Roy Vataja — Stumbling and bumbling through the past

A personal note: As I was sauntering home on the eve of Art Walk 2014, I stumbled and hit the pavement, breaking the fall with my face. As the abrasions heal, it seems a good time to look back at other Harborites who have taken tumbles of varying degrees of seriousness. Whether it is an unfortunate accident or a case of simple human stupidity, the Law of Gravity always wins. The first one is a classic.

While working on the Hoquiam-London road last week Jas. Price stood on the end of a log about 10 feet from the ground and chopped it off. Of course he came down with the log, and was severely injured about the head. — Aberdeen Herald, July 5, 1900

Two Aberdeen newspapers covered this embarrassing tale: WALKS THROUGH AN OPEN WINDOW — Peter Golden walked through an open window last evening about 8 o’clock, mistaking it for the door of his room, and fell two stories to the ground. He suffered no serious injuries beyond a few ugly bruises. Peter was laboring under a full load of tanglefoot, and, instead of going into the California House (on south F Street), where his room is, he entered the house next door. Following the usual route that would have led him to his room in the proper place, he turned to the right, walked through the open window and fell. He landed on the scantlings between the houses, a circumstance that saved him from a bath in the Wishkah. Friends who saw Golden’s fall, took him to the hospital for general repairs. — Aberdeen Daily Bulletin, June 30, 1904

Paul Golden, a logger, walked off a platform over Bedlin’s tailor shop, back of E.B. Benn’s office last Thursday evening and fell to the dock barely escaping a fall into the river. He was full of “enthusiasm”, and thought he was going into the California House. He was taken to the General hospital. — Aberdeen Herald, July 2, 1904

Sometimes the rescue attempt causes more harm than good: Mrs. Peter Clark met with a very painful accident yesterday. In some manner she slipped and fell and as she involuntarily extended her left had to save herself, she laid it flat on the hot stove, burning it severely. — Aberdeen Daily Bulletin, Aug. 11, 1905

FALLS IN MUD, HURT WHILE BEING HELPED OUT — Stepping on a loose board in a sidewalk on West Heron Street near Washington, a young woman was precipitated into the tide fill this morning. She sank to her knees, it is stated, and two men in pulling her out wrenched her back. A physician who was called pronounced the strain a severe one. While the young woman’s name was not taken by the physician, she is said to be a sister of a Mrs. Henderson living near the scene of the accident. She is confined to her home suffering from her mishap. — Aberdeen Daily World, Sept. 13, 1913

Construction in general is hazardous, but house painters tend to take more falls, sometimes with tragic results: IS BURIED IN FERNHILL — Ferdinand Pfiefer a member of the Aberdeen Painters Union fell from a scaffold on the O’Hare building (southwest corner of Heron and F Streets) Wednesday afternoon and was almost instantly killed. The exact cause for the accident is not known but the fall was a frightful one, some 30 feet and Pfeifer was a heavy man weighing over 200 pounds. The Painters Union took charge of the body, it was conveyed to the Beardsley undertaking parlors and a committee consisting of E.W. Hunter and Frank Rogers was appointed to investigate the affairs of the dead man. He was a German by birth, had been a painter for 15 years, was unmarried and joined the Aberdeen local in April. He had bequeathed his union benefits to the Aberdeen local but as he had not been a member long enough to be entitled to them there will be none due the union. Messrs. Hunter and Rogers went to Montesano, Thursday to attend the legal matters in the case and Mr. Hunter telegraphed to Portland for information. Pfeifer had a credit of $70 at the Hayes &Hayes Bank which was used to defray funeral expenses.

The funeral services were conducted from the undertaking parlors Friday afternoon, the members of the Painters Union laying aside their work and attending in a body, Rev. Cloyd of the Baptist church having charge of the services and J.J. Robinson, Brown Biggs, Fred Greenwood, DeWitt Borton, D.W. Harrows, C.C. Carpenter and Wm. Marshall acting as pall bearers.

J. Tiefenthaler, a stone mason in the city who was a friend of the dead man, sent two beautiful bouquets of flowers to be placed upon the casket.

Though the dead man was without relatives here, he was surrounded by friends whose fraternal spirit guarded him to his last rest. — Grays Harbor Post, July 9, 1904

FALLS FROM LADDER; MAY BE SERIOUSLY INJURED — Falling 10 or 12 feet from a ladder while painting this forenoon, J.J. Robinson, the well-known decorator, is thought to have suffered severe injuries. He was taken to his home in a semi-conscious condition, but since has recovered his senses, but suffers much pain. Dr. D.A. Schumacher, the attending physician, says no bones were broken and that there are no evidences of dangerous symptoms as yet, though Mr. Robinson received a severe shaking up. — Aberdeen Daily World, Nov. 16, 1912

Usually though, it is just an embarrassing event: PAINTER AND PAINT FALL – Slipping from a roof in the tide flat district, falling 30 feet to the ooze below and receiving a bath in creosote paint, is the experience that late yesterday afternoon befell John Stanford, a painter in this city. He was engaged in painting the roof of a dwelling on First Street when suddenly the ladder gave way. The roof was steep, and although Stanford did his best to stick to the slippery roof, his efforts were fruitless and he tobogganed over the eaves and slipped sprawling into the soft mud of the tide flats. He was accompanied by a can of nice creosote paint, which didn’t reach the ground as quickly as Stanford, but managed to get there in time to turn bottom upward over his head while he was floundering in the mud, adding its sticky covering to the coating of mud he had already received. No bones were broken and no injury done except the wasting of the paint. — Aberdeen World, Sept. 23, 1909

And finally, a scene more often seen in movies, and saved by shoes bought from Jeff Garman, the Aberdeen shoe man: Last Friday Nick Hoffman, who is driving a horse on one of Wilson’s wood carts, slipped on a banana peel on the Heron street bridge, and fell under the wheels of his cart. The cart, loaded with wood, passed over his foot, and he says that his foot would have been crushed had it not been for the fact that he had on a pair of Jeff’s shoes. — Aberdeen Herald, July 30, 1896

Roy Vataja is the son of Finnish immigrants and has learned that walking with his hands in his pockets drastically cuts down on reaction time.


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