Saturday, November 13, 2010
Couple of thoughts on finding ourselves in Centralia on Veterans (Armistice) Day
It was on purpose that we went, but it was accidently that we found ourselves on that particular day, 91 years after the Centralia Massacre, when six people died in a riot between American Legionaries and Wobblies.
The events leading up to and following the massacre (riot) are well documented, the UW library even has an extensive digital library, so I'm not going to recount the larger universe around 1919 in Centralia
But, just a couple of thoughts:
1. Less than 8,000 people lived in Centralia at the time, a pretty small town. Funny note, Olympia was about the same size at the time.
Anyway, everyone who participated in the massacre knew each other and had some history between them. The two main characters of the massacre were lawyers who apparently had a decent personal relationship.
Even though there were meta-issues at play (radical labor unions vs. conservative veterans), it was the personal relationships that I think color the history. This made me think about the current debate inside the Olympia Co-op community over divestment.
2. One of my weirdest experiences as a reporter was running into a lady that was in Montesano to research one of her relatives that had (apparently) either participated in or died in the massacre. She hung out at the newspaper office for an afternoon looking through our archives and then showed up at a city council meeting in Elma later that night. The police chief realized she was a transient and gave her a bus pass to Olympia.
I hadn't realized until she showed up at the meeting that she had no place to go and was literally living out of a backpack. She was originally from the Southwest (Arizona?) and traveled up here to simply research her relative's connection to the Centralia massacre.
Its a pretty big thing that would drag someone up with no money from Arizona to Grays Harbor County.