A Letter From Your President, Chuck Hillestad


Three Years Back and Ten Years Forward

(From a talk given at our Volunteer Celebration this Spring, 2019)

Sometimes, because we are living through it, it might not seem like much is happening or very fast. But it has. A little over a decade ago, the big buildings at the Heritage Center didn’t exist. And look around inside our buildings. Three years ago, we didn’t have a kitchen worthy of the name. Now, we have groups seek us out to rent our space for meetings because our new kitchen exists. There are new tables and chairs too if you haven’t noticed.

It may not be immediately obvious, but we now have an insulated exhibit hall. It makes a big difference. Special kudos to Cliff Watts for that. What a giant job. Also special thanks to Tony Meeker and Carrie Martin for bringing in the grant money to do much of our most recent physical improvements and thanks to the many anonymous donors who also made major contributions, not to mention the restoration and work crews wielding the tools and vehicles to finish things off by hand.

Lighting, security, communications, drainage, sidewalks, and many more systems have all had large upgrades, most within just the past year. Probably next up is some signage for our native plant gardens along the north side of this building with ultimately a sidewalk and brochures to show it off. And, we are right in the middle of design work for a new entry kiosk that will double as some exhibit and info platform.

Really interesting are some of our long term goals which include some massive developments. Heritage Village for one. A whole Pioneer Village to be built or moved on site near our current one room schoolhouse. Probably first up will be either a fire station or a general store. They will function primarily as exhibit space to tell our story; however, they will have other uses as well, particularly upstairs. We don’t know all the buildings that will be built there just yet, but if anyone would like to step up and see one with your name on it, now would be a good time. Would you perhaps like a bank, a farmhouse, a barn, a band gazebo, a law office, a livery stable, a new “old” car dealership, a photography studio? A 40 foot high fully functioning wind mill? We’re open for ideas. It is literally not cast in concrete yet. Know any architects or designers? We could use the assistance in planning.

Just three years ago, we did not have a single employee. Now we have Raylinda who does the work of at least three plus a cleaning crew contract. Where would we like to be a decade from now? Perhaps an Executive Director and possibly a marketer, a recruiter to give us greater recognition and clout and maybe even more important, a professional curator, at least part time. Why not? If you don’t have ambitious goals, you won’t achieve all that much.

Just three years ago, we did not really have a fully functional website. In this day and age, how can you survive without one? But, we found some grant money to pay for it and tidied up our Facebook sites and Twitter accounts too. The Twitter account is probably less than a year old. It was only about a year ago that we not only erected a windmill on Hwy 18, we mounted an electric welcoming sign on it.

Four years ago we didn’t have a vintage baseball team. Now we have a team, equipment, bleachers, a hot dog stand. And looking ahead, maybe a county wide league. The vintage baseball event is a classic example of one person having a great idea and running with it. Literally, he is also manager, pitcher and runner. Dave Rucker. Many others participate, but without Dave, no special event and special it is.

We just had a brand new event in June. Hay Day and Pancake Breakfast. Like the Vintage Baseball games, the Farm Fest plowing competition, the Harvest Fest reaping, the quilting demonstrations, the tatting, the blacksmithing, it was and will be a Living History showcase to show how it was done (and sometimes why the country doesn’t do it that way anymore). It’s part of our mission and an expanding one all the time.

Speaking of the smithy, we now give classes. We have a lot of students and I am not talking about the thousands of school kids that Cynthia Christensen attracts for Pioneer Days. I am talking about the opportunity to learn how to bend metal with your bare hands, or at least gloved hands and a hammer and anvil. While we can only have a few students at a time in the blacksmith shop, for Pioneer Days well over a thousand 4th graders every year show up to our complex to discover first hand what history is all about. Wearing pioneer clothes to get in the spirit, they take a hand at washing with a washboard, packing a wagon, shaving bark from logs, planting a garden. By the way, Cynthia could use some extra volunteers for those tasks. Give her a call.

One of the new things developed out of Pioneer Days, is our re-buildable log cabin. Have you noticed the giant “Lincoln Logs” Log Cabin that we now have for the kids? Similarly, have you noticed the scale model Covered Wagon and other hands-on exhibits we have for the kids that can be intriguing for adults too?

We have other new “toys”, although perhaps we should not refer to a 17 ton beautiful antique steam tractor as a toy. Want to learn how to drive it? Join the Steam Committee. They deserve a thank you for finding it, persuading the owner to sell it to us at a discount and getting it here. We doubled our steam tractors just this year and added a lot more to our list of artifacts, working artifacts. The other steam tractor is getting a great refitting thank to our incredible restoration crews.

Outreach? We’re doing that. Not just with the Legislature and other groups, but actively looking for ways to encourage other historical organizations to join or work closely with us on our mutual goals. The end result hoped for? A true County wide amalgamation of those interested in discovering, preserving, protecting and promoting history.

What can you do to further our goals? Keep up the good work. It is not just your donations and service we need though. We need your ideas. Got an idea like the Vintage Baseball? Pitch it. Are you willing to run with it? We’re willing to listen. Help us figure out ways to build that Heritage Village. If nothing else, help us recruit more people to be active members.

As you can see, this is not a static organization even though we concentrate on the past. So, what new and exciting things will the next President be able to brag about? I don’t know. Stick around and find out. And on behalf of the Board, thank you for the opportunity to serve you.

Charles Hillestad, President of Yamhill County Historical Society

May 14, 2019