Park Bench in Bailey’s Park
This old park bench has been here in Bailey’s Park for so many years there is not one soul in town who has not sat here at least once. Many who have spent time here are now lingering only in someone’s memories.
There was a time when this park bench was the only one here along the trail to Clem Bailey’s homestead, which is now a museum. Clem Bailey was the founder and first Mayor of the town of Clickatat. The bench overlooks Clickatat, but at the time it was placed there the whole valley was just another part of the desert. Just sagebrush and other shrubs grew there, along with wildflowers. Clem decided to section off a part of his land to preserve the beautiful woodland area high above the valley. Driving home with his bride after the wedding he stopped at this spot to show her the sunset. He and Becky sat in the carriage and watched as the sun slowly sank behind the Cascade Mountains. Becky thought it would be wonderful to have a bench right at that spot in honor of their first sunset together as man and wife. They were the first to sit on the park bench and enjoy the view, which they did often over the years.
The town grew fast and Clem saw a need to turn forty acres of the woodland into a park for the pleasure of all residents. More benches and a lot of picnic tables were added as time went by. The original park bench was the favorite of all, for the beautiful view. Young Tom Clancy proposed to his sweetheart, Eva Mae, on that bench. About five years later he was elected Sheriff. He and Eva Mae had four children. All four of them sat on the park bench with their sweethearts at different times. At one time, Sheriff Clancy found the only bank robber, Jeff Perkins, to ever hit town. The poor cowboy was bereft and in tears. Seems he did not tie his horse up to the railing so he would have a quick get away. However, when he flung the money bags over the saddle it startled the horse and it took off running, stopping in front of the saloon where Clancy found it, money bags intact. He went hunting for the robber and almost felt sorry for the young cowboy when he came upon him. He had to arrest the kid to hold him over for trial. He was a good kid, just down on his luck. Clancy liked him a lot and eventually swore Jeff in as a deputy. Folks talked and laughed about the story for years.
Then there was “old maid Penelope” at the age of 24 who sat on the park bench with the only man to ever pay her any attention. He was quite shy and stuttered, not quite knowing how to go about the business of proposing. Penelope was getting mighty impatient, especially since kids kept sneaking up behind them, teasing poor Willis and goading him on. After she shooed away the group of kids for the last time, she turned to her beau and sternly said, “Well, get on with it Willis Manning, or I am leaving you here to stutter to yourself the rest of the day!” Willis blurted it out and they were married a week later. He was so nervous at the wedding he stuttered so bad he couldn’t answer the preacher, just nodded his head. “He does,” said Penelope firmly.
Old man Yardley sat there on the park bench with the widow James one lovely spring day. He had been courting her for several months after his wife died in the fire that destroyed their home. It was not a very romantic time, rather quite sensible and straight to the point. “Well,” Thomas Yardley said, “guess we might as well be hitched, Emma.” They both sat there very proper, staring at the mountains. “Yes, might as well, Mr. Yardley. You need a home, can’t stay in the hotel forever, and a wife to do your cooking and run the household and I need a husband to care for the farm animals and do repairs of the barn and such.” They both agreed come Sunday would be the day to get hitched and carry on with life.
The most famous of proposals on the park bench was that of Markus Campbell to Jenny Lynn. In fact he proposed seven times there, every Saturday afternoon till Jenny was quite sure she would not ever receive a better offer. Markus was fit to be tied by the time she finally accepted him. “I just don’t want to grow old on a farm, Markus, but I guess I have no other choice, so I will marry you.” Markus went on to become a famous lawyer after some years and was able to give Jenny all the finery she ever wanted. They had seven kids, but could afford a nurse and a nanny to care for them. Jenny spent her life being a fine lady very much in love with her husband.
Yes, the old park bench has been there for many more proposals and sunset watching all these many years. And come this Sunday afternoon, Clem Bailey’s great-great-grandson was aiming to propose to his sweetheart. It will be the last proposal made there, for the park bench is going to be put in the museum when the new bench arrives.
A lot of folks will be there for the ceremony at the retirement of the bench that holds so many memories. The special alcove where the bench will be on display will have names and dates on the walls surrounding it, of every couple who had a proposal on the park bench.That old park bench has a lot of history attached to it.
© 2017 Phyllis Doyle Burns
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