Sunday, August 27, 2017

Thurston County Fire Destroys Historic Home, Habitat

Above: Looking north over 183rd Street in Rochester, a DC-10 drops red colored flame retardant to help stop the Scatter Creek area fire in south Thurston County on August 22. The historic Miller-Brewer House and barn were destroyed in the fire. Photo courtesy George Ormrod.

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

The Scatter Creek area fire near Rochester in south Thurston County burned 485 total acres on August 22, prompting the temporary evacuation of about 100 residents. It also destroyed several homes.

In the Scatter Creek Wildlife Area, the historic Miller-Brewer homestead, built in 1860, and a barn were also destroyed. The homesite was listed on the National Historic Register.

Fire crews from several neighboring counties helped to control the blaze, as did the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, which is leading an investigation of the fire.

Rochester resident George Ormrod became aware of the Rochester – Grand Mound area fire when he heard a DC-10 fly low over his home near 183rd Street. He went out and saw the plane dropping red colored flame retardant.

Hopping on a scooter, he weaved around back roads until stopped by a road block near the Grand Mound cemetery where he spoke with an emergency management official. She informed him that the fire was four miles from his home and he did not need to evacuate the area.

A press release issued on Friday by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) says state wildlife managers are assessing the damage caused by the fire. The south side of the Scatter Creek Wildlife Area in Thurston County is closed until further notice.

Owned and managed by WDFW, 345 acres of the Scatter Creek Wildlife Area was burned, and provides a sanctuary for several threatened and endangered wildlife species, including Taylor's checkerspot and mardon skipper butterflies and the Mazama pocket gopher.

The wildlife area is a popular destination for hiking, birdwatching, dog training and upland bird hunting in the south Puget Sound area, said Brian Calkins, regional WDFW wildlife manager.

“This fire is truly a tragedy,” Calkins said. “We put our heart and soul into restoring this remaining piece of rare native prairie, and we know a lot of people are going to feel this loss as much as we do.”

Calkins said fire damage will likely affect some activities scheduled in the burned, southern unit of the wildlife area, including upland bird hunting this fall. However, the 435 acre section of the wildlife area on the north side of Scatter Creek was largely unscathed by the wildfire and remains open to the public.

The WDFW will immediately begin work to restore the burnt landscape south of Scatter Creek. Based on a preliminary estimate, that work will cost more than $1 million.

“We're invested in the future of this area, and we're already starting to plan recovery efforts to protect the prairie for use by animals and people,” Calkins said. “We will be putting a lot of effort into weed control and replanting.”

Scatter Creek is one of 33 state wildlife areas managed by WDFW to provide habitat for fish and wildlife as well as land for outdoor recreation.

Above: The historic Miller-Brewer House and a nearby barn were destroyed in the fire on August 22. Photo Courtesy Hans Littooy.

Miller-Brewer House Historic Site

Hans Littooy, of Olympia, offered Little Hollywood pictures he took on August 16 of the Miller-Brewer House, the oldest home in Thurston County at the Scatter Creek Prairie. 

“I often go to the Scatter Creek southern unit with my dog to enjoy the prairie elements, be it flora or landscape. Prairies are a very special landscape in our area and unfortunately misused,” said Littooy, a retired landscape architect.

A Greek Revival style house, the Miller-Brewer home was historically significant for its box frame construction, a method only used during early pioneer settlement in Washington from 1855 through 1875, and was one of the few examples left in the Pacific Northwest.

Historically, George and Marita Miller traveled north by wagon from Oregon to take a donation land claim on the banks of Scatter Creek in the late 1850s. The house, built by Miller, is set on open prairie land adjacent to Scatter Creek, and shaded by a grove of native oak trees. Miller was a farmer as well as a territorial representative.

The property was sold to Reece Brewer, an old friend of Miller’s who had moved to Grand Mound from Oregon with his wife in 1858. Brewer was an accomplished stockman, sold cream to creameries, and was a member of the Territorial Legislature in 1871. He was also the local postmaster, fulfilling his out of the house, a justice of the peace at Grand Mound, and an elected a Thurston County commissioner in 1888 and 1890. He lost three wives to pneumonia.

In the 1960s, one of Brewer’s children, Fred, sold the property to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (formerly the Department of Game) which used the Miller-Brewer House since the 1960s in a variety of capacities. 

It was nominated and placed on the National Historic Register in 1988.

Above: The historic Miller-Brewer barn was destroyed in the fire on August 22. Photo Courtesy Hans Littooy.

Littooy said he and his family came from the Netherlands to Iowa in 1968 and that the house and barn have always fascinated him.   

