Maxwelton 4th of July

For almost as long as there has been a Maxwelton Fourth of July parade, there has been Burleys living in the Maxwelton Valley.

As she looked out from the deck of her home this week, Marleys Burley saw more than a rolling green valley with ocean in the distance and hills surrounding it all. She looked all around and pointed to the exact location where the homes of friends and family, both living and deceased, used to stand and the memories that still linger.

She can see visions of her kids running down to buy penny candy at the Maxwelton Grocery, one located where ballfields currently exist. She laughs at the community gatherings at Woodland Hall where “nobody believed in dancing” and instead played games. She remembers how parts of the valley were perfect for ice skating when they would flood and freeze over.

As vivid as any of these are the memories of the countless Maxwelton Fourth of July parades, all the floats she built, pies she baked, baseball games she cheered and picnics she’s hosted. This July 4, Marleys Burley will have a new duty, as grand marshal of the Maxwelton Fourth of July Parade.

Marleys (Kloster) Burley came to Whidbey in 1937 and moved to Maxwelton in 1942 after marrying her husband Robert, son of Leon and Marie Burley.

“He would have been so proud,” Marleys said of her husband, who passed away in 1989.

Robert raised cattle, was a ferry system worker and lumber mill laborer. He loved Maxwelton.

“He wouldn’t leave it,” Burley said. “At one time, he said he’d like to be a forest ranger and I told him we should go for it, but he wouldn’t leave here.”

Her in-laws, Leon and Marie Burley, came to live in Maxwelton during the 1920’s — 80 years ago and roughly nine years after the parade became an annual event. Leon was a cattle farmer and a school bus driver. Each morning he would fill the valley with lively sound while he was out tending his cows.

“He was always whistling and it would carry through the whole valley,” Burley said. “You could hear him everywhere.”

People traveling through the area would stop by his barn and hold long talks, buy milk, and be on their way.

Marie was a piano teacher whose many students were the children of the valley, and was at one time a president of the Maxwelton Community Club. The Burleys were active in the community as Sunday school teachers, and would lead camping trips down on the beach.

It was through the couple’s love and their community involvement that a love for Maxwelton and the Maxwelton Fourth of July parade was planted for future generations of the Burley family.

Marie utilized her musical skill and took an active role as the director of the community band that marched every year in the parade.

“Her brother was a first chair in the Seattle Symphony and one of our other relatives was a professional musician — they pretty much carried the band,” said Mark Burley of his grandmother.

Marleys’ children — Lynn Scriven, Joan Blasko, Robin Burley and Mark Burley — are now married with children of their own, who have children of their own. While growing up, the kids of the Burley clan created their own floats for the parade. One year, a young Joan popped out of a jack-in-the-box after her sister turned the crank, while her brothers and mother walked behind. Another year, a big old truck was decked out in ferns, flowers and hay bails to create a forest setting. Their John Deere tractor made a few appearances, as well as their riding mower.

“We were always so excited about the floats,” Scriven said.

“Back then you were paid to be in the parade,” Joan said, beginning a long stream of sighs from her siblings thick with remembrance.

When the parade started, participants each received a dime. It later worked up to a quarter, according to Mark.

After the parade was always a pie booth and pie eating contest to dive into and get back your energy.

“Oh how I had to bake pies,” Marleys said.

Year round, Maxwelton residents held activities down at the ball diamond, but it wouldn’t have been a Fourth of July if there wasn’t a game between Maxwelton and Clinton. And before they were labeled as such, there were more old fashioned games than you could shake a stick at.

After sunset, Mark would have the family in stitches with his fireworks commentary.

“Every firecracker we threw would have us laughing,” Marleys Burley said.

While the Maxwelton Fourth of July parade has maintained it’s old fashioned roots, and it’s popularity is pleasing to Burley and family, one thing is missing.

“You knew everybody,” Burley said. “Now when we walk down to the parade we maybe pass five people we know.”

Earlier this week, the Burley children gathered at their mother’s home on the same 20 acres she and Robert settled, and where her neighbors are daughter Joan and her husband.

At reminiscing about the fourth, the women of the family soon burst into laughter at the tale of Mark first stepping into the box with a “fish bopper” as a bat.

“He was just so small he couldn’t use anything else,” Marleys said. “You should have heard people cheering for him.”

Maxwelton and the families that have lived there are the tie that binds, according to Mark Burley who said his family has left a legacy of love. It could be true. Everyone in the family has lived by the words, “and till death do us part,” and maintained long-term marriages — Marie and Leon with 77 years, Marleys and Robert with 48, and all of the kids with 30 plus years and still holding strong.

That’s why Marleys has been busy fixing a lot of chicken. That’s the dish she will bring Sunday to the annual picnic the family holds after the parade. With four kids, eight grandkids and 14 great-grandkids, she can expect a lot of guests. Where it will be held is still up in the air: Either at Marleys’ or Joan’s house.

“I thought the Fourth was going to be at yours,” Joan said as the whole group broke into laughter.

Looks like it’s another Maxwelton Fourth for Marleys Burley.

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