A Look Back: Chamber Hosts Tour of Welfare Gardens Providing Food Assistance During the Great Depression


The Centralia Chamber of Commerce sponsored a tour of Centralia’s “welfare gardens” on June 17, 1932, for residents to come and inspect the facilities. The gardens were being used to grow crops that would be distributed to those in need by a welfare committee during the upcoming winter. The gardens were located on Galvin and Russell roads. The two locations totaled 80 acres of land. The land on Russell Road was donated for use by the welfare committee while the other garden location was being rented by Lewis County on behalf of the committee.

The gardens were growing 30 acres of potatoes, 6 acres of carrots and 10 acres of corn among many other crops on the land. C.L. Sticklin was in charge of the work on the gardens.

According to Kina Bower, who was in charge of the welfare program at the Centralia City Hall, 500 families, consisting of over 2,500 people, had received assistance from the welfare committee. Centralia’s committee was responsible for aiding nearly the entirety of northwest Lewis County in addition to Centralia itself.

On May 1 of that year, the Red Cross donated 225 barrels of flour to the committee, allowing it to save money the committee then spent on seeds to give to local unemployed individuals who operated about 200 individual gardens of a similar nature.

The committee was also aided by the help of Chehalis’ state training school (modern Green Hill School), which was reported by The Chronicle as producing 80 quarts of milk each day.

Food was distributed each Monday, though milk and bread were available every day. The work of the committee was reported as having been entirely voluntary, with the exception of the executive secretary who The Chronicle reported as working 10 hours a day for $75 a month.


June 18, 1932

• Chehalis’ float took second place for floats from outside of Oregon in the 1932 Portland Floral Parade, winning a silver trophy as a result. The Chehalis float lost the first place position to the entry from Camas.

• Centralia businessmen, led by Mayor Tom Roswell and Chamber of Commerce President Lee Proffitt, loaded into 10 cars and drove to Randle for an annual meeting of the Citizens League of Eastern Lewis County. Representatives from other Lewis County communities also attended, including Chehalis. The league was seeking to settle rich agricultural land along the White Pass highway.

• A special program to celebrate Father’s Day was to be observed June 19 at the First Christian Church in Chehalis. Rev. Carl A. Johnson was to deliver a sermon titled “Like as a Father” at 10:45 a.m. The Presbyterian and Methodist churches in Chehalis were scheduled to hold joint services at the Methodist Church with Presbyterian Church Pastor J. C. Tourtellot set to deliver a sermon titled “Fireproof Men.”

• The seventh annual rose show was held in Chehalis. The event was sponsored by the Lewis County Savings and Loan Association. The first place awards were given for categories including baskets of roses, bouquets for five roses, mixed flower baskets and best old fashioned bouquet.

• Several students returned to Lewis County from the University of Washington for their summer vacations. Among the students who were returning were “James Stewart, Jack Westlund, Miss Jean Cory, Misses Jean and Caroline Coffman and Miss Helen Bush.” Another student returning for summer vacation was Robert Warner, who was returning from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

• Mary J. Milem, 74, and William L. Smith, 74, of Centralia, died on June 17, 1932. Milem had passed away in her family home where she had lived for 20 years. Smith passed away in a local hospital following a weeklong illness. Smith had only arrived in Centralia 15 months earlier after moving in from Alaska.

• An organizing meeting was scheduled to be held at the Centralia City Hall auditorium at 8 p.m. that night for unemployed residents of Centralia. Centralia was considered particularly well suited to organizing for the unemployed because of its proximity to a large number of natural resources, including wood, coal, meat, vegetables and fruit.

June 18, 1942

• Three teenagers from the Seattle area were arrested after attempting to use fraudulent checks averaging about $50 each in stores and taverns in Chehalis and Centralia. The three “check artists” had purchased over $800 worth of items and were initially being held in the Lewis County Jail before being moved to Seattle for trial because of “the fact it will be some time before a jury term will be held in the Lewis County Superior Court.”

• E.H. Buskirk, of Centralia, was “buncoed” (cheated) out of $200 in Portland on June 17 after two men asked him to “referee a coin-matching game.”

• Fred B. Hogard, 74, of Chehalis, passed away on the morning of June 17. Hogard had been born in 1868 and had lived in Chehalis for 10 years.

• The Twin Cities’ rubber drive was reported by The Chronicle to be “bouncing along at such a merry clip” that dealers were asking for time to count the total amount of rubber they had collected. Rubber was being collected from civilians as part of the effort to win World War II.

• On June 18, Washington state Governor Arthur Langlie handed down an executive order forbidding the use of explosive types of fireworks, referred to as “noisemakers” by The Chronicle, for the upcoming July 4 celebrations. The order came at the insistence of “civilian defense heads,” likely due to concerns related to World War II.

• Five students from Chehalis were reported as having graduated from the University of Washington the previous Saturday. Don George Abel, Josephine Graham and Gilbert L. Beckwith were all awarded bachelor's degrees while Gertrude T. Ogden and Geraldine J. Johnston were awarded teaching certificates.

• A Centralia insurance agent took out an advertisement in The Chronicle offering “War Risk Insurance” to allow people to insure their property in case of war damage. The rate for “dwellings and farm buildings” was listed as “$1.00 per $1,000 for 1 year.”


June 18, 1952

• Members of the Twin Cities Active clubs were planning for “the largest Fourth of July fireworks show ever produced at the Southwest Washington fairgrounds.” The chairman for the event, Bill Plette, of Chehalis, said the event would last an hour. Children were to be admitted for free, though adults would have to pay for a ticket to help with financing the event.

• The Church of the Epiphany in Chehalis held Last Rites the morning of June 18 for Daniel T. Coffman. Coffman was described as a “Chehalis banking and civic leader” by The Chronicle. He had passed away the previous Sunday at his summer home near Cannon Beach in Oregon.

• The Chehalis School Board announced plans for beautifying the grounds around what was then referred to as Chehalis High School. The board decided to open up bidding for grading the grounds south of the high school between 16th and 18th streets and north of Kelley Avenue. The land is now occupied by W.F. West High School’s track, baseball field, tennis courts and training field.

• A Centralia couple returned from a month-long trip through seven states. “Dr. and Mrs. T. G. Gaukel” returned to their home June 16, 1952 after having visited their daughter, son-in-law and grandson “Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Denning and Steve” in Eureka, California. The couple also visited four national parks, including the Grand Canyon.

• Carrie Smith, of Chehalis, recently returned from a two-week trip in Pocatello, Idaho, where a family reunion was held. During the reunion, Smith had the chance to be with relatives she hadn’t seen in 35 years.

• An advertisement for a four-bedroom “modern house” was listed for rent at $45 a month. The house was 6 miles north of Centralia on Highway 99 and included 20 acres of land.

• A petition was presented to the Centralia City Council on June 17, 1952, calling for restrictions on dogs “from running at large.” The petition was signed by around 350 Centralia residents and was primarily the result of public reaction to damage to gardens and flowers. Centralia Mayor Claude Warren said during the meeting “the ‘dog problem’ would be studied.” The petition asked for enforcement of an ordinance forbidding dogs from running around without being controlled by their owner. According to Centralia city councilors, Centralia didn’t actually have an ordinance like the one referenced in the petition.


A Look Back in Time is published in every Saturday edition of The Chronicle.