Category: Writings

I have written all of my life and this collection will be diverse in content and genre.

The Histories of the Lorane Service Station (aka The Mitchell Store) and the Lorane Family Store

In recognition of the

Lorane Family Store’s 40th anniversary

December 1977 – 2017

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The History of the Mitchell’s Store

(Lorane Service Station)

1934-1977

By William Olsen
April 12, 2008

Old Mitchell Store

Most of my family came from Ireland. But I have roots I can trace to people coming over on the Mayflower. But I can trace, and just have more roots, from Ireland. Most of my ancestors came over during the great potato famine! (Before that they where probably eating the some of the more common Irish foods, like limerick ham, apple jelly, and soda bread. But potato was what they usually sold for money, and ate with all their meals.)

They had two options: stay in Ireland and starve to death or try to go to America and risk death on the way over. The later option is the one that they choose, for obvious reasons. So they packed up their few belongings and set out for the docks. When they got there however, they probably had to sell their stuff, so they could get the money to buy passage on a ship. This was really expensive because the captains would charge them an excessive amount of money, due to how badly they wanted to get to America. These boats quickly gained the name of coffin ships.

Some of my ancestors must have made it, because my Great Grandpa Bill Mitchell was born. Bill and his wife Hattie, lived near Bill’s brothers in California. Unfortunately Hattie’s sister’s health was not so good, so as a family they decided to move. They packed up their model T-Fords and trailers. This undoubtedly was a long trip they made. Grandpa told me that they would sleep in the fords all the way on the trip because they did not have the spare money to sleep in a hotel, and who knows what might have crawled in back of those trucks.

After the long trip they arrived in a small logging town known as Lorane. There the four brothers all worked in a logging business. They worked there for a while, and then they decided to start their own logging business. Their mill was one of the first mills to get an electric saw put in. Grandpa worked there for a while until he got injured in an accident. He sold his share in the company and he decided to open up a store.

The store had two gas pumps right out front. As you enter through the front door, right in front of you would be the counter and there would be Grandpa sitting there, smiling his genuine smile at you. The store’s name, “The Lorane Service Station,” was quickly changed by the people who came in regularly to, “The Mitchell’s Store.” Grandpa’s store soon became a meeting place for the whole town. Everybody would come down for some reason or another. Some people would come down for gas, others for groceries, the kids came for the penny candy, but everyone would stop by.

Then disaster struck! The Great Depression came on. Grandpa, being a nice man started to give credit to people, and every single one paid him back. He would start trading things like flour for some eggs, or butcher a cow and let it hang up in his freezer to cure exchange for some of the beef. It was hard times indeed. But after awhile it cleared up.

One day my Great Grandpa, Bill Mitchell, was sitting in his store behind the counter drinking an ice cold Coke-Cola, which conveniently, he got from his store’s water-cooled Coke-Cola machine. While sitting there minding his own business, a person from the Oregon State Department of Transportation walked up to him.

The man said to him “Are you Bill Mitchell?”

Grondpa replied, “Yes I am.”

“Then sir,” said the man from the State Department of Transportation, “you need to move the gas pumps you have outside back a few feet.”

“Why do I have to move them back?” asked Grandpa “I am not paving the road. Also, they are certainly not in my way.”

The state man said, “Because, Sir, they are in the way of us paving the road.”

“So, I don’t care; pave the road if you want.” was Grandpa’s cool response.

The state man was getting flustered at Grandpa for not doing what he was asking. He responded to Grandpa in a strained voice, “5ir, those two gas pumps are in the way of us paving the road! Please move them back.”

Grandpa responded in his cool tones “If you want those two gas pumps moved back then you move them back.1I

The state man ground his teeth loudly, and in an unkind voice he said, “I will come back tomorrow to talk to you again.”

The next day, like he promised, the man from the state department came back. What happened in the conversation was pretty much like the day before, except this time the conversation ended with the man from the state department yelling, “Fine! Have it your way, We will just pave those two gas pumps as well!”

The man turned to leave and said “We will be starting in week. If they are not moved, they will be under asphalt!” and the man left.

The paving of the road went pretty smoothly, except for the paving around Grandpa’s two gas pumps, which were now two feet shorter, because they were in the road and the state man followed through on his threat.

One day in 1969, Grandpa was sitting in his store when robbers with guns came in to rob him. They had him put all his money he had at the store in a bag. Then while they were making their escape, they decided to bring him along to make sure he did not call the police. They had him strip his clothes off, and then they taped him up with duct tape which they found in the store. They then picked him up and roughly shoved him in the back of the car. Then when they got in the car, one of them decided that they should blindfold him. So one of them had to reach behind the seat and blind fold him, while he laid in a shape not unlike that of twisted pretzel. Then they drove off an old windy road so he could not remember the way they went. When they neared Cottage Grove, however, they let him out and drove off. Grandpa had to walk two miles to the nearest house to call his wife to bring him a new pair of trousers and give him a ride home.

