For Don Olin, Entiat has been a good place to be for 78 years now. His parents John and Susan Olin moved there from Wenatchee after his dad left his job with the Daily World newspaper to join his relatives in operating a 70-acre apple orchard they had acquired on the north end of town.
I talked with Don in 2012 at his home about his experiences growing up and living in Entiat — times that shaped him and the community he calls home. Excerpts from that interview, transcribed by Marlena La Paz, follow.
Like many Entiat families in the years following the Depression, it was shared responsibility and teamwork that made the Olin family orchard enterprise work.
“My grandfather operated the orchard,” Don said, while his grandmother ran the apple-packing shed where “all the family had to work.”
Some of Don’s earliest jobs included cutting apple wood for his mother’s cook stove and delivering apples to the packing shed.
“I was 10 years old when I was driving the tractors up in the orchards,” he said. “Everything was built so it couldn’t go very fast.”
The tractors, or “puddle-hops,” were specially-crafted by the machine shop in town. They were made to cross the irrigation ditches slowly “so you didn’t bounce the boxes of fruit off the trailer,” he said.
Additional help was needed at harvest time, Don pointed out.
“People came to work for us every year,” he remembered of the pickers who became family friends. “They’d come here in the fall and pick and then go home.
“They came from Idaho and Arkansas — everywhere,” he said.
They stayed in cabins “that were just like our house,” he said. He described the structures as “tongue-and-groove on the outside and paper on the inside for insulation.”
Water used to cook and to wash away the dust that blew through the walls of what he called their “flatboard shack” came from a hand pump out in the yard.
The hard work that drove the rhythm of life in Entiat in the 1940s was punctuated with many good times too, Don noted. On really hot days, he and his friends “used to get on our bicycles, ride up the river to Ardenvoir and go fishing. We were home by dark,” he said, smiling as he looked back on these long summer days of fly-fishing in the deep cold pools of the Entiat River.
As he and his pals grew older they “hitchhiked to Chelan to go swimming,” Don said, and played pool at Dauncey’s Barber Shop, a popular community gathering place in the heart of downtown Entiat.
Entiat was, and continues to be, known as a place where people watch out for each other — one of the reasons Entiat works so well as a community. Don and his family experienced the benefit of this community care network, or what’s known as the “Entiat Way,” when he lost his mother to cancer in the spring of 1948. “When my mother died, everybody helped,” he remembered. “And when it came time to prune the apple orchard,” he explained, neighbors came from all around and together “we did 18 acres in one day.”
Don’s appreciation for his community grew after he graduated from Entiat High School and left to serve in the Army and then to work a job on an aircraft assembly line at Boeing where he said, the work “was not made for me.” He moved back to Entiat, married his wife Linda, and helped reconstruct buildings being moved from the old town he knew so well before launching his career with the Forest Service’s Entiat Ranger District that spanned 26 years.
Over the years Don has also volunteered his time to a variety of community groups ranging from the irrigation and fire districts to the school board, Entiat Chamber of Commerce and Columbia Breaks Fire Interpretive Center — work he said he is happy to have shared with others in the community.
I asked him what it was that has made his various jobs and community work in Entiat so satisfying. “I was just getting something done,” he explained, “being able to start something and finish it.”
To read the transcript of this interview, listen to excerpts, and learn more about the history of Entiat see gatheringourvoice.org Contact the IRIS office at firstname.lastname@example.org , 509-888-7374 to learn how you can help gather the story of our region.