Out of the Past

Eagle File Photo From Dec. 2, 1993: The holiday season got an official start Saturday with the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus, James Moran and Jeanette Walker, during the Christmas Magic Parade hosted by the John Day Merchant's Association.

C. of C. entertains football champions with turkey banquet

A turkey banquet was held in honor of the state “B” championship football team, the Grant Union high school Prospectors and their coach, Tommy Johnson, in conjunction with the regular weekly meeting of the John Day Chamber of Commerce at the Scout hall, Monday evening. Nearly all of the members of the team were present, and there was a total attendance of over 50, including the Chamber members and other visitors to enjoy the sumptuous feast and the program which followed.

The president, W. Glen Chandler, acted as a toastmaster and called upon Mayor W. B. Prophet, A. H. Haberly, superintendent of Grant High, Coach Johnson and others, as well as the senior class football boys for short talks. The boys were highly praised for their remarkable record and especially for their sportsmanlike conduct both on and off the football field. Coach Johnson stated that this was his first state championship team in his 10 years of coaching, and he added, “considering not only playing ability but also sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct, it is the best bunch of boys I have ever had under my supervision.”

Stan Phillips, captain of the Grant team, as well as the other players who spoke, expressed appreciation to the chamber group as well as all businessmen and others from outlying districts who have so generously supported the team this season.

Other guests at the dinner included Wallace Robinson, of the local Forest office, and Walter L. Arkush, field representative of the Federal Security Agency, office of Community Service, Division of Social Protection, with headquarters at San Francisco, California.

John Day valley once boasted apples, honey

Lots of talk these days about Grant County’s resources being mainly undeveloped. The County Chamber of Commerce, Planning Commission, proposed RC&D district, this group and that individual have busily been supporting flood-control projects, better roads, Hall Hill dam, tourist attractions — and the list goes on.

This is not the first time in the history of the John Day Valley that its resources have been widely publicized. But the important resources of the area have changed considerably from those highly acclaimed in a picture-filled booklet published in 1910 by the Commercial Club of Prairie City.

The booklet begins by stating in its foreword: “The attention of the home seeker and the investor is called to the John Day Valley and the country tributary thereto in Grant County, Oregon. It is a farming, fruit growing, stock-raising, timber and mining country. It is sparsely peopled. It is capable of taking care of a large population. The soil is productive, the climate congenial. There are good transportation facilities and a ready market for the products of the soil and the forest. The mines are of untold wealth. Splendid opportunities are offered to men who are willing to engage in any of the varied pursuits, which may be followed. Success has rewarded industry in every instance.”

Success it must have seemed for those growing vegetables and raising orchards — if the booklet is to be believed. The reader is advised that the most profitable business is no doubt the orchard business, especially apple orchards.

“Charles Belshaw,” states the booklet, “30 miles west of Prairie City, has an eight-acre orchard, two-thirds of which is planted to apples. In 1909 he picked 2,500 boxes of apples, including Sptizenburgs, Newton Pippins and other varieties. This year he had five tons of prunes on his trees.”

The booklet goes even further in saying that the soil is right, the elevation is right and the yield immense. No failure recorded. “There is little if any danger from frost.”

What happened this year?

Concerning vegetables: “In no locality in the Northwest do the farmers get better returns from their root crops. Mr. George Bradford of Prairie City raised 60,000 pounds of potatoes on two acres of ground; he sold these at $1.25 per hundred pounds. He gathered a ton of onions from six rows not over 20 feet in length. Cabbage, celery, cauliflower, beets, turnips, squash, melons, peas, beans, tomatoes — in fact, every kind of vegetable crop does well — and it is only necessary to plant to get large returns. Mr. Bradford had 10 cents when he got to Prairie City 14 years ago. He has raised and educated a large family, sold $24,000 worth of property, and has other holdings.”

The glorious reports of the “land of milk and honey” continue. A 620-acre ranch 8 miles southeast of Prairie City had been subdivided by a company into 27 tracts of five to 40 acres each, and sold to a colony of new comers from Ohio who had begun to plant commercial orchards. One orchard on this tract, we are told, brought $700 an acre returns from the apples raised the previous year, and has never been known “to have a failure.”

“Between Dayville and Prairie City there are between 500 and 600 stands of bees.” A certain Mr. Flock reported each stand averaging 50 pounds of honey, some upward to 100 pounds. Honey sold at 15 cents a pound in those days.

Times, climate and ambitions have changed somewhat over the years. The Sumpter Valley Railroad ran to Prairie City then, making it the “Gateway to Vast Interior Oregon.” Prairie City was the leading town in the valley with a population of 500. John Day was described as having “all the advantages usually found in a country town and some additional ones, including a water system and electric lights.” Mt. Vernon was a mere village, and Dayville had a good hotel.

Changes there have been and changes there will be, but the air remains clean and the folks still friendly in the John Day Valley.

Christmas bazaar is set to go!

More than 60 area craftspeople will offer their handmade items for sale Saturday during the Annual Christmas Bazaar sponsored by members of the Blue Mountain Hospital District Auxiliary.

The bazaar will be held at the Trowbridge Pavilion at the Grant County Fairgrounds from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

This year’s Christmas bazaar marks a milestone of sorts — it will be the 20th anniversary for an annual event that has grown to become synonymous with the holiday shopping and gift-giving season in Grant County.