Unfortunately this took a big toll on his body and he died six months later.

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Lorane Service Station; Mitchell Store: Lorane Family Store

by Pat Edwards

Old Lorane Family Store

Lorane Family Store 300 dpi

In 1932, Bill and Hattie Mitchell sold the property that sat across Territorial Road from their house to Hattie’s brother, Earl C. Herendeen. He built a small building there to house a barber shop and service station with living quarters attached.

In 1934, Herendeen sold the property and building back to Bill Mitchell who enlarged it and established a grocery store and service station. It was named the Lorane Service Station and was referred to as Mitchell’s Store.

Every time the county put another layer of asphalt on Territorial Road in the early years after it was paved, they approached Bill Mitchell and told him that he couldn’t have his gas pumps that close to the road. Bill would say, “I didn’t raise the road! If you want the gas pumps moved you buy them or move them for me.” They wouldn’t agree to that, but would invariably give him a variance. Next time that they put a new coat on the road, they would again approach Bill. They’d say “You can’t;” Bill would say “I didn’t do this,” and the county finally gave in and allowed the pumps to stay where they were ‒ about a foot below the surface of the road.

Bill Mitchell had the reputation of being a “nice man.” He was known as a man who “never knew a stranger,” and the store was a well-used meeting place for those who wanted to warm their hands at the wood stove and catch up on the gossip. It was a friendly store because Bill made it that way.

Bill and Hattie Mitchell operated the store until his death in 1969. The family continued operation until Hattie’s death in 1977, when the store was sold to Jim and Pat Edwards. The Edwards changed the name to the Lorane Family Store. Jim was a former grocery and meat manager for Mayfair Markets in the Eugene area. For the first few years, Jim continued to work as a meat cutter for Mayfair while Pat ran the Lorane Family Store. After Mayfair sold its local stores, Jim went to work for West Lane Thriftway in Veneta as a meat cutter for two days a week and has since run the store with the help of Nancy O’Hearn, and an assortment of others including Michelle Doughty, Marna Hing, Kandi Karsh, Sheila Mc Donald, Marilyn Wenger Cooper, Debbie Davis, Anna Davis, Chris Keeler, Melissa Keeler, Kathy Warden, Paula Warden May, Jeramie Warden, Jamie Cooper, Shaunna Doughty, Beverly Foster, Cynthia Nickel, Heidi O’Hearn, Kim Edwards, Rollin Hardie, Barbara Robinson, Tayla Raye Martin, Kayla Pinson, Stacy Larsen,  Deanne Ewoniuk, Tia Spath, Hannah Edwards, Tracie DeBoer and Kevin Stevens (our newest “family” members/staff) not to mention most of the other Edwards children and grandchildren and most likely a few others. When Jim took over the store full time, Pat went to work for the University of Oregon in the Institute of Neuroscience.

Over the years, it was obvious that the old building was slowly sinking into the Upper Siuslaw flowing behind it. It had no foundation and the customers used to tease that the Edwards located the Pepsi coolers in the back of the store so that they would sell more pop, since the slant of the old wooden plank floors seemingly propelled the customers in that direction. After careful consideration, Jim Edwards ordered a 36′ x 80′ prefabricated steel building and laid a heavy concrete pad to the south and behind the store to build it on. The construction of the new store began October, 1993. Jim did most of the work himself. The old store continued operation for 10 months until August, 1994, when a group of family and friends began moving the merchandise from the old store to the new one. Shortly afterwards, the old store was demolished. It was a bittersweet time for the Edwards.

Because the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) ruled that all aged underground gasoline storage tanks had to be dug up, inspected for leaks and replaced by the end of 1996, Jim decided to do that at the time he was building the new store. Fortunately, there was little leakage from the old underground tanks on the site, unlike many others in other parts of Lane County. Many small businesses gave up their gas pumps because the high cost of replacing the tanks was prohibitive. Because the Lorane General Store was one of those that stopped selling gas, Jim and Pat felt that they had to figure out a way of retaining their pumps. If they didn’t, the people of Lorane would not have a source of gasoline within 12 miles. The cost of replacing and maintaining underground tanks, however, dictated that the Edwards use the above-ground tanks, instead. The old tanks were pulled out and a large 9,000 gallon partitioned above-ground tank was installed

Since they bought the store in 1977, the Edwards have greatly increased the merchandise inventory and the variety of merchandise they carry in order to provide as many conveniences as possible for the community. The Lorane Family Store has carried at one time or another a full line of groceries, gasoline, livestock feeds, hardware, fresh-ground coffee, hot lunchtime items, movie rentals, sundries, local wines, greeting cards, toys, automotive fluids and supplies, hunting licenses, UPS sending and pickup service, U-Haul rentals and fax and copy services.

