A Look Back in Time: Three Women Survive ‘Spectacular’ Crash Between Chehalis and Centralia in January of 1963


Three 19-year-old Linfield College “coeds” narrowly escaped death and serious injury on the afternoon of Sunday, Jan. 20, 1963, in what The Chronicle described as a “spectacular one-car accident.” While between Chehalis and Centralia the three women crashed after the one driving the car “dozed for a minute.” 

“The small, 1961-model, foreign car went off the highways, spun over and over, somehow missed oncoming traffic and a bridge, and came to a rest about 300 feet south of the Salzer Creek span,” The Chronicle reported.

The car was apparently totaled in the crash. 

“The car, heading south, went into the median strip and careened into the northbound lane. The small model car continued its wild ride by swerving to avoid an oncoming car and the Salzer Creek bridge. It then rolled over several times from front to back and side-to-side,” The Chronicle reported. 

The driver and another girl were thrown from the car. None of the girls received more than cuts and bruises. There were apparently seatbelts in the front of the car but they were unused. Seatbelts weren’t  legally required to be used at the time. 

“The accident halted heavy Sunday four-lane traffic momentarily, and then the movement of the traffic resumed on a slowed-up basis. Hundreds of passerby saw the smashed car,” The Chronicle reported. 

Saturday, Jan. 21, 1933

• Strawberry growers in Rochester and Grand Mound were estimating 60% to 75% of their 1933 crop had been killed by cold weather so far during the winter, The Chronicle reported. About 3,500 acres of land in the area was devoted to strawberry production at the time.

• Five “juveniles” had been arrested by police on the night of Friday, Jan. 20, for stealing a car in Rochester. Roger Schultz, Lee Burrows, Carl Stump, Fay Stump and Donald Hunter were all being held in jail pending charges. Schultz was reported to have taken the blame for the theft. 

• The Tenino City Council reportedly met on the evening of Tuesday, Jan. 17, and approved the appointments made by Tenino Mayor Tom Richards. Richards had appointed Dr. F.W. Wichman as health officer, T.F. Shannon as chief of police, D.M. Major as police judge, J.H. Allson as clerk, L.J. Johnson as fire chief, W.J. Phillips as assistant fire chief and “Mrs. J.F. Clark” was appointed to a five year term on the library board. 

• Women at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church had sponsored a “card party” at the church’s parlors on the night of Thursday, Jan. 19. The overall winner for bridge was “Mrs. H.E. Saindon” while second place went to “Mrs. W.F. Pfluge.”

• Rev. J.C. Tourtellot of Westminster Presbyterian Church was expected to deliver a sermon entitled “What Has Jesus Christ to Say About the Present Depression and Its Cure?” Sunday, Jan. 22, The Chronicle reported. At the church’s 5 p.m. vesper service, “beautiful colored slides” were to be shown illustrating “Barriers and Passes in the Southern Mountains.”

• The Morton Town Council was reportedly inquiring with the Washington state Attorney General to determine who the town’s mayor should be. “Is a mayor defeated at the polls by the citizens still mayor if the choice of the voters refuses to take the office?” asked the beginning of a story in The Chronicle. Morton voters had previously voted out “Mayor Hendricks,” whose first name was not provided, in the last election. But after the candidate who defeated Hendricks declared they would not be taking office, it became unclear who would become mayor. State law at the time stated a mayor is elected to a term of two years, or “until his successor is elected and qualified.” Because Hendricks did not have a successor, it was unclear whether his term was expired under state law. 

• Otto Hanson, a 67-year-old long-time Lewis County resident, was reported to have died in La Crescenta, California. The news came via a telegram received by his daughter. Hanson, born in Denmark, had lived in Centralia before he moved to California the previous August for health reasons. He was survived by his wife, four daughters, his son, seven grandchildren and his sister who still lived in Denmark. 

Thursday, Jan. 21, 1943

• Monday, Jan. 18 was reported to be the coldest day in the Twin Cities since Jan. 21, 1930. On the morning of Jan. 18, temperatures reached 4 degrees. But temperatures had not come close to reaching the record low temperature for the area of negative 16 degrees, which was reached in December 1919. 

• Jennings Jack Bennett, who grew up in Lewis County and graduated from Chehalis High School in 1938, was commended by Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox for his heroic resistance in combat while aboard a tanker, according to an Associated Press story that was included in The Chronicle. During combat, Bennett was wounded “many times'' before he “took to the sea in a lifejacket” after the gun on his ship was hit. “They seemed to be coming straight at me, one after the other, and I could have touched them as they passed,” Bennett said regarding torpedoes after he jumped into the water. “But they did pass, and after that I felt I could get through anything. I got to the liferaft and they pulled me aboard. I remember being transferred to a lifeboat, and then I passed out.”

• Lotta Springer, 74, had died in her Centralia home on Tuesday, Jan. 19, The Chronicle reported. Springer was born on May 24, 1868 in Chicago. She moved with her husband to Centralia in April 1933. She was survived by her husband, two daughters, four grandchildren and a great-grandchild. 

