I have been perusing the columns that my grandfather, Rufus Woods, wrote during his tenure as The Wenatchee Daily World editor and publisher from 1907 to 1950. Thankfully, someone was smart enough to put all of his columns in scrapbooks.
Reading these columns, I am getting a clearer picture of his boundless sense of curiosity and wonder and how he used his column, “In Our Own World,” as an ongoing conversation with the people of the region about what might be possible.
Recently, our community celebrated the work of the late Bob Parlette for his tireless efforts to develop the Apple Capital Recreation Loop Trail and transform the riverfront into a place for community. We know a bit about important civic individuals who helped nurture that dream, including Chelan County PUD manager Kirby Billingsley, civic activist Joan Van Divort, artist Ruth Allan, Dr. Gordon Congdon Sr., and so many others.
But what I didn’t know was that my grandfather had a similar vision and expressed it quite elegantly in a column he wrote for The Daily World on Aug. 30, 1943.
“A few days ago, Fred Koch wrote an article about Chicago for the Daily World. One part of it mentioned how Chicago had made the most of its lake front. Which is indeed true. The people there have taken advantage of what they have and developed a delightful driveway — a boulevard that will be remembered by all those who have ever traveled it even once.
“We have in this community of ours one man and his wife who have taken advantage of a good location and built Ohme Gardens. But we have overlooked many of our best locations. There’s that Columbia — what a mess it makes! Yet a beauty spot has been made at the City pumping plant. The whole shore of that stream might be made a place of extreme beauty. That goes for both sides of the river. The time to be working on that dream is NOW!”
Rufus Woods was a man of great vision and great enthusiasm for building community by connecting people and ideas. While he is mostly known for his great involvement in the development of Grand Coulee Dam and the Columbia Basin Project, I am constantly reminded that he was interested in figuring out ways to improve things in a broad array of contexts.
This spirit of community lives on in our region. We see it in the fabulous work of the Community Foundation of North Central Washington, the Washington Apple Education Foundation, the Methow Conservancy, the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust, the Icicle Fund, the YMCA, Our Valley Our Future, just to name a few.
Strengthening community is the work that all of us can and should do. We are indeed fortunate that so many people continue to make meaningful contributions in that regard.
Rufus Woods is the publisher emeritus of The Wenatchee World. He may be reached at email@example.com or 509-665-1162.