Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
September 08, 2011
INDEPENDENCE -- It's a question that's come up often for Betty Plude ever since she started running life-story writing workshops for seniors citizens.
But it's one she herself has never had an exciting answer to, said Plude, an Independence resident.
"Where were you during the Columbus Day Storm?"
"Probably changing my son's diapers," Plude said with a laugh. She was still living in Riverside, Calif., at the time.
The great storm, or "Big Blow," of Oct. 12, 1962, killed 46, injured hundreds and ravaged the Pacific Northwest with powerful winds that snapped trees and damaged or toppled homes and buildings.
The subject surfaced so often among her writing pupils that Plude set out to create a book about it -- with the content coming from regular citizens who survived it.
The result is "Columbus Day Storm, 1962 Memories," a tome three years in the making comprised of firsthand experiences from more than 200 contributors in Oregon and Washington.
Wes Luchau's photograph of the tower falling off Campbell Hall at then Oregon College of Education was featured on the cover of Life magazine and newspapers throughout the country.
All proceeds from the sale of "Columbus Day Storm" will go to the Independence Public Library.
"There are always those events of real significance that you can't help but remember what you were doing at the time," said James Kronenberg of Lake Oswego, who helped edit the book and submitted his own story. "The storm was like that ... I was born and raised in Oregon and I've never seen anything like it."
Plude sent out a request to every newspaper she could think of between Washington and Northern California for readers to contact her with submissions.
Many publications carried the message. And about 250 people replied, Plude said.
"I could hardly wait to get up in the morning, to see what e-mails had come in after I had gone to bed," she said.
In her submission, Kim VanDusen Upson of Astoria said waves were blowing up over the guardrail and across the highway after crossing the Young's Bay Bridge in Astoria as her father was driving her home.
Once he stopped to open the car door, "the wind caught it and slammed it all the way open against the front fender," she wrote. "We struggled to walk to the front door. I leaned at a 45 degree angle and the wind held me up."
Many memories are local. Wes Luchau of Salem described how he captured the collapse of the Campbell Hall bell tower on film on the Oregon College of Education campus.
Luchau was a student at the time. His photo appeared in Life magazine and newspapers around the world.
Ray Coleman, a Monmouth resident and athletic director at Central High at the time, wrote about canceling a football game with Cascade High a few hours before it was to be played at OCE's stadium.
Good thing. The press box at the stadium, where Central played its games, blew down, he wrote.
Kronenberg, who had a long career in publishing, was a student at the University of Oregon at the time. He recalled downpours and trees blowing apart all over campus.
"I think what's fun for me is comparing what other people were doing at the moment," he said. "You had to be there."
* A celebration of the release of "Columbus Day Storm, 1962 Memories" will take place at the Independence Public Library on Monday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m. Some contributors to the book will read their tales aloud. Cost for the book is $20. It's available at the Independence library and the WOU bookstore.