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 it’s 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 tatoo 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!”

The Quest for Happy Endings

By Pat Edwards (originally written in August 2015)

Her name was Ruth Smith, but I came to know her as “Dolly,” as many others did. She entered my life in June 2011, when she first submitted a story called “Tuscaloosa, Alabama; I Was There” to Groundwaters magazine. I was managing editor of the literary quarterly which we distributed free to libraries, senior centers, businesses and organizations throughout Lane County, Oregon. Dolly had picked up a copy at the Junction City Library near the retirement residence where she lived. Her story told of her college years in Tuscaloosa during World War II. It had been triggered by the news of the devastating 2011 tornado season that hit Tuscaloosa rather hard that year and it brought forth some poignant memories which she shared with our readers.

In her 2011 bio, Dolly told a little about her life:

Dolly 2“I was a biology major at UCLA after leaving the University of Alabama. I then worked as an instructor and histologist at the University of Oregon while earning my Masters Degree in Biology. My late husband, Damon Smith, worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency and was also a WWII veteran and a rancher. Damon and our daughter, Judy, are both gone now and I moved to a retirement residence in Junction City three years ago to be with other people. I was overjoyed when I found a copy of Groundwaters a couple of years ago. It is an excellent magazine. Thank you for your efforts and good works.”

After that, the mail began to bring other submissions on a regular basis– mainly poetry that Dolly had written, and one day we received the first of several donation checks she sent us, tucked neatly inside a letter containing her most recent poem.

Upon finding out that she was living in a senior residence, I began hand-delivering copies of Groundwaters to her when I did my distribution run to the Junction City Library. Her home was only a few blocks out of the way and when I knocked and stuck my head in the open door that first time, she greeted me with a smile. When I told her who I was, she worked her way to her feet using her walker and threw out her arms to demand a hug in greeting. Her excitement in meeting me was spontaneous and humbling. I sat and visited with her for a short time during which she showed me her desk and the journal that she wrote in as often as she could when her health would allow. It wasn’t long before I had to head out to make my other deliveries, but I knew that I’d be back when it was time to distribute the next issue.

On later visits, Dolly told me about her love of her homeplace which she still owned. It was part of a ranch on Grimes Road  that her husband’s grandparents,William A. and Eliza Jane Smelser Smith, had homesteaded in the late 1800s. Because of my love for the history of our local area, I was eager to learn more about her past, but I missed the chance to learn more directly from Dolly. Her close friend, Anne Maggs-Foster, however, was able to supply some of the details of Damon and Dolly’s very interesting life.

“I met Damon and Ruth in 1982 when we purchased 28 acres from them. Our acreage was 3 of 10 strips of land that fell across both sides of the little valley where their homeplace is now.

“His grandfather homesteaded 160 acres of the valley when he rode out to Oregon on a saddle horse. The main valley is the one Ferguson runs through and the old, original Smith homestead was on a small knoll to the north and east of the current intersection of Ferguson and Grimes Roads. The stage coach used to run along the top of the ridge because the bottom land would flood.

“Grimes Road used to be a wooden road which made it passable in the winter. When we first moved out there, the old, one-room  school house was still standing near the intersection. Damon said the teacher lived with them (which he hated because he could not cut class!)

“Damon told us that his dad, Walter Leston Smith, was one of ten kids. When the kids were grown, Damon’s grandfather, William A. Smith, split the side valley along Grimes Road into ten, 10-acre, strips and gave one to each of their children. Damon’s dad slowly collected all of the strips as his siblings either moved away or died off, and Damon inherited the majority of the original homestead. .

“Damon’s mother, Callie Lilly Wolf, grew violets and she used to trade varieties with old man Kneibl who lived on Ferguson Road. Walter and Callie’s old abandoned homeplace was on our piece of land, as were the big barns and many small outbuildings.

