Our Senior of the Month for June 2018, is Helen (Harnish) Wolgamott! Helen and her family are one of the oldest families in Eagle Point. Her ancestors can be traced back to the Mayflower and her family members came across on the Oregon Trail in 1853. The Harnish family moved to Eagle Point in 1900. And the Taylor family (Helen’s mother’s side) moved from Cherry Lane, near Roxy Ann, to Eagle Point in 1908. They were married in 1915. Helen was born at home in 1928, the youngest of four children. Dr. Holt drove out from Medford in his car, and he stayed overnight at their home the night before Helen was born. Helen is the youngest of four children, 2 boy and 2 girls. Her brothers are gone and her remaining sister lives in Reno and is in ill health. Helen has 5 granddaughters, 3 of whom graduated from Oregon State, and one grandson. She has 6 great-granddaughters. Her eldest great-grandchild is 8!
Helen has worked many jobs outside the home. She worked for two power companies, California Oregon Power Company (COPC) and for Pacific Power. She was a key punch operator and a bookkeeper. She lived and worked in Reno for 7 years while her husband, Richard, got his degree in education from the University of Nevada. She worked for Sierra Pacific Power there. Later on she worked for Farmers Insurance and the telephone company.
Richard moved his family to Eagle Point where he became a teacher and remained a teacher for 15 years. He then worked for the County Recreation Department for 6 years. Richard passed away in 1979 from service-related injuries that he contracted in the Korean War. He left Helen with a son in the 8th grade and an ailing mother. They all lived on an acreage which also had to be cared for and Helen was working full-time. It was hard! Sometimes she would have to hire someone to care for the sheep while she was working and it began to cost more than she made. She decided to move on. The lesson learned in these hard times was “One finds out about the things one can do when they have to!”
I found out why Harnish Wayside is shaped like a barn! Helen’s dad used to run a livery stable in what is now Bob Moore Park so the barn shape is a nod to Mr. Harnish’ past occupation. The Harnish property stretched from where the Ace Hardware store is to the creek, then over to old Highway 62. In 1947 the property was split down the middle and new 62 came to be.
Helen entertained me with good memories. She told me about her brother, Earl, who was involved in WWII and was gone for 5 years. He acquired a colt whose mother had died so the colt was “raised on a bucket” according to Helen. Later on, they had to be careful because if they had a pail of milk they had to hurry because if that horse (Pepper) saw that pail of milk, he would run after them.
She and Richard decided to keep sheep because one could handle them, unlike cattle. Helen learned how to deliver lambs and how to give them their shots (she hated that). They didn’t have to buy special equipment. Helen remembers piling the kids and the sheep in the station wagon, if they had to take the sheep somewhere!
She remembers that her mother used to make Helen’s bloomers out of flour sacks from the Mill. Helen loved those bloomers because they were so comfortable! She was disappointed when her mother announced that she was no longer going to make her bloomers. She had to buy “commercial” bloomers from then on! She also remembers garter belts to hold up your socks. At least your legs were covered in the cold weather.
Helen is amazed by modern technology. She told me that she was astounded that she could reach her daughter in Spain, instantly, on the cell phone. Instantaneous communications! She related the story of her grandfather who always claimed that he was born at the same, exact time that Oregon became a state in 1859. Years later, Helen discovered that Oregon became a state in February of 1859 and her grandfather was born in May of that year. Quite a gap in time! Well, Oregon became a state some time before the people of southern Oregon knew about it. The law was passed in Washington DC in February, they had to inform Salem. This took several weeks on horseback in the winter and then several more weeks for word to get down to the good folks in Medford and surrounding communities.
Helen believes you need to live one day at a time and live it to the best of your ability. She also thinks we should treat people how we would like to be treated. I asked her what she looked forward to and she told me she wants to see her last grandchild, Taylor, graduated from Oregon State on June 16. She has been to all the others and she is determined to make it to this one.
Helen told me that all her lifetime spent in Eagle Point, she has heard people remark about how Eagle Point people are stupid and somehow, not “up to par.” She has set out to change that! She is active in the city’s museum. She personally planted flowers at the Museum and on many corners in the downtown area. Additionally, Helen is the driving force behind the Avenue of Flags. On each national holiday, Helen and her crew position flags all the way from Ray’s Food Store to Stevens Road via main street. The flags adorn the Harnish Wayside and both bridges that span Little Butte Creek. Every one of these flags are casket flags that have been given to Helen for this very purpose. Since she started this endeavor, it has been taken over by the Chamber of Commerce, but the flags would not be an attraction of Eagle Point if it were not for Helen Wolgamott! She is a treasure to our town and we are grateful for all she does.