Timber Valley RV Park History
by Jackie Deal
There are stories that need to be told. Stories about the people, who with the proverbial sweat, blood and tears, and with faith and trust, built a dream.
Some stories are half-remembered. Some forgotten. Some stories have been totally lost in the past 30 years since Timber Valley RV Park was built.
The dream started long before the park became reality. People who loved to travel (Rvers) longed for companionship and the camaraderie of like-minded folks. These were the people who knew what black-water was, what boon-docking meant and what Rest Areas and truck stops were for.
When Escapees Inc. began creating area groups, some Oregonians formed the ninth Chapter in the US: Oregon Trails Chapter 9. Rallies were the original purpose but early on, Chapter 9 wanted a home of its own: a retirees RV Park. Rvers are by necessity independent and strongly determined individuals. Companionship might be desirable but compromise? Hardly. And while rallies were jolly good fun, selecting a site for a permanent park was fraught with hassle.
Chapter 9, was founded in Casa Grand, AZ. In 1985 with Don and Pat Kuykendall as the “driving force”. In 1986 at a rally in Bend, OR the purchase of the Sutherlin, OR property was announced. (from ‘Trailer Tracks” 1995). But in between 1985 and 1986 much happened. The following information comes from Kay Peterson’s “History of the Escapees Club”.
In 1986 a land search had begun; Mr. and Mrs. Olson wanted a 20 acre parcel in Bandon. Others found sites from Astoria and south on the coast and even into the valley. Some were quite passionate about their choices.
During a meeting an “angry discussion” ensued. Mrs. Olson, who was secretary, resigned and refused to turn over “secretarial records” and the names of those who had paid a $20 registration fee placing them on the list of potential lot owners. . A notice published in the Escapees Inc. magazine asked those who’d paid to notify Escapees Inc. Because as they said, “We fear some records may be lost”. Eventually, Mrs. Olson refunded $7 to each member, after subtracting their “legal fees” (what does that imply?) Those who dearly wanted the coast (and probably some who were appalled at the squabble) pulled out and membership dropped from 358 to 175 families.
It is interesting that nearby Oakland had been considered for the park. Oakland, however, wasn’t sure they wanted the park: Betty Hyndman remembers Oakland feared “those old men might rape our young girls”. In Oakland’s defense it was in 1981 that the Rajneeshees were deported after committing criminal offences in Eastern Oregon . Oakland (and also Sutherlin) feared that the Escapees might be another dangerous sect. 2 The following information comes from old reports given by our Chapter 9 reporters in the Escapees Inc newsletters of the late 1980s.
Early 1986 Val Boge introduced the idea of a co-op designed to “utilize the beautiful Oregon land and trees to create an “Oregon Park concept”.” This was after members rejected the coast sites and before they had seen our beautiful hillside site.
Who was Val Boge? He was Vice President; Pres. was Verne Hansen, Feasibility Chair. was Ed Strieger, Membership Survey Chair, Doris Field, and By-Laws Chair. Bill Field. Before May of 1988 the Land Search Committee (Roy and Virginia Adams, Bill and Jean Moss) were looking in the Willamette Valley. Members surveyed (by Doris Field) wanted “near a small town” with city sewer, 50 amp, phones and cable TV, storage sheds, and laundry.In the May-June 1988 newsletter Harry Lewis, Secretary, reports: “The place is SUTHERLIN. 90 acres. Land costs work out to $544 per lot for 150 lots. A great price in a town that wants us!” Can’t you see the excitement in the capital letters and the exclamation point?
March 1988, dispatch from the committee said: “The Land Search Committee found a wonderful piece of property for our park. By unanimous vote the board has approved buying the site.”(pg.1) On page 3 “The property which sold for $300,000 several years ago, will cost us $81,600. This works out to $544 per lot for 150 lots.” Oct. 15, 1988, “The 90.19 acres cost $80,00”.. plus additional costs “for a total of $90,031 (pg. 1).6
(for background, see “Leisure Valley or Timber Valley?”)
Use your imagination and let‘s go back to 1988. You’re at a Chapter 9 SKP rally in Cottage Grove, Or. when you hear the exciting news: “There’s a spot in Sutherlin . Big! Just right! We can get it for our park.”
