A Look Back in Time: Centralians Fail a Second WWII Air Raid Drill


As Centralia residents underwent the most extensive air raid drill yet to be attempted by the city during World War II, they were left with a big lemon of a performance.

The drill ended in a failure that was primarily due to minor equipment malfunctions that added up to an unsatisfactory performance, said civilian defense officials on April 2, 1942.

“Defense heads said that following the initial series of blasts, fuses for the system, located at the telephone exchange, blew out and cut off a portion of the sirens,” The Chronicle reported.

City light employees were initially alarmed that the problem could reside with their equipment, so they launched into a flurry of troubleshooting protocols, checking the 13 sirens, but ultimately found they were in perfect working condition.

That’s where the telephone company workmen came in. Upon inspection of their side of the equipment, which broadcast the sirens for the drill, they found the faulty fuses and put them back into readiness.

That being said, Mayor Ray W. Sprague said air raid wardens and fire watchers operated excellently in their checking of the signal strengths during the few minutes the entire system was able to operate.

However, since a full test was not completed, another drill was scheduled for 7 p.m. the following Friday, during which the fire watchers and wardens were set to again check the signals. 

Another problem came in the form of worried residents, who forwent official warnings regarding the use of the telephone during an air raid, which affected communications throughout the city.

“The mayor also warned the local residents must not telephone the police department upon hearing the sirens to ask if there is an air raid or fire,” The Chronicle reported. “He said a large number of calls were received Tuesday night, and hampered the reports of wardens.”

The Chronicle stressed that “during an actual air raid, the public must not use the telephone.”

April 2, 1932:

• The largest vote ever cast up to that point in a Centralia school levy election was recorded in 1932. A vote of 1,298 to 1,220, a majority of 178 votes, approved a special tax levy designed to raise $30,000 for school expenses. With a total of 2,419 votes cast, the district was pleased this measure passed, when a $34,000 campaign had been previously defeated by a vote of just 598 to 501.

• Kenneth Olsen, an eighth-grader at Grand Mound School, won first place in a Thurston County declamatory contest in the oratory category. Olsen’s selection was “Patrick Henry’s Speech Before the Virginia Convention.”

• The U.S. prohibition of alcohol saw yet another litigation against a local citizen, a suspected bootlegger. Mack Stiltner, of Morton, pleaded not guilty to liquor charges filed against him in Justice Nort Wynn’s court. Stiltner’s bail was fixed at $350 and a hearing was set for the following Tuesday at 10 a.m. The man had been arrested by Sheriff J.A. Blankenship, some deputies and the Morton town marshal after the officers raided his residence on April 1, 1932. Two stills, a 45-gallon plant and a partially deconstructed 20-gallon still were confiscated in the raid.

• Judge W.A. Reynold granted an interlocutory decree of divorce to Opal Logan and James L. Logan on April 2, 1932. Opal Logan retained custody of her two children and was awarded alimony of $25 a month.

• Auleja Wyngardan Vanderwil and Olaf P. Larson, both Centralia residents, died on the morning of April 2, 1932. Vanderwil was 59 years old and Larson was 31.

• Centralia planned to send sixth delegates to Olympia the following Monday for the annual state chamber of commerce meeting for the sixth district of the organization. Ralph Noerenberg and Lee Proffitt were among the delegates.

• The Lewis County Christian Endeavor Union planned to meet at a convention on April 8 and 9, 1932. A song service was to be led by H.K. Ghormley. New officers for the district were to be installed by organization president Harriet Leighton. Mrs. W.D. Morgan, of Chehalis, planned to bring a message titled, “Choose You This Day Whom Ye Will Serve.”

• The regional Garden Club Committee completed its plans for the imminent planting of 2,500 trees in and around the region. Tulip trees from Virginia were to be planted on the Winlock-Toledo highway, for instance.

April 2, 1942:

• Funeral rites were being prepared for residents of Centralia, Chehalis, Winlock and Bunker Creek. The folks who died were Wilbur Otis Jackson, then 65, of Centralia; Lily Ayres, then 60, of Chehalis; Pearl H. Quist, then 60, of Winlock; and Thomas Paulin, then 67, of Bunker Creek in Chehalis.

• George F. Bishop, of the Army coast artillery unit on Corregidor Island in the Philippines, wrote home saying that he would “be seeing (family) by this time next year.” Bishop also wrote, “Our anti-aircraft defense is making a name for itself. In fact, it’s the best in the world!” The headline for the article read: “Anti-Aircraft Blasting Japs.” 

• M.B. Livingstone, then 37, a worker for the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company, was admitted to Centralia Hospital the previous Tuesday with a skull fracture he received in a logging accident.

• The Centralia and Chehalis boys scouts underwent a surprise mobilization to test their emergency preparedness the previous Tuesday. Scouts from the Tumwater Council of Lewis, Thurston and Mason counties were ordered to assemble their troops at once for the exercise.

• Phillip H. Snell, an oil company official from Tacoma, spoke at a local Kiwanis Club function. Snell said that oil was the war's most important factor, and whatever future military or naval successes there were to come depended on it.

• The Centralia selective service announced seven new inductees to the draft. Allan Arnold Hakola, Edwin Lee Poore, Ralph Richard Curtis, Gerald John Swayze, Orville Lee Buck, Jack Marshall Grant and Arthur Joseph Lyonnais, Jr., were those who received induction orders.

• A “help wanted” ad called for a draft-exempt man to acquire a job doing bookkeeping and miscellaneous work.

April 2, 1952:

• Hazel Pedersen and Mary Furrer were the top students at Chehalis Senior High School. The article made special note of the fact that the top two students were female. Pedersen was the class valedictorian, while Furrer took the role of salutatorian. 

• The Chehalis Bearcat baseball team opened its 1952 play the previous Tuesday by losing to Winlock in a 5-0 shutout. Chehalis was able to hit five balls, while Winlock hit six.

• Albert L. Morris, of DuPont, and Kathryn Smith, of Chehalis, applied for a marriage license with the Lewis County Auditor's Office. Also married were Marion W. Ballinger and Florence H. Treumer; David B. McNeeley and Lila J. Terry; and Fred E. Woods and Kathleen L. Ralph.

• A funeral service was arranged for Anna Phelps Burris, set for 1:30 p.m. the following Friday at Newell-Hoerling Chapel. Other funerals to be observed were those of Clifford Dee West at Newell-Hoerling Chapel and Carol Denise Voetberg at Sticklin Chapel.

• A daughter to “Mr. and Mrs. Fred Parker” was born at St. Helen Hospital. She was a 5-pound, 13 1/2-ounce babe of the couple, who lived in Ryderwood. Other births included a son to “Mr. and Mrs. Jim Ryckman,” formerly of Centralia; a son to “Mr. and Mrs. Jack Hilliard,” of Winlock; and a son to “Mr. and Mrs. Dick Quinn,” of Mossyrock.