I had an amazing and wonderful thing happen to me. I got a call from the Camas-Washougal chamber asking me if I would be the Grand Marshal of this year’s Camas Days Parade.
What an honor! I mean, it’s not something you say no to, is it. I published the book Washougal this year, about the town of Washougal. Pat Jallota’s book Camas, about, you guessed it, Camas, last month. The books have been very well received and so…presto! An amazing invitation for Pat and I to serve as co-Grand Marshals for the parade.
Pat was in Ireland. I am sorry for her….though being in Ireland is pretty good, too. lol. Still, I know she must have been disappointed.
And that meant (wow!), I was the lone (attending) Grand Marshal.
Question is…. what should I wear ?!
The theme for the parade was ‘Bringing Home the Tropics.’ lol.
In a year where historians are Grand Marshals, this is a very tricky theme! I mean….there is nothing island-tropical about Camas/Washougal! Norwegians? Fins? Poles…yeah. We got those. We have ferns, too. And rain.
But orchids? Parrots? Not so much.
Originally thought I’d wear something pioneering: a shawl, bonnet, gloves. But with a tropics theme, that pretty much goes out the window. Camas/Washougal isn’t very tropical, but the Pioneers, especially, were not! lol. Can’t you see it? Those sturdy men and women stopping in Minnesota to pack their wagons full: beans, flour, a chest with their grandmother’s china, a few hula skirts and a big basket of conch shells. One last big luau, and then BAM!, it’s out they go across the prairie.
But you know…there is a historical connection. (So quit giggling all of you!) That connection is Captain Robert Gray, the Columbia Rediviva, and the fur trade. Robert Gray was part fur trader, part explorer. In 1792, he sailed the his ship, the Columbia Rediviva , across the sandbar at the mouth of the Columbia River—thereby “discovering” the Columbia River and claiming it for America. They stayed 13 days on the river, and then Gray, as a good fur trader captain, got back to work, sailing now to China to trade for spices.
Between the Pacific Northwest and China, Robert Gray stopped in Hawaii. That’s right, beautiful tropical Hawaii. There he replenished his supplies, rested his crew, and also picked up young Hawaiian men who wanted to work in the fur trade. They traded their work for ship’s passage to new and different lands.
In the early days of the Hudson Bay Co., there were a number of Hawaiians and Polynesians who worked in what would become Oregon/Washington Territory. They came as workers and from what I understand, most of them were willing—though it might not have turned out quite like they expected.
[Note to 18th century Hawaiians: Why? Why go to work on a cramped, slimy European ship surrounded by the stink of unwashed, lash-happy shipmates, when you might otherwise live in the perfect paradise that is Hawaii?]
[Note to self: I should research this. It’s very interesting!]
Anyway. The Hawaiians worked for fur trading companies like Hudson Bay Co. in Clark County long before there was a Clark County and at least through the 1860s. The earliest pioneers tell of seeing Hawaiians at the Hudson Bay trading posts under John McLoughlin. Hawaiians worked alongside Irishmen, Welshmen, Scots, French, and the Chinook as trappers, bundlers, and general laborers.
OK! There’s the real-life historical connection between Camas/Washougal and the tropics. I can keep my ‘historian’ dignity intact and still have a whole lot of fun with the Camas Days parade theme.
But….what to wear???
In the end I decided on a ship captain’s coat and tricorne colonial hat. Ok, ok, so the costume was more ‘Craft Warehouse’ than ‘The History Channel,’ lol. Fine. But I was Captain Robert Gray, complete with lei and orchids, waving to the crowd from the Columbia Rediviva (a red convertible mustang, in this instance) and loving it.
[Note to my driver Craig and his assistant Conner: Thank you!!]
Though to most everyone I passed I just looked like a pirate, (Gray was also missing an eye, but I didn’t wear an eye patch because that would have made me WAY too pirate-y) it didn’t matter. I was historically correct—in the conceptuals, anyway.
[Note to readers: Wow! What a long blog! Sorry about that. It’s just that this was such a big event. And I’m still so excited.]
I had an absolute fabulous time. Being ‘Grand Marshal’ is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Well, usually it’s a never-in-a-lifetime thing. And Camas/Washougal is a really great place. I think Camas recently came up 37th on the top 100 small towns in America, so it isn’t just me who thinks so.
I hope I did my community proud. The kids especially loved the costume and the announcer introduced me as a “famous local author.” Wow. I’m blessed.
Though it took me three days to sew the coat, and I was up to 4 and 5 am doing it, getting in the spirit for the community and the parade was more than worth it. To the local kids, I wasn’t just some some boring, dusty history lady—I was a scallywag. Arrr.
That’s right. History ROCKS!