In her 89 years, Dorothy Gevers-Wojtowych has experienced much of Longview’s history. She doesn’t think the schools are as good as they used to be, and homelessness is getting worse, but all-in-all, Gevers-Wojtowych thinks Longview is great place to live with its trees and theater groups.
Gevers-Wojtowych was born in Wisconsin but moved here in 1927 when her father, Herman Gevers, helped start the Longview Fibre Co. mill. She remembers watching the construction of the Lewis and Clark Bridge, originally known as the Longview-Rainier bridge.
“We couldn’t wait until we could go over,” said Gevers-Wojtowych, who still bursts with enthusiasm.
After high school, Gevers-Wojtowych went away to college and to teach, returning to Longview for a spell. She also lived in Amboy and Bend, before moving back to her parents’ home on Longview’s Old West Side in 1987 after a 42-year absence.
“When I moved over here, people said ‘Don’t go back – it’s not the same,’” she said. “I couldn’t have been happier since I came back.” And Gevers-Wojtowych said quite a few other people in her high school class have moved away but returned, too.
“We have all kinds of good culture here,” Gevers-Wojtowych said. “Think of all the drama groups we have.” She also likes the Longview Outdoor Gallery of sidewalk sculptures.
“When people say, ‘What is there to do in Longview?’ I say, ‘Do you have your head screwed on or what?’”
Friends who come to visit from out of town praise Longview’s beauty. “They mention the lake and trees,” she said.
Not daunted by the rain, Gevers-Wojtowych said that “the weather is ideal for people. I have a feeling this will be a drawing card for the elderly.”
Another plus is a good health care system and Community Hospice. And from her home, she can walk to the library and Lake Sacajawea.
Of course, she has to lock the doors when she leaves — something her family didn’t have to do in the 1930s. She’ll even lock the back door if she’s working in the front yard.
“We draw all the people that need all the help,” she said. “Other places send their homeless here.
“I think all this help doesn’t do the people any good. They don’t learn how to take care of themselves.”
However, she said the community used to do better taking care of the mentally ill.
“I’ve been panhandled I can’t tell you how many times at the 15th Avenue Safeway,” she said. She doesn’t believe the lines she hears about their hardships, but “I still feel sorry for these people.”
“I’m a great believer in the schools,” said Gevers-Wojtowych, who was a teacher herself. “In our day the schools were considered really tops, and I’m afraid they aren’t now.” Kids aren’t challenged enough, she said.
However, she sympathizes with schools’ challenges today. “The babies born to drug addicts don’t have a chance. I think the schools are doing the best they can.” Good teachers retire as soon as they can because “they can’t take it any longer,” Gevers-Wojtowych said.
She said government needs to be more receptive to industrial development. “They vote against anything that could make Longview have an economic base,” she said. “No coal. No oil.”
Gevers-Wojtowych recently found a plaque in the house that summarizes the city’s early optimism. It says “Longview 1930 — Fifty Thousand.” The city’s current population is around 36,500, still short of a population goal city founders had hoped to reach more than a half century ago.
But Gevers-Wojtowych still is optimistic. “I think we’re going through a rough piece right now,” she said. “I still think Longview has a bright future ahead of us.”