“Ruth met Damon when she was looking for a squirrel skeleton for a biology class at the University of Oregon. He was a “cowboy” and she fell for him. They used to have horses and we rode with the both of them for many a mile on the logging roads up behind our place. She told me that they built the house with hand tools – no electricity at the time. They had an outdoor privy until her mom came to visit after Damon and Ruth’s daughter, Judy, was born, and said that, with a baby to take care of, she needed an inside bathroom.

“Ruth was highly skilled in methods of canning and cooking. She processed and preserved whatever Damon hunted. She wrote a story about “Zoe” which I believe was modeled on herself as a capable, homesteader. Ruth could shoot and cook, care for her family and home, be a good neighbor and a ‘second’ grandma to my kids, and keep a positive outlook on life.

“She gained her teaching credential by correspondence and taught school at Junction City High School after Judy was born. She taught art and science and, for many years displayed the pictures her students had painted.

“In the early 90s, we gave Ruth our old Macintosh computer when we upgraded our home computer. My daughter, Amity, and I taught her how to use it and she began writing in earnest. She would write on a yellow pad, then transcribe it into the computer where she could edit with ease. When the old timers came to visit Damon – and there was a steady stream of men – she questioned them about wildlife and plants and stories of how things were done so that she could infuse her writing with the lore of the times she was writing about.

“Ruth was a unique person who loved life and lived it fully.”

Dolly Ruth Smith, as she liked her byline to read, was indeed a unique and wonderful woman who managed to wend her way into my heart as our much-too-short friendship evolved. I didn’t get to see her often, but when I did, she was always so excited to see me. Sometimes, she had a friend visiting who she would introduce me to as “her editor.” Other times, I would find her confined to bed following what she called “small stokes.” In about 2013, I learned that she had fallen and injured her leg. I traveled to Junction City to visit her in the rehab center next to her assisted living apartment, but when I arrived, I was told that she had been taken to one in Eugene, instead. So, I tracked her down there. When she saw me enter the room, her face lit up and it warmed my heart. After several more weeks, she was transferred back to her apartment in Junction City.

Dolly began an obvious decline at that point, but whenever I visited, she’d talk about the new story that she was writing… a fairytale. As time went on, it seemed to grow in importance to her, even though her ability to work on the story was hindered by failing health. She said that she’d dream about the story and would try to get it on paper the next day, since she was no longer using a computer, but it was not coming together as well as she wanted. She was especially obsessed with the ending that was just not working out for her.

By October 2014, she decided that the story which she titled “Angela” was going to have to be good enough, although, obviously, she still was not happy with it. She had her niece, Martha Mattus, type it for her and she then sent it to Groundwaters as a submission for our January 2015 issue.

I was a bit surprised by the story when we received it. It was not her normal style of writing and it was written with an almost child-like imagination, but I personally knew how much it meant to Dolly, so I promised her that we would use it in January. I also promised that I’d help her figure out an ending for it. Before I could prepare the story for publication, however, I received an email from Martha, who lived in Portland. She said that Dolly was once again in rehab – this time in Junction City – and that she was not expected to live more than a week or two. Dolly asked her to notify her friends and if we wanted to say a last goodbye, we should do so right away.

When I got there, Dolly, herself, told me that she didn’t expect to see her story in print. I assured her that it would be in the January issue and I’d be bringing it to her as I always did. I added an “ending” to it that would reflect her passing and brought her a mock-print of the story as it would look in Groundwaters. It seemed strange at the time because I was talking about her passing, but Dolly seemed touched by it.

Amazingly, Dolly rallied in late December… at least it would have been amazing for someone else, but Dolly had grit and I believe that she somehow willed herself better. I changed the ending again, which still was not satisfactory, but I was able to deliver that January issue to Dolly in person… but she still was not happy with the story.

“Angela” once again became a passion for her as she lay in one rehab center bed after another. Months passed, and each time I would visit, she would hold up her yellow writing pad to show me that she was still working on her story. She was determined to get it right, despite her increasingly failing health.

In May 2015, she began slipping into what seemed to be semi-conscious, coma-like states, but she then amazed her caretakers by rousing enough to eat her meals and talk a bit.

