The late Mel Kivley claimed the decline of the Chimacum, Washington,
business community in the mid-1950s, began when the town turned
its back on the Valley Tavern. Maybe the old moonshiner was right.
After all, a tavern is more than just a bar it's a social
"The Declaration of Independence was written in a tavern,"
said Chuck Russell, who owns the Valley with his wife, Karen. "Historically,
taverns in America have been symbols of American political action."
The Valley fits right in there with its ancestors. Chuck's
one of the movers and shakers in Jefferson County politics. The
Valley's upstairs room as well as the tavern below
has seen many discussions on how the inevitable growth of the area
should be handled.
"He's more the social bug," Karen said, of Chuck's
"But it's not really just social," Chuck added. "I
appreciate this community because people get involved."
Since voting is so key to involvement, Chuck'll even register
you to vote at his Valley Tavern.
The Russells' praise of this area reaches into the governmental
agencies, as well. In the two decades since they bought the Valley,
there's never been a single hint of anyone wanting a bribe,
Chuck said, noting a tavern is the prime spot for that sort of thing.
To the many who still have the mind set that a tavern is a seedy
place where no woman is safe, and the drunks are asleep on the bar
think again. That's not the Valley Tavern.
"People don't really come here to drink. They could buy
one at Reeds a heck of a lot cheaper than here. They come here for
the social atmosphere the camaraderie," Chuck said.
"We have a pretty high percentage of our patrons who don't
Women, many retired, regularly come in by themselves, not feeling
at all uncomfortable. Lunchtime birthday parties are a popular format,
Karen, a petite attractive woman, has never felt threatened there.
"We're pretty strict about the language in here,"
Chuck said. "Years ago we established a rule that if you're
in a fight, both of you are kicked out forever. Drinking laws have
become a lot tighter, too. If you expect to be able to come in drunk
and fall asleep at the bar and be taken care of, forget it."
Karen is tenacious about making sure all their guests are 21. Even
a badge and gun didn't let one youthful-looking reserve sheriff's
deputy escape Karen's scrutiny. She carded him before she let
him in the door for a cup of coffee.
The inside of the tavern has remained virtually unchanged for decades.
Dark paneling is adorned with sombreros, a buffalo skull, moose
antlers and the horns of a Mexican fighting bull. Other unique items
share wall space with a variety of beer signs. Even the jukebox
music is nostalgic, songs from the 90s were replaced with
music from the 1960s, and earlier.
"The tavern industry has changed in a way you have to go for
food," Karen said. "We're not thinking of ourselves
as just a place to come and drink," Chuck added.
Their "World Famous Hamburger" is a tempting bite. Chuck
broils a half pound of diet-lean burger just so, heaps on the onions,
and tops it with "as much cheese as we can put on em."
Adding thin slices of jalapeno peppers is not for the faint of heart
Don't want a burger? Chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, pizza or
garlic cheese toast are regulars. Steak night's every Tuesday
and crab feeds are a regular. There're even sardines in the
On Wednesday nights, fresh roasted peanuts are the draw. Eat em,
then throw the shells on the floor. Wash it all down with a cold
Speaking of suds, you can even do your laundry at the Valley.
"I spent a lot of years working on the road and I hated laundromats.
Screaming kids and two-year-old Reader's Digests," Chuck
recalled. He dreamed how nice it would be to sit and have a cold
beer while the laundry did itself. When he bought the Valley,
he added the
mini-laundromat and a lending library for patrons to browse.
Chuck's years on the road were actually years in the air as
a helicopter pilot doing logging and construction work up and down
the west coast and even into the Amazon rain forest. Statistically,
forest work is more dangerous than flying in combat. The pilot's
flying at maximum weight with an emphasis on speed.
"The helicopters tend to break," Chuck explained. During his nine years in the
navy, Chuck spent three as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam with no leave heading
up a detachment of 20 men and five pilots, primarily transferring supplies off
While in Vietnam, Chuck wrote his parents to find him a piece
of property he and Karen could buy. Waterfront property on Marrowstone
Island was a great choice, Chuck admits. He was discharged in 1973
and the Russells moved to Marrowstone.
