Woods Reader

In 1941 Dorothy Anne Hobson was a name on the lips of the president of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and in the heart of his wife Eleanor. The 12 year old girl from the company town of Valsetz, Oregon was finishing up her third year of editing a newspaper entitled The Valsetz Star which had basked in as much glory as any newspaper could in 1930’s America, gaining readers such as Shirley Temple, and Herbert Hoover. The paper received further fame when it was read on radio stations all around the United States. 1941 is the year in which The Valsetz Star was put to bed, after having been published for three years in Valsetz; the end of a lonely 30-mile stretch of muddy road.

The newspaper was started by 9-year-old Dorothy in 1937 as a way to keep the inhabitants of the small town of Valsetz up to speed on all things noteworthy; dances, important visitors, the weather (rain), fashion, and whatever else came to mind. The logging town of Valsetz was owned by Cobbs and Mitchell, who built it in 1919 in order to effectively and economically process a large tract of timber on the coast range, in an area know today as “The Valley of the Giants.” The railroad used for transporting the timber was the Valley & Siletz Railroad, a bit of clever re-arranging of the letters lends to the name of “Valsetz.” This is an area which receives approximately 120” of rain a year, so those 1,000 residents of Valsetz in the late 1930’s likely needed that monthly newspaper, which was written by Dorothy, to help stave away cabin fever!

With witty and precocious observations it is no wonder that the newspaper edited by the daughter of the cookhouse managers and printed by the company’s Portland office was a national hit:

1937: “We believe in hemlock, fir, kindness and Republicans.”

1939: “Mother has some new corsets for a waist like a wasp, but when she laces them real tight she faints.”

1940: “A few people have written us dreadful letters for supporting Wendell Wilkie (for president), but they did not sign their names. Please don’t be ashamed of your name. We are not ashamed of ours.”

Over time, Valsetz evolved from a booming a logging town to a a mill town, then eventually changing ownership over to Boise Cascade which fell in 1984. Today, the town of Valsetz, and it’s national newspaper, are but memories among a tree farm. There is a group of Valsetzians on social media, and Google Maps can find it. I believe that though the town was raized by it’s owner, Boise Cascade, in 1984, there are still a lot of people who wax nostalgic for Valsetz, Valley of the Giants, town at the end of a 50 minute drive down a 15 mile road. It must have been a beautiful place to live and the Valsetzians likely miss the camaraderie with the woods terribly. The aroma of pine would have been thickly laced in moss, and the trees tall enough for an adventurous youngster to touch the sky. The elk and deer were plentiful, and the fishing stupendous. The law was nil; it was not needed when the company was the law and no stranger is going to drive up that road or ride that train to commit a crime.

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