Eagerly you join a caravan heading South some 40 miles to the tiny town of Sutherlin. Not many businesses. Lots of vacancies on the dreary main street. A town that desperately needs something to invigorate it. Population about 4000. Of course it’s raining.; after all, this is Oregon.
Turn off Center street onto So. State Street (A rather pretentious name for an unpaved road, don’t you think?) Your tires crunch on the gravel and the windshield wipers slap back and forth. The few houses are small and dreary. Meadows Park is just that, a meadow. You wind on up the hill (the drive into Timber Valley does not exist). On up the hill and around the curve to where the street now ends by Site #1.
Jane Lee remembers, “it was a muddy mess. Bottles and junk . The road was a cow trail. There was no water or sewer to the area.” 2
With about 40 others, you peer thru the wetness and you see—”a muddy mess”. A mead- owed hillside, scrubby brush, a few scrubby trees, cans, bottles, the left-behinds of a lover’s lane. And everywhere: mud. There are hidden springs adding to the rain sluicing down the hill. There are also –wild roses.
Not everyone was overwhelmed by the mud. Jackie McLaughlin saw “wild roses” and she writes: When Harold and I first started traveling full-time all around the country we kept hearing about Escapees, their parks and co-ops. We were interested in a home base in the Northwest. Soon we were hearing about groups searching for sites in Washington and Oregon so we signed up on the list for each of them.
There were over 200 names on the list interested in the 150 sites originally planned here in Sutherlin. We attended a rally at Dorena Lake, near Cottage Grove where we were all parked on a lawn and after the rally we had to be towed out of the mud.
We drove out to the sloping grassy site at the end of State St. and parked. We could not drive onto the site itself because it had no roads and was too muddy. We parked at the end of the road and walked out there. There were many streams and Wild Roses and Hawthorns blooming. I though it was beautiful! I imagined sites carved out of the sloping ground with the natural setting left between them. Of course, a lot of ground was
moved to make level terrace areas for the 206 sites we eventually built.” ( )
Some remember the hillside as a meadow or a cow or sheep pasture. Others think it might have been part of an orchard. Perhaps it had been planted in mint at on time; mint tended to spring up all over where it wasn’t wanted.
How do we get from that unkempt hillside to the lovely park we have today?
First of course there had to be money. George Nace remembers,” We each put in $1,000. Folks asked, what collateral? And we said; NONE!” 2
A “founding board” was formed. Olen Edwards was hired as contractor and he drew up the plans. Les bean was advisor to the board, construction had been his business and he attended all the meetings. ( from interview with Jackie and Les)
Olen brought his construction equipment and rented it to the park. “He could run it all, we’d have been dead without him,” said Bud Schick.
The park bought a used “fire engine”, an old tanker truck and it was used to spray water: the dust was horrible. They also bought “Big Red, track hoe”.
Elton Lee and Roy Adams did most of the work assignments with Roy in charge and Elton deciding who ran what. Two months before they broke ground they assigned the volunteers to run the equipment. Elton said to Bud, “Okay, you were a farm tractor operator, now you’re a back hoe operator.”
Oct. 15, 1988 Timber Valley Log says “sub-excavation with over 50,000 cubic yards of dirt moved to lower and raise road grades and level lots.” The winter of 1988 the rough grading was done. Bud said, “I couldn’t imagine it ever being a park.” Jackie McLaughlin said. “The winter of ‘88-’89 was the biggest snow Sutherlin had in 20 years. Six RVs stayed here in the park.”
According to a Dec 1988 newsletter, “ Jerry and Miriam Woolcott, SKP 730, couldn’t physically help in the park so they hosted a turkey/ham dinner Dec 21 at their Woodland Hills Mobile Home Park (NE Stephens, Roseburg) Doris Fields recalls “they wouldn’t let us help clean up or anything.“
During that first hard winter, they moved into a building in town and began work on the storage sheds. Les Bean was in charge of carpentry and he designed the sheds and the system for making them. 1
Shirley Schick operated the machine to cut the soffit holes. Jackie Bean could hardly reach high enough to do it and Carol Mason tried and lasted one week. She said “It was a terribly hard job.” 1
It seems that when the men were cutting boards it didn’t matter too much if they were a little off. However, Betty Hyndman was running the saw and one of the men brought a board back to her and said: “This board is ¼ inch short.” Betty said, “Here. Give it to me.” She ran it through the saw again and said, “Now you’ve got 2 boards that are
¼ inch short.” There were no more complaints!
