A Look Back in Time: Man Speaks to Centralia Kiwanis Club About Surviving Japanese Attack

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R.M. Devin spoke to the Centralia Kiwanis Club at a luncheon on July 8, 1942, detailing his escape, with his family, from the Japanese. Devin, a Seattle businessman and missionary, was in Centralia for a regional meeting of the Assemblies of God being held at Fort Borst Park.

Devin and his family had been living in the Dutch East Indies, modern day Indonesia, since 1938. At the time of the Japanese invasion, the Devin family was living on an island called “Ambion,” though it is unclear where the island’s exact location was.

Devin told the audience the Netherlands had started building up defenses for the region years before but had been unable to transport important materials. “The U.S. planes were woefully outclassed by ‘Jap’ ships, but the American fliers were undaunted and continually fought with heavy odds against them,” Devin said.

As the Japanese moved to the area of the East Indies Devin was living in, the Devin family dealt with a series of bombings. Later, one U.S. destroyer remained in the nearby harbor but refused to take passengers because the crew expected to enter combat after leaving. A plane from Australia would eventually arrive and was able to take most of the Devin family to safety, including Devin’s pregnant wife, who was quickly approaching childbirth.

After the plane left, Devin said only he and his oldest son were left. The two apparently quickly fell into despair and prepared to hide in the hills from the Japanese military. However, “at the last moment they were taken aboard the destroyer, which went through the enemy area, finally landing in Darwin, Australia,” where the family was reunited. The family then left Brisbane, Australia, for the United States. Their child, a son, was born off the coast of Panama on the return trip.

 

July 9, 1932

• Gov. Roland Hartley was expected to draw a large attendance to the Centralia Chamber of Commerce luncheon on July 11. Hartley planned to deliver a speech on the topic of “State Business.” The Republican governor was first elected in 1924 and was seeking re-election to a third term in office. Hartley lost his re-election bid as part of a larger Democratic wave that November, driven by public dissatisfaction with the Republican response to the ongoing Great Depression. He was defeated by Democrat Clarence Martin, who had spoken to the Centralia Chamber of Commerce previously.

• Normal summer temperatures were expected for the week following July 9, according to The Chronicle. Fog was also expected along the coast.

• Eva Hinkley, 39, passed away in an unspecified local hospital. The Centralia resident was survived by husband George Hinkle and son Gerald Hinkley. Hinkley’s body was being held at Newell Mortuary with funeral arrangements yet to be determined.

• Chehalis resident Ethel Gustaveson filed for divorce in Lewis County Superior Court from her husband, Clarence Gustaveson. Ethel Gustaveson claimed her husband had become a “habitual drunkard.” The two had married in Seattle on June 5, 1920.

• The Chehalis Fire Department won first place in a first aid competition in Shelton on July 8.  The competition was held during a meeting of the Southwest Washington Firemen’s Association (SWFA) and served as a preliminary contest before a second SWFA contest in South Bend in August. At the South Bend competition, teams would compete for a place in the competition at the state association convention.

• Pastor J.C. Tourtellot was set to deliver a sermon at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Chehalis on Sunday, July 10. The subject of the sermon was “Is Prohibition a Failure?” According to The Chronicle, the issue of prohibition was “one of the most widely discussed questions of the day.”

• Residents of the Veness School District were granted the right to join the Winlock School District following a hearing at the office of the county superintendent of schools. The residents argued they were isolated from the Veness school because of a river, railway and road separating them, putting the safety of children at risk on their journey to school. By joining the Winlock School District, it was argued the childrens’ safety would be raised.

 

July 9, 1942

• Three days remained in Chehalis’ effort to raise $56,000 in war bonds and stamps to finance the purchase of a tank for the U.S. military. The tank, which would be named the “Chehalis Bearcat,” still needed a little more than $22,000 with $33,416.75 raised as of July 8. According to a story by The Chronicle from a few days later, Chehalis would narrowly reach its goal, raising a little over $56,000.

• Centralia received a permit from the War Production Board to use electricity for gravel removal at Plummer Lake. The gravel was to be used in the expansion of the Chehalis Airport, according to County Commissioner John Raught. The airport expansion was likely related to the ongoing war effort, as the Chehalis Airport was being used for war purposes at the time.

• The Centralia Draft Board announced the names of 10 Centralia men who were drafted to fight in World War II. The names of the men were Raymond Durga, William Burns, Ellis Bayne, Ellis Carlson, Howard Tauscher, John Johnson, Robert McCollum, Morris Boyden, Vincent Parko and Lee Jones. The men were part of a larger group of 46 set to leave July 28.

• A meeting was to be held on the night of July 9 at the St. Helens Hotel in Chehalis. Workers from the Twin Cities and other areas of Lewis County were to attend to plan for a fundraiser for the United Service Organization (USO). The goal of the fundraiser was to raise $7,500 for the USO, which sought to provide entertainment to soldiers fighting in the ongoing war. During the meeting, “motion pictures” were to be shown depicting the support being given to soldiers. The Chronicle reported the campaign would “have to be pushed with unusual effort if it is to succeed” because the apparent fundraising quota for the year was almost four times the $2,000 quota set in 1941, prior to the war’s start.



• An initiative was filed on July 8 with the Secretary of State’s office in Olympia to change the district boundaries for the state Legislature. The initiative, sponsored by the Washington State Grange, would have increased the number of state senators from 46 to 48. The number of state representatives would have remained unchanged at the then constitutionally fixed number of 99. The initiative appears to have not qualified for the November ballot.

