The big sign along Highway 97 just south of this little town in Washington State proudly proclaims: Welcome to Goldendale, The Golden Gate to the Evergreen State. This is quite a motto to live up to, and this has been the motto for the community for as long as I can remember, and I go back a while.
I was born in Goldendale in 1953. I went to the primary school when it was still a school, now it's a church. I remember when Highway 97 used to run through the heart of town. As a teenager we used to sit on the front porch of the old Hall Hotel and watch the traffic go by. This is now a vacant lot and the highway passes on the outskirts of town.
There used to be a pool hall, The Club, for the teenagers to hang out in and learn the game in a decent environment. Jim, the proprietor, did not tolerate any misbehavior and we knew it. We used to respect Jim because he told you like it was. Kids my age needed to hear that.
What ever happened to the Star Theater? Many afternoon and evening were spent there watching old Vincent Price movies. In fact I saw my first movie there. The Tingler! I can still remember how scared I was. This was the place where you could hold hands with the girl you liked. Put your arm around her and learn about dating and experience your first true love. Just like in the movies.
Hours were spent Trout fishing in the Little Klicitat River, Bloodgood Creek and at Bowman Creek. A day trip to the Columbia River 20 miles to the south for a picnic, fishing or swimming. Maybe go a little further west to Horsethief Lake to spend the day.
Days were while away lying in the sun at the swimming pool. Long gone from it's original location but at least it was relocated to another part of town and not simply forgotten .. Growing up here without a pool to swim in is incomprehensible. At least the way I remember it.
The winters spent ice skating on the frozen over Little Klickitat River. sledding down Fairgrounds Hill, hickey-bobbing behind the slow moving cars on the snow packed streets.
No there was never a lack of entertainment while growing up in Goldendale.
I remember Radke Motors, the Dodge dealer in town when I was growing up. Sitting in that 68 Dart GTS on the show room floor was an incredible experience for a car crazy young man. A friend of mines father bought that actual car and I ever got to drive it! There was also a Chevrolet dealer there. If I remember right it was called Sunset Chevrolet. I may be wrong on that one. They did not like the kids drooling over the new cars in the showroom so we did not go in there much. There was never any Jeep dealers or any Ford dealers that I can remember. Now you can not buy a new car in Goldendale .
The adults were not left out either. There was the Town Tavern, The Top Hat Tavern, The Rialto Club, The Evergreen Cafe, The Simcoe Cafe, and the American Legion Hall all within one block of each other. To sober up and chow down after a night downtown they could congregate out at the Oasis Cafe on the edge of town. The Top Hat and The Simcoe are the only two establishments of this type left down town now. The Simcoe is the only one in it's original location.
I moved from Goldendale in 1972. The lure of big money working as a welder in the Puget Sound Region was to much to resist. I gave up the home of my youth for over 35 years while I made a life for myself in the city. My life went well but I always missed the pace of life there. The memories.
Now I have returned to spend despite the rest of my life in this area. To die as I was born. To be put to rest with generations of relatives.
Things have really changed here. It's not at all as I remember it. Standing in some of the exact same places I stand nearly 40 years ago is some powerful stuff. As I was walking around town many memories were rekindled. Emotions that I had not experienced for years resurfaced. At times I was nearly overwhelmed by the flood of memories and emotions.
I do not think Goldendale is any worse of a place for a kid to grow up in today. Just different. From an adults point of view things always look different. I guess I need to get together with some of the young people, sometimes the children of relatives that I so long ago lost contact with, and get their perspective on growing up in here in the 2000's. I more than likely would be quite enlightened.
Industry has come and gone in this area. There were some boom times when aluminum manufacturing came to the region. Lot's of good high paying jobs. Then they closed down and the good jobs disappeared. Goldendale Wa real estate was a hot item for a while despite the real estate market has slowed down considering in the last couple of years. There seems to be an influx of retirement age people that are the prime Goldendale real estate customers now. Money from out of town folks looking for a nice place to retire.
The local newspaper, The Goldendale Sentinel, is usually filled with local real estate ads. There is no shortage of real estate for those with the money to buy. What there is in the paper is a shortage of help wanted ads.
Many web sites promote this town as a tourist and sportsman's paradise. These are very informative web sites that explain the past, present and future of this little city from a different perspective than I am able to. Mine is of childhood memories jolted by the face of a reality forty years in the future. The old adage that "the more things change the more they stay the same" is really being tested here.
This city is steeped in Washington history. Much of it involves my great great grandsparents and their descendants. I am historically tied to the success of Goldendale.
If any town in America describes to be prosperous it is this one. That is why I have chosen to return for my golden years. I employ several websites and have given the city's name to my vitamin sales page. I just wanted to have a piece of Goldendale in the 2000's. I want to spend my money here. I want to participate as an adult not dream as a child.