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.

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.