• A class on “Red Cross nutrition” was to begin on July 14 and be held on Tuesdays and Fridays from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Chehalis public library. The class would be taught by Vera Swan, who had recently returned from discussion with Red Cross officials in San Francisco about the course. She urged all women to attend the course, which was free. “Better nutrition will result, not only in stronger and healthier individuals, but also in a stronger and healthier nation,” Swan was reported by The Chronicle as saying.

• The Chehalis Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs were expected to meet on the afternoon of July 9 at the Westminster Presbyterian Church to hear William McIntyre speak about the Salvation Army. McIntyre was described by The Chronicle as a “nationally known speaker” who had written several religious books.

 

July 9, 1952

• Lewis County School Superintendent Florence Kennicott said 15 additional teachers were needed in schools across the county on July 9, The Chronicle reported. “We may even need more than 15 instructors,” Kennicott is reported as saying. “Our preliminary survey shows that seven teachers are needed in elementary schools and seven others in county high schools.” The job of the 15th instructor wasn’t clear, though the position appears to have possibly been for a speech therapist.

• Firefighters with the state forestry department responded to two alarms on July 8. The Chehalis-based firefighters responded to a grass fire in the Bunker Creek area near Adna and to a brush fire near Ethel. The Chronicle reported the fires caused only “slight” damage.

• The Chehalis School District decided to buy a new school bus to meet the needs of the growing number of children attending Chehalis schools. Bids for a 73-seat bus were to be opened July 17.

• Lewis County experienced “sweltering summer heat” on July 8. “The sun, blazing down from a cloudless sky, sent the thermometer soaring to 96 degrees at the Centralia City Hall weather station,” The Chronicle reported, making July 8 the hottest day of 1952 up to that point. Some civilian thermometers were reported as reaching above 100 degrees, with one Packwood thermometer reaching 105 degrees. The 96-degree temperature was only three degrees off the previous year’s record of 99 degrees, set on June 29, 1951.

• Charles Worden, 58, was arrested after robbing W.M. Strange, who The Chronicle described as “an elderly, crippled Chehalis resident.” Strange accused Worden of taking $50 from him after Worden had struck Strange on the head and he “lay dizzy on Chehalis Avenue.” Worden, who was identified by witnesses of the crime, was taken to county jail on $1,000 bail. Bud Nacht, a Chehalis fireman who was shopping in a men’s store across the street, saw Strange lying on the sidewalk and ran to help him. “I ran over to see what had happened. I thought he had suffered a heart attack,” Nacht said. “When I came out of the men’s store, Strange had regained his senses and was shouting for someone to stop the thief, who was walking away from the scene. At the time I thought Strange was suffering shock, and that his friend was going to help.”

• Gordon Boone, a Chehalis resident and a University of Washington student, was riding in a car to Fort Lee, Virginia with two other UW students to participate in a six week Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) summer camp when they stopped to offer help to the driver of a burning car and his family. The three men battled flames and helped direct traffic after the car of a medical student caught fire while traveling through Montana with his wife and their baby. The men managed to save medicine from the burning car and rushed it to a hospital. They also attempted to rescue medical textbooks but were unable to retrieve them from the flames.

 

Monday July 9, 1962

• Nine-year-old Mike Ternan, son of “Mr. and Mrs. Clyne Ternan, was injured after trying to join his big sister, Patricia Ternan, on a tractor at the family’s Winlock farm. Patricia Ternan, 12, was driving the tractor while pulling a silage cutter back to the barn. “Mike apparently attempted to get on the moving rig when he slipped and fell in front of the cutter,” The Chronicle reported. “Mrs. Ternan reported her youngster slipped and fell in front of a silage cutter blade. The Winlock fifth grader sustained serious head cuts and bruises and lacerations down the side of his body.” The incident happened on the morning of July 9, and Mike Ternan was listed as being in fair condition by a hospital later that day.

• Elmer Johnson was looking for something to do after he broke his leg on April 16. Stuck at home recovering, Johnson, a Centralia resident, found plans for a grandfather clock and began working on it in his home woodshop. After two months, he had completed a grandfather clock made of red mahogany, with a second grandfather clock of darker mahogany well on its way. Johnson ordered the metal parts from Germany. “The clock stands 84 inches tall, making a good run for that unknown mouse,” The Chronicle reported, referring to the old nursery rhyme.

• Irene Lucinda Senter, 85, died at the Chehalis hospital on July 8. Born on Feb. 8, 1877, Senter had lived in Mossyrock since 1946. She was to be buried on Wednesday, July 11, at Klickitat Cemetery in Mossyrock.

• A three-bedroom house in Chehalis was listed for $13,500. The house had an enclosed yard and was located near W.F. West High School, one half of a block from the swimming pool.

• Bids for the construction of 1.2 miles of new roadway west of Pe Ell were set to be opened on July 17 in Olympia. The project was to include a bridge over Fern Creek spanning 53 feet in length. The project was expected to cost between $150,000 and $250,000.

• Swim lessons for intermediate and advanced swimmers opened the week before July 9 at Millersylvania State Park. The classes were held Monday through Friday for three-week periods. The classes were open to children of all ages. All instructors were certified by the Red Cross. Swimming lessons were to start at Memorial Pool in Centralia on July 10.

• Paul Gessman, the farm placement officer at the Centralia branch of the State Employment Security Department, announced 250 people were needed to pick raspberries and blueberries. According to Gessman, about 1,800 strawberry pickers worked in Lewis County and southern Thurston County. Picking was to begin at the end of the week of July 9 or the beginning of the following week.