Murray's Oral Interview
La Center Historical Museum
Clark County Stories
Interviewer: Suzi Terrell
Narrator Name: MURRAY FALK
Interview date and time: 10/22/18 10:00am
Interview Address: 628 E 18th St., La Center, WA
Transcriber: Sharron Sunny Cathcart June 2021
Suzi: Good morning, today is October 22, 2018. I am Suzi Terrell with the La Center Historical Museum. Today I will be chatting with Murray Falk about how he came about to come to Clark County. I will also be chatting with him about his life as a police officer down in the Panama Canal zone. We will have that at the end of this interview. I would like to go ahead and begin. And introduce Murray Falk. How did you come to Clark County?
Murray: I met a wonderful woman named Candy. She is my wife. We met at college, at Portland State in 1973. In 1974 I graduated from Portland State University and Candy still had a year to go. In 1975 a few weeks before finals and graduation she was trying to study for finals and I was trying to make plans for our wedding. Within one week after she graduated in 1975 we got married out in North Plains, Oregon at the old scotch church.
We lived in Portland for a short period of time. I asked if there was a place she really wanted to live. Where would it be? She said “Out in the country.” But I prefer the ocean. We came over to Clark County and started nosing around for property, we came over to La Center - this area is Candy's home grounds. We had a realtor who took us around and showed us different pieces of property. It wasn't built up like it is now. We still had wood sidewalks and rings to tie the horses that were embedded in the ground. We had a town marshal whose name was Lori Benefit. We kidded about it that the gun was almost as big as she was. She was kind of short, but she had a good deputy marshal working for her.
So anyway, we found a piece of property there. There were 20 acres that were broken into 4 parcels, and Annie Baker purchased that from Rod Steen. After a while we picked out the one that we wanted, the one that we are presently on. And we bought that from Annie. Two years later we paid it off and started having our home built. We decided what we wanted for our home. It was a log home, New England White Pine. We had it shipped out piggybacked on two 40-foot trailers. The piggyback was on the train. We had a local individual contracted to build the house and his name was Dwight Larson. Candy had heard stories about Dwight … her uncle Lewis and her dad Wayne used to work for Dwight's father who was a contractor also. She recalls the story of Dwight being a youngster. He carried the milk for the guys, picking up little jobs. One day they told Dwight to bring over some of that stuff in the can, his dad said you're too young for that. Come to find out later on, it was a homebrew. That is what they were having on their break.
So Dwight contracted to build the house. He said it's the first and last log house he will ever build. It is really unique. It took 700 man hours depending on the number of people that you have to build that house. They tried to bring the first 40 feet up East of Monroe and the driver could not get it off the main road. So Dwight said follow me and we will unload it. So we went down to Dwight's home, he has a three-story barn and he said okay were going to unload it here, and while we are unloading the trailer you go in and pick up the other trailer and bring out and we can switch it off and take that and they stored everything in Dwight's barn. And then that is how Dwight built the house … he would bring out whatever he needed for that particular day. It is a log home that is held together with spikes. It's tongue and groove. They were all numbered logs. He started on the northeast corner, you start building the first row and then you had the second row and third row and it's pretty intricate. A local here, Dean Eversaw, he and his wife used to work for the phone company. They built our fireplace. He used to live next door to Dwight. I think he was a son of Monte who married one of Dwight's daughters. He was one of the two helpers, we found out through the neighbors, Ralph and Harry Sorensen - Old-timers out here, that they had cleared the field that we had at that time, which is presently part of the Berry Farm. He cleared that area, and they also told us that this piece was part of a 120-acre dowry that came to Stanley from way back when. We were able to successfully get back on family property. We tried to reclaim her grandfather's home. Unfortunately, there was already somebody from California that was living there, and they did not want to sell. That's where we turned around and bought the piece that we are on now. It's really unique because there's so many different things that have happened out here. We really enjoyed living out here. Thank God we're way out in the country.
Suzi: So, you didn't have the berries on it initially?
Murray: Oh, no. Annie provided the help. When we first moved them out there the only thing that was cleared was the field. The rest of the property was a jungle. Overgrown, I was out there being a city boy, not knowing what I was doing I bought some 10-foot poles and tried to stake out where we were going to build the house. And here I am putting these 10-foot poles in the ground with a sledgehammer. I had to clear all this brush out and finally I gave up and hired Kenny Wilson to come out and clear my easement road for me and get rid of all the trash. I’d say that I want to save this tree and that tree. And the rest get it out of there. I had three huge burn piles out in the field. And when the proper time came, we would set fire to one of the piles, and as it burned down he would just shove the pile to the next one. And we burned all three piles. That caused a lot of problems for us afterward. There were a lot of limbs and sticks that were buried into the ground by the tractor. We had to get that all out of there and it took some time to clean those all out. Fred Schauer was the one. And Jake was a well driller, who drilled our well for us. In Mendon was a good friend who lived on Quarry Road. He would come down and hay the field, he did that for many many years. He said that I do this to protect you because of the fire. I hay it for you. And he’d turn them into 70-pound bales.
