(Reprinted from 2003 Friends Newsletter)
Longtime Friends of Collier Park board member, Bob Elliott, is full of stories, life, and fun, setting a good example of how to live one’s life at ninety. Asked how long has he lived in Klamath Falls, he replys with a twinkle, “since the gestation period was over.” Of his lifelong relationship with the Collier family he notes “Cap” Collier was his Sunday school teacher and he’s known Cap’s daughters, Eleanor and Dorothy, though they were ten or more years younger, for their entire lives.
Bob’s parents came here in 1908-09. His father was a lawyer. When he was seven, his father was awarded a homestead at Malin, “about the time the Czechs came in,” he says. His family rotated homes to fit the farming seasons – for half a year he would attend Shasta View School in Malin and the winter part of the year until Easter would be spent in Klamath Falls where he attended Riverside School. As a third of his Malin classmates didn’t speak English, Bob says, “ I could talk Czech as good as anybody!”
“My first woods experience, at ten years old – I greased log skids for Cecil Adams, a med school student, who had a summer logging contract. It wasn’t until a few years later, in 1933, that he worked again in the woods, where as a general employee, he helped with the cleanup of a major Bly Mountain fire. After that job, Bob continues, “I went to Hackamore, California [near the Loveness Road on the way to Alturas] where I worked as a logging camp timekeeper for Big Lakes Lumber owned by Merle West. He married, and in 1939 began a 36-year career with Weyerhaeuser before retiring in 1974. After about 15 years, he became head of health and safety of the plant and the woods. He also was the safety rep for the WWPA in this area and he served on the State Workman's Compensation board.
“Co-workers would tease me. If a Weyerhaeuser employee overheard me talking about “working’ they’d break out laughing because they didn’t consider my job as hard as theirs. But people got hurt in the woods, though more so in the early days. I’d have to tell families about logging accident deaths.” And, Bob continues proudly, “We were one of the first Weyerhaeuser plants to work 1,000,000 man hours without reportable injuries due to the employees responding to our theory of safety.”
“I really enjoyed going to the woods. All of my children have eaten in the logging camps. I’d take visiting dignitaries too, of which 90% have told me they never ate finer food than what they ate in the camps!”
Years ago, when the Collier family asked Bob and his wife, Ruby, to be on the newly formed Friends of Collier Park board, they were happy to help. “I’ve seen a lot of changes,” he says. “It’s absolutely wonderful!” He’s been particularly pleased, not only with park manager Jim Beauchemin’s work to fix up the park, but with the fact that so many of the current board members are lifetime logging industry people. “They worked in logging so they can name 99% of what’s in Collier Park’s logging museum and tell you what it was used for.”
Not only has Bob Elliott been a champion of Collier Park’s Logging Museum, he’s had a lifelong interest in local and regional history.
With his late friend, well-known photographer and historian, Devere Helfrich, he dedicated years of effort to the Klamath Historical Society and Trails West in Reno. They researched and then marked the emigrant trails through this part of the west.
Congratulations on a long life well lived!