Longview looked different in 1966. In particular, it was more local, said Patti Lamb, who moved to Cowlitz County that year from Hood River.
“The restaurants were local. The stores were mom-and-pop stores,” and the closest thing to a chain retailer was Augie Weitz’s Super Valu grocery stores, she recalls.
The mill town also smelled a little different, Lamb, 61, said with a smirk. “My biggest childhood memory of Longview is the smell,” she said, laughing.
She lived in the area before the mills were cleaned up, but she remembers well the smelly car rides to Longview. She teased that each time she and her family passed Kalama, they’d take a “nice deep breath” of Longview’s odor.
But there were perks to the town being centered around the mill. Everyone knew everyone, she said. It was filled with people whose families had roots that dated back to the town’s founding in 1923.
She said she “had trouble going through town without seeing someone you were related to or had cousins in common.”
Lamb’s own family has Longview roots that date back to 1923. Her grandfather spent his formative years in a Chicago suburb, where his family settled after coming to America from Germany. When he turned 15, he moved West, ending up first in Idaho, where he met Lamb’s grandmother.
But he didn’t find the success he wanted in Idaho, so in 1922 he headed for Southwest Washington.
Her grandfather set to work helping to shape the fledgling town. Based on old photographs, Lamb said her family believes her grandfather helped dig out Fowler’s Slough to create Lake Sacajawea.
“He helped level the building site for Long-Bell’s (lumber mill).”
He also helped build the city’s main streets, which are laid out in a spoke or “wagon wheel” pattern, Lamb added.
“Any time I’m driving down one of the core streets of the wagon wheel, I know that my grandpa worked there getting it ready for the concrete to come in.”
Lamb said Longview hasn’t lost its charm. She enjoys the comfort of a small town. She said even the new people moving to Longview — people who don’t have roots in the town — are doing “amazing things for the city and population in general.”
“We’ve become more diversified, more separate,” she said. “It’s still small town, and I still love it, but it’s definitely different than it was.”
Lamb was raised in the home of a longshoreman. Her stepfather had union ties, and she remembers her mother shopped exclusively at union stores.
“The strength of the union was a big deal, and it was quite an interesting trick for my mother to figure out how to buy groceries when the grocery clerks were on strike,” she said, laughing at the memory. “My stepfather absolutely refused to allow my mother to cross the picket line.”
When the grocery clerks went on strike in the late 1960s, Lamb said it was difficult for her mom to shop at smaller-scale stores, which sold food at much higher prices.
“That was quite the challenge for my mom to stay within the budget and honor the picket lines,” she said.
Lamb said she believes the city’s heyday is yet to come. It’s still growing, she said, adding that the city is relatively young.
Ultimately, though, Lamb said much of her satisfaction with the city comes from knowing her relatives helped build and shape it.
“It’s a little bit of family pride to be part of a town that my grandfather helped build.