One day Candy and I were at Washington University. The extension here in Salmon Creek at the seminar on agriculture and the head of the extension service was giving the lecture about different products and how different people move their crops and things like that. There was one who used an old dresser. And took off the back. That is where they made the beds for the laying hens. And when they were ready to collect, they would just pull the drawer out, move the hens and collect the eggs. Another one where they used chickens to fertilize and clean an area that had a cage about the size of this room. And they would have their plants in there, whatever they were growing. The chickens would get in there and clean all the grubs out of there and at the same time fertilize it. And when they were through, they would just latch on and pull it over to the next site and continue to do the same thing. It worked pretty good. We learned a lot.
He said when it comes to blackcaps whatever you do, do not raise them they are to labor intensive. Everyone said that they've taken them up because they are to labor intensive, so Candy said we are going to plant blackcaps. And I said didn’t you hear the man? He said that those are labor intensive. I said why? And Candy said “Because everyone's taking them out. Black caps are black raspberries. Those are the ones that you usually find growing in old railroad sites. They grow wild and they are difficult to find. When you do find a patch, you do not tell anyone where they are. You have to be really careful when you go to pick them in the wild, you want to make sure you do not get into Indian territory. There are areas that are set aside strictly for Indians. And you can get yourself in a lot of trouble with the forestry department if you get caught picking there. We went out one time outside of Chelatchie Prairie into the mountains. Friend of ours took us up there with his wife. His name was Bob Paul. The Paul family from Woodland. His wife was a Frazier and they owned the land where Merwin dam is. He took us up there and we started picking blueberries. I'm going through and I am picking blueberries and they taste terrible. Candy said what are you doing? I said well Bob said pick the berries and she said no you're not doing it right. Taste one. And I did and boy I spit that out really fast. It was terrible. It was in Oregon Berry. She said this is what you look for, see the leaves over here. They are plain, look at the leaves over here their coated with something. That's the plant you. The one that has the coating on it. It's sugar. It's shiny on the leaf, that's when you pick. So, I learned a lesson right there about Oregon berries. I am getting off track here.
Suzi: How did you get the black caps if they are so hard to find?
Murray: We found a nursery out of Chehalis that grew the babies. We went up there and talk to him about it. He told us where to go to get the plants. There is an agricultural place in Oregon on the way to the coast just before you get to Newberg. I cannot tell you how many acres they have growing different kinds of plants like that. We ordered 2000 plants and thought we were going to have one heck of a time trying to get those in the van and up there and we were really worried about that. It wasn't a problem. The ceilings were about that tall.
Suzi: you had to plant all of those?
Murray: Annie furnished the workers. We laid it out where it was specifically picked. 20 rows between each row and each row was 200 feet and there were 100 plants per row and 20 rows and that's where we started. We did not know what we were doing. We got so many the first year. By the time they started growing and producing we had so many berries we didn't know what to do with them. So, we talked with Carla Coombs who lives near us and she told us who you go and see. And then we got into the jam business and started that, we got a processor to take care of all the berries in Newberg. The processing happened down in Newberg. This was 20 years ago. We have been doing this for a long time.
Suzi: So you have to pick the berries and then physically take them to Newberg to be processed?
Murray: At that time, we did that for about 20 years.
Suzi: Did you know what you were getting into?
Murray: No, we were still working in Beaverton. I was a mailman and Candy was a schoolteacher. After we bought the property, we were coming out here and try to do some clearing and stuff like that. We put up a little blue pup tent, a two-man tent and we would sleep out on the property. One day Willie Barker, a local came up, he and a partner had a machine shop behind the palace which used to be the La Center stadium. So, he came up and said I'm getting a lot of complaints from the neighbors. We cannot have this. There is somebody living in a blue pup tent. We cannot have this. Would you like to borrow my camping trailer? I said thank you that's a nice offer. We can't do that. He said it's just a small hunting trailer, I use it when I go hunting. You're more than welcome to.
Murray: I said well we would have to compensate you for that, and we really can't afford that. So, I go to work the next day and when we got home the camping trailer was all set up. What a friend.
Suzi: He was not going to take no for an answer. That's very nice.
Murray: He was a great guy. A lot of wonderful memories out here. We bought the property when we moved from Beaverton to Portland to a house where we lived for a couple of years. And while we were living there, we came out and looked for property. And then later on we were living out there on the weekends and we would commute. Even after we built the house Candy commuted for 12 years and I commuted for 14 years to Beaverton for our jobs, from our home up in Highland.
