My Post-War Home Front: The Road to Halfway

We leave California and move to the bucolic world of Northeastern Oregon

Posting #8 by Robert LaRue, b. 1937

The Wallowa Mountains dominate the landscape of the northeast corner of Oregon. The Nez Perce Indians called this country The Land Of Winding Waters. With the coming of the European settlers, these craggy mountains and picturesque valleys became known as the American Alps. To the east of the mountains the Snake River slices through North America’s deepest river gorge, Hells Canyon. Nestled in one of the valleys above the canyon’s rim, the little town of Halfway is our destination.

Before Halfway however, we make a stop at Nampa, Idaho. An old friend and fellow worker from McMullan’s Dairy had established a farming operation there. Dad wants to visit with his friend and check out the area.

Our host saddles a horse for me ride. It is my first experience riding a real working saddle horse, and I am hooked. I spend every waking hour riding around the ranch until we leave.

The road leading from Nampa to Halfway follows along the old Oregon Trail to Baker Oregon. Pioneers in covered wagons followed the same route starting in the 1840s. The route runs along the Snake River to a place called Farewell Bend. At Farewell Bend the Snake turns north into Hells Canyon. The Oregon Trail forks off through the Burnt River canyon up to Baker Valley. We pioneers of the 1940s follow this historic route in our 1937 pickup truck.

From Baker we turn east for the next 60 miles to our destination, Pine Valley. We cross the still visible wheel ruts of the Oregon Trail running through a dry sage-covered plain. The landscape changes to a stretch of lush green irrigated pastures and farmed fields. The paved road turns to loose gravel. Passengers in occasional oncoming vehicles wave a friendly greeting as we pass. We seem to travel through time to an earlier era. Cowboys and ranchers still tend their cattle on horseback. Farm implements are still drawn by stout draft horses. The twentieth century has largely eluded the countryside.

Bob ‘Lash’ LaRue the bull rider

The road unexpectedly changes back to pavement. The landscape changes to a narrow canyon. We follow the Powder River through deep cuts and winding turns to Eagle Valley. Eagle Valley reveals another landscape of green pastures and farmed fields. We pass through the small cluster of homes and businesses called Richland. The valley closes back to a narrow canyon as we approach the Powder’s terminus with the Snake.

A lettered road sign points left to Halfway. We follow the sign and climb a steep grade with sharp switchbacks. Our loaded pickup grinds along in low gear. We top the hill and travel down through a wide swale. Cattle graze on the dry yellow grass below farmsteads set back against the hills. Yellow turns to green and Pine Valley opens up before us.

We turn left at an intersection near a sawmill and follow the valley’s only paved road to Halfway. Halfway boasts a bank, two grocery stores, two bars, several churches, three gas stations, a combined drug and liquor store, and other related businesses. The Gray Gables Hotel houses one of the bars and offers rooms to rent. Three housekeeping cabins behind a white picket fence and a manicured green lawn flank one side of the hotel. We rent one of the cabins and set up housekeeping. It is a welcome relief to get off of the road and out of the confines of the cramped pickup cab.

My eight-year-old mind does not grasp the significance of our travels. At eight, you do not question your parent’s actions. You simply accept whatever they do as the norm. Even so, I could sense that this small world was a complete change from the world I had experienced in California. My dad’s motivations will always remain a mystery. Perhaps he was a throwback to his grandparent’s generation. Perhaps he was a precursor to the counterculture of the 1960s. Maybe he just wanted to escape the controls that a wartime culture had placed on society. The cold hard facts were that we had arrived in the strangely named little town of Halfway, Oregon and there I would remain for the next ten years until I graduated from high school.

My Post-War Home Front had just begun.

Photo Credit: Anna Brisk, Halfway Oregon, and thanks to Cindy and Anna. Bob LaRue, Pine Valley Union High School class of 1955.


12 thoughts on “My Post-War Home Front: The Road to Halfway”

  1. Great article! As you may know, my husbands great grandfather, James Edward Robinett, started the town of Robinette in the last 1800’s. It is now under water from the Brownlee Reservoir since 1956.

  2. Great article. As you may know, my husbands great grandfather, James Edward Robinett, started the town of Robinette in the last 1800’s. It is now under water from the Brownlee Reservoir since 1956.

  3. My Dad, Dean Huff, was born in Halfway in 1926 and is a World War II Veteran. He and my mother were married after basic training and I was born in Halfway in 1945. My brother, in Baker, 3 1/2 years later. My mother, Aleah , passes November 4, 2016. My brother Donald, passed 1977.
    Deanna Hallock

    1. Thank you for your comment. My sister Deanne was born in 1944. You may remember her. Your family was very influential in the valley. Bob

  4. I loved reading this article..My husband (Roscoe Curry),was born in 1932..up at Jim Town.His father was born in the same home..which no longer stands. His g.grandparents lived in Eagle Valley..they owned/ran and homesteaded the place where the stage would stop and trade out was located at the bottom of the Richland grade..where the gravel barn now stands. His g.grandfather Morris was a Dr. on the Oregon trail and traveled with the wagon trains..till eventually he and his family settled at Eagle Valley. If you get a chance there is a book in the Baker Library entitled ,”Those Morris Girls”..which is about Roscoe’s mother and her sisters..great read. Thanks for posting. Again I so enjoyed the read.

    1. Thank you Sharlene, I remember Roscoe. I think he graduated when I was still in the eighth grade. It may have been a blessing. I didn’t have to face him in football scrimmage. As I remember, he was a pretty hard hitter! Bob

  5. thanks for the article. my family was here when you arrived so I love to see any written work on the valley. denise ( huff ) Joseph, christianson.

  6. We must have gotten there about the same time, circa 1944. Also, I spoke with Margret Peer years ago they were from some place in Calif. Don’t know what year they migrated.

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