By Becca Maag
For the Enterprise
VALE – Longtime Vale residents Solon and Beth Wolfe have made many contributions to the community.
If you’ve driven through Vale, you have seen Beth’s mark in the murals she painted, while Solon’s name is known for his years of hard work and involvement in the county.
Beth was born in Ogden, Utah, in 1945. Her dad had rheumatoid arthritis, so the family moved to find a drier climate, settling in Nyssa. Beth graduated from high school in Nyssa and went on to Treasure Valley Community College, where in 1964-65 she was crowned Ms. TVCC. She transferred to Utah State University and earned her degree in elementary education.
Returning to Nyssa, she taught music and drama to kindergarten through third grade until arts funding was cut, and then she taught sixth grade.
Beth painted the mural on the Valley Family Health Clinic building in Vale, and also helped on the “Two Murals in a Day” project a few years ago. She has helped repair several murals in the area, and painted the one on the ESD building.
She also painted murals at the Vale library, the Payette senior center, and the McCall, Idaho library.
Solon was born in 1939 in Caldwell, Idaho, and his family moved to the Burns area, where he and his classmates attended a one-room schoolhouse, with its two swings and a field of sagebrush as their playground. When the school’s well went bad, he attended a different school, traveling farther into Burns for fifth grade. Then the family moved to Juntura, where Solon finished grade school before starting high school at Harper with 38 other students. He graduated from high school in Vale in 1957, the second class to graduate from the new building. At Vale, Solon was student body treasurer and attended Boys State.
After high school, Solon worked hard on cattle ranches from Drewsey to Ironside. In 1962 he ended up back in Vale. Five years later he began to work at the sugar factory in Nyssa, where he was employed for 37 years.
Solon and Beth were married in November of 1983. Today, they have a blended family of nine children, 23 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
When we talked, Solon shared his knowledge of the agricultural history of this area, noting how farmers harvested hay with horses, and just stacking it took a whole team of men.
Both he and Beth have witnessed interesting times in Vale’s recent history. Solon recalls Vale’s last big flood, during his senior year in 1957. Shortly after that flood, Bully Creek reservoir was completed, solving the problem.
Beth notes the changes that came to the Vale and Nyssa area with the completion of the freeway. Before Interstate 84, everyone going toward the coast traveled on the Central Oregon Highway. Beth recalls there were at least six gas stations in Nyssa – and they were always busy – along with two grocery stores and even places to buy clothes and shoes. But with the freeway opening, the economy along the old highway took a hit.
Other recollections: Out of town visitors didn’t start turning the wrong way on the one way streets in Vale until 1955, because before that it was all two way streets.
“Back in the day” you didn’t have to go to Ontario to take the driver’s test to get your license. Someone would come around to all the towns and you would take the test in Vale, Nyssa, Adrian, or wherever you were from. That meant, in most cases, the knowledge of stoplights, four-way stops, changing lanes and stopping for pedestrians wasn’t necessary to pass.
Solon and Beth also shared some great life advice, including these four golden nuggets:
- Don’t go into debt. Buy what you can pay for and you will have everything you need. Maybe not everything you want, but you will own everything you need.
- Marry someone you like, not just love.
- The most important things in life are our relationships with our family and friends.
- Be willing to work towards your dreams.
So remember Beth Wolfe the next time you gaze at the artwork that makes Vale both beautiful and unique. And the next time you run into Solon at a branding, don’t let him leave until he shares a good ranching story with you.