50 years ago

Baptists build new church

A modern wooden church is expected to be completed by members of the Prairie City Bible Baptist Church by September, announces Rev. Frank Earhart, pastor of the congregation.

Although the building was in the planning stage for some time, work began during the first week in July. The 32-by-52-foot church is located on McHaley Avenue next to the Prairie City Grange Hall. The church now conducts its services in the Grange building.

The seating capacity of the new sanctuary will be 75 persons. The west end of the building will be used for educational purposes.

Volunteer labor and donations of material have kept the building cost down, said Rev. Earhart. He estimated that the cost of the building would be approximately $4,000 when it is opened for use in September. Final interior work will be completed at a later date.

About two-thirds of the lumber used for the trusses was donated, said Mr. Earhart. Volunteers from Prairie City, Bates and John Day have worked on the building. Landscaping of the 125-by-150-foot lot will be done by the 39-member congregation.

The church building has been designed to allow for future expansion.

25 years ago

Time on his hands…

Wayne Salisbury, the “clock man of Seneca” keeps his life-long love of timepieces ticking right along as he continues to make and collect clocks from everywhere

“I’ve been working on and collecting clocks about 30 years now,” said Wayne Salisbury of Seneca. “I got started when a friend told me he had a clock that didn’t run anymore, so I took it, cleaned it up and it worked. Been doing it ever since.”

With over 40 clocks in the house, and a couple of dozen out in his workshop, you might say Wayne has time on his hands, but the retired millwright-mechanic who admits to being over 80, keeps busy.

“I still do mechanic work for friends and I make these clocks,” said Wayne. “It’s kinda hard to do mechanic work and wood work in the same shop, but I manage it.”

“Don’t know where I got my woodworking skills, guess from granddad, he was a carpenter,” Wayne recalled with a smile.

Wayne’s clocks have been collected from about every place he has ever visited, including one that came from a landfill.

“I was with my brother-in-law and we went out to the local dump, he had this old clock he was going to throw away,” recalled Wayne.” He said it didn’t work anymore, well, I took it of course, and it’s hanging there on the wall working fine.”

Wayne and his wife, Lola, have lived in the small town of Seneca in southern Grant County, since 1960, when they moved there from Sheridan.

“When I came here in ’60, Seneca was just a-booming,” recalled Wayne, “Then when the mill closed and moved down to Burns in ’70, I followed along, working as a welder and mechanic. I bought an old ’58 Ford Station Wagon for $80 and drove it down to Burns and back every day. Took the family and made two vacation trips up to Canada in it. It got good mileage, but I had to overhaul it a couple of times.”

Wayne retired from the Edward Hines Lumber Company in 1976. “I worked 15 hours a day, five days a week for the last five years I was there,” he said. “It was a good job, but I didn’t see much of my family in those last years. I was saving up for retirement.”

Born in a sod house near Gordon, Nebraska, not far from the South Dakota line, Wayne attended a small, rural school called the Lone Pine School. His formal education may have been meager, but Wayne’s upbringing instilled in him a strong work ethic. He was also blessed with a lot of good, common sense and natural mechanical ability.

“I only went to the eighth grade, that’s as high as the school went,” said Wayne. “I learned everything I could, and I liked it but had to work, I couldn’t go on and get more education.”

In 1934, Wayne and Lola were married in a double ceremony along with Lola’s sister and her bridegroom in Gordon, Nebraska. Two years later, in 1936, Wayne and Lola moved to Oregon, “We kinda hit the Oregon Trail and headed west,” said Wayne.

When Wayne and Lola first arrived in Sheridan, a small town with a population of about 5,000 located in the Willamette Valley about 40 miles northwest of Salem, he began dairy farming.

“I had a dairy for about 25 years and I made a pretty good living at it,” recalled Wayne. “I had this neighbor at that time who was a banker, he was also my friend, and he’d told me once if I ever found anything I wanted to do other than be in the dairy business to just let him know and he’d help me get the schooling for it.”

More education had always been Wayne’s dream, and his friend was true to his word. One day Wayne went to him and explained that he’d checked into it and would like to go to school in Chicago to learn mechanics.

“This wasn’t like going off to college, but it was a chance for me to learn something, a trade, that would earn good money for me and my family,” said Wayne. “I spent about six weeks at the school in Chicago, and my friend, the banker paid for everything. He said I didn’t have to pay him back, but I did. Schooling is the best thing anybody can do for themselves to get ahead. It’s the best thing I ever did.”

Once back in Oregon, a fully certified mechanic, Wayne went to work for the Lehman Brothers farm equipment dealership.

“We sold and serviced Minneapolis-Moline equipment, tractors and combines and such,” recalled Wayne. “I ran all over the country fixing combines.”

Learning mechanics is what eventually landed Wayne, Lola and their tow daughters in Eastern Oregon. Wayne heard of an opening for a mechanic-millwright at the mill in Seneca so the family loaded up and moved east of the Cascades.

“It’s different country out here than back in the valley,” said Wayne, “but this is a good place to be. It was a good place to raise my girls in and make better money. We were able to get ahead.”

About the time Wayne and his family moved to Grant County is when his clock collection first began.

“I’ve always liked clocks,” said Wayne. “They’re mechanical and I liked to tinker with them, and I just like to look at them, too.”

