Downriver Dispatches

News of Western Wahkiakum County and Naselle


Karen Bertroch

Jean Wirkkala of Longview, grew up in Deep River. At 86, she is full of memories of Deep River.

I woke up today to sun. May I simply say I feel joy again? And gratitude to the Lord of all.

Photo of the Week: My friends, I have goofed with names again and can only apologize to those who feel unseen because of my memory lapses. A couple columns ago, I mistakenly called Jane Scharbach "June." I am so sorry, Jane. I had a call from one of Jane Scharbach's friends in Oregon who said she had watched for an apology from me last week for giving Jane Scharbach the wrong name. She thought surely someone had corrected me, but no one did until her call. That is the mark of a good friend.

Last week I drove to Longview to visit with Jean Nancy Wirkkala, a delightful woman in her 80s with a memory that beats mine for certain. She grew up in Deep River. As a child and teenager, she was quite resourceful about working at various jobs. She spent several summers working at the Shamrock Hotel. Just days before our visit, I found a booklet for sale at the Archives Center about boarding houses in Astoria and our area, done in 1972, as I remember. It featured the Shamrock Hotel and had photos with Jean's relatives, too. I was pleased to find out she didn't have a copy so it was great fun giving it to her. She showed me some of her treasures in her house, such as the bell from the General Washington, a boat that took folks back and forth on the Columbia and delivered the mail. She remembers so many people, both relatives and friends. Last March, she came back to Naselle to hear Karl Marlantes speak about his book, "Deep River" and had a wonderful time reconnecting with Karl, whom she has known for many years. She also mentioned that at one time she wrote for The Eagle.

Several months ago, in the Dispatch column, I told a story about the Shamrock Hotel that was relayed by Rosie Johnson. Jean told me that the original story came from Marlene Wiitala. She remembers stories from Bay Center, Naselle, and Ilwaco, as well as Deep River. I invited her to come to the Appelo Archives Center to visit with folks soon so everyone can hear her stories. She remembers so much that makes her a true treasure for all of us who are amateur historians. She lives in a beautiful home that she and her husband bought in the 1970's with stunning tall, straight trees, beautifully trimmed. She is active to say the least. I loved spending time with her. She is happy, busy, laughs often and has so much to share with us. Her husband worked in management for Weyerhaeuser, and she taught school. Harvard is in their history so she will attend a Harvard reunion this summer. She said, "As long as I can still go, I think I should." Clearly, she loved growing up in Deep River. She loved the movie theater and the boats coming in and out on the river. She told me stories of how she and her friends would hide till the train came by, then jump on as it got started up the hill, riding it on home where they could stand on the train and not be seen. Only the young! She asked me if I knew why the Astoria bridge was built, but I didn't quite know what to say, then she said it was because "Naselle was getting too inbred!" I laughed and laughed.

She was born in Astoria and raised in Deep River. Her grandfather was there first. She remembered names and places, events, places like the schoolhouse, theater and she even knew that the water line for Deep River ran under the river to the other side. She grew up there so she's a wealth of facts. The Midsummer Tea is coming up June 25. I do hope she'll join us for that.

Current News: I heard from several who answered my question about Highway 401 getting repaired this summer. That is true, but does anyone know when the work will start?

Our Naselle/GRV High school basketball team won the State 1B tournament and are the champions. The softball team came in fourth place after two days of state games. Congratulations! The robotics team went to Maryland and the seniors went off for their senior trip to Sun River.


June 4: Cruizin' to the Fair Car Show at the Fairgrounds.

June 5: FAFF meeting at 3 p.m. at Naselle Community Center.

June 9: Grays River Habitat Enhancement Meeting at 5:15 at Johnson Park.

June 11: Graduation will be at 4:00 on Saturday in the school gymnasium.

June 15: Senior Lunch at Rosburg Hall at noon. Bring a side dish. Main dish provided.

June 21: Naselle/GRV School Board meeting at 6:30.

June 25: The annual Finnish Midsummer Tea at the Appelo Archives Center will be at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Pre-sale tickets are $20 and at the door, they will be $25. Last year's tea was a delightful event. Get tickets at the Archive Center or on-line at:

June 26: Second FAFF meeting of the month. 3 p.m. at Naselle Community Center.

Senior Lunches: The Senior Lunch Club meets on two dates each month, the first and third Wednesdays at noon at Rosburg Hall. In June the two lunches will be on June 1 and 15. CAP's box lunches can be picked up every Thursday at noon at Rosburg Hall. Contact Denise at (360) 762-3111 to reserve yours.

Word for the Week: Graduation.


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