Suzi: That is some commute.
Murray: We made a lot of friends out here and it has been wonderful. It is a great place.
Suzi: I have been to your home and I love it, it is a very nice place and I love the property out there – it’s great. So little by little you got involved in the La Center community.
Murray: Yes, I know we had a Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce came first. It was set up where Sharon Lean who at the time was the bank manager of the bank that we used to have here which is now the public works office and the Mayor's office. Sharon was the first president for two years in and out after two years. And then the vice president would move into the presidency, it was progression from then on. Regular organization with a treasurer and a secretary, and the president and vice president. Sharon was the first president for the first two years, and was followed by Ron Redner, he was local. He is a transplant. And then George, somehow or another I think I follow behind George as president. I think Linda Tracy followed me.
Suzi: What year were you president?
Murray: I cannot remember.
Suzi: I found a picture of you getting sworn in.
Murray: Where did you find that?
Suzi: I was googling your name and it came up. I am always amazed when I find information about the Chamber of Commerce. I wish we still had one. Do you know how many years that ran its course?
Murray: I think Linda was the next to last president. And then the individual we voted in didn't do much of anything. About that time things started to go haywire, no one had any real interest in the organization. And then everything fell on the shoulders of the active members, which were the officers. That is when Linda was there, and they were thick as thieves. They used to sell popcorn and candy as fundraisers for the chamber. I think we are the only chamber that never got a dime from the city. The city never supported us. Other organizations like Battle Ground and Woodland. Look how Woodland is growing. Their chamber is over 200 to 300 members. They have businesses in there and everything else. For some reason they just didn't do it. Linda Tracy and Wendy McGraw. They worked well together. The two of them. But the last pair didn't seem to do anything, and it went downhill from there. Ron and I became good friends and did whatever we could to stimulate it. Nothing seemed to work.
Suzi: I know that there is a little bit of talk on one of the city Facebook pages, the La Center family page, people are trying to generate some interest and get it going again. I do not know if they know what is in store for them. What it all involves?
Murray: We tried many things before I became president and after I became president. With the name changes. La Center Chamber of Commerce, North La Center and Amboy Chamber of Commerce, I think the name changed four or five times. We tried to incorporate Yacolt and Amboy into the group. And forget it. We were invited to join Woodland and we said no -Woodland is Woodland, La Center is La Center and Richfield is Richfield. And it just died. We used to go to the parades, Amboy days, we would carry a banner on a long pole in the parade, I've carried the banner by myself in the parade. Advertising the chamber, it really was sad, we tried. That map I gave you. At that particular time everything with roads this young company came up with an idea and so we got those maps out of our meager funding. A lot of different things. We changed the meetings because a lot of people said they couldn't come at nighttime, but that I could do noon for lunch, so I tried it for six months. And people that could come at nighttime could not come during the day and vice versa. That's a lesson in itself. Set a time and hold to it, keep the name don't go changing it. Anyway, that's just a small part. Linda is so busy with her La Center teams. The parades were great … she's done a beautiful job on that. Candy doesn't like me to talk about that, but she was here in La Center, she was the queen and the grand marshal, and she wore a tiara and the whole thing.
Murray: Her father's place and her uncle's place are up there on Mill Road which they call that the S curves today. That house was her great-grandmothers. She's part of the Brothers family. Seven brothers came from England and their last name was Brothers. And she's part of the Uriah Brothers family. The house across from the cemetery used to be white and that was her g-grandmother's house at one time. Highland is wonderful, and you probably know that I attend Highland Lutheran Church. The oldest continuously used Lutheran Church in the Pacific Northwest. We do use it. It's been there a long, long time. It’s over 130 years old … even older than that. Something about the church that was kind of funny. As the story goes it was attended by Norwegians and Germans. And the Norwegians would sit on one side and the Germans would sit on the other side. And one Sunday they came down to pick up the preacher at the boat landing and go up to the church. One Sunday would be in German and the next Sunday it would be a Norwegian. Candy's grandpa Pete Moe, there's a picture of them down at the museum with one of the boats they built. I can't remember the name of the second boat they built but there were two. She has a long history here. She is a wonderful woman, she takes her time and thinks things through and is very knowledgeable. I cannot keep up with her. People ask her something and she always has the answer.
Suzi: Speaking of the museum, how did you get involved with that?
Murray: Candy used to volunteer down there. I'm not sure how it began. We were good friends with Margaret and Candy and Margaret really hit it off.
Suzi: Was the museum in the same building as it is now or a different building?
