BATES, OREGON - MY MEMORIES OF IT
By: Della Raines
My two young sons, Marvin and Gene Larkin, and I moved to Bates from a small town in Idaho about 45 years ago. We had never seen such beautiful timber and logs. Nor had we seen trucks like the ones that hauled logs to the sawmill at Bates.
Bates was just a small lumber and sawmill town. There was the Company owned General Store, where you could buy most anything you needed in groceries and work clothes. There was a tavern in the back of the food department, and the Post Office was just back of the tavern.
The workers gathered at the tavern for a beer when they got off work, when the whistle blew at 4 p.m. The women gathered at the small Post Office each afternoon to talk about the latest happenings in Bates. The Post Mistress heard and knew everything that happened.
The mill pond was next to the railroad. The logging trucks unloaded logs into the mill pond, and they were guided to the sawmill and sawed into lumber.
There was an office building, the truck maintenance shop, the hotel, and some houses where the nurse and two or three of the bosses lived. The nurse was a lovely, caring lady, who gave first aid treatment to the working men who got hurt on the job. The doctors were at Prairie City where there was a hospital. The nurse took care of all the women and children too.
There were no cement sidewalks, but there were nice boardwalks. A row of box cars was moved to Bates from a camp up the road, and families lived in them. Another row of rather nice houses was across the main road in front of the store. It was quite a settlement of really nice people.
When we moved to Bates, we lived a short time with my brother, Charles Sheehy, and his wife, Ruth, and their children in Newtville.
The Company owned the small houses in Newtville where the sawyers and their families lived. The houses had no bathrooms. There was one large bath house for taking showers across the road from the houses. The men had the use of it early in the mornings and in the evenings. The women and children had the used of it during the day. Each house had a woodshed and outhouse combined, which was also across the road.
My brother's house seemed small for three adults and five children, so Charles bought a large one-room cabin from Bert Miller, and my sons and I moved into it. There was no bathroom, but here was an outhouse and woodshed in the back yard. We lived in the cabin until I married Earl Raines.
Earl moved in a one-room bunkhouse, that he bought from the Company, and another cabin. He had the carpenters build one room between two of the buildings and put them all together and build a bathroom and shower. It looked very odd, but was quite comfortable inside; we actually had a bathroom and two bedrooms!
We the Company sold their houses in Austin, we bought one and moved there. We lived in Austin until Earl retired, and we moved to Portland.
I started work at the Bates Hotel the next day after we arrived at Bates. I had already been promised a job before I came up there. The men that had no families lived at the hotel, which was owned by the Company. I waited tables. The waitresses were called hashers. I had waited tables before, but never like at the Bates Hotel. There were four and five long tables, with two long benches along each side. The food was served family style. The hashers set huge bowls of food and huge platters of meat on the tables before the dinner bell sounded. Our job was walking around the tables seeing that the empty dishes were kept filled. As soon as one was empty, we picked up the dish and took it to the kitchen where the cook filled it up, and we hurried back to the table where there were more empty dishes. I never knew men could east so much, so fast! The food was good, and those men were hungry! When we moved to Bates, they were building the dry kiln, and there were about 100 men eating at the hotel.
My boys ate their evening meal at the hotel, because I worked from 1 p.m. until the dining room was cleaned up, and the tables were set for breakfast, which was served at 5:30 a.m.
I think I worked at every job while I worked at the hotel. I was a hasher, and I cleaned, washed dishes, and helped in the kitchen. I even did the baking for two weeks when the lady baker quit. There were no bread machines; we mixed the bread by hand and baked all the cakes and pies. A large wood stove was used to bake and cook everything. There was a bull cook, and one of his jobs was keeping the stove hot at all times.
