A century ago on the family property out on Woods Creek Road a few miles west of Philomath, William and Estella Quetschke celebrated the arrival of their first child. The date was Oct. 26, 1923, and a midwife was on hand at the rural home to help deliver the baby — a little girl they named Ethel.
On Thursday morning, Ethel Post sat in a chair in a west Corvallis assisted living facility on her 100th birthday. A family gathering had occurred the weekend before and another celebration at the church she attends was in the works for the coming Sunday. Draped over her lap was a purple blanket that the facility’s staff had given to her. A paper bag full of birthday cards sat nearby unopened — she still hadn’t been able to get to them all.
“I haven’t even stopped, I don’t think, long enough to even think about it,” Ethel said when asked what it felt like to reach 100. “I mean, I’m here … I know I just never thought I’d live that long.”
Ethel’s connection to Philomath over the past century is as strong as any around the community and she’s been a witness to the changes of time through the years. She recalls the days of board sidewalks and three grocery stores in town. For recreation, she remembers being one of the kids who often traveled over to the Lewisburg roller-skating rink.
“They had a name for it but I can’t remember it now but anyway, that’s where we met for skating,” Ethel said, most likely referencing the old Lake Park rink that still stands today north of Corvallis. “It was a popular place even when I was in grade school.”
A roller-skating rink opened in Philomath in later years.
The Quetschke family’s history in the area dates to 1911. Ethel’s grandfather, William Quetschke (same name as her father), was born in Germany and came to the United States in 1882. The family settled in Kansas and over the following decades also lived in Illinois and North Dakota before moving to the Woods Creek property.
In the years that followed Ethel’s birth, the family grew to four children — a brother, Vernon, was born in 1925, another brother, Virgil, in 1927, and a sister, Helen, in 1931.
“We were born out there and of course, then we took it over,” Ethel said. “We lived on that place for quite a while and now my grandsons are on it.”
When Ethel was a young child, she was among the students in the Woods Creek vicinity attending classes in a one-room schoolhouse. The school was lost to a fire around 1930 and the rural kids were then bussed to Philomath.
“I went for two years out there and then the schoolhouse burned,” Ethel said. “It was too close to school starting and so we had to go to Philomath ever since then because they never did build another school.”
Ethel, who would’ve been in the age range of 5 to 7 at the time, remembers “the great big furnace for heating” and that the school was a little over a mile from where she lived — a cousin would stop by and pick her up for the trip.
In later years as a teenager, Ethel attended Philomath High School and graduated with the Class of 1942. The ceremony took place May 22 on the school stage that year with Arvid Bogue as the valedictorian and Ethel as the salutatorian. “Push, pull or get out of the way” was the class motto.
Ethel attended classes in the high school, which was later destroyed by a fire in 1956, more than eight decades ago. She described how the building was laid out.
“The girls bathroom was down in the basement, well, I guess the boys was, too but you went through a different door,” she said. “And then we had two levels above the basement level and they each had three classes on each (floor).”
Ethel was involved in 4-H for several years.
“I and another girl gave a demonstration and we went to Portland … at a state fair or whatever it was,” she said. “We gave a demonstration … on arranging flowers because we were with the Flower Club is what we were doing.”
Ethel recalls one of the more exciting moments of the excursion when a 4-H leader took her and two other girls on a side trip.
“When she got ready to bring us home, she took us across (the border with Washington) so we could say we’ve been out of the state of Oregon,” Ethel said.
Ethel met her future husband, Melvin Post, at a dance.
“His folks started coming to the dance and they ended up being musicians,” she said, Melvin being the son of Orrin and Mabel Post. “So it was several years that they came to the dance and that’s where I met him.”
Ethel and Melvin were married in March 1945 at the home of the Rev. A.S. Henderson, which served as the parsonage of the First United Brethren Church. Melvin was on leave from the U.S. Navy during the final months of World War II.
“We went to the pastor’s house with a fella that was a dear friend of his and a gal that was my dear friend,” Ethel said. “We were the only ones that were in the pastor’s house.”
Melvin was in the service from 1943-46 and served on the USS Reno.
Ethel’s cousin, Henry Quetschke, who was a few years older than her, lost his life in the South Pacific during World War II.
“You took everything in as it comes, you know,” she said when asked if those were tense years during the war. “It was there and you couldn’t do anything about it.”
Ethel worked at the local post office during the war.
“I started the day after I graduated from high school and worked for four years,” she said. “The postmistress came up to the high school and asked the principal if there was somebody that might be good at the post office and he suggested me.”
Ethel said that turned out to be the only “real” job she had — not counting babysitting work.
Ethel has pretty much been a lifelong Philomath resident — except for three months in South Carolina when her husband was in the Navy and up until she relocated to Stoneybrook Assisted Living.
Melvin Post, who was a logger and millwright for years in this vicinity, lived to be 91 up to his passing in 2014, eight days after the couple’s 69th wedding anniversary.