Murray: It was before that she got involved. And Margaret said you belong on the museum board and that was that. Margaret called on Candy about the grove (Summit Grove). She knew the family for many years when she lived out here and you know where the dance floor was. Of course Margaret's last name was Colf and she was out there looking at the building and the boys were out there renovating it and she was asking Candy where the pond was … and said show me and that's where the pond used to be. It had goldfish in it and that's where you went on Sundays for dinner. They had cabins there on Highway 99, it was the official connecting route to Seattle. You didn't turn to the right, you turned and went up Highway 99. I don't know how they came up with all these other names but we have enjoyed our stay out here. Candy got involved with that and of course when Clark County decided that they were going to rename all of the streets out here and all the roads, they brought this group up from California. And Candy got together with Laura Wick there's a landing field at the crossroads with the Christmas tree and Martha was her name, maybe his name will come to me later. The three girls got together with the petition drive. They didn't want to lose the family names out here. So they went all the way out to Chelatchie Prairie and all over the place getting petitions signed. The wheel club had a meeting and the people in three-piece suits came out and they just looked up at the ceiling and gave a prayer because they were overcapacity, and he came over to Candy and said we have to send these people out of here because we are overcapacity and Kenny said go to Margaret. He didn't! And that was some meeting. People were really upset and mad about that. So she and the other two girls presented the petition and they did get an agreement with the County that they would put the signs up and leave the old ones up for six months if the people would get used to the new name and then they would take the old signs down. They were out there putting up the new signs and they didn't hold to their word. They took the old signs down and a lot of people were upset. A lot of people called and said we have a bunch of signposts out there that have been damaged or cut down. Do you know anything about that? It really hit a nerve. They changed the name to 54th on Candy's grandfather's road. And that really riled her up. Where they put Sorensen Road is not where it should be. It should be right at 399th to the left that is where Sorensen should be. They changed the name to 399.
Suzi: The way the names go it's so confusing. You have one road going one way and another one twisting and turning. It's very confusing. I like family names. That's too bad that they changed that.
Murray: There are three Mo’s in that area. Sadie from the bakery was up on Mill Road. She is our next-door neighbor now. Her mother lives behind us and across the easement is where Sadie bought that piece. They are 45 acre parcels. I like all the history out here. I hate to see the influx of people out here. In one respect, it is good.
Suzi: As I understand it was a nice little bedroom community.
Murray: We did not have all the people out here. And now people continue to come in, the housing was built and they continue to grow and then I said you want to be a town or city and as I understand it a town cannot be larger than two square miles and a city can continue to annex and the voters decided to make it a city. So there went the town Marshall. We were no longer a town now we have a police department. And where the police department is currently used to be the fire station. The tower is what they used to hang their hoses from, they would drain them and dry them out. The mayor, Ed Siegler was the Mayor and the Fire Chief, he became Mayor after that and I said what are you going to do with all the money now that the card rooms are moving in? He said we have this amount to spend, and I said what's going to happen when something happens to the card rooms and you don't get that revenue? Who's going to pay for all those employees? You'd better start saving and that's when they started saving money. They were spending as fast as they got it.
Suzi: We have a lot of people coming in and I always think about how many homes are being built. You multiply that by two cars and there's going to be a lot of traffic that we have to deal with .
Murray: It's going be a real fun place trying to get through when school is in session because Highland road is blocked. You come down Bartlett Road which is 24th where they're building the new one in the field and you're going to have traffic there. The only way I can go to Woodland is to go down Dobler Hill back to the bottoms and turn left and go through View. It's going to be interesting to see how it all plays out. I'm not against growth but it has to be reasonable and this is crazy. Dwight Larson's place is up for sale and Mike Carpenter and his wife were staying there and taking care of Georgia, then the house and property was sold. And then when you go out 99, on the river side that's all construction. If you go look up the hill there's patches up the hill that are being built on and cleared and if you come past the wheel club up across from the post office the guy who owns all that land was the mailman in La Center. He lives back in the back. They are an old family from England too.
Suzi: I know you're involved with the cemetery, are you a Commissioner?
Murray: It's Commissioner – position one, two, or three. That's how it is legally. But only one of us has to run every six years because they are six-year terms.
Suzi: How did you get involved in that? And what does that entail?
Murray: Alfred Soehl and Tom did a lot of the grass mowing and offered me as a commissioner. He was up there mowing the grass. That cemetery is three cemeteries in one. There were three parcels there, two were sold by the international order of Odd Fellows. You will see the ring of three, you may see that on some of the graves. Alfred was in his 90s, and where that single-story brick house is right behind the Tuesday taco place (4th St. Bar & Grill), that used to be where Alfred Soehl lived. And where the Mexican restaurant is, it used to be Soehl's market. And I can tell you a story about the bank. Mr. Peeples was the bank manager. And two children, two of the boys found a paper bag and I looked in the bag and it was full of money. So they went home and told her dad and he said you take that paper bag down to the bank and you tell the banker what happened and you give him that bag of money, it was $5000 which was a lot of money back then. The boys were not that old, they were children. So they did. And he thanked him and gave each of them a coin. Pete got really upset and he went down to the bank and gave Mr. Peeples a piece of his mind and had the children give back their coins. Pete in his older age lived at Moore Haven which was a rest home. The log house. That was a rest home, and Pete got in trouble and they kicked him out. He got in a fight with the Marshall out there. They were both going for the same girl.