On May 13, I went to see her. She was barely responsive. When I entered her room, she stirred and opened her eyes, but didn’t speak or show recognition. I took her hand and told her who I was, but she didn’t seem to understand. Before I left, a nurse came in to take her temperature and gave her a kiss on the cheek. She talked quietly to her and Dolly smiled a couple of times. She seemed to respond when I mentioned to the nurse that those hands she was holding had written some beautiful poetry and stories… and she smiled. As I was leaving, I leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek to tell her goodbye, I told her that I would make sure that Angela would live happily ever after. With eyes still closed, she formed the words “Thank you” and smiled.

Dolly was put under hospice care shortly afterwards and peacefully passed away in her sleep on Tuesday, July 22, 2015.

By then I knew that in her mind, Dolly was Angela, and this amazing, wonderful lady had written her own happy ending.


Dolly 3

A Celebration of Life and a potluck lunch was held for Dolly Ruth Smith at the Long Tom Grange on Ferguson Road between Junction City and Elmira on Sunday, August 30, 2015. Her interment is next to  her husband Damon and daughter Judy at the Rest Haven Cemetery near Junction City, Oregon in the Smith Family plot.

Lorane Spring Fling, 2011… Could It Be the Last?

Lorane Spring Fling, 2011
Could It Be the Last?
June 6, 2011
By Pat Edwards

Smiles and laughter were in evidence wherever you looked at Lorane Elementary School’s “Spring Fling” last Saturday night, but underlying the gaiety was a sense of sadness, too.  Due to budget cuts, the school will close for at least the 2011-2012 school year once the doors swing shut for summer break this month. It was apparent, however, that both young and old were willing to put the sadness aside and fully enjoy the tradition of Lorane’s annual spring event.

Troy Jentzsch

The evening began with a dinner served by the Lorane Rebekahs in the school cafeteria. There was plenty of spaghetti and lots of hot dogs, salad and ice-cold lemonade for the hungriest of appetites.

The dinner was followed by a children’s concert directed by Crow-Applegate-Lorane School District’s music director, Pat Dixon. A large turnout filled the bleachers and many lined the walls while enjoying the entertainment.

childrens concert in gymThe 12-member Lorane band played an assortment of tunes and several provided solos on their instruments. The group also turned choir, singing an intro to one of their pieces. The classes also provided skits and songs. Some of the younger students put on a very entertaining skit to the story, “Goodnight Owl” and the sixth graders made their entrance dressed in 80’s clothing and hairstyles. They soon had the large audience rockin’ to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” while using glow sticks in the darkened gym.

Face Painting 3Once the program ended, a long line quickly formed to purchase game tickets and all of the volunteers took their places at the booths in the gymnasium. With tickets in hand, kids rushed to their favorite games – the Fish Pond, Balloon Beanbag Toss, Ring Toss, Bean Bag Throw, Lollipop Tree, Face Painting, Golf and the Goldfish Toss where ping pong balls – not goldfish – were tossed into a bowl of water. If the ping pong ball remained in the bowl, the contestant won a goldfish.

Jail & JailorMore activities and games were to be found in other areas. For the price of a ticket, you could have your best friend or worst enemy put into the jail for a certain amount of time. To work off excess energy, the little ones had an air-filled bouncing structure. For those with a sweet tooth, there was a cake walk in one of the classrooms. The more literary could take advantage of the Book Fair in the library.

PythonOne of the biggest draws, however, was the petting zoo provided by Zany Zoo which featured a huge python, a boa, an alligator, a parrot, guinea pigs, a tortoise, a huge monitor lizard and a strange little animal called a Patagonia cavy.

Almost every area of the Lorane School was used for the enjoyment of those attending. Besides the gym and school building, people congregated on the front steps and the playground, enjoying one of the first warm spring days that we’ve had this year.

