compiled by Larry REA
(Larry) Do you remember your first car?
(Orville) Yeah, I got my first car as soon as I was 16. I worked with Omar. He had an old model T Ford and we hauled stuff from the lower mill and places around. So, he bought me a bicycle and boy was it a dandy. The first one with the balloon tires – Wards Riverside. I sold that to Doris for $15 and I bought me a 1926 model T Ford coupe for $12.50. I bought that in Portland. Art and Esther, Mom and I went to Portland, Dad didn’t know any thing about it. He came home and saw that car, he wanted to know whose car that was. Mom told him it was Orville’s. Dad said ” that kid doesn’t need a car, he can use mine.” It was always a battle to use his so… I paid $12.50 for that car and it cost a dollar to change the title. I got a dollar’s worth of gas and I think I bought some oil for fifty cents. The car had a license on
it and I had a driver’s license. I took the test in Ed’s car. He had a little 36 Willys pickup. I drove that old Ford for a long time.
(Lex) The car that Orville bought, I was living at home then, with Ethyl and Dick, I had a car, a model A coupe, and Dad had the Hupmobile. Orville was going to high school. He used to siphon a gallon of gas from my car and a gallon from Dad’s car every night. Then he ran out of gas down by Joe BURNHAM’s place so he would borrow enough gas to go up and get it. Then that night he would siphon another gallon.
(Orville) I went to high school in Rainier and graduated from there.
(Orville) The reason I graduated, I was the only boy left and Mom said she wanted one boy to finish high school and one boy who didn’t smoke until he finished high school. I was the only one left at home so I was the one. I fudged a little and started smoking just before graduation.
(Larry) What was your first job ?
(Orville) I worked at Hallberg’s Market in Rainier, as a roustabout, truck driver, and so forth. We used to take that big old truck, I think it was a 1936, ton and a half, we took it to Portland to pick up
loads of feed , flour, and groceries. We would come down that hill by Montgomery Wards, loaded that way with no brakes. I would put it down in it’s lowest gear and let it wind up so fast, I didn’t know what else to do so I just let it go. It’s a good thing they didn’t have that traffic light at the bottom like they do now. That baby wasn’t about to stop. I used to take that thing to Portland by myself, go to all those places, back in over the railroad tracks and up to the docks. I couldn’t do that today if I had to.
Finally they found out I wasn’t old enough. Their insurance wouldn’t cover me so they fired me. Guess who took my place… Wynn SHOWALTER !
(MariJane) Who was the one that got stuck on the bridge down here at Oregon City ? Wasn’t there someone in the family that tried to climb the bridge ?
(Orville) Who was that ? Ernie and Wilma lived in Oregon City and it was the old bridge. Was that Bill or was that me ? I don’t think it was me or I would have remembered. Whoever it was climbed up then got afraid to go up or come down.
In fact that was where I was when Pearl Harbor was bombed, right here in Oregon City, up at Ernie’s place.
7 Dec 1941 Pearl Harbor
(Lex) Ethyl got stuck on the bridge at Oregon City. Ernie and Wilma were living in Oregon City. Patsy, Bill, Ethyl, and Dick went down to the bridge. They went inside of it and climbed up. It’s hollow inside the arch. There was a sort of manhole place to climb out. It was steep so they slid down to one of the support posts. They had to go out on a little ledge to go around the post. Ethyl couldn’t do it. The other kids did so they came up to the house and said Ethyl was stuck on the bridge. I went down and rescued her. I had to climb up and get her. I had to lead her down, I think she kept her eyes shut.
She had to take her shoes off, the leather soles were slick. She threw them down to the post and then she slid down there but she was afraid to go around the post. I had to go get her and pass her around the post. I held on to her.
(Lee) Ethyl was always afraid of heights. Clinton (BROWNING), her uncle, is like that, He can’t stand to even cross a bridge. His wife drives the rig across the bridge.
(Lex) They were down visiting Ethyl, there at Sunset Beach. She had relatives up north so they were headed up the coast. Instead of crossing the bridge at Astoria he drove up to Westport and took the ferry across.
(Larry) One of the things kids in Rainier High School did to prove they were macho, they climbed the
Rainier-Longview bridge. If you went over the railing there was a beam out there. It was too far to step out, you had to jump but there was nothing to keep you from falling about 200 feet to the river. Then you had to pee into the river once you were out there.
(Lex) We got a letter from Jim (REA) after he moved to Alaska. They call a tenderfoot a “Cheechako” up there. If you want to become a “sourdough” you have to do three things: Pee in the Yukon, kill a bear, and make love to a squaw. Jim said he was almost there, he had peed in the Yukon !
When Mildred was up there she heard the story about a guy who wanted to become a sourdough so he peed in the Yukon. Then he took out after the bear. He came back, he was all scratched up and his clothes were ripped. He said, ” now, where’s the squaw I’m supposed to kill ?”
