A Walla Walla Washington Story

Columbia Basin Washington Stories

In 1951, my parents moved to Walla Walla, Washington from Seattle and bought the Kwik Freeze Locker Plant. “I didn’t want to move with them,” remarked Doris Shelton.

“I had finished college at Walla Walla College and was working in Seattle as a secretary in the Boeing President’s office. I loved my job. I was able to do so many fun, unique things. I had top clearance to go anywhere. In fact, I was able to see the first flight of the B52 before the public was able to see it fly. I was the only secretary in the office who had my driver’s license, so on Monday’s I would spend the whole day driving the company car around to all the different plants to pick up the suggestion forms turned in by the 60,000 workers the previous week.”

In January of 1952, Doris’s fellow coworker, Helen, asked Doris if she wanted to drive down to Aberdeen, WA. Come Sunday, the two took off in Helen’s car. As they drove along, Helen giggled and said, “Hey, Doris. That car that’s about ready to pass us has two guys in it.”

“Inwardly, I groaned,” remarked Doris. “I knew Helen would begin egging them on.”

Sure enough, the boys would pass the girls, then the girls would pass the boys. After a while, the two cars got separated and the girls stopped for coffee and lunch. Soon after they got situated, in pulled the boys.

This chance encounter would be the beginning of sixty-six years of blissful marriage for Doris. The four chatted together and less than one year later, Doris would marry Dale, one of the guys in the car. “I loved Dale the moment I saw him. He was such a gentleman.” Dale had just returned to the States after two winters in Korea in the army as Sergeant First Class on 155 mm Howitzers (a cannon).

In November of 1952, Dale and Doris married and both continued working their jobs – she at Boeing and he at Boeing in the experimental department. Four years later, the locker work in Walla Walla became too physically taxing for Doris’s parents to handle alone so Dale and Doris moved to Walla Walla to help them.

Together, all of them managed the butcher/locker plant. In 1960, they put in a coin operated laundry (Speed Wash Laundry) right next to the butcher shop. (Speed Wash Laundry is still in operation in its original place today in Walla Walla.)

The laundromat provided a great time of socializing for the folks of the community then and still today. Most families did not have laundry facilities in their homes, so the laundromat was always busy. “In fact, we’ve had several people who met at the laundromat end up getting married. That’s always special to see happen.”

Running these two businesses kept everyone busy.

Doris did most of the bookwork. “In 1964, the tavern next to the laundromat became available for sale and Dale thought we should buy it. My mother was horrified that we would consider it. But we did and we had a good restaurant with a good reputation.”

In 1975 and 1976, both of Doris’s parents passed away and the family sold the locker business to a long-time employee. For the next twenty-seven years, Dale and Doris would spend many hours every day at the restaurant and laundromat. Over the course of time, they employed over 396 workers and one gal worked for them over nineteen years.

“Having the restaurant gave me an opportunity to serve others. I enjoyed getting to know the local people and watching families grow.”

They sold the restaurant business in 1991. “For vacations, our family loved to fish. We’d fly fish in Montana, Idaho, Arizona, and even Alaska. “We did mostly trout fishing, all catch and release,” comments Doris. “When our son, David, lived in Kodiak, Alaska, we’d ship him frozen chicken, pork and beef. Then we’d head up and fish. While there, we’d can silver salmon and bring it home for us. I caught my largest fish in Kodiak. It was a 92-pound halibut. Throughout my life, our family has enjoyed the moments, both big and small.

It’s been a good life.”

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