I really enjoyed being out here. I get a little upset because these people go up there with these new gadgets and every time I see one of those guys with the survey equipment I ask if they are on the corner and I see what they have done and I say that's not where the marker is. And I say 30 feet from this point out into the roadway and look with your contraption and that's where the stake is. These guys are going over here and they dug up a railroad spike. And I told them to put it back. That could be a way that somebody marks their property. I go out and talk to the guys and I show them where the corner is and they go out and there it is, that's the corner marker.
Suzi: Murray you were born in Panama? Was that considered Balboa?
Murray: I was born in American Paris in the Canal zone. Which was established by Congress under title 18. I have the book of laws that are about that big. Different laws that pertain to all that stuff. Born in 1934.
Suzi: What brought your parents there?
Murray: My dad was born in Brooklyn and my mom was born in Lynn, Massachusetts. My Grandpa Falk came from Germany, he shipped down as a cabin boy to avoid being restricted into the service and then he became a seafaring man. Later he became a Captain, and he was a tugboat skipper in New York Harbor. I have letters of commission for him where he saved a couple of women from a burning vessel in the harbor, and he got a letter of appreciation from the secretary of the Navy. He came to the Canal zone in 1916, two years after the official opening of the Panama Canal and he was a pilot down there. Before he did his work in New York he, his name was Fern, and his wife Stella, were on the ‘Lighter’ in New York Harbor, that where my dad was born … on a Lighter – a flagship that lit the channel. And that's how Grandpa Falk got down there. Grandpa Murray was born in Glasgow, and he was an engineer. They were married in the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City. And as an engineer he came down to the canal zone as a machinist. And then my mom, their daughter, her name was Marguerite Chisholm Murray.
Let's do my dad first. My dad went to New York State Maritime College which is across the bay from Kings Point. It's a Maritime College and he graduated in two years. I had his report card, but it's destroyed. I've seen his report card and it was laid out like a ship, and everything on there was excellent except for one thing and that was sale making. He graduated from Ft. Schuyler and went to sea for a while and got a license and became a tugboat skipper and he was a pilot. He went back to sea and got his master's papers to master a ship anywhere in the world. I think he went back in 1926 and that's when he became a Panama pilot. And they were the first father and son pilot team. In later years dad was a senior pilot for the Panama Canal, he was taken off as a pilot and put in the office of the Captain of the Port. The captain of the port is always called that, my dad was a reserved naval officer. He was like a commander. Which is like a Lieutenant Colonel. The previous Navy officer that was there was transferred, and they didn't have anyone at that time. Dad didn't like being in the office; he wanted to be on a ship. And Henry Donovan was the head of the civil affairs department and that was a big office and Henry wanted Dad in there and he said get me out of here and my Dad being a Naval reserve officer was also involved in Naval intelligence and he would listen on ship. He picked up a lot of information talking with the captain and crew. They didn't really want him in the office. He finally suggested that a fellow pilot who was in poor health, to get him in the office and let him be the captain of the port.
On my Grandpa Murray's side, Grandpa Murray was a machinist in Panama. And that's where my parents met. They got married and mom had my brother Henry Junior, he's the namesake. My dad was Henry Edwin. And as things would have it, the oldest always got the first of everything. I was born a few years after my brother and I was supposed to be a girl not a boy. I became my mom's little girl. Everything was always Henry, and I couldn't go golfing with my dad. I couldn't do anything with my dad, he only wanted my brother. And my mom would say such is life. And I love them both very much but you grow up and go to school there through elementary through ninth grade I went to school there. In tenth grade my dad shipped me off to a military school. My brother was there for three years when I got there for his graduation. I got all of his old uniforms. And I had one new shirt and pants and that was it. Everything was too short for me, that was my brothers. They were knee-high on my ankles. I did what I could with them.
