History of the Mills at Willamette Falls

Thanks to the Kinsman Foundation, we were able to produce a second oral history DVD on mill work at Crown Zellerbach, West Linn, from 1928-1986.  "Friends, Fish, and $1.09 an Hour" contains 'the rest of the stories' of mill work, including fish stories, Christmas parties and reminiscences about the West Linn Inn. Both documentaries are in Oregon libraries and have aired on cable access television and the Oregon Public Broadcasting public affairs channel.

Excerpt from interview with retired mill worker Art Dorrance:

Sandy Carter:                        So what was your very first job at the mill?

Art Dorrance:       "Well, the first job I was there, I was tying up and untying a barge that was unloading for ships, and they had to move it because the crane didn't move.  So I done that job, and then I went into the finishing room for a while.  I've got a story to tell you about that.  I was going to save it until last, but ‑‑

Sandy Carter:                        You can tell it any time.

Art Dorrance:            Frank [Hammerle] ‑‑ they've got [Hammerle] Park there in West Linn ‑‑ well, that man worked there 50 years, see?  And he was my boss, and Rudy [Perrin], he was running what they call the rewinder in Mill C.  And I had worked there a month or two, and [Hammerle] was the superintendent of that whole department they called the finishing room, see?  Well, he came down and told us one morning after the 10 o'clock meeting that he was going to have to lay off some people just before ‑‑ and Christmas was the next week.  And Rudy [Perrin] said, well, God, you can't lay them off now, because, he said, Christmas is next week.  Well, he said, I'll tell you what:  I'm going to come around in the afternoon around three.  He said, if I can't find you, I can't lay you off.  So man, we made ourselves scarce.  There was three basements, a triple basement, therein Mill C, and we went down in the subbasement and sat on the pallet board and looked out the window and watched the steelhead fishermen until Frank had went through, and I never have been laid off, but I never got laid off over Christmas.  So that old gentleman was about the finest superintendent you could ever have."

 Background:    "Grindstones, Boomsticks, Tattletales and Nips--the people and the stories of Crown Zellerbach International, West Linn Division, 1928-1986", premiered at West Linn High School auditorium thanks to the generosity of West Linn Social Studies Department, Bolton Market of Choice, Bolton Starbucks, Bales' West Linn Thriftway, West Linn Safeway, Costco Foods, West Linn Paper Company, West Linn Copy Center, and Paul Toole's State Farm Insurance.

The original noon whistle from the West Linn mill was on display through the kindness of owner Don Pendergraft. 

"Friends, Fish, and $1.09 an Hour" was shown publicly at the Holy Names Heritage Center, Marylhurst, in November 2009.

Buy the DVDs from our "Heritage Store,"

or check one out from a Clackamas or Multnomah County library.

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Also, read the West Linn Tidings article entitled, "A ‘rough and tumble' place"

in which former employees of Crown Zellerbach International's West Linn paper mill tell of work

in the days before equal rights and safety committees.


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Blue Heron Paper Company  http://www.blueheronpaper.com/
West Linn Paper Company    http://www.wlinpco.com/