The most expensive clock in Wayne ever bought for his collection he paid $300 for in 1965. “It was an investment. It’s worth a lot more now, but I haven’t had it appraised for a good while.”

Making clocks, working on them and collecting them is more than a hobby for Wayne, but it has never taken on the mantle of business.

“I haven’t sold a clock yet,” he said. “No reason to, if I did, Uncle Sam would just take the money away, and besides, I like to give ‘em away.”

There is a beautiful hand-made clock in the Why Seneca Café that Wayne donated for the café’s grand opening earlier this year.

“That clock in the café is made from maple with red streaks in it, I called it ‘crazy wood’,” he said with a laugh. “It’s real pretty wood. You’ve got to have good wood to work with in order to make a pretty clock.”

Always on the lookout for wood, much of the “good wood,” Wayne said, comes from the Hood River area, but he has an assortment of different woods from all over the country. He once bought an entire walnut tree that had to be cut down in the yard of a home in Hood River. “Getting it home and cut was a lot of work,” recalled Wayne. “I still have a lot of it around here.”

His shop area contains piles and stacks of blocks and slabs of walnut, oak, cherry wood, several kinds of maple, juniper, mahogany, assorted pine and several pieces of ebony and ironwood.

“I like anything that’s pretty and will make a pretty clock,” said Wayne. “The hardwoods can be difficult to work with, but they last. I guess my favorite wood is red oak, but I’m fond of juniper, too.”

Having a houseful of clocks can be disconcerting for visitors, especially when on the hour the entire house seems to vibrate with the sounds of nearly four dozen clocks striking.

“There have been times when we’ve had company over to spend the night and they have trouble sleeping,” said Wayne. “I guess all the ticking and striking gets to them. I only have one chime and it’s a favorite.”

According to Wayne a clock doesn’t have to be especially old or good looking to be added to his collection, it just has to be something different. There is only one clock in the collection that plugs into electricity, but he has several newer ones that are battery operated.

“My first clock, the one that started the collection back over 30 years ago. I found out it was over 100 years old at the time I got it, so it’s an antique,” said Wayne. “The ones I make, well, I don’t pay any attention to how long it takes to make one. I’m retired. I don’t keep track of time anymore, I spend it, and if I make a mistake when I’m making one, well, I just throw a piece away and do it again.”

10 years ago

Wind, terrain test fire crews

Oregon State Police Sgt. Gordon Larson was enjoying a day off on his ranch south of Canyon City on Saturday, when he heard a helicopter flying low over the hills.

Thinking there might have been an accident requiring an air ambulance, he rushed to the house to check for emergency calls.

“Then I saw the smoke,” he said.

It was July 25, and the Cougar Creek Fire was off and roaring from its start about a quarter mile away in the brush, trees and steep canyons.

“It’s spooky terrain for anybody to be in, fighting fire,” he said.

The Cougar Creek Fire, about 10 miles south of John Day in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness, and the larger McGinnis Creek Fire near Kimberly kept firefighters hopping through the weekend.

McGinnis Creek update

On Tuesday, July 28, Oregon Department of Forestry officials reported that the McGinnis Creek Fire, which started July 24 and spread to more than 3,400 acres, was 50 percent contained. Fire officials were shooting for total containment by Friday, July 31.

The McGinnis fire is burning in brush and grass amid the rugged rimrock and canyons about 4 miles northwest of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument’s visitor center, 2 miles west of the John Day River and about 12 miles southeast of Spray. Most of the fire is in Wheeler County on private and Bureau of Land Management lands.

At one point, ODF estimated 76 structures were threatened by the fire, but that number had dropped to 20 by Monday.

A temporary flight restriction was set over the fire area.

More than 500 people were assigned to the firefighting effort. The equipment dispatched included four helicopters, which dipped water from the John Day River. As the week began, 15 engines, three bulldozers and two water tenders were working the fire.

The fire team set up an operations center in the Spray school.

Cougar Creek update

Meanwhile, Forest Service crews battling the Cougar Creek Fire set up their camp and operations center at Grant Union High School. Drivers were asked to be careful in that area because of the increased traffic and activity.

The Cougar Creek Fire was first reported about 2 p.m. Saturday by the Flagtail and Dry Soda lookouts and grew to 744 acres by Tuesday.

The Forest Service assigned 355 people to the fire, including smoke jumpers, rappellers and ground crews. A hotshot crew out of La Grande responded.

The Blue Mountain Interagency Incident Management Team, commanded by Rob Batten, was in charge of the operation. In addition to the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, ODF, Grant County and the John Day Fire Department were working the fire.

Officials said firefighters made good progress on fire lines Monday, and the fire was reported to be 15 percent contained.

Although the fire is burning in designated wilderness, crews are able to use equipment including chainsaws and pumps in the effort, as well as helicopters with buckets and airplanes with retardant.

Forest officials also closed some areas and roads near the fire on Monday, July 27, for public and firefighter safety. The closure affected forest roads 5401, 6510 and 651, and portions of the wilderness.

Maps showing the closure are available at the MNF Supervisor’s office in John Day. Violations of the order are a federal offense and could bring fines or prosecution.

Officials are investigating the cause of both fires.

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