The origin of the auxiliary’s annual fundraising project dates back to 1973 when members opted to stage a flea market at the Alec Gay Hall, and although their first endeavor was largely a success, the flea market concept bombed the following year.

Looking at their strategy, auxiliary members decided to drop the concept of a flea market, and decided instead to concentrate on homemade and handcrafted items.

It was a marriage made in heaven, and as the saying goes, the rest is history.

The annual bazaar soon outgrew the confines of the Alec Gay Hall and moved to the senior center. Soon too large for that location, it moved to the fairgrounds where Saturday it again will offer a wide assortment of items ideal for everyone’s holiday shopping needs.

Also synonymous with the bazaar is the hot, homemade soup and other food offered throughout the day. Santa also will be on hand to talk with youngsters and live music will be played throughout the day. The hospital auxiliary has long been an integral part of the services offered by the hospital and Blue Mountain Nursing Home in Prairie City.

Members volunteer their time and efforts to create and donate items to the hospital and nursing home ranging from items for newborn babies to much-needed equipment for the hospital.

The cornerstone of the auxiliary’s fundraising efforts each season is the Christmas bazaar. It’s grown so much in popularity that a waiting list exists for those hoping to get table space in the pavilion.

Parking and admission are free. The easiest way to reach the fairgrounds and pavilion is to turn north at the stoplight and continue until it ends at the parking lot.

Ho, ho, ho – Stores dress up with holiday sales

The merchants’ mantra this Christmas shopping season is similar on every corner in the community: “Shop local.”

Although the local economy is in a slump this year, store owners remain hopeful for a good holiday turnout and that customers will check out their bargains before heading out of town or online.

“I’m keeping the prices as low as I can because of the economy,” said Canyon Creek Candle Company owner Tina Stearly in John Day.

A new item will be on her store shelves next week.

With the big state football win for Grant Union High School, she’s designed a new State Championship candle to celebrate the event.

A football and cheerleading uniform display celebrating the Prospectors football season can be seen as customers walk through the front door of Mountains Department Store.

Last weekend’s football games — the Prospectors at the state championships, and the annual Civil War between the UO Ducks and the OSU Beavers — had manager Troy Thomas a little worried that local shoppers might be lured to big-city stores when they traveled to catch the games.

“It’s a catch-22 for retailers,” he said.

He says business is down by about 12 percent this year, but he still anticipates a decent season, “even though gas prices are going down.”

One difficulty he’s facing now is a requirement to pay up front for shipments of clothing, instead of having 30 days to pay for them. Because of this he’s ordering in smaller batches.

He’s encouraging shoppers to call ahead to find out when the next shipment comes in.

“It’s first-come, first-served,” he said.

Santa will visit Mountains Dec. 13 to have pictures taken with the children, courtesy of Saul Productions, and there will be Arbonne makeup tips by Debi Mecham of Prairie City — both events are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

New items available this year includes Erin London ladies sports hats and Joey’s Wood Antler décor, and the store will feature made in Oregon baskets again this year.

“If we don’t start shipping local, we’re going to lose our little community,” Thomas said.

Dawn DeGrande, owner of Radio Shack, also hopes people will stay in town to shop. “Pretty much everything in store will be on sale,” she said.

Java Jungle manager Tammy Clark hopes to bring in the Christmas spirit, and customers, with a shop decked out with “stunning” Christmas wreaths designed by local artist Jeanette Hueckman.

“We’re going Jeanette Hueckman crazy this year,” she said.

Christmas decorations, especially outdoor ones, also are a hit at Len’s Drug.

Store manager Mindy Winegar said Len’s is “beating most competitor prices out of town.”

Sherry Dress, the new owner of Naturally Yours, and manager Jennifer Garinger were busily decorating an herb-themed Christmas tree for the Festival of Trees on Friday, Dec. 12.

Dress said the store is gearing up for the holidays with specialty herbs and spices, which she notes are inexpensive, and dried fruits and raw nuts.

Next door at Pebble Creek Apparel, clerk Meredith Thomas said it would help everyone out if people shopped locally.

In addition to a variety of brand-name clothing, the store has local consignments available, including Happy Hippy hats and scarves, Monumental jewelry and unique crocheted slippers by Charlene Hopkins.

Cottage Treasures and Beyond now features all new clothing and menswear, including tuxedo and gown rentals and sales for weddings and proms.

Discount signs were seen throughout the store.

“I think shoppers are shopping price right now, trying to make their dollars stretch,” said co-owner Wayne Wilson.

He and his wife, Tracy, are planning door buster sales and discounts through the Christmas shopping season.

“Shop early,” they said.

In Prairie City, Bar WB clothing store owner Wanda Winegar said she’s mindful of the struggling economy.

“I think the merchants in the county are trying to make things affordable and have the selection that people are looking for,” she said.

This year she has an abundance of winter inventory, including coats and Woolrich blankets. Roper-brand apparel is another sought after gift.

There are lots of gift ideas at Prairie Drug and Hardware, including Polish pottery. Shop owners Mark and Sandy Murray are “optimistic” about the holiday shopping season.

Sandy says they try to create an enjoyable atmosphere for people as they walk in the door.

“With the economy we just try to make it fun,” she noted. “If we can help each other feel good about the day — that’s a beginning.”


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