(Ed) I went back to work at Weyerhauser. I didn’t work very long before I hurt my back. Part of the settlement sent me to barber college. That was six months long. We moved to Longview to cut the cost of crossing the bridge. We lived in the cabins at Oak’s Trailer Park in Longview while I went to Barber College.
After I got my license I took a job as an instructor. They had to have a licensed barber as an instructor. That’s when Orville and Omar went to barber school. Orville got his license but Omar didn’t go very long before he quit.
(Orville) Right after high school there wasn’t any work so I went to barber college in Longview. Ed had gone there and I think Omar did for a while. I started and took my test right away, got my license. I wasn’t in barber college very long. Ed was an instructor there for a while. He already had his license.
Old Bob CLULOW was the guy that owned the barber college. He wanted out so he sold it. He told all of us that owed him money that if we would buy him a bottle he would cancel our debt. So we had a hell of a party. Ed got snockered. He was our instructor so we would cut hair and then holler for Ed to come out and check it. We had to have the instructor come out and check it before they could go. Ed would stagger out and check it. We had quite a party there.
When I was going to school there, Ross JENNINGS and I, we had a back room, we had a bed roll and we would stay there at night. We weren’t supposed too, we had to keep it quiet.
(Larry) The Ideal Barber College ?
(Orville) Yeah, that was right across from the Columbia Theater, Biddle’s Grocery Store was nearby. That would have been 1941.
(Ed) Toad HERNDON put in a shop at 30th and Ocean Beach. I helped him install the shop and worked there for him on a commission basis but I wasn’t making any money.
(Larry) Toad ? How did he get a name like that ?
(Ed) He kind of looked like a toad. That was a nickname.
(Myrtle) Omar (REA) was working over at Westport and he said they had lots of work so we went to Westport.
see chapter on Westport——
(Orville) I used to drive down to Westport a lot, go fishing with them there on the bay. Even when I lived with Ed and Sleepy there in Longview we would drive down on weekends to go fishing, catch those Pogies. We would bring fish home by the gunny sack full.
(Lex) I think it was 1940, Ernie bought a Studebaker Champ and went back East to drive it out.
(Orville) Ernie ran a theater in Cascade Locks and lived right across the street. I went there a lot. In fact my buddy, Paul BOYSEN lived with Ernie and Wilma while he worked at Bonneville. Paul BOYSEN was Gerty’s little brother. I couldn’t get work at Bonneville Dam but Paul did.
Ernie went to driving truck and Paul learned to run the movies for him. I think Ernie owned that theater up there. Paul ran the shows at night and worked at Bonneville during the day. In fact Paul and I joined the service together, his serial number was just two digits different than mine.
(Lex) Warren SANFORD was a friend of Ernie’s. He got aquainted with Warren while he was reading meters. I was up there one time, Ernie and Wilma were having a little party and Warren and his wife came out. He had one of those little Austins. As soon as he came in the house Ernie and I went
out the back door with a couple of other guys. We picked up Warren’s car and hid it behind some bushes. That guy got all excited, he was going to call the police so we had to tell him where the car was hidden.
Warren had a sixteenth interest in the movie theatre and Ernie went up to learn how to run the arc machines. We had bulb machines at Rainier. Warren moved to Seattle and sold Ernie his interest in the theatre.
(Ed) John PERGASTUS owned the theatre at Oregon City. He had the theatre at Kelso years ago, when they were building Longview, he hired a man and a team of horses to pull cars out of the parking lot, there was so much mud.
(Lex) When Ernie bought in out there he was still reading meters in the daytime and he ran the projection booth at night. Saturday and Sudays he had matinee so he was out there all the time. Wilma worked in the ticket cage and Patsy was an usherette, it was a family affair.
I asked Ernie how much sleep he got. He said he got about four and a half hours a night. I said, ” Good Lord, I have to have eight hours.” Ernie said, ” Man, you’ll get bed sores !”
Ernie sold that share and bought the theatre out at Cascade Locks.
I went out there and watched ” Gone With the Wind ” I think that movie lasted 3 hours and 45 minutes, it was a long one.
It was a bad time to buy because they finished the dam and everyone moved away so he went broke. Ernie went to work driving truck to pay off his bills. That’s when Ernie and Wilma started having trouble. I think Wilma moved to Rainier then but they got together again after that.
(Ed) Orville worked in the shop with Toad while we were over at Westport. When Toad decided to move on he sold out to Orville and me. I came back to Longview and worked in the shop. We bought the shop after we came back from Westport.
(Ed) When we came back to Longview I think Orville had one of the cabins rented at Haley’s Auto Court and we moved in there with him.
(Orville) Yeah, those were just small cabins down there, some rental cabins.
(Larry) I have an early memory of you watching after me. As I remember it you couldn’t get out of bed for some reason.
(Orville) Oh yeah, I had a back problem, spasms, I was taped from my armpits down. Ed and Sleepy were working and I was taking care of you. I was supposed to lie down and relax but I couldn’t get back up. The door was open and you took off.
