Recalling swimming and scent of pickles

Wally’s World

Way back in the dawn-world mist of my childhood, I would while away summer afternoons at Pete’s Pool, so named because it was created when Pete Chorak tapped an iron pipe into an underground spring.

The water was cold, make no mistake about that. It was cold enough to turn me and every kid in Bob Campbell’s swim class blue. Literally. And after Bob had taught us to swim, Gary Martinelli and I would leap off the diving board and swim out to the aqueduct at the center of things, where the water temperature dropped even a few more degrees. It was invigorating as hell. Still, it was always a welcomed slice of paradise to lay on a towel on top of that cement wall, which had been pleasantly warmed by the July sun.

Sometimes while laying there in this blissful state, you’d suddenly be inundated by the fragrance of pickle brine. That’s right, friends: The odor of pickles. And it wasn’t a hallucination. You see, kitty-corner across state Route 410, the Farman brothers, Dick and Fred, operated a pickle factory. Farman’s Pickles were shipped and sold all across the Northwest, from Portland to Bellingham and east of the mountains. (Fred would later become one of Enumclaw’s most beloved mayors.)

I recall one afternoon, sprawled in the sun on the above-mentioned wall, with Mike Farman, Fred’s son. Swept by the pickle odor, I jokingly asked, “What’s that smell?” Mike inhaled deeply and laughed. “Smells like money!” he said.

The pickle business generated a demand for cucumbers and local farmers, including one of my uncles, were quick to respond. Each summer the Farman operation needed extra help, which was convenient for high school and college students who were too old to waste their days lounging beside the pool.

Pete’s Pool was arguably the finest swimming hole in King County. But, alas, it was meant for small-town Enumclaw and, as the local population grew, it simply couldn’t handle the crowds. In order to control access, the county built an 8-foot high, chain-link fence around it and limited the number of kids in the pool at any one time. Then the high school Oympic-sized pool opened and the county decided Pete’s facility could be closed. In 1989, the entire thing was paved over and turned into a parking lot.

A few months later, Farman’s Pickles also closed its doors – the whole enterprise was sold to Nalley’s – and the buildings stood empty for a few years. Since then, a number of businesses have used the place. Last I heard, local contractor Eric Knudsen was making fence panels there for Home Depot.

If he can arrange the financial backing, Knudsen would like to turn the corner into an industrial park, similar to the one outside Buckley on 410. Constructing such a project would put a lot of people to work and be good for the local economy.

Interesting enough, after all these years local people still refer to the fieldhouse and stadium as “Pete’s Pool,” the empty buildings across 410 as the “pickle factory” and 284th Avenue Southeast as “Pickle Factory Road.” This is even true of relative newcomers, who don’t remember either place.

I guess some business and social sites become part of local legend and they don’t quickly fade away.