Sillimans will lead Maxwelton Parade

Clark Silliman, right, sits with his wife Linda in front of the old family cabin on the Maxwelton bluff. He will be one of the Silliman family members honored as Maxwelton Parade Grand Marshals. - Nancy Waddell photo
Clark Silliman, right, sits with his wife Linda in front of the old family cabin on the Maxwelton bluff. He will be one of the Silliman family members honored as Maxwelton Parade Grand Marshals.
— image credit: Nancy Waddell photo

MAXWELTON — When he was small boy in the early 1940s, Clark Silliman’s grandfather Henry was given extra gas ration cards; there was a war on and the Sillimans grew apples at their summer home on the bluff above Maxwelton Beach.

Silliman and his brothers and sister would harvest the apples, wrap them individually and pack them carefully in stout wooden crates.

They knew that some of the produce would find its way aboard troop ships headed to faraway places, to feed men in harm’s way on hostile shores.

The orchards still exist and the Sillimans plan to tend to them before and after their tenure as Grand Marshals of this year’s 93rd Maxwelton Fourth of July parade. Joining Silliman to lead the parade will be sister Rebecca, flying in from Boston, Mass., for the occasion, and brothers Bud and Tom.

The family has deep roots on Whidbey Island.

Clark’s grandfather Henry Silliman — an engineer who designed Honolulu’s sewer system — arrived in 1910 and bought 10 acres from pioneer John Patton.

The previous owners had logged the land 30 years earlier as evidenced by an old log chute that can still be seen on the property.

Born in 1939, Silliman recalled those distant days.

“The ferry came into Columbia Beach then — it wasn’t called Clinton yet — and the roads were all dirt or gravel. There weren’t many homes either, ritzy or otherwise.

“There were mostly small farms, but a few were big,” he said. “Not far from us was one of the largest chicken farms in the state.”

There were no televisions. Community dances and gatherings at Woodland Hall, semi-pro baseball games at Maxwelton Beach, plays and skits performed at the picnic area — all became typical entertainment down in Maxwelton.

A close family atmosphere prevailed with lots of picnics, long walks through the woods and fishing expeditions in the wetlands.

When he was in middle school, Silliman and his trombone were drafted into a band that marched in the Maxwelton parade for several years.

“I remember it was a simple mix of kids and adults walking or riding on old flatbed trucks stacked with hay bales,” he said. “It was already an institution; one of the best anywhere and in a class by itself.

“It is a real community experience.”

Today, Silliman teaches law at Edmonds Community College but he and his siblings still visit when they can.

For Friday’s big event, Silliman is seriously thinking about wearing his kilt.

“It’s a Clark tartan from a fine old Scottish family heritage,” he said.

The parade was started by the four Mackie brothers in 1915 and Dana Gilroy has been involved in both its planning and execution since 1986.

She’s seen the event grow over the years.

“But we’re trying to keep it as simple as possible,” she said.

As always, priority is given to walkers, kids on bikes and parents with their children. Those dressed for the occasion are always most welcome.

“Groups come and go, so we never know who will show up,” Gilroy said. “The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War will be on hand, of course, and Danny Ward will play the Star Spangled Banner.”

This year the special parade buttons will go for a dollar each.

The buttons were designed by a 16-year-old summer resident from Arizona named Kamry McRae, and denote the themes of independence, peace and unity.

“The reason for the buttons is that we now have to pay for insurance and there are costs associated with controlling traffic,” Gilroy said. “Staying street legal is a bit more complicated than it used to be.”

When the parade’s over, the real games begin. The egg toss brings in folks from all over and the three-legged race is another simple pleasure on a hot July day.

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