“I loved those buildings and at one time even dreamt of replicating the old home for myself. So much for the dream….It irritates me that we are so careless with the history of this country. This house could have been a museum about life in the 1870s. How much more of Thurston County history is in danger? How much is left?” Littooy said.

Above:  The barn on the property of the historic Miller-Brewer House was also destroyed in the fire. Photo Courtesy Hans Littooy.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Olympia Bridge Restoration Underway

Above: Workers have been restoring downtown Olympia’s Fourth Avenue bridge for about ten weeks. The bulk of the project involves cleaning and painting, however, some repairs are also being done. The project is being funded out of the City of Olympia's transportation general fund for $451,962.

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

For the past ten weeks, thousands of commuters have watched a crew at work on the Fourth Avenue bridge in downtown Olympia.

Formally known as the Olympia-Yashiro Friendship Bridge, the bridge spans Budd Inlet, the southernmost portion of Puget Sound. 

A critical east-west transportation link for the city, the bridge symbolically connects the Olympia community in many other ways as well.

While the bulk of the project involves cleaning and painting, some crack repair is also being done to prevent future water intrusion. Water damage causing significant pockmarks and spalling of cement pieces has occurred in about 250 feet of the bridge.

A contract amount of $451,962 was given to Finishing Touch Masonry and Restoration Solutions, LLC, of Everett.

The project is considered a transportation project and is being funded out of the city’s transportation general fund.

“This project was not bid per our typical design-bid build process however it is a U.S. Communities project and these types of projects meet the competitive bidding requirements,” said Jeff Johnstone, project manager and senior engineer with the City of Olympia, when asked about the cost.   

The U.S. Communities Project is a partnership formed in 2009 among the U.S. Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

The city’s use of U.S. Communities was approved by city council in 2016.

Johnstone added that after the work is complete, the bridge will retain its shiny white appearance, and should only need to be pressure washed once a year.

“I never realized how grubby it had gotten until I saw side by side pictures,” said Johnstone.

Prior to construction of the bridge, Johnstone said that the city tested multiple different coating products.

“These products were applied to concrete panels and allowed to sit for the winter in order to determine how well they held up to our winter conditions and how easy they were to clean. Graffiti testing was also conducted on each coating. The coating being used was selected because it is a single step coating process and once the coating container is opened, it can be resealed and saved for later use, similar to a can of paint,” he said.

Above: The Olympia-Yashiro Friendship Bridge, better known as the Fourth Avenue bridge, spans Budd Inlet, the southernmost tip of Puget Sound.

Workers interviewed on Tuesday were disappointed that their completed work on the south side of the bridge has already been tagged with graffiti.

“It takes a couple minutes to tag, but takes a lot more time than that to clean it off,” said Rick Schindler, a restoration mason and project foreman with Finishing Touch Masonry.

Schindler, of Everett, has been busy with Ken Hester, of Shoreline, to brush, hand scrape, seal, vacuum, and pressure wash the bridge. He recently hired another employee to speed up the work and says he hopes to get the project done by the end of September.

Schindler explained that the westernmost 250 feet of the bridge between the roundabouts on Olympic Way has the most water intrusion damage because the concrete was poured onsite, which resulted in a very difficult finish.

Workers at the time realized their mistake, Schindler said, and used precast forms for the rest of the bridge.

“Those look a lot better,” he said.

“It’s been a tedious project to get right,” said Hester.

All workers are Pacific Northwest chapter members of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers.

Above: Ken Hester, of Shoreline, packs up his masonry supplies for the day on Tuesday.

A Brief Bridge History

The bridge was completed in 2003 to replace the previous bridge which was structurally damaged in the Nisqually based earthquake on February 28, 2001.

The earthquake speeded up a bridge replacement process that was already underway, as load limits had already been placed on the bridge.

Former City of Olympia Mayor Bob Jacobs was asked about his involvement in the planning for the new bridge in the late 1990s prior to the earthquake.

The previous bridge lasted as long as it did because it had been constructed with extra strength to carry trolley traffic. 

“It was generous of the council to include on the bronze plaques all of the names of council members who participated in the entire, long planning process. It’s a great looking bridge. Although the cost estimates had to be increased several times, our council made detailed decisions on the design of the bridge, including the number of lanes, width of sidewalks, and height of railings.

“Partway into the process, it was decided to expand the project to include the area to the west and call it the Olympia Gateway Project. The roundabouts were a big risk because such structures were rather new at the time and the slopes made them difficult to construct. All in all, it turned out very well,” said Jacobs.

