Killin' time in Cathlamet


October 13, 2022

Karen Bertroch

David Hansen, son of Julia Butler Hansen, in his mother's study.

Last Saturday, I headed to Cathlamet to take Ben dog to the new groomer, Jenna Lefever, who has set up a lovely spa for dogs with new equipment accommodating big dogs. Ben is around one hundred pounds, so I was excited to have someone closer than the pet store in Warrenton. I set up an appointment right away when I learned Ben could get in. My conundrum was what to do while killing the two hour wait till she finished. She had graciously said she wanted to take plenty of time for him to get to know her, so I wondered where to head first.

Since I needed a restroom, Tsuga Gallery seemed a good choice. The ladies there were quite welcoming, so I spent time looking over the art. They were also busy, so I remembered that as I drove into town, I had seen David Hansen's car in the driveway of his mother's house. I heard him in the side yard and said "Hello" over the hedge, and sure enough he recognized my voice.

David and I have known each other for almost 20 years. I often think of him as a brother because we spent so much time together working on the Julia Butler Hansen house back in the early days of the Wahkiakum Community Foundation, which I am sad to say is now defunct. We visited inside by the wood stove, and I learned how his wife Nancy, daughters and granddaughters are doing.

I wish he would hold more open houses with tours and information on both his mother, Julia, and his grandmother, Maude. I know some locals have no idea of what's in the house and who Julia Butler Hansen was. If you'd like to see the house or learn more, you can contact him at (360) 882-5781. He comes almost weekly to work in the yard and set up displays in the house. If you belong to an organization that would like to sponsor a tour, especially during the fall and holidays, please contact him. The house is beautiful with his holiday decorations.

Then, I drove the car to the back of the courthouse and noticed that the "Open" sign was set out at the museum. It had been many years since I had been inside, and being aware of their new set up, I went in the door and there was Frans Eykel. It was so good to see him and have a guided tour from the Secretary/Treasurer of the Museum Board of Directors. Being a lover of history, I was so tickled to see the new display cabinets and hear the story of Fort Lewis donating them. It was fun to walk around and notice how nicely the items were set out so it was easy to see the wonderful treasures there.

We talked about how hard it is to keep museums open because it is sometimes not the first-place folks think of to make donations. The museum was first set up in 1954, then after funds were raised for it, the new museum opened in a new structure in 1959 that held not only the museum, but the Town Library as well. Frans has been on the board for 12 or more years and Secretary/Treasurer for 10 years.

Items have steadily been donated creating a fascinating collection that covers just about anything you might think of. In the past few years, new heating has been installed, as well as new LED lighting which is so bright that you can almost see dust, though I didn't spy any! The annex was added 10 years ago. We talked about operating budgets which most donors aren't too interested in, but keeping a building safe, warm and comfortable means insurance and utilities, plus the often-forgotten things like upkeep, capital improvements and travel. Someone usually has to travel somewhere to a conference or to pickup donations from folks who no longer live close by.

As I left, I admired what was labeled as a "bride's nightgown." I had to stop before I went out the door to take a photo of it because it was so sweet and modest shall I say?

Frans shared that one piece of equipment he would like to add would be one that would digitize the microfiche films donated by Irene Martin with a microfiche reader, too. The films have all the pages of old newspapers. Having them digitized would make it ever so much easier to find, print and share. Irene, thanks as always.

Frans mentioned to me his dream of setting Cathlamet, or even the county, up as a historic district, as Astoria did for their historic area. Wahkiakum County is about as dense a historic area as you'll find west of the eastern and midwest states. Almost every building in "downtown" Cathlamet is historic. You could start the district with the Hansen house and the Bradley house and take it down to the little captain's house by the library, then the Pioneer Church and all the historic homes in the area, add the area with the old sewer ponds that held boat houses in the slough and Judge Strong's property where the museum is now and what a sweet little destination district it would make.

Sometimes we take what we have for granted. I think Cathlamet is one of those gifts of history before our eyes. Even The Spar restaurant is literally beloved by the architects from the State's Historical Society. Ah well, dreams make for fun ideas.

Karen Bertroch

Frans Eykel, Board Member at the Wahkiakum County Museum with military uniforms from his friends.

Upon seeing how time had flown, I had to get going to go pickup Ben and see how he had fared at the new spa. How fun to drive around the Island and revisit places I remembered and wave at folks I knew. As I drove to 258 N. Welcome Slough Rd where the Willow Tree Dog Spa is located, I reminded myself of how taken I was with the whole area when I first saw it in February of 2003. It's still as lovely and impressed me just as much as that first time.

Jenna Lefever is the owner of the Spa which opened in July, 2021. She has a very nice big grooming room, plenty of parking and worked without other dogs to distract or cause Ben anxiety. She told me that when she was bathing him, he just laid down and closed his eyes and enjoyed it. And he was fine with her cutting his nails. What more could I ask? He was proud to show off how beautiful he looked and how soft his fur was and I think it gave him a bit of sauciness, to be honest. Finding Jenna was clearly a win. I will make another appointment in a couple months. In case I needed to pass time while waiting, I had brought a book with me. But that was never needed because I had so much fun seeing old and meeting new friends. Ben and I headed home glad that we both had a successful afternoon.


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