I was just thinking that the only way we can know how far we’ve come is by looking back on where we’ve been.
That’s hardly a profound statement, but it’s the best I could come up with as I paged through a 1922/1923 edition of what was known as the Lewis County Directory. What a treasure trove of information, well worth the $5 or so I paid for it at a local estate sale.
For instance, there were 526 dairies listed in the county. Eighty-two had Centralia addresses with 164 in Chehalis. I counted them!
Of course, most of those are on rural routes, but not all of them. We have to assume that anyone who had a family cow and who sold some of the excess milk was considered a dairy. Still, that’s a lot of free fertilizer to dress the family vegetable garden, or “truck garden” as they were known in those days.
Names of towns and settlements that are only a remembered name — along with some that have been forgotten completely — push their way out of the pages of that directory: Ajlune, Alpha, Alta Vista, Bremer, Bunker, Ceres, Eagleton, Elbe, Forest, Harmony, Klaber, Knab, Kopiah, Kosmos, Lacamas, Lewis, Lidberg, McCormick, Nesika, Rhine, Silver Creek, Swofford, Tono, Vanc, Walville and Wilson.
It’s curious, too, to realize how many small “mom and pop” grocery stores existed back then, and how many went under when supermarkets such as Fullers and Safeway opened their doors.
Centralia once had 39 grocery stores listed, while Chehalis had 17. There were six meat markets in Chehalis and nine in Centralia. Almost every one of them supported the family that operated it. The children of those families learned responsibility as they were almost all called on to hold out in the operation.
True, supermarkets hire many employees, but, somehow, something seems to be missing. To me it’s the convenience of being able to walk two or three blocks when you run out of eggs or milk. Fifty years or more ago, when “the Moellers” lived in East Wenatchee, there was one of those stores right across the street!
Getting back to the directory, poultry breeders were numerous then, too. There were 34 in Centralia, 35 in Chehalis and — not surprisingly — 85 in Winlock, the self-proclaimed egg capital of the world (or so they said).
The Centralia Daily Chronicle was at 314 N. Tower, with the Centralia Tribune, a weekly, only a block away at 208 N. Tower. There were weekly newspapers in Morton, Pe Ell and Winlock and two in Chehalis: The Bee Nugget and the Lewis County Advocate.
Onalaska had both a band and an orchestra.
Centralia topped Chehalis 10 to one in the number of music teachers.
My former bookstore building — now the Hubbub — was the French Dye Works in those days and you could get your umbrella repaired at the Hub City Cycle Co. at 102 S. Tower.
From forging to flowers, old city directories can be a ball of fun on a wet windy day.
Bill Moeller is a former entertainer, mayor, bookstore owner, city council member, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.