By Elaine Rohse • Columnist • 

Rohse:Here’s to those who made a difference

How rewarding it is to live in a city like McMinnville, where one can make a difference.

How sad it would be to live where ideas are not considered but tossed aside, where the new is feared and avoided.

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McMinnville's Elaine Rohse is fascinated by words, books and writing - and spends much time sating that fascination.

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McMinnville has examples galore of what individuals, service clubs and social organizations have done for our community.

One example is MIP — McMinnville Industrial Promotions — a group of local business leaders who made national news by providing a format that other cities might use.

MIP was formed in 1953, when McMinnville was faced with a critical economic crisis, including loss of 300 jobs and several plant closures.

Forty-five business and professional leaders pledged their own money to attract new businesses. The concern of these leaders was not only business success but the long-term health and vitality of the community.

MIP was the first industrial development company in the Pacific Northwest to qualify for Small Business Administration funds. Gov. Tom McCall recognized the group in 1969 as the result of its successful “9 for ’69”campaign to acquire nine different industrial projects to break ground in McMinnville that year.

The organization formed a unique partnership with McMinnville to acquire a $770,000 federal economic development grant to establish the city’s major industrial park infrastructure in 1983.

Today, a volunteer board provides expertise free of charge. It maintains an inventory of available industrial properties, among other services. Some of the numerous properties come with much of the time-consuming site work already completed such as development, environmental studies and utility hookup.

Those considering location of a business in the Pacific Northwest and are including McMinnville in their consideration can contact the McMinnville Economic Development Partnership at 503-474-6814.

Here in McMinnville, we also have the world famous Spruce Goose at the Evergreen Aviation Museum, founded by Delford M. Smith, whose aviation empire began in 1960 with Evergreen Helicopters.

The Spruce Goose, which is actually made mostly of birch, is the largest ever wooden aircraft. It was six times larger than any existing aircraft of its time. It made only one flight, on Nov. 2, 1947, traveling just one mile and attaining an altitude of 70 feet for one minute.

In 1992, Smith and his late son Michael King Smith submitted the winning proposal for providing the aircraft with a proper home. The aircraft was disassembled, and transported by barge up the West coast thence to the Columbia and Willamette rivers to Portland where it was detained for several months until water levels permitted passage under Willamette bridges.

Its arrival in McMinnville was memorable. And here at this aviation museum, children’s eyes get as big as an owl’s when they see the size of our Spruce Goose.

Each year, some unusual visitors come to our city: aliens. The annual UFO Festival was inspired by a famous photo — published Telephone-Register — of a purported unidentified flying object taken by Mr. and Mrs. Paul Trent at their nearby farm.

And each year, Yamhill County hosts countless oenophiles, who come to sample our popular wine during the International Pinot Noir Celebration in McMinnville and cruise the countryside for tastings.

Local service clubs have undertaken many commendable projects, such as creating a local park.

Perhaps their way was paved by the local Civic Improvement Club organized in May 1908, in part as a federation of existing McMinnville study groups: the Shakespeare Club, Current Events Club and Self- Improvement Club.

By 1915, it had 129 members. Formation of a library was the primary reason for its organization.

The club investigated the possibility of a Carnegie Library and submitted plans. Construction began in 1912, with a grand opening in 1913.

The club had many other concerns — such as the prevalence of flies in McMinnville. They petitioned to not let any more barns be built on the main street. They advocated getting rid of hitching posts because the horses tied there attracted flies.

Club members were also concerned with pure food laws and public schools, paying $15 to put electric lights in the Columbus School building.

They were concerned, too, about tuberculosis. They held many fundraisers and Saturday markets. Those resourceful club members even arranged to receive a percentage on corset sales.

In 1935, Louise Knopf founded the Junior Matrons chapters prompted by interest in better care for children. The organization became so popular that at one time, it seemed almost every young woman was a member.

Chapters were named for famous mothers. The original group, the Julia Chapter, was named for the wife of a Linfield professor, Albert Stout. The Dayton chapter formed in 1957 honored Narcissa Whitman.

The combined membership of these numerous chapters had clout. They helped elect Anna Bergstrom, one of the first women to serve on the McMinnville School Board. They helped bring fluoridation to McMinnville’s water supply. They worked to see that everyone older than age 15 had a tuberculosis chest X-ray.

They questioned the type of matinees being shown in town. They spoke to Mr. Mattecheck, the theater owner, and he began showing cartoons.

They circulated petitions for sex education and kindergarten, and urged the highway department to install traffic lights at McMinnville schools.

For more than 50 years, the Mary Chapter continued to meet, because its members had seen that in McMinnville they could make a difference.

What a difference Yamhill County’s Mid-Valley Workshop has made. It was founded by Margaret Reavis-Larsen to provide job training, housing and community activity programs for clients with disabilities. Today, it is known as MV Advancements and continues to provide supportive environments and programs.

How lucky we are that all across Yamhill County are people who have made a difference.

A Dayton resident was responsible for spearheading the move of the historic Blockhouse to Dayton’s city park. Joel Palmer gave land for that park; his stately white house still stands, now home to a popular restaurant.

McMinnville’s aquatic center can say thank you to charitable friends. McMinnvillans can thank Newby, the father of our town, for being generous with his land, some of which is now part of the Linfield University campus.

Books could be written about the Linfield Research Institute, established in 1955 to promote undergraduate and faculty research. By 1968, LRI had a staff of more than 50.

Research resulted in three company spin-offs. In 1958, Field Emission Corporation was formed and, in 1974, purchased by Hewlett Packard. In 1971, LRI formed a second company, FEI Company, now a multi-million dollar international firm headquartered in Hillsboro. The most recent company was formed in 1995 by current faculty Bill Mackie and Gary Cabe.

A bit newer on the scene is YES — Yamhill Enrichment Society — founded by Susan Sokol Blosser. YES is looking for $25 Imagination Library champions who want to instill in local children a love of reading. Its mission is to provide kids with a year’s worth of books. This year, the organization enrolled 3,000 Yamhill County children, which means $75,000 to purchase and mail 36,000 books.

Mention should also be made of Henderson House, which provides help and shelter to victims of domestic and sexual violence, many of whom may be fearful of remaining in their homes with their children.

One more thing: Wasn’t it a largely volunteer effort that brought about the opening of McMinnville’s senior center — volunteers such as a woman whose last name was Cornie? It has proved a delight for many.

How satisfying it is to live in an area where one can make a difference — and where so many have made a difference.

Elaine Rohse can be reached at


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