The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

Ray Mattson



The life and times of Raymond O. (Ray) Mattson, as written by Ray Mattson.

“This won't be easy but I'll give it a try. I was born January 6, 1918 in The Dalles Hospital in The Dalles, Oregon, the ninth and last child of John and Mary E. Wiidanen Mattson. I had seven brothers and one sister. They were as follows: 1899 Edward, 1901 Chester, 1902 Otis, 1904 Alvin (who died at birth), 1906 Ivan, 1908 Ted, 1910 Hazel, 1912 Richard, 1914 Maurice, 1918 yours truly, Ray. I must have been a mistake as all the rest came two years apart and I came along after four years.

“Being the little guy wasn't all that easy. Whenever all the guys were going someplace they would tell me "you can't go you're too little" or "you'll just be in the way." I always thought that my mom was the only one that really loved me.

“In 1924 I started school at Centerville. At that time the school house was only four years old. I was very bashful. In 1928 my brother Ted died in The Dalles Hospital on my 10th birthday. In 1929 our house burned down in late august just before school started. I lost all of my school clothes. The folks rented a house in Centerville so we could go to school. I was in the 6th grade.

“Two of my brothers stayed at the ranch and took care of the livestock. They lived in the old wash house. It was very cold that winter. The next spring Dad built a one-room house we used for the kitchen and living quarters. They moved an old house from north of our place which we used for bedrooms.

“So the next school year we were able to go to school from home. School in those days was for nine months regardless of the weather. Sometimes in a wagon, sometimes in a bobsled. But we went every day. When the weather got better it was in a Model T Ford truck with canvas side curtains and wooden seats.

“I started high school in 1932. I graduated in 1936 with four classmates, Merle Wiidanen, Joseph Olson, Virginia Aholz and Inez Kern.

“I was very good at playing basketball, baseball and track--four years of each sport. In the spring of 1937 I went to work for my brother, Ed, in Sundale. I worked there in summers and went to diesel engineering school in the winters for two years. I got sick in 1940 and was told that I would be dead in two years if I did not get to some place to get more iodine. I went to Astoria, Oregon to stay with my brother Maurice and his wife Doris. I ate lots of seafood. I went to work for Pacific Auto Repair working on autos and fish boats. There were three fish canneries in Astoria at that time and about 3000 fishing boats. The union kept after me to join so I decided to quit.

“The city was looking for a dozer operator so I applied for the job although I had never been on one but I was a good cat skinner. I got the job and was sent up the hills above Svenson to the water works to clear the fire roads of fallen trees and winter damage. That's where I learned to be an operator. I then was sent back to town to use on many jobs such as putting in new streets and other jobs around town. I later worked for the water department as a meter reader and repairman. After that I was drafted into the Army. That was in May, 1942. So I went to Centerville to get ready to go. I took my girlfriend home with me to meet my family. I was going to ask her to marry me. Her name was Gertrude Smith. Gert died May 31, 2009. She was in assisted living homes for about four years. We were married for almost 67 years.

“We came to Goldendale after the war. I went to work for Wilson's Implement Co. as a mechanic. I was hired for a two-week tryout. Seventeen years later I quit after Wilson's sold out. I then took over the Broadway Union Service Station in 1962. I owned it for one year. In 1963 we moved to Warwick and farmed my brother Otis' ranch. I farmed it on shares. That didn't work so I talked him into letting me lease the ranch. I bought his equipment and Gert and I started farming on our own. We didn't' make much money on that place so we leased more land from other neighbors. The two of us worked together. She was very good help and a good truck driver. In 1965 my brother Richard died. I took over the home place. My mother owned half of it and Dick's widow had the other half. I bought Mom's half and a couple years later I bought my sister-in-law's half. It took us 30 years to pay off that debt. We kept leasing more and more land. We ended up farming 4000 acres with seven ownerships that meant more and more equipment. We had to operate on borrowed money. At 18 percent interest, that ain't easy.

“I decided to retire at age 80. Otis came back to his ranch and our son David farmed our place for two years. After that I leased it to Jim Sizemore who still farms it. I sold 160 acres that I paid $50 per acre for $160,000. Pretty good investment!

“In my lifetime I have done all kinds of work including plumbing, carpentry, mechanic, farmer, small businessman, logger, truck driver, road work, etc. Also meter reader and working with cattle, riding and vet work. Whatever I have done with my life, I did it my way.”

Ray Mattson passed away in The Dalles, Oregon on May 13, 2012 at the age of 94. He is survived by son David Mattson of Centerville; daughter Pauline Rae Mattson of Portland; seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren. A funeral service will be held on Monday, May 21 at Columbia Hills Memorial Chapel in Goldendale at 1 p.m.


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