• Charles Davis, 73, was reported to have died of a heart attack at the Winlock Depot around noon on Sunday, Jan. 17. Davis was born in Douglas County, Oregon and had moved to Winlock 43 years before his death. He was survived by his wife, daughter and three sons. 

• Charles Black, a “pioneer resident of Chehalis” celebrated his 75th birthday on Monday, Jan. 18, The Chronicle reported. Black had reportedly lived in Chehalis for 60 years and was born in Mount Pleasant, Iowa on Jan.18, 1868 and had come to Chehalis in 1883. He was an early member of the Chehalis police force before becoming a railroad employee. 

• The Westminster Men’s Club at Chehalis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church had hosted an event on the evening Wednesday, Jan. 20 and had reportedly invited all men “of the community” to attend. Thomas Swayze of Olympia, who served as director of licenses in Washington, was the guest speaker. 

• The state House’s newly created Civilian Defense Committee had seen eight of Gov. Arthur Langlie’s 10 war powers bills referred to it, according to an Associated Press story featured in The Chronicle. The committee’s chair, Francis Pearson, a Democrat who represented Clallam, Jefferson and Mason counties, was skeptical of the bills, declaring he expected to “really work over the governor’s war bills … In fact, I can’t see any special reason why these bills are necessary.” Pearson said he was hesitant to concentrate power in the governor’s hands and was in favor of the Legislature drafting necessary war legislation.

Wednesday, Jan. 21, 1953

• Pe Ell’s newly combined elementary and high school was to be dedicated in a ceremony on the night of Thursday, Jan. 22, The Chronicle reported. The ceremony was to be held in the school’s multi-purpose room and high attendance was expected. Pearl Wanamaker, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction was to be the speaker. 

• Pollution in Chehalis’ Dillenbaugh Creek had improved since companies began filtering their waste to remove oil. Pollution in Dillenbaugh Creek was first noticed in December when dead steelhead were found and it became apparent they had died from poisoning. 

• An Associated Press story featured in The Chronicle reported Gov. Arthur Langlie was expected to ask the Legislature to pass a biennial budget totalling $793 million. The total was $32 million more than had been spent the previous biennium. 

• The Chronicle reported $98,279.50 in funds had been received from the State Board of Education to fund the construction of the music room-gymnasium addition to the newly built Chehalis High School, which would soon be renamed W.F. West High School. Work on the new addition to the high school was expected to begin once contracts had been awarded and the weather had improved. The new addition was expected to be completed the next December. 

• A radio had been installed on the motorcycle used by Centralia’s police department for traffic enforcement. According to The Chronicle, the radio would allow for easier communication when there was a problem with a parking meter, allowing drivers to avoid tickets when there was a problem. 

• Frank Raymond, 55, died from a heart attack in a local hospital on the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 20. Raymond had lived in Centralia for 53 years and was born on Jan. 23, 1897 in Chico, California. He was survived by his wife, two daughters, two grandsons, his mother and a sister. 

• Willam Gibson, 80, died in his Centralia home on the night of Thursday, Jan. 15. He was born in Canada on June 15, 1872. He was survived by his wife, two sons, two daughters, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. 

Monday, Jan. 21, 1963

• Lewis County received good news when county Assessor John King learned a bill in the Legislature that would have reformed timber taxation was likely dead. King had strongly opposed the reforms, arguing they would be a “devastating blow” to farm forestry in the county.

• Temperatures in the Twin Cities were expected to warm up on Tuesday, Jan. 22 following a period of cold weather, with temperatures projected to reach into the 40s. Cold weather had brought temperatures down to 20 degrees on both Saturday, Jan. 19 and Sunday, Jan. 20.

• Mike Smith, the brother of future Starbucks CEO Orin Smith, was pictured in a photo included in The Chronicle on Jan. 21. The photo depicted Smith playing basketball for Centralia College. Centralia College’s gymnasium is named in his honor. 

• The State Patrol arrested 34 speeders in the Twin Cities area thanks to a week-long use of radar, which was apparently not regularly used at the time. Arrests were also made for “regular” traffic citations, which totalled 87 over the weekend of Jan. 19 and 20. 

• An Associated Press story featured in The Chronicle reported on the careful planning that went into the coalition governing the state House. The coalition consisted of around half a dozen Democrats and the 48 Republicans. According to the AP, details of the coalition had been worked out two weeks earlier by the “maverick” Democrats and the Republican leaders. “Election of the coalition speaker on the third was planned down to the specific signal for the GOP side of the aisle to swing their votes for speaker to conservative Spokane Democrat William S. Day. On the first two ballots the Republicans stayed solid in the speakership race for their candidate, Rep. Daniel J. Evans of Seattle,” The AP reported. Evans would go on to be elected governor and a U.S. Senator. 

• Louis Winsberg, 90, died in her home in Morton on Friday, Jan. 18, The Chronicle reported. Winsberg was born on Sept. 10, 1872 in Vaasa, Finland and had lived in Morton for 50 years. She was survived by her two daughters, a son, two sisters, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. 

• Peter Yocom, 86, died in Chehalis on Saturday, Jan. 19. Yocom was born on April 24, 1876 in Kansas. He was survived by his wife, 10 sons, five daughters, 34 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.