Goldendale Washington – Revisited
The large sign along Highway 97, south of this small town in Washington State, proudly proclaims: Welcome to Goldendale, the Golden Gate to the Evergreen State. This is a great motto to live by, and this has been the motto of the community for as long as I can remember, and it goes back a while.
I was born in Goldendale in 1953. I went to elementary school when it was still a school, now it is a church. I remember when Highway 97 used to go through the heart of the city. When we were teenagers, we used to sit on the porch of the old Hall Hotel and watch the traffic go by. This is now a vacant lot and the road runs through the outskirts of town.
There used to be a billiard room, The Club, for teenagers to hang out and learn the game in a decent environment. Jim, the owner, did not tolerate any misconduct and we knew it. We used to respect Jim because he told you how he was. Kids my age needed to hear that.
What happened to the Star Theater? We spent many afternoons and nights watching old Vincent Price movies. I actually saw my first movie there. The tingling! I still remember how scared I was. This was the place where you could hold the hand of 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 fishing for trout on the Little Klicitat River, Bloodgood Creek, and Bowman Creek. A day trip to the Columbia River 20 miles south for a picnic, fishing or swimming. Maybe go a little further west to Horsethief Lake for the day.
The days were spent lying in the sun by the pool. It has disappeared from its original location, but at least it was moved to another part of the city and not simply forgotten. Growing up here without a swimming pool is incomprehensible. At least the way I remember it.
Winters were spent ice skating on the frozen river above Little Klickitat. sledding down Fairgrounds Hill, humping behind slow-moving cars on snow-filled streets.
No, there was never a lack of entertainment growing up in Goldendale.
I remember Radke Motors, the Dodge dealership in town as a kid. Sitting in that 68 Dart GTS on the showroom floor was an incredible experience for a young man crazy about cars. A father friend of mine bought that real car and I was finally able to drive it! There was also a Chevrolet dealership there. If I remember correctly, it was called Sunset Chevrolet. I may be wrong about that. They didn’t like kids drooling over new cars in the showroom, so we didn’t go in much. There was never any Jeep dealership or Ford dealership that I remember. Now you can’t buy a new car at Goldendale.
The adults were not left out either. There was Town Tavern, The Top Hat Tavern, The Rialto Club, The Evergreen Cafe, The Simcoe Cafe, and American Legion Hall, all within a block of each other. To sober up and eat after a night out downtown, they could meet at the Oasis Cafe on the outskirts of town. The Top Hat and The Simcoe are the only two such establishments left in the city center right now. The Simcoe is the only one in its original location.
I moved from Goldendale in 1972. The lure of a lot of money working as a welder in the Puget Sound region was too much to resist. I left the home of my youth for over 35 years while making a living in the city. My life went well, but I always missed the rhythm of life there. The memories.
Now I have returned to spend perhaps the rest of my life in this area. Die as I was born. To rest with generations of relatives.
Things have really changed here. It’s not at all how I remember it. Being in some of the same places I was almost 40 years ago is a powerful thing. As he walked through the city, many memories were rekindled. Emotions resurfaced that he had not experienced in years. Sometimes he was almost overwhelmed by the flood of memories and emotions.
I don’t think Goldendale is a worse place for a child to grow up today. Just different. From an adult point of view, things always look different. I guess I need to meet with some of the young people, maybe the children of relatives that I lost contact with so long ago, and get their perspective on growing up here in the 2000s. Most likely, I am quite enlightened.
The industry has come and gone in this area. There were some boom times when aluminum manufacturing came to the region. Many well paying jobs. Then they closed and the good jobs disappeared. Goldendale Wa real estate was a hot topic for a while, although the real estate market has slowed considerably in recent years. There seems to be an influx of people of retirement age who are now Goldendale’s main real estate clients. Money from out of town people looking for a good place to retire.
The local newspaper, The Goldendale Sentinel, is often full of local real estate ads. There is no shortage of real estate for those who have money to buy. What’s in the newspaper is a dearth of help-seeking ads.
Many websites promote this city as a paradise for tourists and athletes. These are very informative websites that explain the past, present and future of this small town from a different perspective than I can. Mine are childhood memories shaken 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 being tested here.
This city is steeped in Washington history. Much of this involves my great-great-grandparents and their descendants. I am historically tied to the success of Goldendale.
If any people in the United States deserve to be prosperous, this is it. That is why I have chosen to return for my golden years. I operate various websites and have given my vitamin sales page the name of the city. I just wanted to have a piece of Goldendale in the 2000s. I want to spend my money here. I want to participate as an adult, not dream as a child.