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Gales Peak Lumber Mill

Our Past - Places

Gales Peak Lumber imageWhen I was growing up in Forest Grove, across the intersection from where I lived, Gerhart Bendix was raising his family. Gerhart was born in Germany, and served in the United States Army during WWII. He had a German accent, which was funny to me, and was the nicest man I have ever met. His son, David, was a year younger than me, and we were best friends from a very early age and all through school. Gerhart owned Gales Peak Lumber Company, and would take David and I out to the mill on weekends to do some target shooting, which we both enjoyed. He also took us on a tour of the mill while it was operating to show us how lumber was made from logs. Gales Peak Lumber Company was located south of town. The B Street Trail is the old SP Railroad grade, and it ran along the back side of the mill.

The front, or business side of the mill faced the east side of Nehalem Highway/B Street, and the property ended at the intersection of B Street and Springtown Road. The railroad did not serve the mill as all lumber was trucked from the mill. Gales Peak Lumber Company burnt to the ground around 1959. I’ve tried to find the date and cause of the fire, but this is the best estimate I can come up with so far. I was 11 years old in 1959, and David was probably 10 at the time. A day or two after the fire David and I peddled our bikes out to the mill to take a look around, and I just happened to take my camera with me. We were the only ones on the property, and had a great time looking around at the devastation as young boys would. There were still hot spots, small whiffs of smoke, and glowing embers down in the ground and under debris. We had a great time examining the twisted metal and burned out equipment.

As time went on, the debris was slowly cleaned up while David and I had this wonderful playground all to ourselves. We played around the millpond, caught frogs and salamanders, built a raft to get to an island – what fun we had! As time went on the pond was drained, and our playground turned into a place to go shooting. David and I lived on B Street down close to Harvey Clarke Elementary School. David and I would walk through town and neighborhoods with our rifles, and head down the railroad tracks that became the B Street Trail on our way to the mill property. If we were low on ammunition, we’d stop at Eldon May Hardware on the corner of Pacific Avenue and Ash Street to stock up. We would occasionally cross B Street down by the power building to do some shooting along Gales Creek. No one at any time ever gave us a second glance.

Gerhart and his wife Louise moved to Yreka, California, in the 1970s. David and I went our separate ways after high school, and I learned he later went to Yreka to take care of his aging parents. My wife and I were driving down to California in 2003, and on a whim, I called David to see if he would like to have lunch with us. He said to come to the house and he would have lunch ready. We are still best friends, and had the greatest time together, but the very best part of the visit was that I got to see Gerhart one more time. I got to tell him how much he meant to me while I was growing up, and how I thought of him through the years. Gerhart passed away in 2007.

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About Don Skinner

Don Skinner is a lifelong resident of Forest Grove. He is the OTS Manager. Don was born at Jones Hospital (now Tuality) and was raised in Forest Grove. After graduation (class of 1968) he enlisted in the Army and served in Vietnam. Don married his high school sweetheart, Cheryl Selfridge class of 1970. Don owns a 1967 Mercury Cougar GT and has been a member of the Cascade Cougar Club for over 25 years. During this time he served on the Board of Directors for 8 years and was also Editor and Membership Director for over 8 years. During that time Don brought that newsletter from cut & paste (literally) into the electronic cut and paste. Fascinated with the early Cougars (Mercury) Don started researching the design and marketing, along with all the models and options that were available. After retiring from Editor, he started writing The BIG BOOK of Cougar which has become an international best seller among Cougar enthusiasts. After retiring from Tektronix Don was doing some research for his class reunion and found FHFG. He was immediately taken with the Old Train Station and told Cheryl “you need to come see this place”. Though very little was being displayed and things were in disarray, Don saw a diamond in the rough. Together Don and Cheryl started in on tidying the place up and putting things on display. The then President asked Don to be the Station Master and he said no, but he would be the station manager.