History Mystery

Spring Into History Day organizers hope to find more information about 1940s photos recently discovered in a desk at the Camas paper mill

Crown Zellerbach paper mill workers wait to start their shift sometime during the 1940s. The Coca-Cola sign in the background is attached to the building that now houses the Mill Corner Tavern at Northeast Fourth and Adams Street. The building the employees are sitting in front of no longer exists. Columbia River Paper Co. was incorporated in 1884 by Henry L. Pittock, publisher of The Oregonian. It became Crown Zellerbach following a merger in 1928, which it remained for 60 years.

Upcoming Events celebrating Camas history

First Friday

When: Friday, April 4, from 5 to 8 p.m.

Where: Downtown Camas

What: Activities will include a history hunt, crafts and face painting for kids, toilet paper toss, old fashioned toys, games, live music and special discounts and offerings at local stores.

Info: www.downtowncamas...

Spring Into History Day

When: Saturday, April 26; specific times are still being finalized

Where: Downtown Camas

What: Activities are expected to include a scavenger hunt, speakers, walking tours, historical displays, and a chance for local residents to record their own memories.

Info: www.downtowncamas...

Do you recognize anyone in these photos?

Downtown Camas Association officials are hoping to receive information about the people and events depicted in the photos that were part of the album of negatives recently discovered in a desk at the Georgia-Pacific paper mill.

Three of those photos appear on page B1 of today’s Post-Record. And, each Tuesday leading up to the April 26 Spring Into History Day the Post-Record will publish another photo from the album. Information can be e-mailed to info@downtowncama...

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A book negatives found in 2013 at GP included photos of servicemen that were likely taken in the 1940s during World War II.

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A sign in front of the Camas paper mill during World War II encourages employees to “Back the Attack Buy More Bonds.” War bonds, known as debt securities, financed military operations during war time. They were seen as a way to remove money from circulation as well as reduce inflation.

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The 3 by 4 inch negatives found in the small album included pictures of Camas mill machinery, employees, events honoring servicemen returning from World War II, and other subjects including a women’s bowling league team. “The problem is, not many people are living here now who recognize these former mill workers and their families,” said Barb Baldus, organizer of an upcoming event celebrating local history. Downtown Camas Association officials are hoping to learn more about the people in the photographs.

Camas has a history mystery on its hands.

In 2013, a Georgia-Pacific paper mill engineer was cleaning out his desk in preparation to move to a new office, when he reached his hand deep into a drawer and accidently discovered what appeared to be a small black book.

Printed on its spine in gold colored lettering was “Kodak negative album,” and inside were approximately 100, 3 by 4 inch negatives along with a log detailing the month and day the photos were taken.

According to Caroline Mercury, the mill’s quality manager, as it turns out the pictures were likely taken 70 years ago.

“Who knows how long it had been back there,” she said. “I thought we had a lot of photos already. You would think everything would have been uncovered by now, as everybody has moved around. It’s a little treasure.”

Mercury is known to her co-workers to have a special interest in mill history. Previously, she coordinated the donation of several hundred wooden patterns for foundry molds for making machine parts to the Downtown Camas Association. The fundraiser generated nearly $15,000 for the non-profit.

“The person who found the negatives knew I was interested in mill history, so he brought them to me,” she said. “They are beautiful. They are large format negatives, and there are pictures of people, equipment and of the rudder shop and ship parts.”

The latter two, in particular, were among the key indicators as to when the photos were taken. During World War II, the Camas mill, then known as Crown Zellerbach, made parts for the Liberty ships that were constructed in the Kaiser shipyards in Vancouver.

“The pictures, actually oversized negatives carefully inserted into thin paper sleeves and numbered, show a way of life that has changed considerably since 1944 when most of these were taken,” said Barb Baldus, a Camas resident who is helping to organize an upcoming event that celebrates the city’s past. “The camera used dates from 40 years earlier, according to a photography buff, based on the large size of the negatives.”

Another paper mill employee researched where to get the negatives developed, and was able to track down a specialty photo shop in Portland where contact sheets could be printed.

Baldus is hoping more information can be gathered about the vintage photographs during the next few weeks leading up to a April 26 “Spring Into History Day” event in downtown Camas.

“The mystery of these snapshots arrives at a time when the Downtown Camas Association is celebrating “Spring Into History,” in April, with an emphasis on the business district’s roots and the very beginnings of the paper mill,” she said.

In addition to the photos that appear on page B1 of today’s Post-Record, each week the newspaper will print another photo from the newly discovered negatives or other mystery photos.

“If you see a relative or friend, or perhaps yourself, in [any of the pictures], please send the details to info@downtowncamas.com. The information will be shared with Post-Record readers and used to preserve this slice of paper mill — and downtown Camas — life.”

‘Spring Into History’

April will begin and end with spotlights on local history.

On First Friday, April 4, there will be activities for all ages including mustache and paper crafts with photos, old time photos, face painting, toilet paper toss, old fashioned toy activities, live music, games and a history hunt with prizes.

Carrie Schulstad, DCA executive director, described Camas history as “cool,” encouraging people to “explore” and “have fun.”

“This is a great way for people who are new to Camas to discover our history,” she said. “It is a big reason Camas is what it is today.”

Then, just a few weeks later, “Spring Into History Day” on April 26 will be an afternoon event that will include a photo scavenger hunt with prizes, walking history tour, displays by the Two Rivers Heritage Museum and Georgia-Pacific, and talks by longtime local residents such as Virginia Warren who grew up in Camas and has turned the story of her early years into a presentation of old photos and memories.

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