Enjoying the visitParents, grandparents, community members, students, former students, school administrators, teachers and former teachers were in attendance. Handshakes and hugs were shared in abundance. One of the highlights was the arrival of Lorane’s beloved former first grade teacher, Carroll Noel, who retired several years ago.

Dancin againThe covered basketball court was home to live music featuring the Creole and Cajun duo, Swamp Rock, led by fiddler, Kelly Thibodeaux, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Thibodeaux taught Lorane students to play fiddle this year.  Also known as Etouffe, the band combined “red hot fiddle, shufflin’ rhythm and blues and kickin’ Southern rock” to create an exciting new sound they call Swamp Rock. They entertained a large number of people for almost two full hours. To add further spice to their music, the band provided bright green crocodile hats to anyone who would get out and dance while they played, and they got a lot of response.

100_0274Local organizations were invited to provide information and goodies as part of the Spring Fling event. The tables were set up in the basketball shelter, as well. Information and concessions were available from the Lorane Grange, the Rural Arts Center, Groundwaters, the Lorane P.T.O., the Good News Club, Theta Rho, the Lorane Charter School Committee and the Bread Basket Giveaway Program of the Lorane Christian Church.
As the evening began to wind down, winners of the dozens of raffle prizes were announced. For the past several years, Troy Jentzsch has donated beautiful, handcrafted furniture items. This year he donated a desk and two bookcases. Jim Edwards and the Lorane Family Store donated two $50 gift certificates for gasoline. One of the favorite prizes was an enchanting doll house painstakingly made by Lorane 6th grader, Brandon Overton. Other local donors came through with garden plants and produce, local wines, flower baskets, a book on Lorane history and gift certificates galore. It was a veritable bounty for those who purchased tickets.

Prize table 2Towards the end of the evening, children began cashing in their game tickets at the prize tables and several dozen cakes won at the cake walk were carted out to the cars in the parking lot. Few people left early. It was obviously a time to linger and visit and get acquainted with neighbors. It was a time to appreciate community and living in rural America… a time to put aside differences and enjoy the traditions that we sometimes overlook in our otherwise busy lives. That’s the beauty of community and why we should never lose its essence. Lorane Elementary School, its teachers and its students have been a large part of it and once again, they brought us all together for at least one more time. Thank you!

Lorane Spring Fling, 2011 – Could It Be the Last? – June 6, 2011

(written for the Fern Ridge Review)

June 6, 2011
By Pat Edwards

Smiles and laughter were in evidence wherever you looked at Lorane Elementary School’s “Spring Fling” last Saturday night, but underlying the gaiety was a sense of sadness, too.  Due to budget cuts, the school will close for at least the 2011-2012 school year once the doors swing shut for summer break this month. It was apparent, however, that both young and old were willing to put the sadness aside and fully enjoy the tradition of Lorane’s annual spring event.

The evening began with a dinner served by the Lorane Rebekahs in the school cafeteria. There was plenty of spaghetti and lots of hot dogs, salad and ice-cold lemonade for the hungriest of appetites.

The dinner was followed by a children’s concert directed by Crow-Applegate-Lorane School District’s music director, Pat Dixon. A large turnout filled the bleachers and many lined the walls while enjoying the entertainment.

The 12-member Lorane band played an assortment of tunes and several provided solos on their instruments. The group also turned choir, singing an intro to one of their pieces. The classes also provided skits and songs. Some of the younger students put on a very entertaining skit to the story, “Goodnight Owl” and the sixth graders made their entrance dressed in 80’s clothing and hairstyles. They soon had the large audience rockin’ to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” while using glow sticks in the darkened gym.

Once the program ended, a long line quickly formed to purchase game tickets and all of the volunteers took their places at the booths in the gymnasium. With tickets in hand, kids rushed to their favorite games – the Fish Pond, Balloon Beanbag Toss, Ring Toss, Bean Bag Throw, Lollipop Tree, Face Painting, Golf and the Goldfish Toss where ping pong balls – not goldfish – were tossed into a bowl of water. If the ping pong ball remained in the bowl, the contestant won a goldfish.

