Tom Wooldridge

Tom’s Oral Interview

La Center Historical Museum

Clark County Stories

Interviewer: Suzi Terrell 


Interview date and time: 3/12/18   10:00am

Interview Address: 32324 NW Pollock, Ridgefield, WA 98642

Place of birth:  Vancouver                    Date of birth:   10/31/1943

Transcriber:  Suzi Terrell 3/2019

·    What is your family heritage your ancestry? Well my mom was from Switzerland, and my dad is I suppose a mixture of English, and a bunch of other things a mixture. 

·    But they were both born here?  No, my mother was born in Switzerland.

·    Oh, so she was born over there? Yes

·    Where were you born? Vancouver

·    Do you mind giving us your birthdate?  I was born on Halloween  

·    So that was Oct 31st? 1943

Actually, I was born Oct 30th cause it was war time and they had daylight savings time, so that put me into the next day. 

·    So, they jumped an hour? They had day light savings time that date because it gave people time to go home and work in their Victory garden. 

·    Did your folks have a Victory garden? Oh, I’m sure they did on the farm.  I know my grandmother did and most of my relatives did.

·    What type of work did they do? Well my Dad was in construction and Mother worked at Jantzen Knitting Mill for about 35-40 years.

·    What are your parent’s names? Fred E. (1920 – 1961) and Josephine C. (1923 – 1997) Wooldridge.  My dad ran off with somebody, another woman.  My mother was left to raise 6 of us kids and she did on Jantzen wages, which were nothing.  Them days they didn’t have food stamps or all the help they have for people now a day’s, my mother would have been eligible for welfare but she was too proud to take it.

·    Wow 6 kids, where did you fall in that line?  I was the 2nd oldest.

·    Did you go to school here in Vancouver?

I went to school in Battleground.  We were right on the line with LC and BG with a La Center address.  I went all through school and graduated from BG.  

·    Did you have a teacher who made a difference in your life?  Yes, Mrs. Lawerence.  She sure was a good one.  She taught grade school all classes.

·    Why were you thinking of her?  She was just a favorite and she was a very good teacher.  I was not too good in school and she helped me out immensely.

·    So from graduation did you go right into the service?  I graduated one night and the next day I was headed to San Diego for boot camp in the Navy. 

So that was at Mira Mar or Pendleton?  That was San Diego. I was in 4 years.

·    Let’s see at that time there was nothing really happening right, it was after Korea and too soon for Viet Nam?  It was towards the end I was in aviation – in fact I was a Aviation Maintenance Administrative Specialist – big title no pay.

I made a few trips into Viet Nam hauling troops in and supplies. 

During that time when I was in the Navy was when John Kennedy got murdered. Everybody felt it when you got that news.  Yes

·    Did you get married before during or after the service? Actually … I was never married.

·    How long have you lived in Clark County?  All my life except while in the service but mainly in La Center.

·    How did you get involved with the Museum?

I always had a love for old things, that’s why I bought this place because it had the grave on it, John Pollock’s grave.  I was always collecting antiques for family and otherwise.  I traveled in my job for Bonneville Power so I traveled 7 states and so I was always on outlook for antiques. 

One of the bad things about my travels for Bonneville, was I couldn’t get involved in the community, I always swore if I retired I’d get involved more. So, when they formed the museum, well about a year after they form it I did. Were they already in the current building?  They were meeting at various places around town, so I got involved and at the time they were meeting above the Chevron,

·    Who was president? Barbara, she was President quite a few years.  Yes

·    When did you start working on getting Pollock’s grave on National register? Actually, I got it on the State Register, it’s about 8 years ago.

·    You were instrumental in getting the Timmen’s Landing installing the bench.  Was that Barbara’s idea? To begin with can’t remember whose idea it was, I think Barbara.

·    Were there any other things you got involved with in the community?    I was instrumental in getting the library on the Clark County register.  I wrote for hours and hours and hours had to do a lot research and did it in memory of Margarett Colf, cause it was her life. Were you here when library moved?  I was probably was, but I don’t remember, I was probably working for Bonneville and out of town.

·    Where did you work?  Bonneville Power Project Manager in the field for 35 years, I could have retired at 55 but I worked 5 extra years.

·    I’ll bet you’ve seen a lot of changes here in La Center? Oh, have I!

Most of them are pretty positive. I remember when the town 200 people with a part time cop.  I got a lot of my education was from sitting on bench (stool) at La Center tavern.

·    How do you feel about all these houses coming in we’re supposed to have hundreds in the next couple years?

I know progress going to happen I’ve just got to deal with it, the traffic will be the worst part of it.

·    What do you see as the most critical issues facing the country/county today? Can I say what I want about the Mayor??  Save that for another time.

The town is suffering financially, I hope we can get out of that situation.

The County – I hate to see all the people coming in. 

The Country – I voted for Trump but I’m very disappointed in him.  I think he’s an embarrassment.  He might bankrupt this country. Well let’s hope those things don’t happen … if we only had a crystal ball –

·    Did you know many of the Mayors?  I knew Skip Carlson, Jack Wells, Liz Cerveny, Jim Irish and of course the current Mayor.

