MARYSVILLE — In his 82 years, Bob Buttke served as a volunteer fireman, did nearly every job at The Marysville Globe before his retirement. And at the age of 5, he even served as the queen’s attendant, standing by her throne on the float for the 1937 Marysville Strawberry Festival Parade.
“My sister was in eighth grade and was set to be in the parade, but she couldn’t go, so I took her place,” said Bob, the last of eight children born to Olive and Art Buttke. “All those years I was in the fire department, I had to go when we got called. Because I was working for the paper, I couldn’t even ride in the truck, because I had to take the pictures.”
Bob was full of stories about all of those experiences when he was recently informed that he could add one more title to the list — grand marshal for the 2015 Strawberry Festival.
Paul Brown, vice president of the festival and publisher of The Marysville Globe, told Bob he’d been chosen because of his literal lifetime of contributions to the community.
With his wife of 62 years, Bev, and their adult children by his side, Bob laughed into a series of tales, both silly and serious, which hearkened back to the history of his hometown. “When I started at the Globe, the old editor would throw his cigars on the floor, so that the butts and ashes and dross would be mixed in to make the pigs of type metal,” Bob said.
Bob recalled meals at Ron’s Hamburgers and getting his car fixed at “Smitty” Smith’s garage, as well as how the boat ramp used to be the site of the town’s dump.
“I think I could name just about every one of the businesses that were on State Street, before it was State Avenue,” Bob said. “There was the tavern where women weren’t allowed, because there was only one restroom, and it was for men, so women would call for their husbands from the pay phone across the street, and say, ‘I can see you through the windows.’”
Not only did Bob serve alongside Rudy Wright, the only Marysville firefighter who’s ever died in the line of duty, but he was there the day that Rudy died.
On Nov. 3, 1970, Rudy and Bob were on the scene of an accident between a car and truck, at what was then Marshall Road and Interstate 5. Barricades were placed to redirect traffic, while firefighters and volunteers hosed away spilled diesel fuel. A car driven by an Everett man crashed through the barricades and struck Rudy, killing him instantly. “He almost killed me,” Bob said. “I was standing right beside Rudy, and I didn’t see or hear him until he hit Rudy.”
Bob estimated that there were 30 firefighters covering Marysville at the time, all of them volunteers, who were summoned from their homes by the bell on their landline telephones.
Bob was five months old for the first Strawberry Festival, and he’s been in town for every one since.
“I’ve still got my old typewriter,” Bob said. “Every new store that opens in town wants to hire me as a greeter.” He concluded, “After all the people I’ve seen serve as grand marshal over the years, I’ve been waiting for this. I think I deserve every bit of it,” he chuckled.