More activities and games were to be found in other areas. For the price of a ticket, you could have your best friend or worst enemy put into the jail for a certain amount of time. To work off excess energy, the little ones had an air-filled bouncing structure. For those with a sweet tooth, there was a cake walk in one of the classrooms. The more literary could take advantage of the Book Fair in the library. One of the biggest draws, however, was the petting zoo provided by Zany Zoo which featured a huge python, a boa, an alligator, a parrot, guinea pigs, a tortoise, a huge monitor lizard and a strange little animal called a Patagonia cavy.

Almost every area of the Lorane School was used for the enjoyment of those attending. Besides the gym and school building, people congregated on the front steps and the playground, enjoying one of the first warm spring days that we’ve had this year.

Parents, grandparents, community members, students, former students, school administrators, teachers and former teachers were in attendance. Handshakes and hugs were shared in abundance. One of the highlights was the arrival of Lorane’s beloved former first grade teacher, Carroll Noel, who retired several years ago.

The covered basketball court was home to live music featuring the Creole and Cajun duo, Swamp Rock, led by fiddler, Kelly Thibodeaux, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Thibodeaux taught Lorane students to play fiddle this year.  Also known as Etouffe, the band combined “red hot fiddle, shufflin’ rhythm and blues and kickin’ Southern rock” to create an exciting new sound they call Swamp Rock. They entertained a large number of people for almost two full hours. To add further spice to their music, the band provided bright green crocodile hats to anyone who would get out and dance while they played, and they got a lot of response.

Local organizations were invited to provide information and goodies as part of the Spring Fling event. The tables were set up in the basketball shelter, as well. Information and concessions were available from the Lorane Grange, the Rural Arts Center, , the Lorane P.T.O., the Good News Club, Theta Rho, the Lorane Charter School Committee and the Bread Basket Giveaway Program of the Lorane Christian Church.

As the evening began to wind down, winners of the dozens of raffle prizes were announced. For the past several years, Troy Jentzsch has donated beautiful, handcrafted furniture items. This year he donated a desk and two bookcases. Jim Edwards and the Lorane Family Store donated two $50 gift certificates for gasoline. One of the favorite prizes was an enchanting doll house painstakingly made by Lorane 6th grader, Brandon Overton. Other local donors came through with garden plants and produce, local wines, flower baskets, a book on Lorane history and gift certificates galore. It was a veritable bounty for those who purchased tickets.

Towards the end of the evening, children began cashing in their game tickets at the prize tables and several dozen cakes won at the cake walk were carted out to the cars in the parking lot. Few people left early. It was obviously a time to linger and visit and get acquainted with neighbors. It was a time to appreciate community and living in rural America… a time to put aside differences and enjoy the traditions that we sometimes overlook in our otherwise busy lives. That’s the beauty of community and why we should never lose its essence. Lorane Elementary School, its teachers and its students have been a large part of it and once again, they brought us all together for at least one more time. Thank you

2011 06-08 FRR Spring Fling.jpg

Scarves of Many Colors: A Tribute to Tom Page

(Originally written on February 25, 2008)

Tom PageDuring the course of our lifetimes, most of us have encountered people who leave indelible marks upon our lives – marks that begin small but gradually deepen until we suddenly realize how important they have become to us. Tom Page has left such a mark on countless families in the West Lane area over the years. He filled the scrapbooks of hundreds of teenagers during the almost 21 years he covered high school athletics for the West Lane News and Tri-County News. He not only wrote about the “stars” of each game, but the supporting cast, as well, and he became an icon whose footprints can never be filled. As Mike Thoele, current owner/publisher of both newspapers, said “There will never be another Tom Page!” During those 21 years, Tom wrote much about others for the readers of our local newspapers, but little has been written about Tom himself or his contribution to the communities he served.