Chuck eventually decided being away so much from Karen and the
Ken, Emily, and Bo was not worth the paycheck. That
the Valley was for sale, when they were looking for a business
to buy, is the primary reason the Russells are now tavern owners.
It could just of easily have been an ice cream shop.
Chuck may just be the consummate promoter. He doesn't hesitate
to don a "Bud Man", Easter Bunny or Santa suit. He also
put on the Port Hadlock Days' keg tosses, always offered unique
food at Port Hadlock Days, sells steak, clam strips and fries on
Tuesday nights, hosted many a party for politicians, and
oh, yeah, he officiates for the weddings held at the Valley.
"You have to diversify and promote," Chuck said, of his
mail order minister's license from the Church of Universal
Life. For enough money Chuck could even have been declared a saint. "I just got the lowest rung," he admitted.
A "Call to the Post" on his bugle begins each wedding.
Football fans needn't worry about having a wedding interfere
with the game. Chuck guarantees his quickie ceremony will have the
newlyweds back in their seats before half time's even over.
Just ask the dozens of happy couples he's already joined in
The Valley Tavern: Chimacum's
loss, Hadlock's gain
In the early part of this century, the original Valley Tavern sat
on the east corner of the Chimacum intersection. The Victorian building
was built in 1907 by Alfred VanTrojan, as the Chimacum Trading Company.
VanTrojan soon needed more space and built a bigger building on
the intersection's west corner.
When the Chimacum Hotel burned down in 1938, its owner, Nat Ingram,
started a tavern in one half of the then-vacant original trading
company building. The other half became the Chimacum Cafe.
In 1953, Bill and Frances Wittmayer, with their working partners,
John and Helen Yackulic, bought the tavern from Hal McKibben.
On a cold November night in 1954, thieves entered the building,
stole what they could and set the place on fire.
Plans to rebuild the tavern, on a larger piece of nearby property,
were thwarted when a petition was circulated by a teacher who
to having a tavern so close to Chimacum Schools. Instead of fighting
it, the Wittmayers and the Yackulics looked elsewhere towards
Hadlock, where Mel Kivley was ready and waiting.
It had always been Kivley's dream that his "Hadlock Hill"
become the area's center of commerce. The wheeler-dealer always
seemed to be able to sniff out a bargain and was often seen moving
houses from one site to another. At one time, he owned a good portion
of what is now downtown Port Hadlock.
Once Kivley clinched the deal $1,000 for a 125 by 125 square-foot
lot for the new tavern site he kept quiet about it. Even
more sneaky: when the state liquor board's public notice appeared
on the vacant site, Kivley strategically placed a large fir branch
to cover the sign. He didn't want to risk anyone petitioning
against the tavern in Hadlock.
The Wittmayers were insistent the tavern building have no visible
inner support posts. This was the first effort of Kelso, Wash.,
Charles Hansen at designing such a large building 40 by
40 feet without the inner supports. Hansen relied on wide
cantilevered eaves to support the weight of the roof. The rafters
run kitty corner
to each other starting at the middle of each wall. The horseshoe-shaped
bar was designed for conversation. No one's more than an earshot
The actual construction was done by Hadlock's Bruce Matheson;
his sons, Bob and Bill; and son-in-law, Ray Mosher. (The second
story was added after the building's original construction.)
Completed in 1955, the building originally had clear glass windows
on three sides, keeping with a liquor commission edict that there
be no obstruction within the tavern to impede the view from the
outside. No wonder it was called "The Fishbowl."
In 1975, it became illegal to be able to see the inside of a tavern
from the outside, and the windows were replaced with amber ones.
The back wall was extended 12 feet.
The Wittmayers divided their attentions between the Valley and
their two other taverns. After John Yackulic's death, the Wittmayers
left the Valley to his widow, Helen. Chuck and Karen Russell bought
the Valley from Helen in 1978.