Julie McDonald Commentary: Citizens Should Work Toward Organic Growth At the Toledo Airport


While it appears South Lewis County Regional Airport near Toledo won’t expand into a Sea-Tac 2 to serve large commercial passenger airliners, citizens opposed to the idea should generate prospects for promoting organic growth at the airport.

Lewis County commissioners indicated last week they’d send a letter to state officials asking that the airport, also known as the Ed Carlson Memorial Field, be withdrawn from consideration as a large commercial airport. Pierce County officials did the same in December, asking that Tacoma Narrows Airport be removed from the list as a potential Sea-Tac 2-type airport.

“As the owner of the Tacoma Narrows Airport, Pierce County requests that TNA be removed from the analysis considering airports which could provide significant commercial service,” the Dec. 17 letter stated. “Pierce County is not supportive, nor will we take steps, to expand the airport runway to accommodate either large commercial air service or air cargo operations.”

Lewis County commissioners said they want Toledo’s 95-acre airport considered for general aviation projects, such as increased hangars for private pilots and small jets. Commissioner Gary Stamper said commissioners initially proposed the Toledo airport so it could qualify for state and federal funding for improvements.

“There will be no large aircraft coming into Lewis County,” Stamper said.

Commercial Aviation Coordinating Committee Chairman David Fleckenstein, director of the state Department of Transportation’s Aviation Division, told commissioners the Toledo airport is too small to serve major commercial planes and its location away from population centers makes it less desirable as a landing site for Alaska Airlines, Southwest Airlines, UPS and FedEx.

While good news for citizens who fought the potential airport expansion, it would behoove us to help the county find ways to make the airport self-sufficient.

That was a thought expressed by Larry Davidson who said, “I still think we need to get a group going to pull a proposal of our own together to offer the county a plan for making the airport self-sufficient.”

The airport’s location on Cowlitz Prairie, rich with history and offering breathtaking views of both Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens, would be ideal for a nice restaurant, even if it is geographically out of the way. My first date decades ago with the man I later married took place outside Tenino, where we toured the Johnson Creek Winery and enjoyed peanut soup at Alice’s Restaurant.

Skydive Toledo already draws people from throughout Western Washington. Perhaps flight lessons could be offered or helicopter tours of Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier. A fixed-base operator could provide services to pilots. Organic growth should be encouraged.


Toledo Indians Likely Need New Mascot

Although the community historically was home to thousands of Cowlitz Indians, and the school district adopted the Indians moniker to honor that heritage, it looks like Toledo may need to find a new name for its sports teams.

If passed in the Senate and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee, SSHB 1356, which passed the House of Representatives 92-5, would prohibit Toledo from using Indians as its mascot. The bill bans “the inappropriate use of Native American names, symbols, or images as public school mascots, logos, or team names.”

Toledo school officials have worked closely with Cowlitz tribal members through the decades to honor the community’s connection to its native roots, most recently in construction of the new high school. But that doesn’t matter.

“The bill only allows consultation if there are tribal lands within or bordering the school district,” according to the Toledo School District. “Cowlitz lands are in Clark County, so the exceptions do not apply to us.”

Although the tribe owns property in the Toledo area, such as the St. Mary’s Center used for elder tribal housing, the former Catholic girls’ school property isn’t part of the tribe’s reservation, which is near Ridgefield where the ilani Casino was built.

“It has to be part of their reservation, not just lands that are owned by the Tribe, according to our attorney and the Chair of the Tribal Council,” the district reported.

I’m not surprised. In fact, in March 2019, I suggested district officials consider other mascots because, at some point, using Indians for that purpose would be considered offensive.

That point is here. I still like the idea of honoring the deep native heritage — the Toledo Cowlitz? — but it’s probably safer to go with Toledo Knights, Pioneers, Sasquatches, Cheeseheads, Steamboaters, Volcanoes, Steelheads, Thunderbolts or some other name that won’t be offensive to anyone … except perhaps Bigfoot?


Banking History

With the impending closure of Wells Fargo bank on Market Boulevard in Chehalis this summer, I started thinking of the history of local banking, which brought to mind John W. Alexander Jr. of Security State Bank.

Steve Richert, who posts historical photos and tidbits on the “You might be from Chehalis if…” Facebook page, noted that the Wells Fargo location has been home to a banking institution for more than 130 years. It was previously the National Bank of Washington and eventually the Coffman-Dobson branch of Wells Fargo. In 2014, I helped Arvon Agren, a Chehalis native, publish his memoir, “The Other Side of Banking,” in which he shared photos of the old Coffman-Dobson bank and a 1940s Christmas party.

But the person with the greatest knowledge is Alexander, who recounted the history of local banking in an April 1972 document called “Banking in Lewis County.” He produced it in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the Pacific Coast Banking School conducted by the Western States Bankers Association at the University of Washington.

Chapters in this comprehensive document discuss pioneer banking in the 19th century, the first 15 years of the 20th century, banking from 1915 through the Depression, and the years from 1933 to 1971. He listed the banks in Lewis County and detailed information about their assets.

We are blessed to have this account of banking to draw on when delving into the past. Thank you, John Alexander Jr., for your dedication through Security State Bank and for taking the time to capture early banking history.


Julie McDonald, a personal historian from Toledo, may be reached at memoirs@chaptersoflife.com.