Photo by Ashley Lodato
Leki Albright, left, Cymone Van Marter and Wyatt Albright visited the Shafer Museum in 2009.

By Ashley Lodato

In 2008-2009, when Jon and I were building our house, we rented in Winthrop just down the street from the Shafer Museum. This location was an unexpected boon for a family with kids ages 2 and 4, because the Shafer was an endless source of entertainment.

First, there was just getting to the Shafer. Although we lived less than a block away, we could travel to the Shafer on foot, by double-jogger, or on bikes (mom’s bike attached to tag-a-long, attached to trailer). This meant the 50-yard journey to the Shafer could take anywhere from 30 seconds to 30 minutes.

Then, once at the Shafer we could spend several hours exploring the various exhibits, learning about the valley’s mining history, looking at the old dresses, and marveling at the pioneer dental tools. And with a trip down the switchback stairs to Sheri’s for an ice cream, we could kill practically a whole day. (That may sound callous, but those of you who have raised kids will know what I mean.)

Although our kids are older now and we don’t spend as much time at the Shafer as we used to, I’m still always thrilled to hear that visitation is robust and the museum is thriving.

Docents at the Shafer report that the two most-frequent comments they hear are: “My grandmother/grandfather had one like that” (referring to any of a number of cool old household or farming implements); and   “I’ve lived here X years and have never been up here.” So this is a nudge to those of you in the No. 2 category to get up to the Shafer Museum on Castle Avenue before they close for the season, which will be when the weather turns inclement, which could be sooner or later.

Many of the Shafer’s visitors are from Europe, and docent Ardis Bynum has been using the 1917 World Book Encyclopedia to share some perspectives about what was happening in our visitors’ countries during the time period featured at the Shafer. (For you millennials and younger, the encyclopedia is the Internet in print form, without links, ads or videos.) Ardis says that European visitors have been quite fascinated to compare their country’s early 20th century with concurrent events in our valley.

Docent Lucinda McAllister met a couple from Switzerland who were members of a Cowboy Line Dance Club in Geneva, Switzerland, who had driven from Yakima specifically to visit the Shafer. The man showed Lucinda on his phone American Western props that set the stage for the dance classes. He lifted his arms and swept the museum area and said “I am so excited to see all these authentic pieces that would create the mood and provide cowboy history for our club. It’s given me many ideas and stories to share.”

The Shafer gets visitors from all over the country and all over the world. Several years ago we had family friends visit from Jackson Hole, Wyoming — a town that shares Winthrop’s pioneer history — who came for the specific purpose of touring Jamie’s Place and visiting the Shafer Museum. “Jackson needs a museum like this,” they reported.

Unrelated to anything else, I’d like to give a shout-out to the recess duty staff at Methow Valley Elementary School, who just endured four straight days of indoor recess — that’s before-school recess, morning recess, lunch recess, and afternoon recess — with 325 kids ages 6-12, indoors, due to poor air quality. Picture yourself in a gym with 150 kids at a time, four times per day, for four straight days. You getting the picture? Please thank your local recess duty teachers the next time you see them.


Email Ashley