Editor's Note, August 24: Little Hollywood deleted a previously published statement that the Fourth Avenue bridge never had trolley traffic.

Above: Olympians braved the rain to celebrate the grand reopening of the Fourth Avenue Bridge in December, 2003. The bridge serves as a critical east-west transportation link in Olympia. The Nisqually earthquake made the previous bridge unusable, causing over two years of inconvenience for commuters.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Solar Eclipse 2017

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

Above: Olympians found spots throughout the city to view the solar eclipse on Monday. When viewing the eclipse at Madison Scenic Park in Olympia’s eastside neighborhood, this little guy took no chances. 

As the eclipse reached totality, the light turned sunset colored, the air became cool, and birds chirped like it was twilight. Neighbors greeted each other and chatted. 

We all learned just a little bit more about astrophysics while looking through homemade viewers made from cereal and cracker boxes.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Pet Parade 2017

Above: Russell Soderquist, 3, of Olympia, gets a little help with his ice cream from his pug, Kirby, 9. The Soderquist family won the prize for best family entry, and earned a sweet bicycle that will take Russell a few years to grow into. They won the contest with Russell and Kirby sitting in their “Bathing Beauties” wagon, which was decorated like a shower, complete with shower head and clear curtain.

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

“Beauties and Beasts” was the theme of the 88th annual Pet Parade as goats, horses, bunnies, cats and dogs, King Kong, and even Sasquatch strolled through downtown Olympia on Saturday morning

All ended up in Sylvester Park with participation ribbons and ice cream for kids 16 years of age and under.

The event was sponsored by The Olympian newspaper and a wide range of local businesses. Donated prizes and gift certificates were awarded for a variety of categories.

Above:  This sweetheart of a Beast held onto his rose throughout the whole parade.

Above: Rusty, 3, an Australian Shepherd/English Springer mix, was a happy pollinator for the day as his owner, Malla Hayak, of Shelton, gives him a treat. Hayak's mother, Barbara, brought Darla, her four year old German Shepherd, and won $20 for their pirate costumes in the large dog category. “This was so much fun! I’m going to bring my nieces and nephews next year!” said Hayak, who won a $25 gift certificate. This was her first Pet Parade.

Above: Dressed like a skunk, Porter, 4, takes the pug breed to a whole new level.

Above: This family went all out with their float of the Capitol Building, King Kong, and a dog dressed as Faye Raye.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sick Tricks, Kicks, and the Footbag Family

Above: Taking a break during warm ups, footbagger Larry Workman, left, of North Bend, Oregon, compliments Taishi Ishida of Japan on his routine earlier in the week at the 38th Annual World Footbag Championships held in Portland, Oregon last week. Workman's daughter has T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and recently underwent a stem cell transplant. She is currently facing serious complications.

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

“It's like You Tube, only he's here!” exclaimed the announcer when he introduced Nick ‘Mr. Spaghetti’ Landes, who demonstrated sick tricks and kicks at the 38th Annual World Footbag Championships held in Portland at the Oregon Convention Center last week.

If you didn’t know there was such a thing, you’re not alone, but maybe you’ve gathered in a circle with a group of friends on your college campus or at a local park, kicking a little beanbag around, trying to keep it up in the air as long as possible without using your hands. Maybe you even thought you were pretty good at it.

Above: A group of friends play Hacky Sack at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington in the 1980s. Photo by Janine Thome (Gates)/Little Hollywood Photography

While there has been footbag use documented since ancient times, the little bag as we know it today was created in Oregon City, Oregon by two friends, Mike Marshall and John Stalberger, in 1972.

Marshall was kicking around a homemade beanbag while Stalberger was recovering from knee surgery. Stalberger wanted a fun way to exercise his knee. They improved their little bag, and…the rest is history. 

The name, patented and marketed under the brand Hacky Sack, came from their original term for the game, “Hack-the-Sack.” Stalberger says they used to say, Let's go hack-the-sack, when they wanted to play.

When Marshall died three years later of a heart attack at the age of 28, Stalberger started The National Hacky Sack Association and began organizing workshops to teach footbag in schools.

Stalberger later sold the rights for the Hacky Sack footbag and now, millions play the sport around the world.

There’s a World-Wide Footbag Foundation, an International Footbag Players’ Association (IFPA), and even a Footbag Hall of Fame Historical Society.

Now a Vancouver, Washington based consultant and coach for small companies and real estate agent, Stalberger stays involved with the sport and continues to honor his friend each year by awarding a deserving person the Mike Marshall Footbag trophy. 

