The celebrated its bicentennial — in part — with the dedication of a 22-foot, hand-carved cedar totem pole in April of 1975. Although Henry Moses, the last hereditary chief of the Duwamish Tribe, had passed nearly six years before the milestone, he was ever-present in the memories of those who attended the event.
An April 1975 edition of the Record-Chronicle quotes the late Frank Conklin, a former member of the Renton Historical Society and friend of Moses, from a speech he made during the first pole dedication: "Henry excelled in sports and had a great sense of humor to boot."
Moses, Conklin said, is the reason the Renton mascot is the Indian.
According to the Record-Chronicle article, "When it came time to name our basketball team Henry said, 'I'm the best of the whole group so why not name us the Renton Indians?' That's how the high school got its nickname," Conklin said.
Fast forward 36 years: The City and host a re-dedication ceremony for the totem pole during the celebration.
No Ordinary Rededication
Although Saturday's crowd was about half as large as the 1975 turnout, the excitement matched that of the original ceremony.
Forty-six year Renton resident Earl Greiner remembers the pole in its original location at the edge of the Renton Shopping Center. And he remembers the day it disappeared in 2009.
"We were shocked to hear that it had been stolen, but there was probably more amazement when it was found," he said. "It's neat to see it back."
Nancy Greiner joined her husband and about 30 others at the ceremony. She also attended the first dedication in 1975.
The pole's return wasn't a fluke; it was the product of perseverance and teamwork, said Marty Plys, a food receiver who was charged with the follow-up search for the pole.
"The previous store manager asked me to handle it, so I did," said Plys, who has worked at Frey Meyers for 15 years.
Plys called numerous police agencies that eventually tracked the pole to Oregon. The Seattle Police Department travelled south to identify the pole, he said.
The pole's original creator, Jim Ploegman, echoed Ply's sentiment.
Ploegman thanked his son, Fred, for helping with the pole's restoration; tribal member White Bear for securing the permits and helping with installation; Plys for locating the pole; Fred Meyer Store Director Mike Ayers and the Fred Meyer store for funding the restoration; the Duwamish Tribe; the City of Renton; the ; and the Renton School district.
The refurbished pole is now located in front of the Renton Fred Meyer, where it's expected to stay for at least another 36 years, and hopefully many more.