Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Women repair road, heckle men who won’t

In an April 21, 1967, Associated Press story, a group of angry women took the old adage “If you want something done right, do it yourself” to heart when a road through rural Digness, West Virginia, fell into sad disrepair and none of the “menfolk” seemed interested in fixing it.

The road winding along Twelve Pole Creek serviced 400-500 families, and had not been touched since it was paved in 1963. A team of women ranging in age from teens to sixties took up sledgehammers, shovels and wheelbarrows to fill potholes along the road, in some places so tattered that cars could move no faster than 10 miles an hour. In a week the women had repaired almost a mile of the asphalt roadway, but were looking at dozens of miles of back-breaking labor before they were finished.

But they were not only working to repair the road. They were also protesting the men who, the women said, were too lazy to do the work. At issue was the state welfare program offering $1 per hour to unemployed fathers to work on public projects, with some 700 local men receiving aid. “You can see them sitting up there on their porches, not doing anything and drawing that welfare pay. It’s getting to their morality,” one lady worker declared.

The women, who worked four hours a day in a team of 20, heckled men walking and driving along the road while they shoveled dirt, filled holes and wielded 12-pound sledgehammers to crush rock into gravel. But their attempts at shaming didn’t seem to make much difference. Some of the men interviewed contended they were working on other projects. And many of them also said the women should stay home and “mind the kitchen.”

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Coffee cup collection gives nostalgic twist to reopened cafe

What’s one thing truckers are known for? Drinking coffee. Gallons and gallons of coffee. They’re also quite loyal to the truck stops and cafes they patronize along their routes. One such cafe in Umatilla boasted what they thought was the largest collection of personalized coffee cups in the area, all displayed on shelves throughout the dining room.

The Coffee Cup Cafe was located on Highway 730, just west of Umatilla, at the time the May 6, 1981 story appeared in the East Oregonian. It had recently been reopened by Ellen Smith after sitting shuttered for three years when the old Husky truck stop cafe closed its doors. The coffee cups — more than 2,000 of them — had been boxed up and stored, but were slowly regaining their place of distinction.

“Miss Ellie” Armour, who worked as a cook at the old truck stop before it closed, said she had been visiting the cafe off and on for about 30 years and remembered truckers paying a dollar to have their names and the outfit they drove for put on a cup, which was shelved in a numbered spot. When the trucker would return to the cafe, he would give his number and a waitress would retrieve his cup. Some cups were stored upside down, in respect for a trucker “who will jam gears no more.”

Smith, former assistant manager of the King City Truck Stop outside of Pasco, Wash., said she thought opening her own truck stop would be “exciting and a challenge.” She hoped to bring the cafe back to its original truck stop glory, featuring home-cooked food and a place where truckers could stop in for a personalized cup of joe and old-fashioned hospitality.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Magazine solicitors too clever for own good

Magazine subscription salesmen are everywhere. Every summer, it seems, they’re knocking at our doors with tales of trips to be financed and school to be paid for. And if you think these gangs of 20-somethings canvassing our neighborhoods are a new thing, you’d be wrong. The May 9, 1930, East Oregonian carried a cautionary tale about reading everything carefully before you sign on the dotted line.

Nineteen men and women hit Pendleton to sell magazine subscriptions that week, with the usual sales pitches touting “working my way through school” and “earning money to pay for a trip to Europe.” The solicitation crew ran afoul of the law when the team tried to scam an Echo rancher, F.O. Wilson, who was accosted while trying to sell his cream at the Golden West Creamery.

Wilson declined to subscribe to any magazines, saying he only had time to read the daily paper. Then Dorothy Gordon and Pearl Miller asked him for his vote in a contest amongst the crew, and he agreed to sign two pieces of folded yellow paper with his name, mentioning he was from Echo.

The folded papers turned out to be blank check forms from a Walla Walla bank. The girls first attempted to pass the checks at a local bank after they had written in amounts and the name First National Bank of Echo, which they later learned did not exist. The girls then appeared at the Van Fleet Durkee Station with First National Bank of Pendleton check forms which had been crossed out and the Echo State bank written in, with Mr. Wilson’s signature reproduced at the bottom. The attendant of the filling station became suspicious and called the sheriff’s office, who arrested Dorothy Gordon later that day at the Pendleton Woolen Mills.

By that time Pearl Miller and others of the crew, including the manager, had made it to La Grande, where one of the fraudulent checks was cashed. The crew manager was returned to Pendleton after his arrest and returned the money from one of the forged checks. The case was handed to Deputy District Attorney Fred Schmidt for prosecution.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Corrective surgery gives teen new outlook

A La Grande girl who was born with rare facial birth defects got a new lease on life after corrective surgery in 1964, according to an Associated Press story that was printed in the July 21 East Oregonian. Fifteen-year-old Ida Hayes was born with her eyes twice as far apart as normal, a protruding jaw and a malformed nose. For years her parents were told there was no hope for corrective surgery, and Ida learned to live with her deformities, and become accepted and a leader in school and church activities.

But doctors didn’t give up on giving Ida a chance for a normal life. Eventually New York University Hospital agreed to do the surgery and a team of surgeons led by Dr. John Converse, the director of the Institute for Reconstructive Plastic Surgery, provided their expertise for no charge. The citizens of La Grande also emptied their pockets and poured out their support, raising more than $10,000 toward expenses for Ida and her family.

Dr. Converse said it was one of the most extensive cases of eye correction his team had ever undertaken. The procedure involved, among other things, lifting up and repositioning her brain, cutting out part of the center of her face and moving the orbits (the space in the skull where the eyes are positioned) closer together. Bone grafts from her hip were used to fill the spaces.

The surgical team’s biggest fear was the possibility that Ida’s optic nerves would be damaged, but doctors at the University of Oregon Health Sciences Center reported she had 20-30 vision in one eye and 20-40 vision in the other following the surgery — good enough to read and even drive a car.

Ida would have to undergo more surgery in the following years, but doctors reported she was able to use both eyes at the same time, and have depth perception, for the first time in her life.