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News / Life / Clark County Life

This Week in Clark County History

By Katie Bush for The Columbian
Published: September 8, 2023, 5:58am

100 years ago

Thieves hit Vancouver’s Pioneer Grocery at 33rd and Z streets in the early evening of Sept. 2, 1923, with a plot drawn from the silver screen. After the merchant closed, the burglars crawled “under the building and bore(d) with a two inch augur through the floor, removing a section of the floor large enough to permit entrance of his body.” Once inside, the burglars placed bran sacks around the safe, and “poured nitro-glycerine into the safe by using naptha soap and then affixed wires from the explosive, under the sacks, across the floor and to an adjoining room.” After detonating the device, the raiders got away with around $250 (about $4,400 in today’s dollars) — but also drew the attention of a grocery employee, who in turn alerted the police. It is unclear if the authorities ever caught the thieves.

75 years ago

Rumblings of potential oil rationing or even a shortage on the West Coast reached the front page of The Columbian on Sept. 6, 1948. Contract negotiations between the California Oil Workers International of the Congress of Industrial Organizations and the five major oil companies were on the verge of breaking down. Vancouver distributors met with the oil companies to discuss the situation early in September. The California union organized work stoppages, causing issues at the pump in Southern California, but the shortage never reached the Pacific Northwest. It took at least two months for the workers and management to reach wage agreements.

50 years ago

On Sept. 4, 1973, “what may be the largest amateur-built telescope” made the trip from Clark College to a recently completed observatory in Goldendale. Led by local astronomer M.W. McConnell and Don Conner, a group of volunteers built the telescope over a period of six years. It featured a 24.5-inch-diameter mirror and used materials costing around $3,000 (about $20,300 in today’s dollars). Although other local universities had telescopes with similar specifications, McConnell noted that “the Goldendale site would be unique because the ‘home-brewed’ instrument was the largest built in the nation.”

25 years ago

On Sept. 6, 1998, organizers announced the lineup for the Vancouver Wine and Jazz Festival scheduled for the end of the month on the former site of Lucky Lager brewery. Grammy Award-winning vocalist Diane Schuur and jazz pianist Tom Grant would be headlining Vancouver’s first jazz and wine event. With plentiful musical acts, regional wineries and local artists, organizers hoped to draw 6,000 people to the inaugural festival.

Katie Bush is public historian at the Clark County Historical Museum.