We would save up and buy a new car every eight years. We would accumulate vacation and sick time and use it for vacation. We were able to collect 719 hours after saving for 2.5 years. So if you're still accumulating, you take a vacation. My dad had a 1940 Buick and we sold that to buy the 1949 Dynaflow. After a year at Greenbrier military school my dad said come on home. So I came home and was a member of the ROTC and graduated from Bellevue High School. I wasn't a good student. I went to Bradley University in Peoria Illinois for two years and returned to the canal zone at my father's direction. And all of a sudden I was drafted into the Army. Our next-door neighbor was on the selection board. And usually there are five slots for the canal. And I hear those are filled by Panama residents so they can get American citizenship. And it didn't happen this time. And I think my Dad entered my name. I went into the Army. I went to paratrooper school and joined one of the organizations and went to Japan and came back from Japan to Ft. Bragg. I was discharged, my last organization I was stationed in Panama with two small children because my wife had passed away. I had a baby and then an 18-month-old and the military gave me a transfer. It was difficult. They only have so many slots, and I did get one. And also I was notified that I was going to be shipped to Germany and I said not without my kids. They said you cannot take your kids and I said then I'm going to ask for a hardship discharge. I had a friend who had an insurance agency and vouched that he would give me a job when I got out. And the Secretary-General's office asst. was married to a Panama Canal pilot. She helped the papers along and got me discharged. Then I joined the police force because I was getting off the rails. I weighed 160 pounds soaking wet. I was told that before I can get on the police force, I had to meet the weight requirement. So when it came time to have the physical exam I loaded my socks with weights and I wore a money belt filled with lead and I did weigh in at over 160 pounds. We were going to go for a strip exam and I excused myself and got rid of all the weight and that's how I got on the police force.
Suzi: Murray you are a cheater!
Murray: I was on the police force with all the rights. One of my friends from the previous organization snapped a picture of me. In my uniform.
Suzi: How long were you in the police force?
Murray: About four years, I worked all around. I worked the beat. We also manned the penitentiary we had down there. We had guards and they worked with the prisoners, and it got a little hairy. We had prison trustees and we had a guy in there for murder. And he was in the leather making shop with knives and everything and he was in there for murder. His last name was Kemp, and then we had five GIs in there who were in there for sexual assault and then there was a homosexual in one of the cells. We kept them separated. We had a great big kitchen and dining room with very long tables. And you could go through the line and you would clean your plate. One time this guy named Pretty Al took his hand like this and ran his arm right into a bandsaw. Did it deliberately. That took care of him for awhile. Later on for some reason he must've gone bonkers. They got him in the mess hall. The guy sitting behind him wound up whacking him with the long pole. And he just whacked him in the head like something crazy. He wound up trying to escape. And he was headed for the canal. We were built really close to where the canal was. And the guard said stop he said it three times and then he let go with the shotgun and blew him apart. And that was it for him.
I have been married a couple of times. The first wife had complications involved with the births. The night that she was supposed to come home I went up there to get the rest of the stuff and bring her home. I just got off the elevator and they met me because she had just died. A clot broke loose and hit the heart. They took the baby to the nursery and went back to another baby and that's how fast she died. Then I met my second wife when I was a police officer. And she became like a surrogate mother. We went to the states on vacation and bought a new vehicle and toured the United States. We had a lot of vacation time. And we drove all over. And my dad had retired and were visiting my folks. They were in St. Petersburg, Florida. And we went there and that's when I was informed that she had resigned her job and would not be returning with the children to the Canal zone. So either stay or come back and pick me up. So I went back and resigned and gave 30 days notice and closed the house and took everything I wanted and packed up. Our maid begged me to take her with us. She wanted so badly to come to the United States. But we couldn't do it. We could've sponsored her but we had to be responsible. You have to pay her and we can't afford that. We didn't have that kind of money. No job coming back to the United States. And we wound up coming to Oregon. And seven years after we got married we divorced. Of course we had had a third child so now I had three kids and I was working and taking care of my kids. When we got divorced she took the youngest. She couldn't take the other two because they were mine. She moved away. There were no hard feelings. It was interesting. I've been involved in a lot of unpleasant things in the Canal Zone. It's unfortunate. I lived there 30 years and this is my home now. Candy and I moved out here in 1982. This was still a small community.
Suzi: There have been so many changes. I have a lot of different projects that I'm working on with the museum where I am hunting for more and more information on the good old days and past mayors and all of that. And some of the articles that I run across are just incredible. Back in the old days there was no filter on what you put in the newspaper.
Murray: Did you take me up on the information I had on the police force scrapbook with newspaper articles. I thought that that would be newsworthy. They haven't done anything with it since 2010. Judy said she had been over there and didn't know about the book. It could be before I went over there.
Suzi: I will definitely follow up on that one.
Murray: They have the album over there, I have seen it and I have thumbed through it. I don't know where it started but it does go up to 2010.
Suzi: I know at one point La Center had two newspapers even before we were incorporated. It was one sheet of bullet points. Somebody visited so-and-so or someone sold a cow or a house fire. Very basic items.
