Weyerhaeuser: It’s a Family Thing

My sister Rebecca and I attended the open house for the newly renovated Weyerhaeuser Research Center building today, where our dad worked down there on Pearl Street next to the currently non-operational swimming pool where I was a lifeguard the summer I graduated high school. It was conveniently located to ride my bike down the hill to go swimming in earlier years, then throw the bike in the back of the Chevy station wagon and hitch a ride with Daddy back up the hill for dinner.

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Our dad, George, was the director from 1966-1980 (of Weyerhaeuser Research Center, not the swimming pool), and in the early 1990s the building was renovated and named for him. Now it’s been renovated again, bringing new vitality not just to the building, but to his passion for research.

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1960s
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1990s
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2018

It was nostalgic to be in the building. We took our picture sitting in what used to be Daddy’s corner office. It hasn’t been an office for some time; now it’s part of a beautiful conference room. But that is right where I sat behind his big desk (it’s at the house now), playing with the stuff in the top drawer when I went there after school in third grade, before we had moved to Centralia. (Some of the stuff is still in the drawer too. The drawing tools were my favorite; well, and the rubber stamps of course.)

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Rebecca remembered we would stop there after church after Jo Ann left for college and call her from the big room where all the secretaries worked. (I don’t think there are even any secretaries any more, certainly that is no one’s title.) We could call long distance for free from there. I don’t remember that. Perhaps they called me from there too, after I left for college. I don’t remember being on the receiving end of those calls either. It’s good to have sisters with different stuff in their memory banks.

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I felt like a rock star being there on behalf of my father, with STAEBLER  on my name tag. I wanted to write it really big. I wanted everyone to know I was HIS daughter. And many did.

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The Vice-president for Strategic Planning from the corporate office in Seattle, responsible for the renovation of the Center and the vision for revitalization. “If we are going to be in Centralia, we need to BE in Centralia.”

I wish my mother could have been there. She did know, though, that the renovation was happening and the Center was thriving again. And she was glad. We were a family back in the 60s. My mother threw a luau in the yard for everyone at the research center. My father cooked a salmon over the open fire. And Neil Armstrong was walking on the moon that sailed overhead.

In an intentional honoring of the past, the halls are lined with large photographs of logging before my father’s time, and a display of photos of my dad are in the entry.

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Note the conical Mt. St. Helen’s in the background. It blew its top right after he retired.

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The Center declined at some point after that dedication, perhaps with a diminished interest in research by the corporate mucky mucks. I was pleased to meet the new mucky muck, and thank him for his commitment to the research my dad was a part of to “Make trees grow faster. For the future.” Daddy would be so pleased.

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Part of a national ad campaign. This is on the wall above his desk in my home.

The Centralia office is thriving again, and the new open work space, full of wood, is beautiful. Young employees are bringing energy to it; employees who weren’t around in its decline. And they are doing it under the legacy of my father. I hope their families are family, like they were in the 60s when I was a child in the midst of it.

I couldn’t be more proud.

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12 thoughts on “Weyerhaeuser: It’s a Family Thing

  1. Very nice piece on the research center. My father, Jack Palmquest was a forester (U Michigan) who worked at Chehalis, Coos Bay and several other locations knew George and Ken Wiley, Jim King and the crew well. I am glad they have reconstituted the Center. I worked for Weyco myself in the 1976-83 period at Twin Harbors.

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    1. Thank you, Chris, and thank you for writing. I think I remember your dad’s name. You might enjoy reading about the recent trip I took to Michigan, including the University. https://writingdownthestory.com/2019/10/15/an-ancestral-pilgrimage/ Thank you for following my blog. I don’t write at Daughter on Duty any more; you can find me on this new blog: Writing Down the Story. I miss all those people so much. I’m glad to have known them.

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  2. This is so good of you to post this here, Gretchen. You really are a good writer. As you know, I worked at the Research Center from 1970 to 1974, so the memories are pouring back into my brain. George was a great director, but more to his credit he was a wonderful, caring individual. The organization really was like a second family while Barbara and I lived in Centralia. You have every reason to be proud.

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      1. I remember when it was built. They wanted my dad to move up there, he declined to move his family, so he commuted several days a week. Now it’s empty 😦 A last few Weyco employees who didn’t go to the Seattle office have been in a small space, but will move to the Centralia facility now.

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    1. That’s a great word! Thank you for it. It’s true in many senses: a boy from the cornfields of Michigan, a girl from the Tennessee mountain forests, planted themselves in this small community on the other side of the country. They became part of the landscape and made–and left–their mark in the trees here.

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  3. Really enjoyed reading this, Gretchen! Your parents were remarkable and I wish I could have met both of them. I love knowing that you have his desk and that some of his things are still in the drawer! The way you are carrying and telling their stories carries the unique finger (heart) print of your own legacy leaving.

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    1. Oh, this is so sweet, Melissa. Thank you. I wish you could have met them too. And to think, you just missed my mom. I enjoy his desk; I expect it will go with the house one day. My mom had no idea how they got it into the tiny back corner room. I have no idea how to get it out–or what to do with it if it were to get out!

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