Lake Creek, Oregon: a town frozen in1886
I don't recall the why or when of my first visit to the bucolic mix of Mayberry and Brigadoon that is Lake Creek, Oregon. But I often escape there.
For those unfamiliar, Brigadoon is a 1954 musical starring Gene Kelly and Van Johnson as two hunters who come upon a beautiful, rural Scottish community. Lake Creek, like Brigadoon, appears as though preserved in a simpler time — somewhere around 1886.
Kelly and Cyd Charisse may not glide across the floor inside Pioneer Hall; but there is a handsome, life-sized statue of a pioneer couple waltzing eternally in the adjacent park. No wonder folks choose the site to marry. There's an enchantment about the place — an atmosphere of good, where you want to walk and clear your psyche of the shallow mundane.
Lake Creek sounds like a contradiction, but shares its name with a local stream. The heart of "town" consists of the Grange, Lake Creek Store and the Pioneer Hall. The park is the setting of the Charley Family cabin, an authentic homestead that makes our modern-day prison cells look like the Hilton.
The thriving, volunteer-run historical society inside Pioneer Hall displays evidence of a proud history. Some descendants still call the area home. Check the website — www.lakecreekhistoricalsociety.org — for hours.
In 2009, they replaced the original 1904 store with a bright, new model at the same location. Teresa runs a neat establishment, with help from Rebecca and Glenda, who are generous with smiles and good service. The cafe side is an old-fashioned ice cream parlor with choice of counter stools or parlor-style tables and chairs. They offer biscuits and gravy for breakfast, and lunch fare, but also scoop up a tempting array of ice-cream treats — root-beer floats, old-fashioned malts and the like.
It must be the rarefied air that makes me strike up a conversation with anyone inside. While I wouldn't consider busting in on folks' conversations at Applebee's, for instance, the Lake Creek magic fools me into believing I'm in the Mayberry diner, where everybody knows everybody else. Sometimes they do look at me as if I'm the town character.
I suspect that the real "heart" of the town isn't in the buildings or even their humble history, but, rather, in the people who live and work there — people like Shirl Bandy. She's labored tirelessly with other volunteers and Grange members to save the old building and managed to obtain a $1,000 grant from Northwest Farm Credit Services for her efforts.
The money will go a long way toward establishing a commercial kitchen from which to make and sell goodies such as homemade preserves, salsas and mustards.
Shirl also hosts pancake breakfasts to raise money from 8 to 10:30 a.m. the second Sunday of the month. Neighbors appear from over hill and dale to come together like in old times. The public is more than welcome to become neighborly, too. This month, there's an added Sunday breakfast, on May 18, to benefit a local resident who's suffering health problems.
"We started out just wanting to save the building," she says, "but now it's a meeting place that makes it possible to do stuff for the community.
"The first breakfast, we had 60-plus people show up. Thirty of them were there waiting at 8, saying, 'Where you been, Shirl? We miss this.' "
Starting in June, there will be Saturday markets at the Grange for local talent to show and sell their goods. At $20 rental per month per booth, it sounds like prices from the past, too. Shirl knows it's a long way out for folks to come, but it's en route to several lakes, including Fish Lake, Lake of the Woods and Fourmile Lake — and I can testify it's worth a short detour off Highway 140.
Shirl Bandy is one of those treasures of which every community could use more. She has heart.
Next time you need a peaceful break to unclutter your frazzled mind, consider the drive up to a small community that works hard and values the things that matter. You'll feel it in the air and see it in the smiles.
Peggy Dover is a freelance writer who works from a 1900 farmhouse in Eagle Point. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.