So much has changed about the beautiful area where I was lucky enough to grow up. But parts of it have stayed very close to the same, like the sleepy little town where my grandfather still lives, Clear Lake, Washington, current population 1,002. There is still one tavern, one tiny grocery store, one gas station, the post office, the grade school and the church. And one of my favorite memories from my child hood the local swimming spot on the lake. The entrance has been fixed up, in my day it was a little wooden hut that you passed through and paid your quarter to swim for the day. Now it is a cinderblock building with a fancy sign. I have no idea what the fee for the day is – $5 bucks? But kids still swim in the lake for now, play in the sand and eat popsicle to cool off.
My grandfathers shake mill is still standing, well most of it is still standing, but it is now a small industrial park with a couple of mechanical and welding shops. It doesn’t have the wonderful sweet smell of cedar chips that used to fill the air as you drove by, just the humming of machines. Whenever I smell cedar I always think of my grandfather.
Mr. Parker, the old owner of the Clear Lake Market, has retired now. So all the fresh meat and fish that he either butchered himself or had brought in from local fishermen has been replaced by a little cold bin with a few plastic wrapped packages of ground beef, sad little steaks and some chicken pieces and a huge selection of beer and wine. There are bars on the front windows now too. That makes me sad. I remember my grandparents going on vacation for three weeks each spring and never bothering locking the doors to the place. Now my grandfather locks it up tight and has the neighbor keep an eye on the place when ever he is out of town.
But the tiny grade-school is still there where I attended first grade. It still has a funny two story building with the cafeteria on the first floor and the gym on the second floor. Parents still watch their children play sports or perform in plays and adults still use the basketball court in the evenings to keep fit.
The first home I ever owned is in the town too on School Drive. That house was also the first home my grandparents ever owned as well. There were three other owners and nearly 40 years between us, but still a funny coincidence I think.
Clear Lake still has a volunteer fire department that responds to residence in need for fires, health concerns, car wrecks and other emergencies. Almost every home with an able bodied adult used to have a scanner/radio in their home so they could respond to calls for help. I hope that is still true today.
I had some of the best times of my life in this tiny town; swimming at the lake, Christmas parties filled with gifts and treats, yummy salmon bar-b-q’s on the 4th of July and other family celebrations. I learned to ride a horse, swim, mail my first letter, ride a bike, play cribbage and gin and to mix my first gin and tonic too.
Some of the biggest losses of my life have come here too. The passing of my beloved great-grandmother Kate who taught me to enjoy music and dancing and who always had a little sweet treat for me. My dad passed away at a very young age while I was living in this town. I lost my grandma here too after she and my grandfather moved back to the farm after living by the golf course for nearly 20 years. And not too long ago I lost my sweet uncle who lived here too.
A tiny place with a very big influence on my life. I am so thankful that it is still here and that so many people I love are here still too!
Is there a place that has had a big impact on your life?