Sometimes I did the maid work, making beds after the men left for work, changing the towels and sheets and scrubbing the bathrooms. There was an annex built right beside the hotel, and it had to be done very morning also. One time when I was a maid, I remember doing one room, and in the center of the room there was a small table with a stool chair (a chair with the back gone, in case some of you young folks have never seen an old broken chair) setting on it. A small radio was setting on the chair, and it was plugged into the light socket in the center of the room. There was no other place to plug in the radio. I never knew who lived there, but I wrote a note, and asked, "Dear Occupant: What do you call this piece of furniture that your radio is setting on? The Maid."
The next morning when I went in to make the bed, there was a note on the table, "Dear Maid: The furniture you asked about is called a coffee table."
The job I disliked the most was cleaning up the kitchen when the evening meal was over. The hashers cleaned the two big coffee makers and set the tables for the next morning's breakfast before they went home. The cook put all the food in the walk-in refrigerator and went home. I was left all alone to wash and put away all the big kettles and skillets and to clean the long top of the wood heated range so clean the cook could fry bacon and bake hot cakes on the stove top. The work was hard, but the pay was good for that time. I worked at the hotel for a long time.
There were many changes while I lived at Bates. When we moved there the train was hauling the lumber to Baker, but it was soon abandoned, and lumber trucks were used. Later, the Company started hauling lumber to Seneca instead of Baker.
New houses were built and families came to live and work there. The new school house was built in Bates. The kids from Bates had been walking down the railroad track to the old school house at Austin. Marvin graduated from the Austin grade school, but Gene finished grad school in the new school in Bates and graduated there. Marvin went to Prairie City High School one year, then went to live and work with my brother, Leo, in Culver City, Oregon, and finished high school there. Gene went all four years to Prairie City High School and graduated from there.
Gene worked for the Forest Service, and one summer he worked one the Crocket Knob Lookout. He also worked some at the mill, before moving to the Portland area and becoming a machinist.
The Community Hall was built soon after the school. It was the special place in Bates where all the meetings and social events were held. The kids played basketball there, and sometimes other towns came to play against the Bates team. The Ladies Club meetings were held at the Hall, and we had Sunday School and Church services there every Sunday.
The most popular entertainment was camping and fishing. Camping out at Strawberry Mountain was quite an adventure. We walked one mile to get to the lake from the camp ground to go fishing.
In the fall everyone got a new red and black coat and a red hat and went deer and elk hunting. The fellows usually got a deer, and some were lucky enough to get an elk.
When the mill was closing down, the hotel didn't need as much help, and I went to work at the nursing home in Prairie City. I worked part time there for about three years. In the winter when the highway was covered with snow and ice, the trip over Dixie Mountain wasn't easy. I was glad when the lumber trucks started hauling lumber to Seneca. When the weather was really bad and I was working the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift, I would drive up to the Austin Junction and wait for the lumber truck that left Bates around 10 p.m. I could see the truck's tail lights and I would follow really close behind it over Dixie Mountain. Sometimes the snow was coming down so fast you could not see the edge of the highway.
There was only one time that I did not make it to the top of Dixie Mountain. Twilla Combs and I were on the 7 a.m. shift. We got halfway to the top of the mountain twice, when the car just turned around and we were going back to Bates. We parked the car and got a ride to the nursing home with a man in a pickup.
There were good times and bad times at Bates. When the boys and I first went to Bates, I never thought I would stay there 15 - 16 years. My brother, Charles, and Ruth went back to Kansas where we had grown up a couple years after we moved to Bates. By the time Earl retired and we left Bates, Marvin was living in Quincy, Washington, and Gene and Rita and their two children were living in Portland.
I met and made some dear friends at Bates. Some of them have passed away, and I don't get to see the ones that are still living, but I haven't forgotten them. Earl died in 1981. I am living in Gresham now with Gene. Marvin and his wife Betty, live in Quincy, Washington. Gene has a son and daughter and two grandsons, and Marvin has a son and daughter and two granddaughters.
Life is much different now than it was when we first came to Bates almost 45 years ago. Life was hard then, but I will never regret moving to Bates.