Les Bean recounts how they were cutting the sheds from left to right. Vern Hanson came in and started them doing it right to left which changed the cut for the doors. When they tried to assemble them they wouldn’t line up. Fortunately, they picked up one of the three miss-cut ones to try and thus saved the whole batch from being cut wrong. Jackie Bean laughingly said,” Vern was a big guy who liked to help but sometimes he tried to take over.”
Once the sheds were built they were brought to the park and stacked all over wherever there was room. They stacked the floor, sides and roof for each shed and they looked like miniature sheds.
The women did a good job painting the sheds; in spite of Chuck Layman who watered down the paint to make it go further. They would try to get started early in the morning before Chuck got there to “fix” the paint. Dew on the sheds in the morning also added to the watering down effect.
For about one week they roughed out lots and started putting shale in them, Bud said ,”I got to cut the very first lot.”
July 15-16, 1989 the long-awaited lot selection took place. It took 5 ½ hours to select 202 lots. “75% of the members got their 5th choice or better reported the Aug, 1989 newsletter, pg. 1. 6
In 1989 after the Los Banos Escapade some SKPs came north and helped. There was a young woman who was employed by the sewer company; she came out and worked. They brought her baby out to her, she nursed it and went back to work. (In 1989 that’s remarkable!)
Another young worker, Skip, had worked for the IRS. One day the IRS came out and Skip disappeared. There was also a Mexican, (a SKP) who arrived every morning with his shovel over his shoulder and dug ditches.
At one point Vern Hanson started Bud digging a hole. Olen jumped off his rig and ran up and chewed Vern out because they were about to hit a power line. Bud said, ”I would have sizzled”.
There was a big spring right under the clubhouse site, They had to dig a ditch 6-7 feet deep the full length of the CH site and fill it with gravel to drain that area. An open ditch ran between the lots and the runoffs gradually deepened it from 2 feet to 14 feet so they had to install culverts.
Jackie Bean worked in the carpentry shop, helped in the ditches and also drove truck. She was driving up the hill in the mud (Joanne was telling her how) when they got stuck. Elton Lee came running, said “move over”, jumped in and drove them to the carpenter shop which was near where the club house is now.
Harry Brot had a doughnut machine from a former carnival job and made delicious doughnuts (even though the machine wasn’t too clean.) Harry walked around with “coffee” in his cup. He left the park because it was too expensive for him.
Some of the women brought around a cookie tray every morning. Jane Lee was always hungry and would pick several. “No. no,” they would tell her, “You can only have one.” Some of the workers who didn’t want their cookies would give them to Jane.
The Dec 1989 newsletter also says, “our corporate office was moved from Florence to the park in July. The four founding directors will remain in office until completion of construction and then we will elect five new ones to make a board of nine.” (pg. 3)
As of that date, the Executive Board was Roy.B. Adams, President, Elton J. Lee, Verne Hanson, vice-president, Bill Field, Treasurer.
It wasn’t all work. The golf course was the site of many bonfires and evening fun. Timber Valley Park got first place in the Timber Days Parade in the non-commercial category. Of course the snow that winter was a headache but it was also fun. A decorated Christmas tree was placed atop the office roof.
One couples grandson, Mark, (name??) was sledding down the hills. They would tow him to the top of the hill with their 4 wheelers and he would slide down. George Nace tried to show him how to “bellywop” but he forgot he had a tummy!
The June 1990 newsletter says the office was moved “by fork-lift” and set up on the lot “on top of the hill that was set aside for managers.” (pg1)6 Originally, the office was planned to go where the Club House is now but there wasn’t enough parking. Also originally the club house was designed to be a two story building with clubhouse upstairs and downstairs, the office, play room and laundry. However, county rules for support beams etc. made it too difficult. Diagrams and projected cost for the 2 story building appear in the June 1990 newsletter. (pg.2)6 They had started digging by the time the plans were changed and had to fill in and then start over. The new plans were approved by the county. Les Bean put the plans out for bid and Atkinsons and Atkinsons got the contract. About that time the Beans had to go south and someone else took over. The cement poured for the first floor crumbled and had to be dug out and replaced.
