Lois Blythe, an Extraordinary Heritage of Love

An ordinary saint went home to heaven this week. Lois Larson Blythe looked like the Scandanavian she was: sturdy, strong-jawed, with busy hands and a firm will. She lived more than sixty years in the same community and was happy to be part of it. Her blue eyes could snap with humor, gentle with love, or flash a stern teacher-look that could make even a grown-up former student straighten in his seat.

The young preacher assisting at her memorial service remembered his first meeting with her. She was subbing for his regular teacher. He was five years old and had done something out of line. He felt a yank on his ear and looked up to see her looking down at him with “that” expression in her eye. She told him to mind his manners, and he obeyed immediately. But he knew she loved him.

Her husband Norman was the love of Lois’s life. When they married, she came to live on the Blythe family homestead in the Robe Valley. That’s where they raised their three children and spent most of their married life. When the valley men organized a volunteer fire department, Lois helped to organize a ladies’ auxiliary, the Robe Fire Belles and became a moving force in the fund raising activities that purchased much of the equipment needed for the fire department. She was a long-time member of the Granite Falls Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, where she was “Grandma Blythe” to the church’s children.  She was actively involved with the Granite Falls Historical Society and Granite’s beautiful new museum.

When she and Norman moved down the road to Granite Falls, Lois’s antique grand piano went along. She loved to sing and play the piano, and played for anyone who asked. She kept fresh-baked cookies on hand for the children and adults who stopped by to visit. She listened with her whole self, but when she spoke, people paid attention. Her nine grandchildren, always her pride and joy, knew Grandma was no one to fool with.

She planned her own memorial service, picking joyous, triumphant scripture passages and songs that beautifully expressed the faith she lived by. As she said of herself in her obituary, “Granite Falls is where she lived and heaven is now her home.” Lois Blythe might have been an ordinary type of saint, but she left an extraordinary heritage of love for others.

 Click for more about Lois’s piano: 

Community Newspaper

A famous wrong headline

When I was growing up, a weekly high point for our family was finding the Granite Falls Press in our mailbox. We also received the Everett Daily Herald. In pre-television days, the larger daily paper kept us up to date with events in the wider world beyond our valley. But the local Granite Falls paper chronicled life as it happened to us.

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A few weeks ago, I wondered if any of those long-ago newspapers were still in existence. The logical place to look would be the Granite Falls Historical Museum, a jewel of an institution built by volunteers. Due to limited staffing, it’s presently open only on Sundays but it’s well worth setting aside an afternoon for a visit. We walked in and asked volunteer and former schoolmate, Ted Lefebre, if by chance the museum had a collection of local newspapers. To my delight, he led us to a wooden crate full of well-preserved papers. He’d just readied them for shipment to SmallTownPapers.Inc., a company that specializes in digitizing community newspapers. They’d already scanned part of the collection, which is now available online at the museum for researchers. These were to be processed next.  As we leafed through them, memories of seldom-remembered friends and neighbors flooded back.

When the weekly paper arrived at my childhood home in the community of Robe, we turned first to the “Robe Valley News.” Correspondents in several different neighborhoods kept readers advised of the comings and goings of people the correspondent was best acquainted with. That meant that we seldom read news about some people; too much about others. Still, we enjoyed skimming the neighborhood columns for glimpses into the lives of those we knew.

Today at http://www.smalltownpapers.com, site visitors can search for keywords or names and in seconds find all the mentions of events or people in the collection. When I typed in our surname, Rawlins, I was delighted to find bits and pieces of our family history spanning several decades, starting with my father’s 1939 For Sale ad in a version of the local paper then called The Snohomish County Forum. He offered 1000 27-inch straight split shakes and a nearly new one-and-one-half volt battery radio. That was before Daddy was a logger. He’d come from the North Dakota farm only three years earlier. Now he was splitting shakes for sale, making a living any way he could.

The war years in the early 1940s changed people’s lives. Browsing through those papers brought it alive. Like towns across the country, Granite Falls had to find ways to fill in for essential personnel, such as teachers and business people who were called off to war. Everyone participated in the “war effort.” The community held scrap drives to recycle metal, paper, and even cloth for defense purposes. Shortages of gasoline and rubber tires affected even the school sports programs. Teams were limited to intramural contests because districts cut out extra bus trips. A two-mile walk to school was considered “the best possible form of exercise” as busses were reserved for farther-flung students. Granite Falls couldn’t find a principal for the elementary school in 1942, so a woman teacher was assigned to do that work until at long last, a qualified principal was found. Being an informed, intelligent citizen was touted as a duty and a privilege.

Over the years, family events mentioned in the paper included birthday celebrations, visiting relatives, and the Easter in 1948 when the correspondent wrote that the Delbert Rawlins car recently rolled over with the family in it. “No one was hurt,” she wrote, “but the car was.” Later on, the paper mentioned my brothers’ overseas stints with the army between the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, and then the births of my parents’ first grandchildren.

Announcements in the paper brought back memories of occasional Friday nights at the movies with the whole family. Granite Falls had no movie theater but for a small charge, we could sit in the bleachers at the high-school gymnasium to take in the weekly movies. We’d probably call them “B” movies today. The plots were sometimes corny, the sound scratchy, and of course, the pictures were in black and white. A cartoon and a newsreel accompanied the main feature.

Sometimes the newspaper’s language seemed flowery, the ideas propounded naive. But reading those old papers does not leave the reader depressed and discouraged as some of today’s newspapers can. We need more of the optimistic, we-can-do-it-together spirit expressed back then in today’s world.

And I appreciate past writers’ commitments to reporting the news without slant. This doesn’t mean opinion wasn’t injected into some of the stories, but it wasn’t cleverly disguised. If someone wanted to sway our thinking, they were forthright about it.

You can see for yourself by going to the Granite Falls museum Web site at http://www.gfhistory.org/. Click on the line at the top of the page about searching old newspapers. That takes you to an article by webmaster Mary Deaton that explains how to do a search. Click on the link she gives to go directly to the archives.

Fred Cruger, director of things technological at the museum, explains, “In the future, we may make that link part of a ‘members only’ page (which would result in users having to pay our annual dues of $10 per year to have online access).” Meanwhile, it’s free and will continue to be free to those who physically come to the museum to do research.