From Sawdust and Cider to Wine (2006) by Pat Edwards

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And, now even a community book exchange

Lorane Family Store Library Oct 24 2013 - Pam Kersgaard

Buzzard Duck

by Pat Edwards

Buzzard Duck was a member of that large mute breed of black and white duck that looks like it has a hamburger patty wrapped around its face… the Muscovy Duck.  He came to live on our farm many years ago when someone gave him to us (that’s one of the “perks” of living on a farm… you get all of the animals that your friends and acquaintances no longer want!).  Buzzard Duck had the run of the barnyard along with an assortment of chickens and a pair of turkeys.  Because he didn’t have a mate, he had to use his imagination.  He took a shine to his own image that reflected from a piece of shiny aluminum that patched a large hole on the bottom of the barn door.  B.D. stood before his reflection for hours on end, whispering sweet nothings to it in duck-fashion, and caressing its smooth surface with his head and beak.  He was so enamored with his own image that we didn’t think that any of us existed in his mind.  But, apparently, he did feel he owed my husband, Jim, a debt of gratitude for feeding him each day.

One day, Buzzard Duck was in rapt discussion with his reflection, as usual, while my husband was hammering away on a piece of equipment in the barnyard.  Jim was completely oblivious to the fact that our huge Tom Turkey was nearby.  Tom, who had long before instilled terror in the hearts of our 4 children, especially our youngest daughter, Kelly, by chasing them across the barnyard whenever they ventured near, began to circle Jim, preparing for a full charge.  Then, with wings spread and neck extended, the turkey sped (as fast as a 50 lb. hunk of white meat can speed) straight towards Jim.  Jim was at first unaware that he was a target, but when he heard the rustle of feathers, he looked up to see a black and white duck streaking past him.  When he turned around to see where Buzzard Duck was going in such a hurry, he saw what looked like a potential game of “Chicken” between a turkey and a duck.  It was the turkey that put on his brakes and made a retreat for the far reaches of the barn lot with a very mad Buzzard Duck in fast pursuit.  When B.D. figured that Jim was once again out of harm’s way, he calmly returned to courting his aluminum mate.

It was not too long afterwards that we found someone who had a female Muscovy who was looking for a mate.  It was to be Buzzard’s reward for saving the dignity of his benefactor.  And a few months’ later, it was Thanksgiving.  (No, we didn’t eat Tom, but we did find him and his mate a new home.)  Kelly and her sisters and brother were able to cross the barnyard… unarmed… once again, and they all lived happily ever after.

The Sweet Sauce of Labor

By Pat Edwards (April 2010)

Greek historian, Plutarch, once said, “Rest is the sweet sauce of labor.” I agree and believe that it is only when we experience exhausting physical labor that we can appreciate the sweetness of rest.

Now that I’m nearing my 70th year, I find myself thinking back over my life. I’ve always been a hard worker – some of my work was physically hard, but much of it was (and is) of the type that exercises the brain more than the muscles. A short period of about two years in my youth, however, seemed to be my most physically challenging and one of the most rewarding periods for me.

I was born in Los Angeles and raised in various large and mid-size towns during my childhood. These included Lebanon, Eugene and Portland, Oregon; Eureka, California; and for a short time, Phoenix, Arizona. It was always my dream, however, to live on a farm where I could have a horse and experience the wide-open spaces that didn’t include paved streets and houses sitting so close to each other that you could hear the neighborhood mothers calling their kids in to dinner.

My long-held dream was answered in my sophomore year in high school. My nomadic father, who moved us every few years, decided that he, too, was ready to become a farmer. Up to that point, he had tried his hand as a training tech for Douglas Aircraft during WWII, an electrician (providing the first wiring in some of the homes in Lorane), a logger, a salesman of heavy equipment, an owner of an International Harvester dealership and a commercial fisherman. He had helped my grandparents on their farm in Lorane for several years before I was born and for a short time afterwards, so he was familiar with what it took to be a farmer.

When he and our mother announced to my sister Barbara (B.J.) and I that we were buying a bean and strawberry farm outside of Lebanon, Oregon, we were ecstatic! At the time, we lived on east 139th Street in Portland and I was attending Parkrose Junior High School. Our older brother, Jim, had already left home and had served a stint in the U.S. Marines.

