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1940s civic pride fills A Brief History ...

by: Submitted photo, A drawing of the mill, as shown in a rare booklet about the history of Oregon City and West Linn, copyrighted in 1941 by Crown Zellerbach Corporation.

This article is part of a continuing series on the history of West Linn written by Sandy Carter, a Bolton freelance writer and editor who has lived in West Linn since Dec. 31, 1992.

A little brown booklet arrived at my house this week, swaddled in bubble-wrap and tissue paper and delivered by Scott, the UPS driver, who proceeded to ask me where I get the pictures that go with my columns. The discovery of a fan at the end of my driveway pleased me inordinately, and the brown booklet, ordered over the Internet from a rare book dealer, pleases me even more, even though, at 47 cents a page, including shipping, it's a bit steep for my budget.

The book's title is proud, flowery and extensively capitalized: 'A Brief History of Oregon City and West Linn, Oregon -Highlights in the Development of an Historic Community Whose Pioneers Fashioned and Rocked the Cradle of a Great State,' by William D. Welsh. What more could a devotee of our local industrial heritage wish for in a title?

Copyrighted in 1941 by Crown Zellerbach Corporation, it was printed by the Oregon City Enterprise Courier, and 'presented by' the Oregon City Chamber of Commerce. It has gone through five subsequent printings, the last in 1958, so its social perspective spans World War II and includes the peak years of the baby boom.

The paper on which it was printed was called Crown News and the browned, flecky cover stock is sulphite screenings wrap, according to a small, boxed sentence on the last page. Both paper and cover were manufactured at Crown Zee's West Linn Division. I like that kind of continuity, so I am charmed, and I haven't even read three pages. Instead, I skip to the ending for my first quote from this lovely find - a quote which presumably reflects the reality of 1958, which was about mid-way through the reign of Crown Zellerbach International in West Linn.

'Ox-logging on tributaries of the Willamette river (sic) has given way to more practical methods. Areas that were first logged in the eighties for pulp timber are again being harvested for man's uses - proof that timber can be a continuing crop in Oregon if citizens are careful with fires. The clunking paddlewheel steamers still cast a romance over the river, echoes carrying back up the hills…' (The 'eighties' were the 1880s - a time when Crown's predecessor, Willamette Pulp and Paper Company, started making paper from trees, while fledgling Crown Paper Company, of San Francisco, was still making it from straw.)

The paragraph goes on, but there are enough ironies and surprises in just those two sentences for me to ponder this week. Today, it's the angry buzzing of personal watercraft that drifts up my hill in summer. Today fire is acknowledged to be a forest management tool, and today we're turning back to ox teams as sustainable forestry gains a foothold in the industry.

I look forward as I read this little book to more insights into what's changed and what's come back around since 1816. And for Scott, the UPS guy … The illustration this week actually passed through your hands.

Carter may be reached with comments and ideas for future columns by sending e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.