Stories of La Center –

  • My ancestors, the Gregory’s, lived up at the foot of Tumtum.  Every once in a while, they would travel by horse or oxen and wagon down to La Center, with their produce to sell, catch the sternwheeler to sell their produce at Portland and buy supplies there that they needed.  On way back, they had relatives on Sauvie Island, they had a land grant there with a fantastic beautiful house and stop there overnight, then come on back home.  How long was that trip?  The trip from La Center to Portland took 4 hours.  Then 6-7 hours to get home maybe more, oxen travel slow. 
  • G-Grandmother lived up in the Charter Oak’s area but my ancestors came to La Center for shopping.  There were lots of Indians who lived near Day Break and one woman was burnt very badly and grandmother and some other woman would walk 3 miles to her home to change her dressings every day and then walk back.  The Indian woman survived, she had very bad scares.

Grandmother heard a noise out in the fruit house, in cooler kept their potatoes, she took a wild shot and one of the Indians came out ran away.

Grandfather live above Day Break and there was a grist mill at Lewville park and they sawed RR ties.  Every day my grandfather and about 8 other people and my g-Uncle would ride the log rafts down to La Center to keep them moving.  Once they reach La Center late afternoon they’d stop to dry out clothes with fire and walk home to Charter Oaks about 6 miles home.  That was a very dangerous job!  It was high paid job due to danger.  I have a picture of that down at the museum. 

·    Back to grandmother did she have nurses training?  No just common sense

  • G-Grandmother lost a child who choked to death on cabbage.  Indian woman, named Mary, was very upset about the death, so she came over and wailed all night.  Bad enough my grandmother losing child without her wailing all night.  She understood it was out of respect.  Still very irritating.
  • GG-Grandfather homesteaded up by Tumtum near the Gregory’s, this was Ira Spencer.  He had an Indian up there who shot one of his cow, so he got scared and moved to a family up to Charter Oaks.  Gregory’s still stayed up there.
  • Were the Indians peaceful?  Indians were very friendly for the most part unless they were hungry.
  • One thing always upset me was there were a bunch of Indian graves at Day Break park and the Indians would buried items with their dead and people would go there and steal from the graves. I always felt terrible about that.  I knew a lot of the Indian kids.  They rode the same bus as me.  Not a big population, just one family.

·    What was school rooms like growing up?  I went to Battleground.  It was a pretty big school in those days.  Class size 25-30.   One thing I remember was the Jr. High building was 2-story with a basement.  I just wonder there was no elevator or anything, so how many handicap children could go to school, because there was no way to change classroom, we had to change class rooms.  So finally, they built a new school.  My graduation class was 168 or so.  I goofed off a lot didn’t apply myself.  All in all, I got a pretty good education.

·    Did you get into any trouble?  A lot!  You could get the paddle, I never got the paddle but got sent to principle.  But kids respected the teachers a lot more back then than they do today.  La Center had a part time police officer who also served as Public Works worker too, so he had that job and was a pretty busy man.

 ·    How did you feel about the big new sewer when it went in?  I was on board with it. They needed it down town.   I’ve never pumped my septic tank and lived here 35 years.  I built this house with lumber off this place along with all the shakes for it. I built 3 other houses around here.  Did you have your own portable mill?  I sent logs up to mill, he sawed it up then I took it to someone to be planed.  I had a lot of old growth on my place, so I got a lot of lumber with no knots in it.  Did you do the design?  After work I lived in the motel and I work on designing and change it and change and worked on it for 8 years. I’m quite satisfied.  I think I got one of the best view in city.

I’d like to say a word about John Pollock – he’s m favorite neighbor – best one I’ve got.  I put a grave stone down there for him and put a built fence around. I put signage down there and I got him on state register.  All this was at your own expense?  Yes

(He was born in 1824 and died in 1868)

He was first settler on this area, Timmen was second on the other side of the river.

John Pollock was a member of WA State Territorial Legislature, wrote a lot of school laws.

He was an Indian agent here.

He was first cousin of James Pollock who change his name to Polk, appointed him.

He was a Constable (a Sheriff) and Judge.

How he died was he come back from Legislature when he crossed the river he didn’t stop to dry his clothes, so with wet clothes he caught pneumonia very young age.  There were no cemeteries, so they buried him here at home.  A lot of those old graves got lost, but not John’s.

Thank you Tom I appreciate you talking with us.


Tom can you tell us about your time with La Center Historical Museum.

Ya Barbara Barnhart became ill so as Vice President I stepped in to the President position.  I really enjoyed being President, but I was well out of my league.

I had trouble expressing myself.  In addition, my computer skills were very lacking, and my fingers were crippled, so, I had a hard time typing.  So, after a year I stepped down.  I think computer skills are a must for the President. 

I did accomplish a couple of things I’m quite proud of.  And that was overseeing the construction Grampa’s Tools Grammas kitchen in the annex and converting the garage at the museum into a meeting room.

  • At the age of 12 when my dad ran off, I ran an 80-acre farm including milking a couple cows, separate cream from the milk, haying, and a bunch of different activities necessary to run a farm.  I did this approximately 2 years.  I can sure remember that cream separator cuz it was very hard for me to get it going, but once you got it going it was really easy.  It was quite a lot of responsibilities for a kid my age.  On a positive note it made me learn to work hard and I had that ability the rest of my life.  After a couple of years my Mom let the farm go back and so we moved to just a house with an acre.

Thank you, Tom for taking the time to talk with us and for your added stories.  Thanks a lot!

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