July 1990 newsletter reports the first managers hired were Lyn and Bill McDonald who will “go on salary when the park opens in Sept.”
Betty Hyndman was activity chairperson to raise money for furnishing the club house. She and her husband baked shortcakes and sold them for $1 . The early fund raising group was called “the Pot and Pan Rattlers”, this became the Jacks and Jills and Betty said she“never forgave them” for changing the name. The actual start date of the Pot and Pan Rattlers is undocumented but Aug. 1990 newsletter says, “The Pot and Pan Rattlers have been very busy.”
When the clubhouse was first built they had only 3 outlets in the kitchen. Betty asked “Do you expect us to hold dinners for 50 or 100 people with only 3 outlets?” That was corrected but there still was no sink. When it arrived they called Betty in to see the new sink. Betty looked all around and couldn’t see one. Finally they pointed out a tiny bar sink. Betty laughed until she cried. “You expect us to do dishes in that?” Betty had a restaurant supply catalog and she showed them some pictures to give them the idea. That’s how we ended up with that deep back-breaking sink in the kitchen. It wasn’t exactly what Betty wanted either.
The rental rate then was $5 a day or $100 a month plus electric according to the Aug. 1990 newsletter.
Perhaps the lot owners got a little ambitious.. A Sept 1990 Timber Valley Log reports the State Inspector saying the “wiring and plumbing in sheds”, “extended water lines”: “No permits will be issued until everything is put back to its original status”, “all of these improvements require permits.”
Oct 1990 the newsletter reports the new Assistant Managers were John and Elray Secondo 7049. The same issue bring us up to date on The Pot and Pan Rattlers:” have raised enough money to purchase 30 tables and 2 table carts“. “Each person will donate $17.50 to buy a chair” The company offered $2000 discount if bought by Oct. 10. So the board members advanced funds. “Most of the lot holders have paid $30.” reported the newsletter.
The Timber Valley Log of July 15, 1991 says, “ we had about 53 boon dockers”, that was during the June Escapade in Roseburg. June Lance was hired to manage the mailroom and be in the office during lunch hours. “Del and Marie Onstatt were hired as clubhouse custodians due to lack of volunteer help.”
LaVerne and Harry Kinley, Assistant Managers resigned and were replaced by Mary and Ted Buzalski”. Also after grading and paving were done the Park will install and pay for 20 foot drainpipes at driveways and more can be installed for $1 per foot.
Oct 1991 reports a very important vote: Park members must be 55 or over” the vote was 110 to 67.
Virginia Adams wisely stated:” we have a terrific park we can be proud of. It is not perfect. It was built by people and for people who are not perfect. Perfection is not of this world.”6
By Dec 1991 there were 41 rigs in the park for the winter. The Jacks and Jills (this is the first time that name for the Pot and Pan Rattlers appears in the newsletter) cooked and served Thanksgiving dinner for 64 in the clubhouse that November.
Feb 1992 Doris Logoteta welcomed new managers, Wanda and Gordon Samel and Koss and Don Huysman. A New Year’s dance lasted until midnight. Other “news” a soup lunch every Wednesday, Sunday ice cream social, new acoustical tiles in the “fireplace” room and soon in the assembly room and new railing installation on the front steps and a new flag pole. Interior finish work on the clubhouse continued and the time had come to sell some of the “construction equipment”: the 10 yard dump truck and the backhoe and the ditch witch.
May 1992 newsletter compliments members “manicuring” the park and then says:” Hopefully, we won’t have the “tacky”label attached to our park by our renters this year.”
It further says:” we have 96 on our active waiting list for membership in our “unfriendly park”.
August 23, 1992 was the first marriage in the Recreation Hall: Trudy Ferrick and Clayton Marlin, “joined by our own retired pastor, Marty Rood”.
Dec 9,1992 Ken Korte was hired as Park Manager. That winter there were 50 leaseholders and 15 renters.
Timber Valley Park “got built because of Olen Edwards and Roy Adams, who everybody hated at some time. Olen had the patience of Job to take inexperienced men over age 55 who thought they knew everything and build a park with them”.