Midway through my sophomore year, we moved to our new farm, located northeast of Lebanon. The Santiam River, which provided the irrigation for the crops, flowed along our western boundary. Compared to commercial farms these days, it was a small farm… probably about 60 acres. The flat bottom land allowed us to plant 15 acres in green beans each year in its fertile soil and there was a 5-acre patch of strawberries on the bottom, gentle slope of the hill below our house. We also planted about 5 acres of winter squash and had approximately 30 acres of wheat, oat and barley fields and pasture. The house and barns sat at the top of a small hill on about 5 acres of land. As soon as the purchase was finalized, my father signed a contract to sell all of the fruit and vegetable crops that we raised to Flavor-Pak, an Albany cannery. In exchange, they provided us a “rep” who made frequent visits to advise us in all things – the “how-tos” and time-lines for preparing the ground, planting, fertilizing, spraying, weeding and harvesting.

B.J. and I immediately began petitioning our parents for horses, but because money would be tight for awhile, we were told we’d have to wait. Fortune shone down upon us, however, when an ad appeared in the Capital Press seeking someone who would be willing to board two horses for their use. Soon, we moved Rocket and Topper into the pasture below the huge three-story dairy barn. Our dream had indeed come true!

Did I mention “labor” at the beginning of this story? I know that it seems I got sidetracked, but all of the preceding was meant to set the stage for what was to come next.

While B.J. and I settled into school – she, at the little “eight-grades-in-one-room” Griggs Elementary School, down the road, and I at the considerably larger Lebanon Union High School, Daddy put on his farmer hat in earnest. While the fields were too wet to plow, he tightened fences, worked on fixing the stalls for the horses, fenced areas for the geese and built a coop for the chickens. B.J. and I had our own chores – feeding the menagerie and helping Mama with the house. In those days, I was mainly the “outdoor worker” and B.J. was the “inside help”… It shows! I’ve never had a “neat-as-a-pin” house, but in those days, I loved working outside where I could be close to the animals.

When Spring arrived, Daddy and my grandfather, who with my grandmother, came to spend the summer with us in their travel trailer, spent their days on the tractors, fertilizing, spraying and tilling between the rows of strawberries and working the rest of the ground for the crops that he would later plant. When I got home from school each day, I changed clothes, grabbed a lightweight hoe, and headed for the strawberry field where I chopped down the tender beginnings of weeds that the tiller had missed before they got too much of a head start. For the ones that grew too close to the precious berry plants, I got down on hands and knees and pulled them manually.

As the fruit began to ripen and the days progressed, our work became more intense. The weeds began to grow faster and bigger and I was having a hard time keeping up with them, so the whole family spent whatever time they could to help.

For the strawberries, we depended on local people to help pick the crops. We didn’t have our own crop bus, so when the berries neared the time when they would have to be picked, we held our breaths, hoping to have enough help. On the day we began picking the first strawberries, enough local people arrived in response to the ad that we placed in the newspaper to fill our need for workers. Most were mothers and children, earning money for school and the necessities of life. Others were there to enable them to buy the horse or take the vacation they always dreamed of having..

Each day, a steady flow of the luscious red berries were brought to the check-in station that Mama ran as the carriers were filled. I worked alongside our other pickers, gently twisting the berries off their stems as the cannery required, and at the end of each day, my fingers were stained bright red and the knees and seat of my jeans were crusted with dirt and mud. It was hard, hard work, bending over, crawling and scooting along the ground to retrieve the sweet berries hiding behind the huge green leaves. B.J., who was in fifth grade, tried picking for awhile, but she ended up starting berry fights with the kid in the next row or sat eating berries instead of putting them into her carrier. She was soon “promoted” to being our house worker and was put to work helping Grandma prepare meals and keep the house clean.

After the berry season ended, Mama spent her days with the normal chores of cooking and cleaning, but in addition, she was in charge of cleaning and preparing our migrant cabins for what we hoped would be families arriving to help with the bean harvest. In those days, the local farmers depended on the seasonal workers who moved from one crop to another throughout the spring and summer. Most began picking early crops in California and then gradually worked their way to Oregon for the beans. When those were harvested, they moved on to Washington for the apples. Most had a regular pattern they followed and returned to the same farms each year. In those days, they were mainly poor white families who made their livings from picking the crops. In the late 1950s, before children were no longer allowed to work in the fields, whole families would labor to bring in as much as they could. Fathers, mothers and the older children worked full days; the younger ones worked for shorter periods, but when they tired, they were allowed to play quietly at the ends of the rows. Mothers took breaks occasionally to breast feed their babies under the shade of the trees that usually lined the fields on at least one side and the whole family joined her there for a lunch break where they ate the food that she packed that morning.

