ended their lives at the Orting Soldier’s home. 

Although I have been unable to determine exactly when, Sgt. Sickles married Jennie E. Craley and they had two sons: Lewis, born in 1869, and Claude, born in 1877.   Jennie died in 1932, Sgt. Sickles outlived his compatriot, Corporal O’Connor,  by ten years, dying September 26, 1938 at age 93.  He was the last remaining Medal of Honor winner of the civil war.  Corporal O’Conner died April 3rd, 1928 and both remain in the Orting Cemetery.

More examples of my photography are available at my Flickr photostream.

Sgt. William H. Sickles copyright Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott

An Outing in Orting WA

Orting – According to the 2011 census, population 8,632.  This little town lies at the base of Mt. Rainier, directly in the path of the lahar that would occur should that venerable mountain decide to erupt.  Yet it has rested there since Frederick E. Eldredge’s town plat was officially incorporated as a town on April 22, 1889.  Discounting the fact that it belonged to the Indians prior to 1854, the land was first owned, by way of donation land claims, by Daniel Varner, Henry and Margaret Whitesell, Thomas Headley, Daniel Lane. George Gunson bought Varner’s claim in 1861.  By 1880 the land had been abandoned and was claimed by Fred Eldredge.

Soldiers home for blog

Orting Soldiers Home, Garfield Hall portico.
Copyright-Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott 2008

There is little left of historical Orting, but there is the Soldier’s Home .  It has served its original purpose for 122 years as of June 25th.  The assumption might be that the home was of Federal origin, but not so.  It was created under Washington State Constitution to provide for Civil War vet’s who had found their way west in search of the opportunities that were so well publicized, truthfully or not.  The provision, “The legislature shall provide by law for the maintenance of a soldiers’ home for honorably discharged Union soldiers, sailors, marines, and members of the state militia, disabled while in the line of duty and who are bona-fide residents of the State,” created the Home which is run by the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs today.  It has been home to vet’s from the Mexican War, Indian War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, both World Wars, Korean War and Viet Nam.  If it isn’t already, I sure it will be providing a home and care for vet’s for our conflicts in the Arab countries as well.

Entrance to the old building,  2008

Old Glory at the Soldier’s Home
Copyright-Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott 2008

Hoc initium est – This is the Beginning



1937 Oldsmobile
Copyright – Opticalreflex/Ray Elliott 2008

My intention is to present stories.  Stories that tell about the places I have been and people I have found interesting, either currently or historically; a little history, a little fun stuff, gossip, legends, people…what ever pops into my head.

Since photography is a passion of mine, some of the stories will be picture stories.  It may be the city hall, or some random bit of abstract stuff I saw while there, or someone I talked to. And so the evolution of this blog begins. The first photo in my header is of some antique cars I found several year ago in a field in Graham, Washington.  The way they were lined up next to each other reminded me of old men, sitting on a porch, reminiscing.

I have a thing for rusty, crusty stuff; it calls to me like it wants to tell me its history. Makes me want to reach back and see who used it; did they have fun?  What was their life like?  Were they good people, have kids, make love, work hard, have an easy life…or a hard one?  No matter how long I stare at them I always feel like the stories are just out of reach, but they never get any closer.

Come along with me and let’s see a few places together.  After this intro. post, the next post will always be the latest I’ve submitted.  Don’t hesitate to look at the older ones!