Peace Candle holds bright history
Its real flame may have burned out years ago, but the Peace Candle of the World in Scappoose still carries bright memories and an undying message.
Today, neon flames flicker atop the 50-foot tall red silo along Highway 30 in Scappoose. The Peace Candle of the World was once a giant wax candle billed as the largest in the world.
It was the vision of Darrel Brock, who owned and operated Western Candle Ltd., a Jewelite candle-making factory in Scappoose. He started a modest candle business that soon became a manufacturing hub.
According to news articles from the time, Western Candle employed about 40 people in 1971. The factory ran a 'round-the-clock manufacturing schedule, producing more than 100,000 candles each month. Brock's business grew, and so did his vision.
Inspired by the creative props and designs at California's Disneyland theme park in 1969, Brock began crafting a vision of a gargantuan wax creation.
Two years later, he was shaking hands with Oregon's governor, Tom McCall, during a Mother's Day ceremony to unveil a roughly 40,000-pound wax candle with a flame fueled by natural gas. The candle was a larger-than-life reminder of peace and light after a surge in American protests against the Vietnam War.
Dorothy Hobizal remembers working for the Brock family at the candle factory.
"I was one of the first ones in there," Hobizal recalled. "I can picture everything. I loved it. It was busy and the smell was nice. The workers were really great. I did most of the hiring. I was manager of the plant for quite a long time.
Three of Hobizal's five children also worked at the factory.
Hobizal, now 86, described the grandiose vision of Brock, whose legacy in Scappoose outlasted his business.
"He was a man of attention," she said. "He wanted something that symbolized the town. This was a business and it symbolized Scappoose.
When the wax candle was still operational, it had a real wick and an auxiliary gas torch for the flame. A collection pool made of concrete blocks rounded out the candle's bottom.
About 20 years later, the candle factory burned down. The candle factory relocated out of town and the Peace Candle was eventually coated with a sturdy, wax-like coating. An electronic flame replaced the natural gas flame.
Some residents say that's when the candle's significance dimmed.
When the electric flame went on top, I think that's when it lost its appeal, said Mike Greisen, a lifelong Scappoose resident. Greisen is now chief of the Scappoose Fire District. "I understand why they did it. Natural gas is expensive.
Scappoose Mayor Scott Burge remembers driving out of town with his parents and returning home to the bright light.
"When you saw the Peace Candle, you knew you were home," Burge said.
Hobizal said the candle lost its meaning when the Brocks sold the local factory and continued their business elsewhere.
The giant candle may not drip wax or burn bright in the night, but it still lights the way for many and serves as a piece of Scappoose history.
"It is still a pretty good monument," Hobizal said. "I live on the highway and I look over and see the flickering of the candle.JW_DISQUS_ADD_A_COMMENT