Murray: Right at the top of Oakdale Hill that is the white house just as you make the curve belonging to Glenn and Emily Johnson. Glenn passed and there was a great big celebration of life they were both cremated. Their children walked out into the woods of their property. You can't see from the road. There's all that timber that's growing on either side of the road. That was all Johnson property. We walked back into the tree line and that's where they wanted to have their ashes spread. The daughters did it. It was very windy that day. I do not know if the sign is still there. They had a sign that said Glenn and Emily's last dump. I feel like I'm shortchanging somewhere here. It was interesting working in the Canal Zone. I have a lot of friends in the area and we have a picnic and I tried to make it. They hold it up in Gig Harbor.
Suzi: Are these all people from the Canal Zone?
Murray: Yes, they all come in and it's fun, we did a lot of different things. There were different military things that took place like Cuba and Libya.
Suzi: You were there at that time?
Murray: Yes, the riots in the Canal Zone, January 19th, 1964. That was all about the flags at the high school. The Governor's office was up at the top of the hill and you could look straight down at the school. The kids were told that they couldn't have that on the pole until later on. The kids found out about what was going on. So they went to school and there was no flag so classes started and the principal gets a phone call from the Governor's office telling them to take that flag down. Are you trying to start an international incident? And they said get them off there. So they took the flag off. Classes changed and started up again and he gets a fourth phone call. I told you to get that flag off the flagpole and he said I did, it's right here on my desk. He said you better make sure there's no flag up there again so he says we can't put a flag up now. Things have changed. Classes resumed and he gets another phone call. The kids were so prepared. They had a long bamboo pole with the American flag on it. They were going to have a flag over their school. That incited the parents. They had a great big meeting over at the high school. It was more than a meeting, it was like mob rule. I had just gotten off duty. I sat down with a plate of spaghetti and was ready to take the first bite when the phone rang. It said report and bring your pot with you, and that meant your riot helmet. So I went down there to the high school and the agitators that were there offered to take them by bus back to the border. There was only one cop there - Hank Summerfield, he had the border. You know what was going on. Some of them got on the buses and went and others said they were going to walkover. They went and walked up to the end of the building. Past the Governor's mansion and then they crossed the Fourth of July Avenue and melted to where the real agitators came out. So we get Hank protected and the judge lives on our side of the border and we had this great big chain-link fence across our border. They went and ripped that right off the poles. Just by sheer human force. We had a small police building where we could go in and relieve ourselves if we needed to. And there's sawgrass up there. It's built on the side of a hill. They mutilated that building. They ripped the toilet right off the floor. There was chain-link fencing and they took one of the big aluminum light posts and took it right off the bass. I wound up there at that location. And they set fire to the grass. In the military up there, no families got hurt but they were like this is where the Bridge of the Americas went. On October 12, 1962 we opened up that $20 million bridge and they named it the Thatcher Ferry Bridge. And the Panamanian people wanted it to be called the Bridge of the Americas. I was there with the police department. and we had a bunch of dignitaries. The crowd was so large they were going to give out these coins of commemoration. but they only had 10,000 there was not enough they ran out. We drove through the police line and got the dignitaries out of there. They broke into the police line and mutilated a monument on that side and tried to mutilate another when we were guarding. They didn't get it. They tried, they started a riot, that was one of the riots of 1992. And then in 1994 they had the big riot. There were 100 families that were what was call rowdy bloncos - “white” rich and they keep their money out of the country. The Arias family was very well known, they didn't care it's crazy down there. We had a leader of their police force, their National Guard and he went by Si Si Remón (José Remón). One year there were elections and they tried to get Si Si voted in but he said I do not accept it. So we had to take another vote and he was voted in again. And he said I am not accepting that. I will not do it. Why should I trade 5000 Nationals for 400 secret police? He said, I have more power here. And he was voted in for the fourth time. Long story short one Sunday he was out at the racetrack and during intermission they went down to this room for dignitaries, and they assassinated him. It's just crazy, you see enough of that turmoil. We had M1 rifles which were the rifle of the day. We had an arsenal. When Panamanian students weren't able to pay tuition. He had made a plan with locations of where everything was stored in the ROTC building. They were found out and they were going to break in and steal all the weapons. He got picked up before and the sergeant said there's really nothing to worry about. They’ve taken all the firing pins out of all of the rifles a long time ago and none of us knew it.
Suzi: That would've been a shock. How did you feel when Jimmy Carter gave the canal back?
Murray: He didn’t give the canal back - that's a bad term. They GAVE the canal Away. There was an agreement between America and the Republic of Panama. As a result of the interference of the Americans the break away with the province of Panama happened. That's how Panama established their independence. There was a boatload of Marines there in Crystal Harbor, and because of that, others said “let's do it”. They broke away and of course they didn’t put up much fight up against it because they were afraid of the US military. A treaty was signed by the bigwigs down there. I think it was an agreement that they would receive so much gold every year. One of our next-door neighbors was the Attorney General for the Canal Zone. And we found out from Paul what that meant. The agreement boils down to every 99 years the treaty is good for 99 years in perpetuity. That it was meant to be renewed every 99 years forever. There was no end to it.
