Author Clarence Mershon and his wife, Colleen, will lead Corbett parade
CORBETT - Clarence and Colleen Mershon - yep, the same name as the road in Corbett - are grand marshals of the community's 36th annual Fun Festival parade Tuesday, July 4.
Mershon, 75, the community's chronicler, has written and published six books of local history and has a seventh in the incubator. Though Colleen Mershon claims she is just along for the ride, the former marathoner who could run the whole parade route without getting out of breath, is her husband-historian's right hand.
In the last decade since Clarence, a retired Parkrose school administrator, took up writing and self-publishing histories, she has lent support and considerable houseroom to the boxes and boxes of books.
'This pile is pretty handy to put stuff on. It sort of works like a dresser,' she says, nodding at a 4-foot stack of book boxes. Other inventory is in the garage, handy to stack bicycles against. And downstairs in their Reynolds-area home a column of boxes, all books, occupies a niche by the fireplace, sort of like a cardboard pillar.
The couple, who met at Corbett High, acknowledges that they will never get rich writing local history. Mershon's Corbett school history, for instance, cost $12,500 to produce. After recovering $7,500 in sales and donations, Mershon gave the rest of the books to Corbett schools and the Crown Point Country Historical Society, writing off the last $5,000 as personal cost.
Lots of husbands have expensive hobbies, Colleen Mershon reasons. The benefit of being local historians, she says, is 'meeting a lot of interesting people and making lots of friends. That's probably quite a lot.'
Mershon's most recent publication, the story of 20 Japanese families in the area, brought an invitation to speak at the Japanese American Citizens League, and then a special invitation to a dinner party at the West Portland estate of Akio Egawa, consul general of Japan.
After happily shucking the suits of his teaching career for a casual shirt and a bolo tie, Mershon was forced back into a suit for the evening.
The Corbett historian gathers his histories sitting at the kitchen tables of pioneer residents. His accounts of the families east of the Sandy and his careful research of the Historic Columbia River Highway and the role local people played in the road have broken new ground.
'And this,' he says, tapping his bestseller, a slender book on the historic highway, 'this has helped pay the bills.'
Mershon was born in Corbett in 1931 and grew up on the family farm, 180 acres of railroad land that his great-grandfather purchased in 1882. He picked berries and worked for local Japanese farmers, and watched, crying, as they were taken away for internment in 1942. His latest book corrects an omission, the fact that local Japanese soldiers were left off the list of local veterans who served in World War II.
Until she gave up the time-intensive training, Colleen Mershon consistently won awards for her age group in marathons.
They are parents of four and also helped raise their oldest granddaughter, who is now a teacher. They have six grandchildren and mourn a seventh, who died at age 7 of a brain tumor.
Of all the honors he has received lately, he says none has touched him so much as recent Father's Day cards from his grandchildren telling him how much he has meant to them.
The Mershons walk 6 miles one day, and run 6 miles the next to keep fit. Colleen Mershon has given up marathons because the training takes too much time. Their time is spent volunteering for Helping Hands, gathering surplus food for a Corbett program, hosting twice a month at Vista House and hosting at the Crown Point Country Historical museum at the Springdale School. Their work with the historical society includes the venerable East Multnomah County Pioneer Association.
'When I think about it,' the grand marshal says, 'I think I am the third or fourth person from my class (Corbett High Class of 1949) that has had this honor.'
'You wonder why,' he muses. 'Maybe it was the wonderful teachers we had, or the times. But you served the community. You gave back.'
Fun Festival Facts
The Corbett Fun Festival Parade, with the theme 'Remembering the Past: Building for the Future,' leaves the Reynolds Resource Academy (the former Springdale Ranger Station) at 11 a.m. Tuesday, July 4, and travels up the Historic Columbia River Highway to disband at the Corbett School grounds. The rest of the day includes a barbecued beef dinner, quilt show, beer garden, mole trapping contest, pie-eating contest, farm and tractor show, talent show, auction, a live band, a beef raffle, a concert for the Jeff Lucas Memorial Stadium fund by Barry Lee White, followed by fireworks.