July 21, 1996 in Nation/World

Small-Town Charm Earns High Marks For 2 Communities

Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Revi
 

A couple of high school kids with a movie camera, a small-town banker with big ideas, and a local industrial leader with a flare for electronics teamed up to put Chewelah on the national map.

As Gloria Davidson of the Chewelah Chamber of Commerce tells the story, the students shot pictures of Chewelah’s people and places. Using the industrial firm’s video editing equipment, the banker and the electronic expert patched together film footage from the kids and other sources.

The community raised $8,000 for advertising and promotion.

The fearless foursome’s amateur flick got the speck of a community 3 minutes and 40 seconds worth of air time on network news anchor Dan Rather’s “Eye on America” show.

That earned Chewelah a place in a piece the Kiplinger Personal Finance Magazine did on retirement communities across the country.

And now a new book called “Retirement Places Rated” ranks the tiny back-country community as the 154th best pick in America.

To give you some idea of how good that is, Spokane doesn’t rank at all. In fact, no other place in Eastern Washington does.

A few communities around the Puget Sound - Port Angeles-Sequim, Port Townsend, San Juan Islands - made the book. Bellingham scored third highest in all of America.

But other than Chewelah, the only Washington community east of the Cascades to secure a listing is in the center of the state.

I always thought that Wenatchee was widely known for just one thing. To be sure, Wenatchee is the Apple Capital of the World. But it also ranks 37th nationally as a retirement center.

How does that strike Audrey Rogers? “Wow!” raved the Wenatchee Chamber of Commerce receptionist. “Wow! Wenatchee!” And she meant it. But the 22-year-old, apple-cheeked, life-long resident had no idea how to account for Wenatchee’s stellar marks.

However, Kim Hughes, conventions and visitor services manager for the chamber, had no trouble at reciting Wenatchee’s recipe for success. “It’s the Cascades mountain range,” she said. “It’s the Columbia River. It’s majestic scenery. It’s unlimited recreation. And it’s free public transit.”

“The mountains are a big part of life in these parts,” says Hughes. “Lifestyle is so linked with outdoor activities that fare-free buses which run throughout our county (Chelan) and neighboring Douglas County are all equipped with bike racks.”

The author of the retirement book, David Savageau, learned about Wenatchee’s retirement attractions from a cousin and her husband who retired there. “They are ex-U.S. Forest Service,” the retirement writer and researcher told me. “Chelan County is known in the Forest Service as a great place to retire, has been for years.

“Wenatchee has a solid track record as a retirement center,” he said. “A lot of people from around the Puget Sound retire in the Wenatchee area.

“Chewelah, on the other hand, is a little iffy,” the writer added.

“When I was researching Chewelah,” Savageau recalls, “I was told that it was not unknown for Southern Californians to come up, buy a house in the summer, spend one winter, sell out, and move back to California.”

What Savageau says is true, confirms Gloria Davidson. “Many come and stay,” says the community spokeswoman. “But others come and go quickly. So, we encourage newcomers to rent a winter before making up their minds.”

Straight talk for a chamber of commerce official.

“People all over the country call and say they hear we are quite a retirement community,” says Davidson. “I make sure I let them know we’re NOT a structured retirement community like Sun City, Ariz. “We’re a retirement area for people who are looking to get back to basics, return to their roots.

“Those who want a touch of culture now and again can be at the Opera House or The Met in Spokane in an hour and 10 minutes drive time.”

(Next in a series: Retiring in Spokane.)

, DataTimes MEMO: Associate Editor Frank Bartel writes on retirement issues each Sunday. He can be reached with ideas for future columns at 459-5467 or fax 459-5482.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

Associate Editor Frank Bartel writes on retirement issues each Sunday. He can be reached with ideas for future columns at 459-5467 or fax 459-5482.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review


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