The Panama government was paid in gold and then they pay them the equivalent. They wanted their independence. We got 10 miles on either side. Changes in the President and assassinations, all kinds of things down there and Americans were just terrible. We had a junket of congressmen that came down one time and said what is this? You don't have to furnish your own furniture? We could go out and get whatever furniture we wanted and they said we will see about that. Everybody got a raise because they were going to make them rent the furniture. Another junket came down and said you don't pay rent or hospitalization? We will see about that and everybody got a raise. The final straw was when they came down the third time and found that we didn't pay income tax. Everybody got a raise and had to report income tax to their home states. This goes with the military where I had to get out of the Canal zone and into the Republic of Panama or get shipped back to the states with children. Because they determined that my dad's home effort was New York City. So I had to move to a foreign country and serve and I was scheduled to go to Germany and serve. And I said no I want to stay with my kids. That is how that happened. I had to start filing income tax down there. it was socialism in a lot of respects. Housing was furnished and we didn't pay rent. Medical was furnished. Everything was furnished and we didn't pay for any of this. It was nice.
The United States made an agreement that the flagpoles would be a Panamanian flag, the police force were all lined up here on the side and the flagpoles were here and there. It was elevated for the dignitaries. And the guy running the radio station, the arms force radio station was seen on the top stoop. We had some detectives in the crowd along with the National Guard, the ceremony gets to the point of raising the flag and we give a hand salute as they are raising the Panamanian flag and then out of the crowd it melts away and one guy is yelling bomb and we had to stay at attention with our backs to the crowd and the guy had just been released from a mental institution that morning and he got to the back steps and knifed the radio station guy. And as he is leaving the detectives are going forward they throw him back into the crowd thinking it's a bomb but we got the flags up okay after that. And they played the Panamanian national anthem and then the American anthem. They had to reset where the flagpole was and put another pole in. So that it would be symmetrical and even at the administration building. We knew 200 soldiers in the police force. We knew that something was going to happen so we had this cage built with mesh and it was light enough for we could grab it on the edge, we picked it up and would go with a firehose detached we had the fire truck right there and the firetruck was over there, and we were ready to roll with it for any trouble whatsoever at that flagpole.
Suzi: I guess that is good?
Murray: I wanted to take Candy to show her where I used to live. One of my dear friends down there was a lawyer who took over his uncle's business. I hooked up with him and his wife and he assigned a young attorney to be our guide. We went to different places and spent the day together. And they had a Panamanian guard sitting there and before you get in the building he is sitting on my stool. And I said get off ... I used to sit there! I hope the rotunda is still there. There were four murals that were painted there. My dad was well up in seniority. And we used to have parties every month at our house. That's why my brother and I were raised with silver spoons in our mouths. Down there my dad was the third highest paid individual down there, the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor and then my dad. He was important. And I took everything for granted. I got to ride on the return voyage of the USS Missouri after they signed the peace treaty. My brother and I were the only two civilians to board the Missouri. I have a coin that has wording that shows the peace treaty signing. I have so much memorabilia as a result of protecting the dignitaries. The Governor gave each of the police officers one of the medallions that they had made for the dignitaries. So I have that and I use that as a paperweight.
Suzi: Murray my phone is going to run out of memory. I need to go ahead and wrap this up. I wanted to thank you so much for taking the time to talk about your life here in La Center.
Murray: La Center is a big part of my life and I hate to see the influx of people out here. But it was bound to happen, it is a nice area and land is available. Why not?
Suzi: I know with every new person, I've only been here four years, and then we come in and say now the gate can close. We don't want more people coming in but we just love it here. Thanks again I appreciate you doing this for us.
Murray: There are so many different stories to tell. It's amazing. I've had a wonderful life and I hope to continue for another 10 years if not longer if the good Lord determines.
Suzi: There can always be more recordings. And with Candy too.
Murray: And our little blackcap berry business will continue to grow.
Suzi: It's incredible the work you do.
Murray: You should see our calendars. It's great to be alive and you just have to keep moving. And we need to appreciate all that God has given us. It surrounds us 24 hours a day. I take my kids out into the field, my grandkids and it's pitch black out there and I look up at the heavens and they are awed at how many stars are out there, away from the light. It is nice and we're trying to teach them new things. They don't know anything about snipe hunting and other little games that we play. They will get taught. And then the great grandkids.
Suzi: On that note I'm going to sign off. We appreciate you doing this. Thank you.