Chimacum Grange reveals 1930s curtain

Posted 9/18/19

Searching beneath the stage of the Chimacum Grange usually leads to the discovery of dust bunnies, but sometimes, it leads to the discovery of historical artifacts.

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Chimacum Grange reveals 1930s curtain

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Searching beneath the stage of the Chimacum Grange usually leads to the discovery of dust bunnies, but sometimes, it leads to the discovery of historical artifacts.

That’s what happened when Grange treasurer Al Latham found an old canvas curtain, rolled up and molding underneath the stage. Unfolding the fraying cloth, Latham and his Grange compatriot Katy McCoy, owner of the Chimacum Corner Farmstand, saw that this old cloth was an old, painted curtain backdrop with hand-painted advertisements for Port Townsend and Chimacum businesses that date back to the 1940s.

“I remember seeing it years ago, just rolled up and out of the way,” Latham said.

Underneath the stage, the curtain was all wadded up, McCoy said.

“It was ripped down the middle and the cloth was in such condition that it seemed like it would just tear into little pieces,” she said.

Immediately McCoy recognized it as a curtain similar to the one found in the Rose Theatre—depicting a scene in the center, with boxes of advertising around the edges.

These types of curtains were not unusual back in the early 1900s. From 1890 to 1940, most small towns had a stage which served as a center for social events. In Port Townsend, The Palace Theatre, The Standard, the Rose Theatre and the Learned Opera House showcased local talent and traveling vaudeville troupes. The Chimacum Grange, which was built in 1932, hosted vaudeville groups and community events in the early 1900s as well.

The traveling theater troupes would use backdrops for their show, as well as to raise money for their performance. The artists would come to town, sell advertisements to local businesses, then paint those advertisements on the curtain, with a scenic landscape in the center, McCoy said.

This is the case with the curtain that Latham and McCoy found at the Grange. A mountain scene, with a tree and field, is depicted in the center, while advertisements for “Baker Drug” “Peninsula Food Store” and others surround the edges.

A former fine artist and painter, McCoy decided that this piece of found history should be restored.

Using mosquito netting and acrylic medium, she reinforced the back of the curtain and glued the ripped parts back together, using her own paint to touch up spots that had been torn.

Now, the curtain will hang in the entrance of the Chimacum Grange and will be revealed in a grand opening at the 2nd annual Pancake Feed on Sept. 22.

GRANGE HISTORY

The curtain is just one piece of history that can be found in the Grange hall. Hidden in closets and behind doors are snippets of what the hall has hosted over its 101 years of operating in Chimacum.

The Grange movement started after the Civil War, as a way to advocate for the rural life and for farmers.

The National Grange was progressive from the start, being the first fraternal organization to include women. The Washington State Grange in particular was the largest and most progressive in the country. In Chimacum, the “Pomona Grange” was the main organizing Grange in Jefferson County, renowned for its square dances and for winning the state fair blue ribbon every year for its agricultural display entry.

For McCoy, who operates the Chimacum Corner Farm Stand, the Grange is an important part of rural life in Chimacum.

“Early on I came to a couple events here and I was just charmed,” she said. “It felt like walking back in time.”

But today, it can be an uphill battle to keep Granges alive, she said.

“Now they are sort of withering, but we’re left with these buildings scattered throughout our rural countryside,” she said. “In Chimacum it acts as an important gathering spot.”

Last year, the Chimacum Grange celebrated its 100th anniversary with a “Once in a century pancake feed.” But that one-time event turned out over 200 people and helped the Grange raise $2,000, so the board decided it wouldn’t hurt to try it again.

“For a fundraising event, that doesn’t seem like much,” McCoy said. “But in the scheme of work we needed to do, that was huge and made the difference.”

2ND ANNUAL PANCAKE FEED

Hoping to keep up the momentum, the Grange is aiming to raise money for continuing their beautification projects.

Latham recently installed new LED lighting in the main hall, and the refurbished curtain hangs proudly in the front entrance. Having revamped their reservation website, the Grange has also increased rentals, for dance groups, community concerts and other groups. But there is still more they hope to accomplish.

“We’re hoping to raise money to take up the linoleum because there is a nice wood floor underneath,” McCoy said.

The Pancake Feed, which takes place from 9 a.m. to noon on Sept. 22, is one way they hope to raise money. Entry is $12 per person and $7 for kids 10 and under.

This year, McCoy said they doubled their sponsors and are preparing to feed 300 people with the highest quality local ingredients.

“This is not your average pancake feed,” McCoy said. “We’re using Finnriver’s Keith Kisler’s buckwheat and Nash’s wheat flour for the pancakes, Doyle Yancy’s Egg & I pork for breakfast sausage, and all other ingredients from the Corner Store, like our famous cantaloupe.”

To learn more about the Pancake Feed, visit chimacumgrange.org/pancakes.

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