When asked to choose what came first – his love for sports or his love for writing, Tom didn’t hesitate. “Sports!” was his immediate answer. During his childhood, his family regularly attended University of Oregon football, basketball and baseball games. As a young boy, he and his friends became members of the Knothole Club where they rooted for the “Green and Yellow” from the end zones at Hayward Field. They shagged foul balls at baseball games and could usually be found at Mac Court watching UO basketball games and 4A tournaments.

Tom was an observer, never a player, during school. “I was one of those kids who was always the last one chosen for a team. If there were an odd number of us, I would be designated the referee.”

After graduating from South Eugene High School, Tom enrolled at his beloved University of Oregon and in 1969, earned a B.S. in Business Administration. With diploma in hand, he began to wonder what in the world he was going to do with it. He decided that advertising might be a good career to get into, but he would need to continue his education if he was to succeed. Unfortunately, about that time, the UO closed the enrollment in its School of Journalism, so he began work on a master’s degree at Portland State University.

While at Portland State, as part of his studies, Tom was required to take a reporting class that  immediately caught his interest. Soon he joined the school newspaper and began covering women’s sports. He later returned to the University of Oregon where he completed his master’s degree in journalism in 1971. Unfortunately, there were more diplomas in hand than jobs available locally, so Tom took a position at a newspaper in Lakewood, Washington.

His beginning assignment in Lakewood was to cover news and to help with sports. Soon, when an opening became available in the sports department, he was covering all of the athletics in eight suburban high schools in the Tacoma area, Pacific Lutheran University, Pierce County recreation programs, Fort Lewis Army and McChord Air Force bases, and the meetings for two city councils, multiple school boards and the county commission. It was a Herculean task that called for diplomacy and tact. The military families in the area were transient and were hard to connect with and the rivalries and jealousies between schools sometimes involved coaches measuring the number of inches he wrote about their program, comparing them to those he wrote about their rivals. The pressures finally took their toll. After seven years, Tom reached his burn-out point and headed home to Oregon.

Upon arriving back home, he took a job with Fred Meyer in Springfield where he worked in the paint department. Four years later, while reading the soap opera previews in the West Lane News, he noticed an opening for a sports writer. He sent in his resume and one day while he was at work at Fred Meyer, he looked up to see Joe Cannon, owner and publisher of the West Lane News, standing before him. Joe said that the editor was going on vacation and he wanted Tom to fill in for him so that Joe could see him in action. A few months later, he was offered a job as freelance sports writer at $40 per week –  his almost 21-year reign began in January 1983.

Tom Page in scarfTom’s assignments included coverage of athletics at Elmira, Crow and Triangle Lake high schools for the West Lane News and at Junction City, Harrisburg, Monroe and later Christ Center high schools for its sister-publication, the Tri-County News. He was the photographer, as well. He attended each game respectfully dressed in a sports jacket, tie and slacks. During the cold months, he wore, wrapped around his neck, a long scarf bearing the school colors of the team he was covering at the time. These scarves became his trademark and when asked about where he got them, he proudly declared, “My mother knitted them for me.” On the occasions when two of “his teams” were playing each other, he wore both scarves at once. When Crow played Harrisburg or Monroe, Tom carefully wrote two stories – one for the West Lane News, slanting it towards Crow and another similar story written from the Harrisburg/Monroe angle for the Tri-County News. The same occurred when Elmira and Junction City met in the 3A ranks. When Triangle Lake and Monroe, for instance, played other teams in different locations, the logistics became more difficult – but Tom proved up to the challenge. He simply went to the first game for the first half wearing the proper scarf and jumped in his car and headed to the other game for its 2nd half, changing scarves before he arrived. Each week, he spent a good deal of time figuring out the strategies that would get him to as many games as possible and he logged hundreds of miles in his faithful car.

When one of “his” basketball teams went to the state tournament in Pendleton, as they frequently did, he was sometimes unable to take the time off from his job at Fred Meyer to attend. Instead, he borrowed a videotape from the coach so he could write his articles. Tom always made sure that he was “there” for his teams whether it be in person or electronically.

