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Face lift for Union Creek icon

UNION CREEK — Year by year, the ice cream cone sign in front of the Ice Cream Shop at the Union Creek Resort has been slowly fading away, and Rachel Hall finally couldn't take it anymore.

"It was sad," she said. "That sign has a historical significance to my little family, and for a long time I thought, 'you know, someone really needs to fix that sign.' "

Then, after hearing President Barack Obama's inaugural speech and his call for community service, Hall realized she was that someone.

" 'Oh, good grief, I told myself,' " she said. " 'Get up there and do something yourself.' "

Hall approached Kent Watson and Scott Krise, owners of the Union Creek Resort, with an offer to repair the sign for free.

"I was kind of surprised and we had to think it over for a while," said Watson, "but we finally agreed. I hear it looks pretty good now, and I'm anxious to see it."

Hall took the sign to her Central Point home, planning to finish the project in a few weeks, but she soon realized she'd need more time.

"I had to dry it out and it went through a couple of sanders," she said. "It's one big piece of pine and it will never be the same as it was when it was brand new because of the worm damage, but I filled all the holes, put new hardware on it, and I just think it looks great. It's going to make a lot of people happy to see it again."

After about 35 five hours of work and $60 of "high-quality paint and sealer," Hall said she hopes the sign will last at least another 10 years.

She returned the sign to Union Creek on Wednesday.

Watson said it will be hanging in its old location when the Ice Cream Shop reopens this month.

Hall's love affair with Union Creek began more than 30 years ago on her very first date with boyfriend, Larry, now her husband, who treated her to a piece of coconut cream pie at Beckie's Cafe, then took her on a hike.

"You're going to laugh," she said, "but that's where we had our first kiss."

Hall said the ice cream cone on the sign is colored a rich strawberry pink and is highlighted so it looks like it's cold and melting.

"The colors pop again," said Hall, "just like they did when my kids were young."

It was after the Halls had children that memories of the ice cream sign really became important.

"We camped in that area a lot," she said. "The kids learned to ride bikes there and the sign was there and it was something the little kids really loved. 'I see ice cream,' they'd squeal, and then we would go buy them ice cream."

Union Creek and the surrounding area were named by pro-Union prospectors who, during the Civil War, were blazing a trail over the Cascade Mountains to the gold mines of Eastern Oregon.

As travel over the trail increased, particularly with the coming of automobiles, the area became a popular place to stop on the way to Crater Lake.

The Forest Service developed a primitive campground there in 1917 and five years later platted both sides of today's Crater Lake Highway as a special-use-permit resort area.

In 1922, Ed Becklehymer built a campground, garage, restaurant and gas station on the west side of the highway, while competitor, James Grieve, built a store and housekeeping cabins on the east side.

During the late 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps added more buildings and developed the area further with campgrounds, picnic tables, outdoor fireplaces, gravel roads, bridges and hiking trails.

Most of the area is now consolidated into the Union Creek Resort and operated under a Forest Service permit.

Becklehymer's restaurant survives as Beckie's Cafe, famous for its huckleberry pie, and the nearby gas station is now the Ice Cream Shop.

Barbara Chapman, a waitress for more than 20 years at Beckie's, said Oregon, in the late 1980s, required that the gas station's underground tanks be replaced, "but it just wasn't feasible for the owners at that time, so they converted it into the Ice Cream Shop."

Rachel Hall confirmed Chapman's memory when she found a 1988 date and the initials LP on the bottom of the ice cream sign. She believes it's the original artist's signature, but so far, no one knows who the artist was.

Kent Watson and Scott Krise, two former accountants for a medical company in Colorado, bought the Union Creek Resort in May 2008 and moved their families to Oregon.

"We wanted to see our families more often and we all decided we needed a lifestyle change," said Watson. "We love it here. It's a wonderful place to be and wonderful for our families."

Hall said she likes the new owners and is happy the resort is coming back to life.

"They're working so hard to fix it up," she said. "I just want to help these people bring it back to what it was.

"It was my pleasure to do the sign, but, I must admit, I'm glad it's done."

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@yahoo.com.

After hearing President Obama's call for community service in his inaugural address, Rachel Hall decided to restore the ice cream sign in Union Creek. Jim Craven - Jim Craven