By Elaine Rohse • Columnist • 

Rohse: Remember way back when?

Editor’s note: This column from the archives was originally published in 2010.

I’ve been remembering things from yesterday — so many people, events and things to remember.

Remember Rutherford’s Variety Store on Third Street in McMinnville, where you could buy a rat or take home a goldfish from their goldfish display?

Kids in the summer worked at Alderman Farms and threw strawberries at each other. They had to get up early to do it.

And the Greyhound bus picked up passengers, there behind Macy & Son. Earlier, the “Red Electric” whizzed into McMinnville, circa 1914, taking passengers to Portland or about wherever they wanted to go.

And every celebrity who came to town rode in the Wortman’s Locomobile, bought by Jake and Eliza in 1903. It was the first horseless carriage in Yamhill County — one of only 10 or 12 then in the state. Presidential candidates rode in it: Gov. Dewey of New York and Harold Stassen.

It’s still on display in the Third Street lobby of Key Bank, formerly First National Bank of McMinnville. When the Wortmans founded that bank in 1883, it was the first bank on the west side of the Willamette Valley between Portland and Eugene.

And remember when turkey barns dotted the hills of Yamhill County before those birds gave way to grapevines? But whereas turkeys were remembered mostly at Turkey Rama and Thanksgiving and Christmas, a sip of wine can be enjoyed every day.

Remember Gen. Joel Palmer, who, with his son-in-law Andrew Smith, laid out the town of Dayton. Palmer became superintendent of Indian Affairs for Oregon Territory, but what we Yamhill County residents remember most about him is the grand home he built in south Dayton - now an elegant restaurant.

And once there was a bridge across the Cozine in Linfield’s backyard. We know of at least one Linfield blade who proposed to his girl on that bridge - and as of now they’re living happily ever after, here in McMinnville.

Amateur Athletic Union enthusiast Harold W. Heller, proprietor of McMinnville Tractor & Equipment Co., came from California to start a state-of-the-art dairy operation, Clover Dell Farms, near Amity, that had devices the cows couldn’t believe.

And Ruth Stoller knew so much Yamhill County history, she could have written a book. So she did — at least three, under the auspices of the Yamhill County Historical Society.

In the north part of McMinnville, Bill Bergreen had Bergreen’s Thriftway. And Neil and Margaret Macaulay, a bit farther out on Highway 99W, had their motel. Safeway Food and Drug then was downtown at Fourth and Davis.

Colleges would hardly let a gal enroll if she weren’t wearing anklets and brown and white saddle shoes, although loafers, with a coin slid into the slit of the tongue, were acceptable, too.

And we coaxed our hair into spit curls — with the aid of “goop.”

And seams on our silk, cotton or rayon hose were invariably crooked.

And watches and clocks had to be wound.

Lard buckets served as lunch pails.

And 2-cent stamps took a letter just as far as stamps nowadays that cost more than 20 times that much.

No one followed doggies around with plastic bags. Mostly, no one followed dogs. In those days, they enjoyed exploring McMinnville and came home only to be fed.

The whistle at Farmers Cooperative Creamery let us know the hour. No one had an excuse for being late.

Norm Scott was mayor.

And our house on 19th Street was at the edge of town.

Ez Koch rode on the garbage truck, and he knew more about McMinnville families than the Telephone-Register.

Alan Jones was manager of Water and Light, which had one of the lowest rates in the nation — and it’s still right in there.

Roma Sitton was volunteer curator for the Yamhill County Museum for so many years, her car just about took her from her home on Poverty Bend Road to that little white church building in Lafayette without Roma’s guidance.

Out on West Second Street, the Yamhill County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse built an outdoor arena and track where horse shows, rodeos, motorcycle races and auto shows were held. The posse was formed as a result of the Pearl Harbor attack and held its first meeting in January 1942. In March 1942, they adopted gold and brown as colors for their handsome uniforms. In one year alone, they donated 642 hours of service to our county.

All the zooty men wore leisure suits in pale lime or bird’s-egg blue. And men’s ties, for a while, were as narrow as snakes — and then all of a sudden were about as wide as shovels.

Fountain pens had to be filled from a bottle of ink — and always left blotches on pristine white paper.

Steamboats plied the Yamhill and docked at McMinnville - when the Yamhill had sufficient depth — and elegantly gowned ladies and their escorts boarded for a romantic summer cruise to Lafayette.

And in 1951, McMinnville got its first stop-and-go traffic light.

Yesterday, the Community Center was the armory where volunteer firemen held their Blossom Dance.

And Dr. E.E. Goucher, who tended patients in McMinnville for 53 years, not only helped start McMinnville Hospital in 1911 but also had an extensive local fruit farm and a gold mine in Alaska.

Rumble seats — those open-air seats where car trunks are now — played havoc with one’s hairdo, but who cared?

And remember when shoulder straps weren’t supposed to show? Now, the more we show, the better.

You weren’t permitted to wear jeans in the dining room at Michelbook Country Club.

And McMinnville once was the Walnut City, with walnut trees enough to keep us in walnuts all year long.

So much to fondly remember — so much more to get on with today.

Elaine Rohse can be reached at


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