75 years ago

“Yanks in Normandy Sleep in Fox-holes, Feel Safer,” writes Grant County boy

Cpl. Pete Baucum says boys’ morale is good

Somewhere in France,

July 30, 1944

Dear Ranger:

Having read a number of letters in the Ranger, written by the boys from around John Day, who are now overseas, I decided to sit down here in my fox-hole and attempt to write one myself.

I’m sent the “Ranger” every week and believe me, it sure helps a fellow’s morale to look through the old hometown paper and read the news of the valley.

I received word last night from my girlfriend, Miss Betty Officer, informing me that both Jack Lloyd and Wade Donaldson are here in France. I would sure like to run across them. Jack and I came in the army about the same time.

The country we are getting into now reminds me much of the Hood River Valley there in Oregon. There are a lot of oak trees and apple orchards. The fields are beginning to get bigger and the hedges seem smaller as we drive further inland.

Most of all, we Yanks here in Normandy sleep in our fox holes. A person feels much safer down in the ground two or three feet, while the “Jerry’s” 88 shells and bombs are dropping nearby.

I’ve had cold sweat run down my face a number of times since I’ve been over here and, believe me that sweat wasn’t caused by the heat!

The morale of the boys over here is holding up darn good. Once in a while when things don’t go right, or we don’t get any mail, we get sorta “down in the dumps” but we are up to par again before long!

Our chow situation over here is getting better all the time. When we first came over we ate so darn many dog biscuits (referring to the biscuits that come in a “K” ration) that we all began to bark like dogs. Well, that’s sorta stretching it, but was darn near that bad.

Eugene Davis of Prairie City is in my Company. We’ve been together ever since we came into the army. He drove the Prairie creamery truck before he was inducted.

Well, it’s about chow time, so I’ll close – “Cheerio!”

Yours truly,

Cpl. Pete Baucum

Combat Engr’s.

50 years ago

Fossil Beds win new support

Designation of the Thomas Condon-John Day Fossil Beds as a national monument won another boost over the weekend as the State Highway Department’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee lent its support to legislation now pending in Congress.

The committee, which visited overnight in John Day Friday, toured the fossil beds Saturday and met after the tour to take action.

Friday night at the John Day Elks Lodge committee members, accompanied by state and federal agency officials, met with a Grant County group to discuss other county park-recreation needs.

Gordon Glass, who heads the recreation subcommittee of the Grant County Planning Commission, listed national monument status as the primary object of his group.

He also enumerated other needs envisioned by the subcommittee including:

Enlargement of Holliday Rest Area, near Mt. Vernon, to accommodate overnight stays by camper- and trailer-equipped tourists.

Establishment of another overnight stopping area somewhere between Kimberly and Monument.

Guidance for the proper development of Sunken Mountain, which now is privately owned but is a significant geological feature that needs to be preserved.

Overnight camping facilities in the John Day-Canyon City area. “There probably is the same need in the Prairie City and Long Creek areas,” he added.

Permanent maps at rest stops, which detail the geological and scenic attractions of the area.

A public gold-panning site. “We have a tremendous demand for this; we need it,” said Glass.

Glass, Al Reinertson, Grant County Chamber of Commerce secretary-manager, and others urged the advisory panel to provide more facilities of all kinds to accommodate tourists in the country.

“Is it our responsibility to provide all the information to people coming in?” asked Glass.

The fossil beds received the most attention, however. C. L. (Buck) Smith, former planning commission chairman, said the amount of land to be acquired for the national monument was not large. Indicating that significant action on the proposal might occur in October, Smith said a master plan must be drawn up first before the project can proceed.

Some opposition was expressed to any status that would choke off private searches for fossils. Ralph Mason, a state geological official, said this would “sterilize” the fossil beds. “We might as well put plate glass along the highway,” he added.

It was reported that Ullman favored national monument status because public use would be less restricted than if the fossil beds were designated a national park.

25 years ago

Crews wrestle to control forest fires

Containment of the 1,400 acre fire at Indian Rock was expected Tuesday as favorable temperatures continue

Forest Service and National Guard firefighting crews were hoping for containment of the Indian Rock forest fire by 6 p.m. Tuesday, according to Tim Kimble, a spokesperson for the Forest Service.

As of Monday, the fire had charred approximately 1,400 acres on the north boundary of the Malheur National Forest.

Winds Sunday caused some additional fires that burned another 30 to 40 acres on the northwest edge of the fire, forcing flames into the Umatilla National Forest, Kimble said.

Although little if any precipitation is expected, Kimble said the cooling temperatures and increased humidity will help in bringing the fire under full containment.

As of Saturday, all other fires on the Malheur National Forest had been cleaned up. As of Monday, no new fires were started and Kimble said the Forest Service was beginning to rest its firefighting crews.

Eighteen firefighting crews and one camp crew remained on the Indian Rock fire Monday.

