Toppenish is a small town in Eastern Washington not far off Interstate 82. On its buildings are painted mural depictions of various aspects of the local history. The town's population is made up of roughly equal numbers of Native Americans, Hispanics, and white folks. On the day we visited, there were few people on the streets. Country music blared from PA horn loudspeakers mounted on buldings throughout the commercial "downtown" area. The weather was overcast and rainy. The combination of these factors made for a surrealistic, Twilight Zone like experience.
Indians Winter Encampment
Although the winters were long, cold and bleak, the local tribes survived the hardships. The winter lodge was the gathering place for social functions. Hulan Fleming of Bothell, Washington, painted this mural to depict a typical winter encampment. It is located on the north wall of the Kirkwood Building on South Toppenish Ave., the same building where the Mural Society office is located.
At the Peak of the Harvest
The twelfth mural in the series depicts a potato harvest of bygone days. Sponsored by Toppenish's Bouchey families - potato growers - the mural illustrates the back-breaking work potato harvest was until the development of mechanized harvesting. Fred Oldfield, with a little help from his friends, completed this mural across from Old Timers Plaza downtown in the summer of 1991.
The Crossroads to Market
Artist Robert Thomas shows the various methods of moving commodities to market in this collage. Thomas was born and raised in Toppenish and now resides in Kooskia, Idaho. The mural is on the wall of the Pow Wow Emporium adjacent to Old Timers Plaza in downtown Toppenish.
As I strolled about taking pictures of the various murals, these two fellows stopped me and announced that they are full-blooded Nez-Perce who live on the street here and have all their lives. Their demeanor was a curious mixture of deep sadness and a hint of a strange sort of pride. I was struck by the sad thought that these two represent what remains of once great Native American populations.
The Blacksmith Shop
Roger Cooke, a well-known artist from Sandy, Oregon, has recreated a composite of Toppenish's early day blacksmith shops - there were four of them at the turn of the century. Blacksmith shops were the backbone of the local economy then, repairing wagon wheels, shoeing horses, and manufacturing various metal products.
You can find artist Don Crook's paintings in galleries around the country, but nowhere will you find a bigger one than this mural on the Reid Building facing South Toppenish Ave. Crook painted "Newell's Drive" to illustrate a horse round-up led by early Toppenish pioneer Charlie Newell. It took six weeks for Crook to complete the 70-foot scene, assisted by his wife Shirley Crystal and by Gary Kerby.
When Hops Were Picked by Hand
This mural by Robert Thomas of Kooskia, Idaho, shows an early hop harvest when the crop was picked by hand. This was usually done by Indians from all over the Northwest, who came to the Toppenish area each year with their families, pets and chickens. They set up small Indian villages of teepees at the hop fields, staying until the harvest was completed. The mural was funded by the hop industry, which also paid for and developed a park called Old Timers Plaza, adjacent to the mural.
Hanging Out and Hanging Up
This is one of the two murals on the downtown "Public Westrooms" created as the eighth annual Mural-in-a-Day, June 1, 1996. The building is located across Division Street from Old Timers Plaza in downtown Toppenish. A breezy spring in the early 1900s finds mom hanging the clothes and dad reading a catalog in the "library". Jack Fordyce of Yakima did the original painting.
This is the second half of the 1996 Mural-in-a-Day, on the public restrooms in downtown Toppenish, also with a theme relating to outhouses. In the early days when outside plumbing was common, pranksters were on the prowl Halloween night and anybody using the facilities that night did so at their own peril. Jack Fordyce of Yakima is the creator.
The Lou Shattuck Story
L. S. (Lou) Shattuck (1892-1978) was one of the original Toppenish Pow Wow Rodeo boosters. He helped organize the rodeo in the beginning. The artist is Don Gray from Flagstaff, Arizona. The mural is located on South Toppenish Avenue.
The following two images hanging on the wall in one of the local stores struck me as interesting. I don't have any supplimentary information about them beyond what is written on the second one.
Mural annotations Copyright © 2006 Yakima Valley Visitor Guide
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