Father's Day 1971

Father’s Day “top pop” Emmett Poteete was named by the local Chamber of Commerce and Retail Service Bureau on June 13, 1971. He was selected because of a letter written by his 9-year-old daughter, Michelle, a student at Ferndale School.

I’ve discovered my current favorite part of trolling the Union-Bulletin archives online is the history within the history. While looking for news circa June 1946 and, 25 years later, the same month in 1971, I find “On the Date” columns with even older news from the Walla Walla Valley.

This is exciting because the PDFs available via our website “only” go back to 1946, and because of the pandemic, the newsroom staff is still working from home, rendering access to our second-floor vault smelling of old paper and glue off limits for now.

In this safeguarded room are tomes of bound editions of the U-B going back to the early 1900s, but even here you won’t find record of some of these earlier nuggets of history.

For example:

In June 1862, Walla Walla had its first fire. The F. B. Robinson theater, erected a year before, burned. Efforts were made to organize a fire department, but they did not meet a ready response.

In 1870, the first preparations were made for a new brick Catholic church here, $2,025 being subscribed. Work was not started until 1881.

In 1872, the most destructive fire since June 4, 1866, raged. About $7,000 damage was done.

In 1890, the Walla Walla club was organized with William Kirkman president.

In 1897, Asotin had its second great flood of the year, with heavy damage being done.

In 1910, a contract is let for a $47,500 addition to Sharpstein school. The next year, Emmanuel Lutheran Church was dedicated.

Then follows a series of high temperature readings for June in the Valley: In 1912, mercury at 101. In 1922, temperature is 100. In 1925, it is 103. In 1926, mercury at 105.

Some of these later tidbits are probably hidden away in the vault, but I enjoy the quicker access found online.

In 1928, a new cannery is started at the penitentiary. And in 1936, Utah Canning Company opens its Freewater plant.

In 1938, a severe electric storm occurs.

And, in an echo of the world today, in 1960: “Plans for wide-scale inoculations are revealed for Milton-Freewater after reports of probable typhoid cases.” I wonder whether officials had to offer free beer, marijuana or a million dollar lottery to get people to vaccinate. No, I don’t guess so.

Among the regular features of the archived PDFs, my interest was piqued by the following news stories.

75 Years Ago

On June 25, 1946, a new student center at Whitman College under construction represents the first major construction on campus “in a considerable period of time.”

The student center, paid for by funds subscribed by alumni, friends and students, will find a variety of needs and make a definite contribution to the facilities for meeting the growing demands upon the institution.

“Like all institutions of higher learning, Whitman faces this postwar period with assurance of growth.”

50 Years Ago

On June 10, 1971, the Walla Walla City Council plans annexation of land on the east side of Plaza Way between Tietan Street and Whitney Road where a retirement home will be built.

Also, a man who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the 1968 steel guitar slaying of a Walla Walla resident is granted permission to enter an Arizona hospital. Willis E. Kauffman, 30, was accused of second-degree murder, later pleaded down to manslaughter, after striking William F. Guse, 61, in the stomach with the guitar, causing injuries that led to Guse’s death several days later.

Of note in the 1971 newspaper is published a list that seems highly personal and nosy — bound to have irked residents, I’ll bet — which was list of the full names of people admitted to or discharged from area hospitals.

25 Years Ago

In June 2, 1996, 5-year-old Joseph Vandeurs is the first to wet his feet in Milton-Freewater’s new swimming pool. His father, Ralph, a member of the Milton-Freewater City Council soon followed.

“It was great,” the elder Vandeurs said after being wrestled into the pool fully clothed by Mardi Hagerman, chair of the city’s pool committee. “It was nice and warm.”

Also in Milton-Freewater, the community will convert the old Pleasant View School into a combination classroom/laboratory facility and will build a greenhouse at the school site as part of a STELLAR Project, which stands for Science Technology Environmental Land Lab and Research.

And former U-B reporter, now media spokesperson for Providence St. Mary Medical Center, Kathleen Obenland reports on differing medical costs between St. Mary and the now-shuttered Walla Walla General Hospital.

“The hospital bill will be nearly the same whether you have your baby at St. Mary Medical Center or Walla Walla General Hospital. But with other procedures, the cost difference may be more than $1,000.” Chest pains was about the same at $5,000, but chemotherapy was $3,000 more at St. Mary, the report stated, while “psychoses” treatment was upwards of $5,000 more at the Providence location.

Obenland explains, “WWGH handles too few of these for a relevant comparison, and St. Mary actually is lower than regional averages in these two categories.”

And I will leave you with this gem, also from June 2, 1996:

“A College Place man dropped to his knees Saturday and made $21,437 in 20 seconds.” Robert Percifield was given that much time in a makeshift vault at a Kennewick auto dealership to scoop as much cash as he could, as part of a promotion for a regional radio station. And scoop he did. Station Manager and Vice President Bill Bradley said Percifield should have been in the Olympics.

Dian Ver Valen can be reached at dianvervalen@wwub.com or 509-526-8320.

Dian is senior editor of the Union-Bulletin and Lifestyles magazine. She received her bachelor's in journalism from Western Washington University in 2003. She received her master's in communication and leadership from Gonzaga.

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