They bought a house out on Garfield not far from the barber shop. That was on 30th and Ocean Beach. There wasn’t much out there then, just some houses.
(Lex) Ed and Orville had the barber shop out on Ocean Beach. I used to go down there and get my hair cut. I was working at Weyerhauser then, 12 hours one day and 16 hours the next. I lived in Rainier. I went in to get my hair cut one day, sat in the chair and went to sleep. I wasn’t getting much sleep. When I work hard for 16 hours I get all strung out and can’t go to sleep.
(Orville) Ed and I had a barbershop in Longview and I think Ed moved to Portland — I was staying in the house on Garfield when I was working at the barber shop. I had an appendicitus attack at night. I went over to the hospital, I was hurting, I couldn’t find anybody so I went to Mom and Dad’s. They lived by Uncle Joe MYSINGER in Rainier. They called Dr. KENNY. He came out and poked around, he said he would come back the next morning. I tell you the next morning when he touched me I went right through the ceiling.
They put me in the hospital and I had my appendix taken out. When I had my appendix taken out I didn’t have any money, no hospitalization, they hadn’t heard of that then, so Dad paid for it.
I never did go back to the shop after that. After I got back on my feet I volunteered for the service. I gave Dad my share of the barber shop and he sold that all out while I was in the service. I gave him the 34 chevy coupe I had when I went in. He drove it and gave it back when I got out.
I went in on Dec 10, 1942. One year and three days after Pearl Harbor.
Kathleen was born three days after I left. Floy and Cyril were living up there behind the Fern Hill School, across from the old Witham place. Paul and Vivian Mendenhall lived there for quite a while.
See chapter on army-air force life——
A Tax certificate for Lot 5, Block A in the highway addition to Rainier was issued to Abija Lee Rea on 10 Jan 1942. Lots 10 and 11 followed 6 Jan 1943. They built a house in town, Joe and Gertrude Mysinger built next door. Title to the lots came some time after they built the house and lived there, apparently title was given only after the land was paid for.
(Larry) When I was a kid I wanted to be an airline pilot, do you remember, did you have a secret desire to be a doctor or something ?
Orville: No, I just wanted enough money to live on, be comfortable. I did quite a few things. I worked down there at the little mill for quite awhile. I went to work at the mill in West Rainier after I got out of the
service. I worked there nights on clean-up. Dad talked them into hiring me. He was a fireman there at night. He talked Van Fleet into hiring me.
I was making “big” money, 75 cents an hour. I got fired there too, they were afraid I might pass out down underneath the mill. I had to run some of the equipment to clean the junk out. I never did go back to barbering though. I just couldn’t handle it anymore.
(Larry) I can’t remember Grandpa working. Bucko had a mill up near us and after they shutdown Grandpa would go up and stand fire watch. I remember he chewed tobacco and he drove this old green pickup with a brown tobacco juice stain down the side.
(Orville) Yeah, I tell you what, you try riding a Hupmobile touring car with no side curtains, we fought all the time to see who wasn’t going to sit on that side. He chewed tobacco ever since I can remember.
He liked to sing too, he had a nice deep bass voice. He sang “Buttermilk Kimebo” and “Froggy Went a Courting”, stuff like that.
(Lex) During the war we had a rifle club over on the SKEANS place. They quit giving us 30.06 shells to shoot and started giving us .22 long rifle shells instead. I had a .22 single shot, it shot real good, in fact I qualified as a sharpshooter with it.
I was over at Art and Esther’s one time and Harold challenged me to a shooting match. He went out to a fence post there and he put a .22 short casing up as a target. He set a second one on top of the first one. He put a row of them up on the post. “Now”, he said, “Let’s see you shoot one of them off the post.”
I sort of laughed and started to sit down and take aim.
“Oh no,” he said, ” Shoot off-hand.”
I started to take aim again and he said, “Just the top one, leave the bottom one there !”
Larry: I can remember being left with Grandma [Lydia] and she got after me about something. I told her I could run fast and she couldn’t catch me but she could run pretty fast for an old lady. (I was about seven then, about 1946, Grandma was about fifty seven.)
[They lived in the house that Lex built, across from Ed and Myrtle Rea and adjacent to Floy and Cyril Witham.]
(Orville) You bet, she outran me several times.
(Ed) When I was a kid, Mom was tall and slim. When we had a picnic she would run in the foot races.
Ed: Dad (Abija Lee REA) bought a chev pickup after they moved out here. [Fern Hill] They took it to Arkansas. The mirror on Mom’s side was her’s to use, she wouldn’t let Dad adjust it so he could
They got to Arkansas, one of the relatives said, “Boss, that’s not the woman you left here with. ” Dad said, ” Yes it is.” He said, ” No, the woman you left here with had blond hair, this one has black hair.” Mom used to be a tow head, the older she got the blacker her hair became.
The end of Chapter 9