Apples and History – Onalaska, Washington

Everything Apple, Onalaska Apple Harvest Festival, Onalaska, WA

Everything Apple

We love our small town celebrations, and this year we were finally able to hit the Apple Harvest Festival in Onalaska, Washington. Ironically, we always seem to stumble in on extra special celebrations, and this was one of those. Onalaska was celebrating 100 years as a town!

We arrived too late for the parade but in plenty of time for many other activities. There was a community dinner happening in the school gym. $12 for steak or chicken, and it looked like there were plenty of takers.

David was amazed at the size of this "Snake Gourd"! Apple Harvest Festival, Onalaska, WA

David was amazed at the size of this “Snake Gourd”!

Vendor booths lined Carlisle Avenue, the main road in front of the schools. Live music was happening on stage (excellent performers, by the way!) Of course, you know there had to be a booth with all things apple! And of course, that’s where we spent most of our money! Apple butters, apple pies, apple bars, and on and on. This booth was all donation based and the money is going to an orphanage in Mexico.

Redneck Beer Garden, Apple Harvest Festival, Onalaska, WA

Redneck Beer Garden

On down the road was the “food court” and wine and beer tasting. One local “entrepreneur” family set up their own “Redneck Beer Garden.”

Food Court, Apple Harvest Festival, Onalaska, WA

Food Court

Then David and I saw a simple little sign that said, “Onalaska History Room” and had to check it out. And this is where we struck gold!

Carlisle House, Onalaska WA

Carlisle House, Onalaska WA

Walking up the short driveway we were delighted to see a beautiful old house. It turned out to be the “Carlisle House” built in 1915. As we entered the front room which took up the whole front of the house, there was a poster board with old photos on it and around the table. Several older Onalaska citizens were sharing their memories of the town. We started talking to them and they had amazing memories!

Carlisle House when built in 1915, Onalaska WA

Carlisle House when built in 1915

Onalaska was once a company town. The Carlisle family had the lumber mill in town and almost everyone worked there. Kids even worked there in the summer, but when school started, Mr. Carlisle insisted they all get back in school. There was even company “money”. If you took a draw on the 15th of the month, you received company money and could only spend it in the company store, but if you waited until the end of the month you received a check.

Onalaska Lumber Co. Coin

Onalaska Lumber Co. Coin

Other Side of Onalaska Lumber Co. Coin, Onalaska WA

Other Side of Onalaska Lumber Co. Coin

We were treated to stories of old businesses that used to be in Onalaska. One establishment was a pool hall, which also had its own “money” to use within the business.

Pool Hall Coin, Onalaska WA

Pool Hall Coin

It sounded like Onalaska really had everything a person could need and there was little reason to go elsewhere. One gentleman did tell us though, of memories of going into Chehalis once a month. They would leave very early on a Saturday morning, get to Chehalis and get what they needed, then returning home they would have to camp at “Forest” before heading home the next day. (We’re assuming Forest is now somewhere around Napavine as there is a “Forest-Napavine” Road.)

So what happened to the big mill and this company town? Apparently there was a strike many, many years ago and when it was over the company was told they would have to pay back wages. Rather than do that they sold everything and left the area. But the small town persisted and is still known as one of the best towns in the area to raise a family. When we hear that a kid was raised in Onalaska, we know that they are down-to-earth with a good work ethic.

We thoroughly enjoyed the celebration of apples and our impromptu history lesson! Have you ever stumbled onto something unexpected like this at a fair?

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Categories: Festivals, Food, Wine, Cider, Historical, People, Washington | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Apples and History – Onalaska, Washington

  1. Gerald (Jerry) Pudelko

    Just a note .Name “Jerry Pudelko”. I’m 75 years old now and grew up a few miles outside of Onalaska. Because the mill had closed down and burned the town barely lived. In fair degree, the character of life during the depression persisted but quite a lot of timber remained and jippo logging and milling it became a main stay. The Carlisle co. apparently regarded cedar as a garbage tree and huge numbers were left to rot. They became the source of shingle and shakes for roofs. I split a lot of shakes during the winters.
    I attended the grade school starting in 1948. It was a large wooden building and the high school nearby. The Temple sisters taught the 1st and 2nd grades an were old even then. Both had taugnt my father. Many of the buildings from the mill were still in place in the area where the big water tank was/is? located,The picture of the house you show was one of three or four in a row that were, I think, the homes of owner/managers of the mill. Most of the other homes were much more modest.

    We too made trips to Chehalis couple time a year to get supplies and such. Forest was an area on the old highway 99. It was generally identified by a small store that I think was called Throdals?? and a, grange hall where many dances were held. There was a turn off road there that went across the river that lead to my aunt and Uncles farm in the Neuwaukam vally We almost always stopped at the store on the return trip. The road to Napavine is a few mile south of this but Forest was an area more than a place.

    My uncles worked in the mill as young men until it closed. The area where the smoke stack stood was for many years the garbage dump. There were two small grocery stores. One called “Jackas” across from a fire house and next to a service station we called Weavers that burned down some where along the line. Jacka’s had a section of the store converted to a freezer with many small framed cubicles where we could store meat and such. Home freezers were not to be had. The other store was Justice’s where I sold bags of cascara bark that I had pealed and dried.

    My grand parents homesteaded a section near the end of the Kruger rd. My father logged that land up until the early 1950’s and we used several of the old railroad grades from the Carlile logging co as access roads . We lived on the Middle Fork rd. I walked across country all over the property of my grandmother and father. There were no roads and we used old abandoned homesteads as points of reference, like the Flint place or the Peterson place.

    I still recall the names of the people in the area. Some were real characters. Like Harry Gruski and his mother, Mary who lives on an old homestead farm off the end of the Kruger rd. The saved near every catalog and magazine that ever came there way. One room was filled with them. When Mary died the place was stormed in hopes of finding goodies.

    I left in 1957 and later joined the Navy. Following the Navy I started college then graduate school, then a college prof. for 30 years.

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