By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Wriggelsworth grateful for support, but out of business

Marcus Larson / News-Register
Community donations helped Spencer Wriggelsworth buy a small trailer, in which he lives with his cats, Lacy and George.
Marcus Larson / News-Register
Community donations helped Spencer Wriggelsworth buy a small trailer, in which he lives with his cats, Lacy and George.

He’s grateful for all the help and support he got following the freak weather event. People were good to him, he said.

But he’s sad to be idle after a lifetime of work.

“Mechanical work, cars and plywood, are all I’ve ever done,” said Wriggelsworth, who was born on Christmas Day in 1926.

He doubts anyone would hire him at his age, and his shop was destroyed. So he’s called it quits.

“Do I miss it?” he asked. “What do you think? It’s hard to give up something you’ve done all your life.”

Still, he tries to focus on the positives.

He’s acquired a fifth-wheel, where he’s taken up residence with his cats Lacy and George.

He also feeds several strays, devoting a chunk of his Social Security check to the cause. He’d rather go hungry himself than see an animal starve, he said.

Wrigglesworth feels fortunate just to have shelter. “I have a roof over my head again,” he said.

And while he had to throw a lot away, he was able to find some storage units to stash possessions he’d accumulated. In addition, a friend offered him barn space for some vehicles.

Friends helped Wrigglesworth clean out his ruined place, located adjacent to the railroad tracks, following the June tornado. One gave him a temporary place to stay and others set up a bank account in his name so community members could donate.

He received enough money to buy the fifth-wheel, for which he is enormously grateful.

“I felt I should thank everybody for what they done,” he said. “It’s amazing what people did. Most everybody has been real good to me, and I appreciate that.”

Wriggelsworth’s tools and other repair equipment are stored away. He’s not using them at the moment because he has no place to work.

He couldn’t do much right now, anyway. It’s too cold.

“I’d still help people if it was warm enough to handle tools,” he said. “Winter is just terrible.”

He said he’s been wearing four layers at a time in an effort to get warm. He’s just glad he’s in Oregon, not Michigan, where he grew up.

“I’m glad I’m here, not back there,” he said, referencing harsh winters exacerbated by a recent cold snap.

He’s tickled to tell people about the little town of Hell, Mich., which paved its streets with gravel hauled from his grandfather’s farm. “Hell froze over,” he guffawed.

When he was a teenager, he and buddy Dick Sartwell were bitten by the automobile bug.

“We got to messing with cars,” Wriggelsworth recalled, thinking back more than 70 years. “He had a big Lincoln Zephyr and a ‘34 Ford. We kept ‘em running.”

His first car was a Chevy, he said. Tires were rationed at the time, because rubber was needed for the war effort. So he and Dick would take a couple of old ones, cut then apart and make one good one out of the pieces.

“We made it work,” he said. “We had to. That’s all we had.”

Since his grandpa had a farm, Wriggelsworth was able to get gas despite the rationing. And it was cheap then.

It was still cheap, relatively speaking, when he began pumping gas in McMinnville a couple decades later.

He worked for Harry’s Texaco, at the corner of Third and Galloway, and another station at Second and Baker. He said there were 27 stations in town at the time, three times the current number.

“I sold thousands of gallons at Harry’s for 18 cents a gallon, and it was better than what you’re getting today,” he said.

He did repair work, too, working for Larsen Motors when it was still located downtown. McMinnville had plenty of automotive businesses downtown at the time, he said, including Davison’s, O’Dell Tires, Bennett Motors and Chevrolet, Datsun and Nash dealers.

He set up his own shop — the one the tornado ravaged — 31 years ago. He fixed cars there, often doing it on the cheap to help people in need.

His place became a sort of hangout for an extended network of friends. And he dispensed advice that wasn’t limited to the subject of cars.

“I’ve had kids come by the shop, mumbling and complaining about school,” he said. Pointing to his noggin, he continued, “I told ‘em, ‘Get all the education you can get. What’s up here people can’t take away.’”

He knows first hand, he said, noting, “I never got an education. I had to learn it the hard way.”

Wriggelsworth quit his one-room country school just shy of his eighth-grade graduation. He had to, he said, because he was needed at the family dairy.

His lack of formal education made things tough at times, he said, but he’s had a satisfying life. He makes the best of things, even these days, when he doesn’t have much to do.

“I don’t worry, fret or stew,” he said. “It’s not worth it.”

Worry kills people, he said, and it doesn’t change anything anyway. “If it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen,” he figures.

He has a place to stay, he has his cats, and he has good friends and memories.

“I probably won’t go back in business,” he said, “but I might if I get a good deal.”

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