The Good Old Days

Museum News

The Board of the Vernonia Pioneer Museum Association (VPMA) elected officers for 2013 at its January meeting:  President, Jay Anderson; Vice President, Ralph Keasey; Secretary, Barbara Larsen; Treasurer, Tobie Finzel.   The board bid a fond farewell to Carol Davis who has ably led VPMA for the last seven years but resigned to pursue other interests.  Jay Anderson has volunteered in a number of ways during this past year, and he was warmly welcomed to the board.

There is a new structure on the museum grounds.  After the collapse of the former outdoor display shed during a heavy snow in 2010, the museum board applied to the Columbia County Cultural Coalition for a grant to help replace that structure.  This spring the area under the roof will be graveled and several of items will be moved there with explanatory placards added to describe how they were used.

VPMA has received several donations from descendants of the Malmsten family who settled in the Vernonia area in the early 1900s.  Olof Malmsten’s sons, among other accomplishments, established the first telephone service in Vernonia which was jokingly referred to as “The Swede Line.”   We have used some of these funds to purchase a display case for the wedding coats worn by Olof and Franklin Malmsten and to restore their wedding portraits which are now in the process of being reframed at Grey Dawn Gallery.  Mark Greathouse, great grandson of Olof and grandson of Franklin, and his wife, Helena, donated these artifacts and made a generous grant to the museum that has greatly helped preservation efforts.

Many current and former Vernonians receive frequent email correspondence from Bob New, a 1947 graduate of Vernonia High School.  Bob has been the unofficial Vernonia historian for several years and regularly provides reminiscences, digitized photographs, video and slide shows of Vernonia events, and obituaries of Vernonians to those on his distribution list.  He has generously provided copies of his DVDs and CDs to the museum for resale to our patrons and for our archives.  In future columns, we will share some of his great stories about Vernonia in the “good old days.”

From Virgil Powell’s Diary

Virgil Powell was a long-time resident who had a farm somewhere in the Upper Nehalem Valley between Natal and Pittsburg.  Each year from 1906 until 1955, he kept a diary with a brief entry almost every day of his activities.  He noted what he did on the farm that day, what the weather was, if he worked in the woods or delivering mail, and what entertainments he attended. In the 1960s, then-curator John Stofiel transcribed the diaries to typewritten pages; both the original diaries and the transcriptions are kept the museum.  Here’s what Virgil wrote in February 1908:

Saturday, Feb. 15:  Carried the mail to Mist.  Got to Mist at 11 A.M.  Grange day at Natal.  Pretty fair day but rained after I got home.  Had a fine time down at the store talking basket social for next Saturday night.

Saturday, Feb. 22:  Carried the mail down to Mist.  Got to Mist at 10 A.M.  Left Mist at 1 P.M.  Got home at 2.25.  Stayed home till 3.10 then started for the doings at Vernonia at 4.45.  From Mist to Vernonia 3 hours.  Had a deuce of a time.  Did not start home till 7 A.M.  Good fine day.

Tuesday, Feb. 25:  Sawed wood all day.  Shot at some salmon in the afternoon but did not kill any.  Cloudy and looks very much like rain.  Received a postal from Florence Williams.

The Vernonia Pioneer Museum is located at E. 511 Bridge Street and is open from 1 to 4 pm on Saturdays and Sundays (excluding holidays) all year.  From June through mid-September, the museum is also open on Fridays from 1 – 4 pm.  There is no charge for admission but donations are always welcome.   Become a member of the museum for an annual $5 fee to receive the periodic newsletter, and if you are a Facebook user, check out the new Vernonia Pioneer Museum page created by Bill Langmaid. The museum volunteers are always pleased to enlist additional volunteers to help hold the museum open and assist in other ways.  Please stop by and let one of the volunteers know of your interest in helping out.        

VPMA is a non-profit, all volunteer group organized as a heritage program of Vernonia Hands-on Art and is an affiliate of the Columbia County Museums Association.  Columbia County leases the building, the former headquarters of the Oregon-American Lumber Mill, from the City of Vernonia and pays the utility costs.  Volunteers are responsible for managing the artifacts and staffing the museum.