Second centennial tea depicts mid-century Westwood
July 29, 2013 — What was Westwood like in the 1950s and 1960s? That was the point of discussion for 12 people who lived in the town during those two decades. They shared memories at a centennial tea hosted by the Old Mill Café Saturday afternoon, July 20.
Children were influenced by the neighborhood in which they grew up and for those living in Westwood before the mill closed, this place of work for many residents still had an impact on families.
The sound of the shift whistle is forever imbedded in the memories of Linda Maloy Wright. Distracted by mill workers unloading logs, John Yderrega would stop on the bridge between Old Town (Pinetown) and Westwood to watch on his way to school and arrive late to class. Donna Maloy Mason remembers visiting her grandfather at the guardhouse leading into the mill.
A rural, company-owned town in the mountains was the setting in which children played and learned. A favorite activity in the winter was hooking cars, according to Carol Oxford Mason. This entailed grabbing the back bumper of a car and sliding along the snow and ice on the soles of your shoes. Gary Wright remembered a time when so many children were attached to the bumper the driver couldn’t make it up the icy hill.
Hilda Wunderlich Morlang said children and residents were good at creating fun. For example, they pushed snow at the end of Greenwood Street into a mound for a ski hill. Residents would block off Elm Street near the hospital to slide down the hill.
“Children always found things to do,” said Billy Kirk.
Games mentioned by the discussion panel included kick the can, hide and go seek, baseball and riding bikes. The school district provided opportunity for organized sports.
Families made their living in a variety of ways; even though the mill was operating during the early 1950s it wasn’t the career path of all residents. People worked for the school system, logged in the woods and some took in boarders. Janice Taylor Gilmer said her father was the projectionist at the local theater.
The lifestyle of the town was also influenced by the background and culture of those who moved to Westwood. Caroline Regenato Medici gave insight into life in Old Town, which was an international community on the east side of the millponds. Her parents purchased grapes in September to make wine, as did other Italian families. The aroma of wine was in the air each fall throughout Old Town. Residents also enjoyed an abundance of homemade tortillas from Hispanic residents.
People knew one another so there was no need to lock the doors or close the curtains, said Sandra Ferguson Lear. She lived in Clear Creek and would walk to Westwood.
Her brother, Terry, was a freshman in high school when the family moved to Westwood in 1951 and he remembers his pink shirt and gray pants was not the appropriate attire for the campus. “It was a blue jeans and logging shirt kind of town,” he explained.
Those moving from a metropolitan area often experienced a culture shock. Lynne Issac Gillis said her mother thought the house her family moved into in 1944 was a shack.
The town in which those on the panel lived as a child no longer exists. It is but a memory. Terry Ferguson said each time he rounds the corner of Third and Ash streets he sees the Big Store and when he drives past Calfire at Third and Greenwood streets he sees the old high school.
Judy Maloy Harris remembers when the smoke stacks, which were a focal point, were pulled from the mill. Westwood was no longer a mill town.
The panel discussion at the second centennial tea was facilitated by Sheri Binswanger, the chair of the Westwood Centennial Celebration Committee and member of the board of directors for the Westwood Chamber of Commerce. It was filmed by Molly Barber, a videographer and owner of Destination Unknown Films.
The owners of the Old Mill Café that include Rod, Connie and Jason Theobald provided refreshments for the free event which packed the house.
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