Julie McDonald Commentary: Life Resumes Normalcy With Post-Pandemic Parties


For two years, many of us hunkered down and kept socializing to small family groups because of the COVID-19 pandemic that threatened the health and lives of people worldwide.

Sunday marked a milestone as we popped into a couple of places to celebrate the birthdays of three people — one 95, one 80 and a third 70 — without wearing masks. I appreciate the vaccines and booster shots that make hospitalization and death for those who contract coronavirus much less likely.

While introverts perhaps didn’t mind the isolation as much, extroverts struggled to maintain sanity by interacting over social media and Zoom. Fortunately, my writers’ critique groups continued to meet in person for much of the pandemic, which offered a socializing outlet.

Zoom provided an opportunity to connect over the Internet, but it’s no substitute for giving a friend a good birthday hug.

Sunday afternoon, my husband and I stopped first by the rural Chehalis home of Leo Pope, a 1961 W.F. West graduate and Bearcats quarterback his senior year, former teacher, and longtime cattle and crop farmer. What a treat to reconnect with Leo and his wife, Diane, to help him celebrate what his daughter LeAnn Crowell described as “the 50th anniversary of his 30th birthday.” 

Then we visited the V.R. Lee Building at Chehalis Recreation Park to celebrate the 95th birthday of Harold Borovec and the 70th of one of his three sons, Carl. 

Anyone fortunate enough to have ridden the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad since 1989 can thank Harold for his volunteer efforts to restore the 1916 locomotive No. 15 that pulled the steam train. He’s spry and fit and working on his second book, a history of the old logging line, the Cowlitz, Chehalis & Cascade Railroad. I was honored in 2018 to help him design his book honoring his late friend and former boss at the CC&C, “I Was No Nutsplitter! Railroad Machinist Recollections of E.R. Lambert as recorded by Harold Borovec.” It discussed the long-defunct Gilmore & Pittsburgh Railroad, which operated in Idaho from 1910 until 1939.

I knew Harold from the Lewis County Historical Museum when I first interviewed him in 2012 for a history of the Chehalis Industrial Park, where he and his brother, Byron, operated Central Reddi-Mix after delivering coal throughout Lewis County as owners of Central Fuel Co. Byron died in 2016. 

I loved hearing about how he met Alberta Frances McChesney in Onalaska when they were children and their love blossomed into a marriage that lasted 67 years, until she passed away in April 2013.

I’m awed by the living history we have in Lewis County with people like Harold, seniors who survived the Oklahoma Dust Bowl, fought during World War II, survived the battles in Korea and Vietnam and the civil unrest and hippie era of the 1960s. Their efforts forged the community we enjoy today.

I’m not the only one who treasures these stories. Tyler McCusker, CEO and founder of Snippet.FM in Long Beach, California, launched a podcast March 18 called “Hindsight” to interview and memorialize elders before they pass away. He doesn’t have many of his short interviews online yet, but it’s a terrific idea that he started after his 105-year-old grandmother died.

“It was a huge shame to lose my grandmother without recording her stories and I wanted to make sure other families didn’t suffer that same fate,” said McCusker, adding, “I want to give them a chance to memorialize their family elders in the form of an audio interview.”

1950 Census 

Avid genealogists already know this, but on Friday the National Archives and Records Administration released the 1950 U.S. Census records, which were restricted to the public for 72 years. 

This means you can search for your parents and grandparents and other ancestors to find out where they were living and what they were doing in 1950. 

It helps me whenever I dig into a client’s family history to discover where they and their relatives were living every 10 years.

Not all of the names have been transcribed. My sister Sue, a teacher and the family genealogist, quickly found many of our relatives, but she couldn’t find our mother. Fortunately, she knew the address of the home where Mom grew up, so we searched through enumeration districts in Danville, Illinois, for their address and found the listing for my mother, one of her brothers, and her parents.

I know how Sue will be spending spring break.

Toledo Library

The Timberland Regional Library staff conducted its study of establishing a full-service library branch in Toledo and determined it wasn’t financially feasible to turn its kiosk into a library, according to Brian Zylstra, a Lewis County representative on the library board. But the Toledo Community Library, a volunteer-run library that holds Timberland’s kiosk, continues flourishing with book and bake sale fundraisers to pay for utilities. The TCL is in the former Toledo Pharmacy building, graciously donated for use as a library by owners Bill and Pat Caldwell.

Health Officer

I hope Lewis County commissioners find the most qualified medical professional to serve as the community’s chief health officer — not just someone who matches the political ideology of commissioners. Last month commissioners fired Steven Krager and Alan Melnick, who shared the position and operated out of Clark County, saying they wanted someone local in the job. We have qualified doctors in Lewis County who could fulfill that role. Let’s hope reason trumps anti-vax politics in the hiring of a new health director.

Distilled Water Shortage

If you’ve passed barren shelves in Walmart, Winco and Walgreens looking for distilled water, you’ve likely left the store empty handed. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the nation was seeing a shortage of distilled water because of record-high demand, shortages and supply chain slowdowns, according to Rocky Mountain Water Distillers. 

Distilled water is often used for car humidifiers, aquariums, CPAP machines and other medical equipment because it’s less likely to contain damaging microorganisms — toxins, bacteria, pesticides and minerals. It’s also used by sinus sufferers like me to flush their noses. 

I resorted to ordering small bottles online before stopping at Toledo Market Fresh, where I found shelves full of large and small containers of distilled water. They order from another source.

Apparently, distilled water has been in short supply since 2017, according to Rocky Mountain Water Distillers. Although people can distill water themselves using two covered pots, ice and a stove, it’s so much easier to buy it already distilled. So I was happy to find a supply in Toledo and stocked up.


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