This blog is coming to you from Cottage Grove, Oregon where I am a columnist for the local newspaper. My 'Chatterbox' column chronicles life's ups and downs while the 'Cook's Corner' segment features updated, country-style cooking. The recipes are family-style: economical, fresh, tasty and simple. Enjoy!
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Small town salutes veterans and fire engines
My husband and I just returned from another 1800-mile
marathon road trip. This one was all about grandchildren in Southern Calif. I
mostly ride shotgun on these trips but this time I did about half of the
driving. As the alternate designated driver I discovered that driving severely
cramps my style as spotter of places to investigate and/or shop. i.e. landmarks
and antique stores! But I still did good.
The small town of Anderson, Calif. is one of our favorite
stopping spots. It’s a town much like Cottage Grove with a population of about
9,000 people. Until recently its biggest attraction for us was the good, home
cooking at Vittles restaurant (liver and onions); the antiques at Marigold’s
Shop; some historical fire engines; easy gasoline access and the Shasta Outlet
We often stay overnight at an RV Park south of Redding and
make our way into Anderson the next morning. But we were driving our car this
time so we checked into a local hotel and headed for dinner in 98° F. heat. We
had a good meal at Vittles and were paying our bill when I noticed a brochure
soliciting funds for “Anderson’s Veterans Walk of Honor.” Hmm. Interesting.
I asked the waitress where the veteran’s memorial was
located and she said, “I really don’t know. People keep asking me. No one else
seems to know either so I guess I’d better find out.” Memo to readers: Always
know how to direct travelers to places of interest in your hometown and
Well, downtown Anderson is about half the size of Cottage
Grove, so we figured that we could find the memorial. We drove slowly up and
down the four-blocks-long town and sure enough, there it was–tucked between
the Firehouse Cocktail Lounge and Allen & Dahl Funeral Chapel. We parked
across the street in front of the railroad tracks, exited the car and were hit
by a blast of hot air. We began to wonder whether this was going to be worth
the effort. It was.
Entering the gates of a transformed, formerly weed-infested
vacant lot gave me chills. The tiny memorial park was just right. On either
side of the entrance were Walls of Honor with nameplates honoring local
veterans from many wars. At the end of a bricked walkway stood a 30-ft tall
flagpole and a giant American eagle. Trees shade the area and there are benches
for loved ones to sit and contemplate. In a busy world, it is a quiet and
Large three-ft. tall, concrete letters designate the areas
representing veterans from WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq and
Afghanistan. The glass Wall of Honor contains 300 brass-plated nameplates. Many
families have two or three generations on the wall. The two oldest names in the
park are from the Civil War and the Spanish –American War.
The Veteran’s Walk of Honor was dedicated on Dec. 18, 2011.
It is a shining example of what can happen when the general public and
government work together. Anderson, the community, wanted to honor its veterans
and be sure that future residents remembered them. So how did they afford this
project in light of dwindling financial resources in this day and age?
According to a press release, one man was the brains behind
the project. Assistant Manager and Public Works Director Jeff Kiser was
credited for helping ensure the project’s success. It cost about $300,000 to
prepare the property, plan and build the memorial. But the public contributed
nearly $200,000 of that money through donations and fundraising benefits. The
remainder of the money came from the city and a piece of property they sold.
The first Wall of Honor’s plaques are at capacity, so they
are now building two more walls: Freedom and Liberty. The donation for the
plaques is $100 for each veteran’s nameplate. It is a small price to pay to
salute those who have given so much for so many. It is a gem of respect and
honor often seen in small towns.
We saluted the veterans and reluctantly left the memorial,
walking down the street, past scruffy empty bars and other businesses. We
headed for Fire Hall No. 1. We like old fire engines and have visited this restored
building (and its flag pole) many times. The bronze sign designating its
history is also a trip down memory lane. It reads:
ANDERSON HISTORIC FIRE STATION
1946 Van Pelt Truck
“Originally constructed in 1903 on this site as a two-story
building, the Anderson Fire Station was completed for a cost of $90 for used
lumber and nails. Initial firefighting equipment included twelve buckets, four
axes, three sections of hose and a hand drawn hose cart.
The first motorized fire equipment purchased for the station
was a 1924 Dodge chemical truck, which was sold for scrap for the war effort in
1943. This was replaced by the 1941 and 1946 Van Pelt trucks, which are still
housed in the station.”
Inside the building (behind glass doors) are the 1941 and
1946 Van Pelt Trucks. They sparkle as only fire engines can and the overhead
sign reads: “Positively only firemen allowed on truck.”
As we drove away I reflected on the doomsayers that say
small towns are dead. I don’t think so. They may be struggling but they’ve
still got heart. We could tell that the heart of Anderson was still beating
red, white and blue, because they had the foresight to preserve their gratitude
for our veterans and a piece of town history in a visible manner. It’s the
stuff this country is made of.
God bless the USA!
Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people,
places, family, and other matters of the heart.