Reflecting on reunions, making lifetime memories

Written by Dorothy Swart Fleshman March 23, 2012 12:48 pm

Have you ever seen a pineapple tree? Or, have you ever even heard of one before?

The subject came up recently when I entered the Sub-Shop 21 to have lunch and found Anne and Joyce so engaged. I hadn’t seen Anne since her bad ankle accident and she was out on one of her first outings.

She’s the one who brought up the subject of her Curtiss family’s Pineapple Tree. My ears popped right out like antennas.

Did she mean the Fleshman’s Pineapple Tree? Surely there couldn’t be more than one ... or could there? Same general location.

I’m here to tell you about OUR pineapple tree, but I have to back up to 2004 when George and I hosted the last Fleshman family reunion with a promise to take them to see our pineapple tree on the Fleshman homestead.

In order to do that, though, I need to tell you about the reunion itself since George instigated all the plans. We didn’t travel to some exotic foreign country, but we did go by a carpool brigade to the Land of Promise in Wallowa County right next door to our own Union County.

George and I were the hosts, but he primarily loved making the plans for it because it was to honor the 100th year since the marriage of his parents, Oliver and Margaret “Maggie” Fleshman, both now long deceased.

We met first on Aug. 12, 2004, in the Bear Mountain Pizza’s party room for an informal greeting time as folks began arriving from various parts of the country. The next morning found us gathering for breakfast at the Fort Union Grange Hall where the Gekeler and McAlister lanes meet. The kitchen part was a section of the building once moved in to enlarge the building, but at one time it had been the old Liberty School room where the Fleshman children had attended school in the 1930s.

Thanks to the Star Promenaders Square Dance Club, we had use of the hall all day where visiting, genealogy-book browsing and board games were at play following an informal lunchtime.

Always enjoying eating, we came together around the tables again in the evening when Ray and Ginger Fenn and Ken and Eloise Stolsig, Star Promenader members, brought in a spaghetti and tossed-salad dinner. In memory of the Fleshman family parents, a cake with their 1903 wedding picture on it was served with remembrance.

The next day, on Aug. 14, was our planned trip to visit the Fleshman homestead in Promise of Wallowa County. I remember it as a lovely fall day as we made a carpool into the next county with anticipation of showing off the family pineapple tree.

We drove by Ivan and Lillian (Carper) Garrett’s old cabin on the way and reminisced about Dad Fleshman’s Carper relatives. Lillian was an older sister of Lewis Carper, now also deceased, but at the time lived in La Grande with his wife, Rose.

I could go on and on about other branches of the family, but I must stick strictly to the Fleshman reunion or I may wander too far afield.

There wasn’t much left of the town of Promise after all these years, but there was the main building of the grange hall, owned by Myrna (Carper) Journot and her sister, Orvalla (Carper) Haefer. They hold a Promise Memorial Day weekend every year where family members and descendants relive the past days of this once-bustling community.

The two women opened the hall especially for our group so that we could browse the collections and study the numerous notebooks filled with history of the various families.

We had arranged sack lunches from the Sub-Shop 21 in La Grande, so we invited the sisters to join us. Then they surprised us with serving watermelon to their crew of visitors.

After that we made a visit to the Promise Cemetery, a short distance beyond the grange hall. Almost all of those buried there were related in some way to the Fleshman-Carper families. The exceptions were the Trost brothers who, it was said, had been murdered by a man trying to take over their property.

The end of that story is that he was imprisoned for justice and the two boys buried within the care of the original families.

Finally we were off to see the pineapple tree by retreating a ways down the main road that would take us back near the logging camp of Maxville and then Wallowa to the main highway. We turned off a side hill and down an incline road to where the Fleshman property had been at the turn of the 20th century. Through a fence and across a field we went to where stones and an indentation in the ground indicated the placement of the house’s foundation.

Right beside it stood the pineapple tree towering many feet into the clear blue sky.

We gathered around and studied the trunk of the tree. No, not trunk but trunks, for there were two of them intertwining to form a single tree — an apple tree and a pine tree.

In homesteading efforts, the family had planted an apple tree beside their home to supply fruit to their diet. Years later nature produced a pine tree beside that particular spot and, in time, they grew together.

And, that’s the story of the pineapple tree, but I can’t leave us standing there visiting and taking pictures, for the reunion was not yet over.

By car, we returned to La Grande, stopping long enough at the Little Bear Drive-In in Wallowa for refreshing ice cream treats.

Evening found us at the First Christian Church in La Grande for a fine meal served by Judy Lucius and helper, son Joey.

The next day brought to a close the Fleshman family reunion, but it was fitting that it would be a picnic lunch in the old Riverside Park Pavilion with tables loaded with Kentucky Fried Chicken and all that goes with it.

The finale, as a surprise to George and myself, was a double birthday cake inscribed with our names and honoring our two upcoming September birthdays.

It was George’s 80th and my 78th on the 7th and 10th of the month. As an aside, our youngest son, Randy, and middle son, Terry, also had September births on the 1st and the 29th.

Over seven years later I reflect on that reunion and all that went into its making and all the memories that remain.

Such treasures that bear repeating by Anne Rodriguez’s mention of the Pineapple Tree and her Curtiss family.

But, that’s her story to tell.

 

Veteran newspaperwoman Dorothy Swart Fleshman is a La Grande native. Reach her at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it