Some of his teams struggled. Elmira was in the beginning stages of an eventual 36-game losing streak in football when Tom came on board. He covered the last 27 of those games until they had their first win. Junction City had a 22-game losing streak. “It was difficult to write positive stories during those times, but I knew that I needed to. It was a challenge to stay upbeat. As a writer, you have to do the best that you can and hope that it comes across to the readers.” At one point, a member of one struggling team exclaimed, “Hey! You made it sound as though we were good!”

Tom Page vs Betty Pellham Tom Page 1990Tom enjoyed challenging some of the tall post players from the girls’ basketball teams to one-on-one exhibition scrimmages. At Elmira, these events were referred to as the“Tom Page Challenges” and were held in conjunction with its winter sports “desserts.” Crow and Monroe girls participated at their respective schools, too. He won some and lost some and once went on a 10-game losing streak.

Tom had a very strict credo: “I tried to include a picture of every team in action every week and feature as many of the players as possible.” He not only wrote about the high scorers in each game, but about the key rebound or good pass that a non-starter made. Whether a team won or lost, he always strove to present it and its players in a positive light.

When asked what his favorite sport was, Tom was quick to respond, “Football.” He qualified it by saying that from a reporter’s standpoint, the once-a-week games and shorter seasons allowed him to be more creative in his coverage than the more frequent and longer basketball seasons. He also loves the excitement of the game and the color of bands and cheerleaders. Track runs a close second on his favorites list. He grew up with it and respects the fact that the participants are competing against their own abilities and constantly are trying to improve their own personal bests.

Tom Page at awards banquetTom’s personal life revolves around his mother. They travel to most of the University of Oregon bowl games and, being huge fans of the U.S. Navy football team, they have attended six of the last seven Army-Navy football games. “The pageantry and patriotism of the pre-game entrance of the West Point and Naval Academy cadets into the stadium is better than the actual game,” according to Tom. While traveling, Tom and his mother hunt out every college bookstore they can find where they search for pennants to add to Tom’s collection of college pennants. He has collected 180 of them so far.

Tom has never married. “Besides my mother, the athletes, their parents, the coaches and my readers in the West Lane community are my family.” Tom lives in a house in the University district that he inherited from his grandmother in 1979. “If my grandmother could visit me today, she would feel right at home. It hasn’t changed much over the years. I’m still using her rotary-dial phone and I’ve never owned a computer.”

Even though he is no longer writing for the West Lane News or Tri-County News, he still attends games whenever possible and the love and feeling for family still remains. But, towards the end, his job became “a monster that devoured me.” People were wanting more coverage of the Territorial Sports Program (TSP) and junior varsity games. He had to cut back his days at Fred Meyer and negotiate vacations in order to try and cover everything he felt he needed to do.

Following a game in 2001, Tom drove himself to the hospital where he was admitted with a heart condition that required immediate by-pass surgery. Since then, he works out four days a week at a fitness center and has brought his weight and his health back in line. He turned in his resignation to the newspapers in July 2003.

“I loved my job, but after almost 21 years, I was tired. I felt the quality of my work slipping a little and mentally, I just couldn’t do it anymore. It was time to get out.”

Tom’s dedication and the care he took to portray each athlete in a positive light did not go unnoticed. Although his by-line quietly slipped away from the pages of the West Lane News and the Tri-County News, he hasn’t slipped from the hearts of his readers. He sold a lot of newspapers in those 21 years. Parents and grandparents of every athlete eagerly awaited each issue where they knew there would be a memory waiting to be clipped and pasted into the pages of their scrapbooks. He deserves recognition for the very special service that he gave to his “community family” over the years.

As our interview wound its way to the end, I asked Tom one final question: “Do you plan to take on another sportswriting job?” His response was immediate, “No. I wouldn’t want to start all over in a new place with new schools. There is only one coverage area I’d consider writing for again. That’s where I already have family. It’s a special community with special people.”

ADDENDUM: Tom is once again the local sports reporter… this time with the Fern Ridge Review in Veneta. He’s still covering Crow High School sports as well as other teams in the area.