HITHER & YON: Support your community and its history
I once worked with an old-school editor who wanted to build a wall around journalists. He forbade us to report on the communities we resided in and discouraged any community engagement on our part such as volunteering with organizations.
Any cross-pollination like that, he was certain, would cause bias in our reporting.
Whether or not this was true was hard to prove but I did agree with him in one way: journalists involving themselves in activities where they reported could cause others to PERCEIVE bias, which might as well be the same thing.
Then I began working for Pamplin Media, which believes strongly in showing support for local communities and works to employ people who live where they work. Community involvement is encouraged; in fact our owner, Dr. Robert Pamplin, is proud to remind readers that he resides locally, inside one of the communities served by a Pamplin newspaper.
So when I was approached to lend my civilian skills to a local organization, Wilsonville-Boones Ferry Historical Society, I didn't hesitate.
I love history. History is stories and as a journalist I like nothing better. I even wrote a book about the history of the last city I reported on, Redmond, Oregon, even though I was not a native.
So, full disclosure: I volunteer with the WBFHS and I'm going to tell you why you should too.
The Portland metro area has dozens of little satellite cities, each with its own unique and interesting back story. The descendants of famed Kentucky woodsman Daniel Boone must have seen something special in that little swath of land along the Willamette River nearly 175 years ago and were clever enough to take advantage of the flow of goods and people traveling from booming Portland to points south in the Willamette Valley by building a river ferry.
Now the WBFHS has been around awhile and was largely responsible for gathering a large collection of historical photos of the area, a historical trolley ride that introduced generations to local lore and the preservation of Seely Ditch, the city's hand-dug irrigation canal.
But the organization has surged and waned through the years as its few dedicated volunteers burned out and moved on. Successful organizations run on volunteer power and the number of people powering that engine is directly related to how far the group can get in its objectives.
While we are low on people, we are rich in ideas: we want to continue to document and preserved the collection of historical items collected over the years, and share those with the public. This includes hours of oral and video histories from longtime residents rich in historical knowledge. There has been talk of outreach in local schools, a walking history tour, reviving a hometown parade (Founders Day?) and a cultural center/museum in one of the city's historical homes.
We're unlikely to get far on any of those objectives, however, if we can't roust more history/Wilsonville lovers from the cracks of the community. We need more bodies; we need more brains.
We need the momentum that a strongly supported community organization craves.
It would be a shame to see the Historical Society fade away like the apparently popular Boones Ferry Days summer event beloved by generations in Wilsonville. It should go without saying that if you value a community organization, any organization, you should be prepared to show it with time or money because they cannot run on air.
WBFHS is meeting this week, Feb. 7 at 6 p.m. at the Wilsonville Public Library. Show up and show your support.
Leslie Pugmire Hole is editor of the Wilsonville Spokesman.