Roy Vataja — A fistful of Harbor firsts

Seeing as how we have just celebrated the first day of spring, it seems as good a time as any to look back at some firsts in Aberdeen and Grays Harbor County history as reported in the papers of the time.

SMUGGLING: (Aberdeen Herald, February 20, 1896) Captains Hughes and Reed, who were arrested last May by Deputy Collector Autzen for smuggling cigars, went to Tacoma last week and plead guilty before the federal court and paid fines of $50 each. This was the first arrest ever made on the harbor for smuggling, and shows that Deputy Autzen understands his business.

FIRST FEMALE DOCTOR: (Grays Harbor Post, June 9, 1906) Dr. Frances P. Waugh has opened offices in rooms 6 and 7, Lumber Exchange block, cor. G and Heron. She makes a specialty of the diseases and ailments of women and children. Phone 2441.

FIRST WOMAN VOTER: (Aberdeen World, January 3, 1911) First Woman Registers In Aberdeen As Voter - Registering for the purpose of voting at the primary election next March Mrs. Hilda Willponene, of South Aberdeen, at the city clerk’s office this morning was the first woman in Aberdeen, and perhaps Chehalis (now Grays Harbor) county, who signed the roll under the new law by which women of Washington are entitled to vote.

Mrs. Willponene is not only the first woman to register under the new law, but is so far the only woman to register.

There are about 40 men registered. It will be necessary for all voters in Aberdeen to register now for the year 1911 in order to vote at the elections which are to be held during the present year.

FIRST SPEEDING TICKET: (Aberdeen World, May 8, 1913) Weatherwax Is Grabbed After Hard Road Chase: Aberdeen Lumberman Is First To Be Nailed For Auto Speeding — Deputy Sheriffs Fitzgerald and Pennell were out to serve papers in the County’s Ford auto, and it was put-a-put-a-put-a-putting along at a pretty good hickory, when from behind there was a screeching warning and a big Packard Six went whizzing by like a rabbit passes a turtle.

Fitz was driving. Pennell, who is also official road patrolman, sputtered:

“Looky, looky, Fitz, that’s her. That’s the guy that threw dust in my face till I couldn’t see his number the other day.”

Fitz opened the throttle wide. He tramped on the accelerator. He pushed on the steering gear. The old Ford responded nobly. She lay back her ears and stretched her legs and sped over the ground, but the best she could do was keep the dust speck ahead in sight. They followed it into Aberdeen and with water cooler boiling and ignition plug shooting flames overtook it after it had stopped at a garage.

As a consequence, C.M. Weatherwax is under agreement to appear before a justice in Montesano and plead guilty or not guilty to running an automobile at a speed in excess of 24 miles an hour.

Pennell hasn’t got his 7-horsepower autocycle yet. He says the old County motor is all tight, when it comes to going down hill, but — well; he says most of the speed violators refuse to stop and wait for him at the top of the hills.”

“Just you wait,” says Pennell, “when I get a machine I don’t have to get off to push going up hills, I’ll get some of these speed-bugs, see if I don’t.”

FIRST FEMALE DRUNK DRIVER: (Aberdeen World, December 18, 1923) Woman Figures As Tipsy Driver — As the first woman ever arrested and found guilty in this county of driving an automobile while intoxicated, Mabel Johnson was fined $50 and costs and forced to give up her driver’s license for 60 days yesterday by Justice of the Peace W.W. Smith, of Cosmopolis. She was arrested last week by Captain of Detectives Frank O’Brien and Detective R.J. Schmidt of the Aberdeen police, following a collision between her and another.

And finally this story, as reported on by the Aberdeen World on July 1, 1923:

TEAR BOMB IN HALL IS CAUSE OF WEEPING: Tear gas made its first appearance in Aberdeen Sunday evening when a gas bomb was set off in the hallway of the Allen Rooms, 309 ½ South F Street. The fumes trapped three men, two women and a bulldog in the apartments. The fire department was called to rescue the inmates. The firemen were forced to use gas masks.

Patrolman William Estep and L.L. Sherman responded to the call for help and found the men and women leaning out of the upstairs windows. One man was holding the bulldog out of a window. The dog was weeping most, as he could not be captured for a time and ran up and down the hall past the bomb.

Fire Chief William Tamblyn located the bomb and carried it into the street. He was partially blinded as a result. Roomers at the house were slightly affected by the fumes.

Chief of Police George S. Dean said the bomb was a product of the United States army which is being used by police officials of the larger cities of the state to rout dangerous criminals out of buildings. He was unable to determine how the bomb was secured or who placed it in the hall. After airing over 15 hours the fumes were still strong in the rooms.

Roy Vataja is the son of Finnish immigrants. In 1968, his father, Eino, was the first person to be revived at Community Hospital by Dr. John Ehrhart using the then-new defibrillator.


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