This year, the trophy went to World Footbag Championship event director Ethan “Red” Husted.

Above: John Stalberger gives an honorary award every year at the World Championship tournament in memory of his friend Mike Marshall. 

Above: The Open Doubles Net Semi Finals at the World Footbag Championships in Portland on Saturday. In blue,Wiktor Debski of Poland and Luc Legeau of Canada play against Walt Houston and Ben Alston of Memphis Footworks from Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis Footworks won, making it to the finals for the first time.

The World Footbag Championships have been hosted by 12 different countries in the past 17 years, and was last held in Portland in 1997.

Last week, 135 athletes competed from several countries around the world in various events including routines for singles, doubles, women’s, freestyle, intermediate, and open categories.

The enthusiasm and camaraderie is infectious as the family friendly crowd responds to the athlete’s moves, choreographed to music. Judges score the performance based on artistic merit and technical skills. If the footbag gets dropped to the floor, the crowd is supportive and the routine continues.

Above: Pawel Nowak of Poland, center, won first place, with seven time world footbag champion Vasek Klouda of the Czech Republic, right, coming in second, and Taishi Ishida, left, coming in third for the Open Singles Routine at the 38th World Footbag Championships in Portland last week.

But all the fun and competition becomes secondary when life is kicking you in the gut.

Wearing an Oregon Ducks t-shirt, Larry Workman, of North Bend, Oregon, was taking a break from practicing his moves when he was randomly approached by Little Hollywood to answer a few questions about the sport.

Workman graciously introduced himself, and said he has been playing footbag for eight years, but did not perform well earlier in the week because his mind was elsewhere.

His 21 year old daughter, Mayleigh, has T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and recently underwent a stem cell transplant. She is currently on a ventilator at a Portland area hospital in very serious condition. 

It has been a difficult journey.

The footbag championships coincided with his daughter's worsening condition, but provided Larry and his wife, Camille, brief respite. To help spread the word about blood cancers, the Workman's staffed an information table for Be the Match, a nonprofit marrow donor registry.

Be the Match targets healthy potential donors between the ages of 18-44, and they were successful in signing up four potential donors in Mayleigh’s honor.

Their feelings were raw, but they wanted to share their story with their footbag family.

A year ago, after experiencing symptoms she and her family didn’t understand for three months, Mayleigh was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She received a stem cell transplant 19 days ago, but is now facing serious complications.

The Workman's have learned a lot of medical jargon in a short amount of time, and have been writing a blog to provide updates on Mayleigh's condition and share their knowledge with family and friends.

“We really need her white counts to come in so her body can begin healing. Today they doubled her fillgrastim shots that stimulate the stem cells. She's been getting this since day 7 and so far her counts haven't budged. It was her first double dose so hopefully this will help to kick start those cells to go to work. They have also found a virus present that for most of us would not be an issue but because she's neutropenic, they will need to keep an eye on it closely.

“We had a huge support system in my mom and my footbag family but my mom had to return home and the footbaggers have all went their separate ways. We are beyond stressed and our minds keep wandering but mostly we want to get that call that her counts are coming in and for that we need a miracle,” the Workman's wrote on Monday.

Every three minutes, someone is diagnosed with blood cancer. About 14,000 patients are in need of a transplant nationwide. Seventy percent of patients don’t have a fully matched donor in their family.

Stalberger is emotional about the footbag family.

“It’s all very humbling to me. It’s fantastic. Mike was a free spirited person, and we didn’t know where it would go all those years ago…. I didn’t know anything, and after he died, I didn’t know who to trust…. I’m glad to still be a part of it all. You know, the footbag community is about family.

“….As for Mayleigh, we’re just lifting the family up in prayer and sending them positive energy and love. That’s the one word to describe what this is all about: love.”

Above: Paloma Pujol Mayo of Spain performed a routine to a musical medley which included Jailrock Rock by Elvis Presley. She won first place in the women’s individual routine.

Editor's Note, August 16: Little Hollywood has been informed that Mayleigh passed away the afternoon of August 15. Please see the note in the comment section from her family.

For more information about Be the Match and to receive a swab kit in the mail, go to

When you join the Be the Match registry, it means you are helping to save a life. You complete a confidential registration and consent form and perform a cheek swab. No blood is drawn. Your cheek swab is tested for your tissue type to determine if you are a possible match for a patient in need. If you are called as a potential match, you must be committed to donate to any patient in need, and ready to follow through with further requirements. Adding more members with diverse ethnic backgrounds to the registry increases the variety of tissue types available, helping more patients find the match they need.