A century of stories
One hundred years ago, in a sleepy hollow of a town in Scio, Oregon about 25 miles southeast of Salem, Verlin Clare Grimes was born to farming parents from Des Moines, Iowa. Parents whose own brethren made the trek across the Oregon Trail to Sacramento in the late 1860’s.
Verlin celebrated his 100th year last week in Burien with friends and family where he regaled them with his many stories.
One in particular about the night he was born. Mother to-be woke up near midnight to alert Verlin’s dad that baby Verlin was announcing his arrival. Wind and rain had knocked the only phone line out so George Grimes grabbed a kerosene lantern and hiked a mile and a half to a neighbor to phone Dr. Prill in Scio.
“In those days, there were no street lights outside of town,” Verlin said. “The road was muddy and dark but Dr. Prill hitched up his buggy to a fresh set of horses at the livery stable, trusting them to find their way in the dark to the Grimes farmhouse three hours away.”
At 4:30 a.m Maude delivered little Verlin into the world. Verlin admits to a cloudy memory regarding his actual birth and subsequent early years but has great recollections of a "buttermilk bath" when he accidently pulled a pail of said milk on top of his head from the kitchen table at an age he deemed "tall enough to reach."
A celebration in downtown Scio at the end of WWI and having cracked ocean crab are early events in his life. More harrowing is the afternoon he was playing by the fire place when a train approached from the tracks near their home in Stayton,OR. Verlin held a burning stick next to his pant leg as the train roared by the yard. His pants caught on fire but were quickly extinguished. "The train did it," Verlin explained to his mom.
That Verlin is a survivor was never more true than when his older brother Loraine was pounding a stake with a small hand axe. Verlin came up from behind him only to get smacked in the lower lip, leaving a life-long scar. Loraine had to miss dinner that night as punishment. Similarly Verlin raced across the room one afternoon forgetting he had piled some books in the doorway. He tripped over the books crashing his forehead into the door casing. He has that scar to prove it too.
WWII brought Verlin north to Seattle. Boeing was hiring. He met and married his wife Patricia* there. After the war they raised two boys in Hazel Valley where he lives today.(*he lost Patricia a few years ago to cancer)
At 65 Verlin retired from Boeing but wasn't done working. He took at job at a printing plant in Tukwila. At 75 he was still on the job when he felt a strange pain. He told his co-workers he was having a heart attack. They rushed him to the hospital. The doc said "take these pills and go home"."That was twenty-five years ago," Verlin gleamed.
With a voice and memory of a much younger man, Verlin laughs easy when talking about his life. Not much of a smoker " I tried smoking but quit," he said " tried chewing tobacco but it was too bitter," he grimaced. Never a drinker, Verlin moves easily (with a small cane) around this modest home he shares with his son and daughter-in-law David and Renee'.
The birthday celebration in Hazel Valley was anything but hollow and hardly sleepy. The big man from the little town of Scio, Oregon was the life of the party.