There are plenty of famous people from Yakima in plenty of varied discipline: Raymond Carver, Kyle MacLachlan, William O. Douglas.
If you’ve been around for a while, you probably know about them. And they make up a big part of the Yakima Valley Museum’s new exhibit, “Making a Mark Beyond the Valley.” But there are also a lot of names featured in the exhibit that maybe you’ve never heard. They were lost to the passage of time or unheralded even in their day, but they made lasting contributions to the arts, sciences or other aspects of society.
Did you know, for instance, that Margaret Herrick, the Hollywood librarian credited with nicknaming the Academy Awards “Oscars,” was a librarian in Yakima before she started working for the Academy? And the villain getting shot by Matt Dillon in the opening credits of “Gunsmoke”? That’s stuntman and world-renowned quick-draw artist Arvo Ojala, who taught himself gunplay while working on his father’s ranch in Yakima.
“He was able to drop a quarter with his right hand, pull his pistol with the same hand and shoot the quarter out of the air,” said Andy Granitto, the museum’s curator of exhibits.
The exhibit, which is physically small, taking up just one section of wall on the museum’s upper level “Yakima Is” display, is loaded with little bits of trivia like that. Plus there are artifacts galore. Celebrity chef Mario Batali donated a pair of his signature orange Crocs. One of On magazine’s favorite actors, Garret Dillahunt, donated a T-shirt from Better Lawn Service and Pool Cleaning, his fictional business on the Fox comedy “Raising Hope,” as well as a hat he wore in the film “Amigo.” Beauty queen and “Survivor” contestant Elyse Umemoto donated a gown and sash.
There are baseball cards, an R. Lee Ermey action figure, a cardboard cutout featuring Bert Grant of Grant’s Brewery, Gary Puckett and The Union Gap records, a set of “Twin Peaks” VHS tapes featuring MacLachlan, and a set of Phil Mahre skis, among many other pieces of memorabilia. Some were already owned by the museum, some were donated, and others, including Ojala’s pamphlet “The Secrets of the Fast Draw,” were eBay finds that Granitto dug up.
“People keep giving us more and more things,” Granitto said. “Our hope is we’ll keep accumulating more for a bigger exhibit later.”
He and museum Executive Director John Baule also hope that the exhibit inspires the public to point out other notable Yakima natives whom history may have forgotten.
“We imagine more names might be added,” Granitto said. “And we’ll be asking people, ‘Who did we forget?’”
Already, though, it’s an enlightening exhibit that’s likely to surprise even those most knowledgeable about Yakima’s famous sons and daughters. That is sort of the whole point, Baule said.
“People here have this belief that we’re not the center of the universe, and we’re probably not,” he said. “But the Valley does present people with opportunities. And they do make a contribution to the world in many different fields.”