News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Early years in Sisters

Seeing the recent Nugget article about the new Sisters Historical Museum reminded me of our history with Sisters. Though we cannot trace our heritage back to homesteaders, my husband and I moved to Sisters in September 1976 and things did look much different than today.

Imagine a Sisters with no Ray’s supermarket or even Ace Hardware. It was before Sisters had a city sewer and developments like Tollgate, Crossroads, or Sage Meadow were only beginning to emerge. Cascade Avenue had few shops and our tiny library sat across the street and west of The Gallery Restaurant. The Gallery Restaurant had a payphone inside the vestibule, we used it often, especially that winter.

We were just married and both had jobs in the area. No houses were immediately available to buy or rent. For two weeks, we camped beside Whychus Creek (then called Squaw Creek) and lived out of our 1969 Volkswagen van. Rod was in construction and I was working at Cloverdale School (part of the Redmond School District housing grades one through three).

Rod could wear the same Levi’s day after day but I needed to look clean and presentable for work. Seeking more than a splash in the creek, I made arrangements to rent a room at the Sisters Hotel. What is now the Sisters Restaurant/Saloon was truly a hotel at the time, with rooms upstairs. I booked the room in advance but when we arrived the next day after work, the doors were locked with no one around. A local passed by and told us we would likely find the proprietor at the local saloon.

The B Bar B saloon was practically next door (what is now Rancho Viejo). Entering the dark, cavernous tavern, my eyes slowly adjusted. The carpet was nearly threadbare and stained, a layer of tobacco smoke filled my nostrils, spilled beer left a sticky sheen on the tables I passed. Peering through the dusky interior, I saw a few imbibers seated at the bar. Among them was the woman from whom I had rented a room. I hesitantly approached. To my relief, she recognized me, leaving the half-finished beer she motioned to the bartender to indicate she would be right back to finish her quaff.

Once inside, our rented room looked clean enough and I was thrilled to see the claw-footed tub in the bathroom. With the anticipation of soaking in a tub of hot water, my body had already begun to relax. I soon found the exposed water pipes were a bit too close to the toilet seat and sustained a minor burn on my thigh. After filling the tub I lowered myself into the steaming water feeling the bliss of its warmth.

About five minutes later my euphoria came to an abrupt end. There was a knock on the opposite door from where I had entered. A male voice asked me to let him know when I was done in the bathroom. Even with only one other guest in the establishment, the proprietor had rented the room next door sharing our bathroom. At first annoyed, I then marveled at her cleverness, there would be only one bathroom to clean. My respite disturbed, I quickly finished up and gave him a turn. The diversion I sought was interrupted by having to share the facilities with a stranger.

Well, at least we had the welcoming promise of a beautiful brass bed with its colorful handstitched coverlet to warm us and support our night’s dreams. But as Rod and I sought our repose and climbed into bed we both rolled to the middle of the well-used mattress. This was not turning out to be a pleasant and restful break from van camping.

We looked at each other and with a sigh of disappointment shrugged our shoulders and removed ourselves from the clutches of the offending pallet. We had met the objective for cleanliness so we packed up our belongings and in the dark of night found our way back to our campsite, and a comfortable night’s sleep.


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