We had three connected cabins on our farm. They were single-room bunkhouses and each had unadorned plank floors and walls, a hot plate, a sink with running water, a 100-watt light bulb in the ceiling for light and several bunk beds. There was a shower room at the end of the row of cabins for all to use. The “bathroom” was a two-holer set away from the cabins that Daddy had to move every week or so to a new site.

While I worked in other areas of the farm, Mama, B.J. and Grandma cleaned and scrubbed and tried to make the cabins as livable and comfortable as possible. The migrants brought their own sleeping bags, so sheets and bedding were provided only as a backup, if needed. The families were responsible for their own “housekeeping,” but Mama always wanted to have them start with a clean environment.

Our first cabin was prepared earlier than usual, however. As soon as school was out, a mother and her teenaged son arrived to work during the strawberry season. Unlike the other families we were expecting for bean harvest, however, the woman, Mrs. Boyles, was a high school teacher in Coos Bay and she had contacted us a couple of weeks earlier about coming to spend the summer on our farm so that her son, Bobbie, could learn how to work.

After strawberry season ended and while we were waiting for the beans to ripen, there was still much work to do. My summer days that first year were filled with helping to hand-string the beans, moving irrigation pipe and doing lots and lots of hoeing on the 15-acre bean field. Despite the fact that we were allowed to spray herbicides in those days, we still had a lot of pigweed and morning glory to contend with. I became browned with the best farmer’s tan anyone could want and my remaining baby fat melted away. I was never happier or healthier in my life than I was on that farm!

It was not all work, though. There were times when B.J. and I took time off to literally jump onto the backs of Rocket and Topper. We didn’t have saddles, so we always rode bareback on the well-worn trails along the river bank and around the fields. We sometimes rode the horses a mile or so down Brewster Road to visit my best friend or to venture down other roads in the area to see where they led. To us, those rides were our well-deserved rest from the work we did on the farm.

A few days before bean harvest was scheduled to begin, our first family of migrants arrived – a mother, a father and two teenaged sons. Then, another family with younger children moved into the last cabin. Both families had worked for the previous owners and had returned to help with our harvest. Though obviously poor, the families were close and loving. The children were polite and respectful of their parents and they had a certain discipline that you don’t see much in today’s youth.

Mama in beanfield

My mother, Ruth Evelyn Smith, weighing beans

Daddy in beanfield

My father, James Sterling Smith, in the bean field

When picking began in the bean fields, the experienced hands of the migrant workers showed the rest of us what work really was. I thought I was able to fill my bean bucket pretty fast, but no matter how fast I picked, all but the youngest kids had their buckets full before I did.

In those days, the beans were pole beans, which climbed five foot high wire and string. The bottom beans ripened first, so much of the earlier picking was done close to the ground and progressed higher with the second and third pickings. We each had a metal five-gallon bucket and a large cloth sack. When we filled the bucket, we poured the beans into the sack until it was full. Then, we drug the sack up to the front of the rows where Mama was running the check-out station. She weighed the sack of beans from a portable hanging scale, record it on the person’s bean card which she kept to tally the day’s weight and then dumped the beans into a large wooden box that, when full, would be loaded by tractor onto the back of the farm truck for transport to the cannery.

There was a lot of camaraderie in the fields. A lot of local adults and children came to work for us – even some of my high school friends. We talked, joked, and sang songs across the rows of beans. Occasionally, a bean fight would break out, but for the most part, we worked.

Frequently, our reward for our hard day’s labor was going back to the house, showering, eating a hearty dinner – usually prepared by Grandma – and then wandering out to the picker’s cabins where a fire was usually burning in the firepit. We joined the migrant families and Bobby and Mrs. Boyles around the fire, drinking ice cold lemonade and visiting. Soon, one of the teenaged boys, Jerry Bean (yes, that was really his name!) got out his guitar and began to sing all of the popular Ricky Nelson and Elvis Presley songs that I loved. He was good! and I soon developed a huge crush on him. I know that my response to him worried my parents, but our friendship remained just that… a friendship. To me, though, it was so cool to have someone serenade me and tattoo my first name onto his arm with a sterilized sewing needle and India ink!

I wonder if he still carries that faint memory of me?

Rest. It means different things to different people, but for me, it means the special rewards we allow ourselves at the end of a hard day’s work… horseback rides, friends, singing around a campfire, ice cold lemonade. It doesn’t always have to mean idleness… to me, “rest” means enjoying the life that you’ve earned through your own hard work… It truly is the “sweet sauce of labor!”