Pioneer Logger Award, part II: Oscar Peterson

  • Thu Oct 26th, 2017 2:02pm
  • Life

Wilma and Oscar today. Photo Christi Baron

The West End Business and Professional Association selected two Pioneer Logger Award winners this year. Last week you heard about winner Pat Raben. This week we have a little bit of information on the other winner, Oscar Peterson:

Oscar was nominated by his grandson Nels, who wrote the following:

I would like to nominate my grandfather and hero, Oscar Peterson for the Pioneer Logger Award 2017. He worked his career in the Rosmond Mill and is the definition of hard worker.

Oscar was born in Forks 96 years ago and just celebrated a birthday earlier this month. His family was one of the first to make their home on the Forks Prairie, owning much of the upper part of the prairie.

Oscar’s first job was with the U.S. Forest Service. He graduated from high school in 1940 and then headed to Pullman to start pre-veterinarian classes. Then something changed the course of his life … it was WWII. He was drafted, and along with Forks resident and friend Arthur Wittenborn, he joined the 2nd Division ski troops. After some time in Northern Ireland and then Wales Oscar he would eventually find himself on the beach for the Normandy invasion.

Oscar made it back home but Wittenborn did not. In 2014, Oscar returned to Normandy and almost got to shake President Obama’s hand. He is now the last surviving member of his Division.

Back in the states, he headed to Sol Duc Hot Springs and met his future wife Wilma. His brother was a veterinarian in Pasadena, Calif. He worked for him for a while, but Pasadena was not for him. He also tried to return to Pullman to finish school but there was no place to live, so it was back to Forks and he ended up purchasing a portion of the original Peterson property.

Oscar ended up getting a job working at Wahlgren’s sawmill, but the mill burned down and one day around 1949.

Later he was working on his barn when Fred Rosmond stopped by and asked if he would come to work at the mill Rosmond operated with his brothers. Oscar would work at that mill until he retired.

The Rosmond Mill was located at the US Highway 101 and La Push road intersection, and today the surviving buildings make up the Kit’La Center. The mill produced the finest lumber and shipped their product all over the world.

Oscar said that in those days it took three people to operate the mill.

“When the mill broke down, we would be put to work building other buildings, we all learned all the trades: cement work, carpentry and so many skills that later helped all the employees build their own homes,” Oscar said.

“If something broke, there was always another job to do. Robert (Rosmond) would work all night to have the mill running for us to go to work in the morning,” he added.

Oscar said lunchtime at the mill was always a time for stories. Fred (Rosmond) had been at Pearl Harbor and Robert had been in submarines during WWII and they both shared their dangerous experiences. They also shared funny stories of growing up in Oakville, like the time one of them went up a tree and the other fell it!

“The Rosmonds were always working to improve the mill and make my job easier,” Oscar said.

“Robert could design and build just about anything,” he added.

Oscar said as far as bosses went the Rosmonds were first class, recalling that they told him,”The customer is paying a lot for this wood, so we want it to be good.”

He said the Rosmonds never once told the crew at the mill to speed up or work faster. They just wanted the lumber they produced to be the best product.

Because of the mutual respect between employee and mill owners, Oscar said, the crew always tried to get to the mill and have it running before the bosses got there.

“We knew if the mill broke down the Rosmonds would be working all night so that we had a job in the morning, so we respected that,” Oscar said.

When Rosmonds sold the mill Oscar stayed on and worked awhile for the new owners, but said, “I knew they weren’t going to make it. They just didn’t care like the Rosmonds did.”

Oscar knew every day he went to work how much he was appreciated, and in turn was a dedicated and faithful employee doing the very best job he could.

In my interview, Oscar didn’t really want to talk so much about what he did in the mill as much as how he appreciated his job.

“I want you to say nice things about the Rosmonds,” Oscar said. “They were wonderful people.”

I think Oscar’s dedication says it all.