Kimble said the Forest Service expected five additional firefighting crews from the National Guard to arrive Monday afternoon.

If weather conditions remained favorable, they hoped for complete containment by Tuesday evening. National Guard and Forest Service crews will continue mop up operations on the fire.

Two helicopters with water buckets and a small plane with fire retardant continued to battle the blaze Monday.

The Indian Rock fire was one of several being battled last week on the Malheur National Forest.

As of Thursday, there were 33 firefighting crews working to contain or mop-up fires.

There were also 12 bulldozers, 32 engines and 11 water tenders plus a host of support personnel fighting the fires, according to figures released by the Forest Service.

The Indian Rock fire was the largest fire battled on the Malheur National Forest in recent years. Fire restrictions are in effect, and those planning to enter the forest should first check with a local ranger district office or the supervisor’s office.

10 years ago

Visions of a new library

Library advocates and local residents explored visions for a new Grant County Library in meetings across the county last week.

Architects hired by the Grant County Library Foundation discussed the possible sites and designs that could expand not only the space but the programs available through the local library.

“A library is not only a depository for books, but a place where people can come for social activities and cultural events,” Doug Skelton told the Grant County Court at its Wednesday, Aug. 5, meeting.

Doug Skelton and Paul Skelton, both from Medford, used Skelton Straus and Seibert Architects, showed examples illustrating that concept at the court session and in three community meetings in Monument, Prairie City and John Day.

No discussion has been made to build a new library, but the foundation and Library Advisory Board are exploring the idea to address space limitations, crowded shelves, accessibility issues and other concerns about the current library, located on South Canyon Boulevard in John Day.

Proponents say the community would be better served by a 7,000-square-foot facility. The current library is about 4,000 square feet.

The architects, who have designed libraries for other small cities in Oregon, looked at four possible sites:

• The current site — An addition could be built onto the library’s north end, and lots to the south would be purchased for parking.

• A site next to Grant Union High School, former home of the Prairie Maid drive-in.

• The former Blue Mountain Junior High lot, with the library to be built on the portion facing Canton Street. The old building would remain or could be remodeled for use by other tenants.

• A lot across the street from the junior high site on Bridge Street.

Doug Skelton said that, so far, the most positive response is to the old junior high lot. He said the Bridge Street site seemed too small, while both the Prairie Maid and the current site have the disadvantage of being on a busy highway.

The old junior high lot would offer the potential of space for other organizations, as well as “synergy” with the current Oregon State Parks' Kam Wah Chung facility. One resident noted that the neighborhood feeling was preferable to the highway locales.

The architectural firm has designed libraries of similar size for communities elsewhere in Oregon, including Eagle Point, Gold Hill, White City, Shady Cove and Talent, and the Skeltons brought photos of features from those projects. The array included areas for conferences and children's programs, teen study and conversation areas and quiet reading nooks.

Unlike the current Grant County library, the new facilities offered high ceilings with lots of natural light and separate areas for easy chair and computer use.

At the John Day meeting, which drew about 30 people to the United Methodist Church, questions were raised about the design and how much room might be allocated to different areas of the library. A majority wanted to see a library site that they could easily walk to.

One in the audience expressed concern that with the economic hard times, now may not be the right time to build. However, supporters said the funding would come from community foundations and local fundraisers, not taxes.

Linda Shelk of the John and Linda Shelk Foundation said later that private foundations like to donate to projects that have broad community support and are well planned.

"Private foundations especially like to fund a 'bricks and mortar' project that will last for decades and enrich a community," she said.

Library officials say use of the Grant County Library has increased in the economic downturn, reflecting a national trend.

"Libraries are more important in hard economic times because people can access information, entertainment, cultural programs, job search information," said Megan Brandsma, Library Foundation chair.

With a new library, space would be available for programs from Libraries of Eastern Oregon, Smithsonian and OMSI available to library-goers, as well as videoconferencing, she said.

Asked about operating costs for a larger library, Skelton said the newer buildings generally have energy-efficiency gains that offset the larger size.

Staffing would remain the same, noted Adele Cerny, co-chair of the Grant County Library advisory board. The building could be designed so that the entire area could be viewed and monitored by the person manning the circulation desk.

Sondra Lino who is on the LEO and Foundation boards, expressed her interest in seeing the Grant County library move up to the new century.

"I think there are so many possibilities in a library that we haven't taken advantage of," she said. "A modern library should be much more than a book repository."

Lyn Craig, consultant to the Foundation, said experience has shown that "a new library triggers a lot of usage ... If you build it, they will come."

She also noted that a 7,000-square-foot facility would not be out of line for Grant County. Irrigon, population 1,900, is building a library that size right now, she said.

Commissioner Boyd Britton was impressed with the architects' work and the potential for Grant County.

"I hope that with LEO, the Foundation and everybody pulling together, you can make it happen," he said.

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