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Jean Rothacher Oral History Interview, August 29, 1997

Oregon State University
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MAX GEIER: I'm not sure how much Fred told you about what we're working on here but. . .

JEAN ROTHACHER: A little bit.

MG: In the way of orientation, I'm writing a book for the Andrews group, the Andrews Experimental Forest. I'm going back to the early origins and one of the things to start off as, my understanding is that Jack Rothacher started working at the Andrews Forest about 1956, 1957 or so. I was wondering if you could perhaps start off by talking a little bit about his background up until that 00:01:00point. When you met him and what his personal interests were at that time.

JR: You want to know his age and history in other words. Well, I always liked that picture that they took when they dedicated the forest in HJ Andrews name. You've seen it haven't you? It doesn't show his face, but it shows his nice straight back.


JR: That's the way he looked.

MG: When did you meet him?

JR: When did I meet him?

MG: Yeah.

JR: 1955, I think it was.

MG: So about two years before he started working at the Andrews.

TD: You were at Steamboat with him though, too, weren't you?

JR: I was in Seattle and we lived in Shelton. We'd go into the Seattle mountain range and that's how I met him. Then we lived at Shelton just for that summer. 00:02:00Then he got a job as a ranger at Steamboat on the North Umpqua River. We were only there a year and a half. I don't think he liked being a ranger very much. He didn't like the responsibility of being responsible for people who were not responsible.

TD: I would imagine it would be a hard job.

JR: So, we were only there a year and a half and his friend Jerry Dunford.

TD: Jerry Dunford.

JR: Jerry Dunford, was at Portland at the time and he talked Jack into coming to 00:03:00the experimental forest. So, we moved to the ranger station there.

MG: That was about 1957 roughly. When he decided to take the job there, what were his reasons? Why did he decide to take that position?

JR: Because he liked the idea of research forestry better than being in the regular Forest Service and being a ranger. He wasn't in charge of a whole district.

MG: Did you take trips down there before hand to see the sights and what was going on?

JR: I don't remember. I don't think I had ever seen the river before, but he probably did. I just don't remember.

MG: Do you recall your first impressions when you went down there?

JR: I thought it was a lot neater than the North Umpqua road which went into 00:04:00Roseburg. A little farther away, a little less civilized. Our main town for shopping was Eugene. The houses were better kept and it was closer for getting into the recreational areas.

TD: The houses were fairly new when you moved into it.

JR: The houses were brand new. They had just set up the ranger station there. So, the house was brand new, and we moved into one of the ranger houses. Then, 00:05:00they built another couple across the road from those and one of those was designated for the forester in charge of the Andrews. I don't think there had been anyone in charge of the Andrews before, I'm not sure. I think he was the first. I knew he was the first one in the house.

TD: Yes, because before that, the Andrews was kind of administered from here in Corvallis.

JR: Yeah.

TD: People like Bob Ruth and Jerry Franklin and some undergraduates went to the Andrews to do the stream measuring work and so on. But, I think it's right that Jack was the first resident in charge.

JR: Yeah, but the first summer we were there, he had a college assistant who lived in a trailer above our house. That was Jerry Franklin.


MG: Jerry, he lived with you for awhile didn't he, in your house?

JR: No, he always lived in the trailer house up on top.

TD: Was that trailer house new that summer, also?

JR: Could have been.

TD: That was the silver one, 35 ft long, 8 ft wide. The one we all stayed in. Then one summer the Wollums were in there, remember Art Wollum and Karen?

JR: I have a vague. . .

TD: He was doing some soil work on the watershed.

JR: I'm not sure. I think it was.

TD: I think it was.

JR: I don't remember Art living there. And I can't remember whether Harry 00:07:00belonged to us or to the ranger station.

MG: Gratkowski. Was that Hank? Was that who you were talking about?

JR: The what?

MG: The person "Harry," would his name be Hank Gratkowski?

JR: I don't know. I don't ever think he worked for Jack.

MG: So, the person that Jack interacted mostly with would be, except for you obviously, would be Jerry Franklin, his student.

JR: Jerry, the student, but he was always going back and forth to Corvallis, but when we moved here, it was the other way around. They went back and forth to the Andrews.

MG: When did you move here in Corvallis?

JR: 1961.

MG: 1961, wow. So, a crew of them were down there at Blue River; what do you 00:08:00recall about your interaction with the community there.

JR: The community? Oh, I was reasonably active. I belonged to the "extension" group which was on the McKenzie River. It wasn't necessarily on the Blue River, in fact I helped get another group of them, of extension people started at OSU. I'm sure because so many people were moving up there from Cougar Dam. [to work on construction of Cougar Dam] They were looking for housing and would take any old shack and pay horrible prices for it. There were so many of them we couldn't accommodate them all. So, we started another extension group and we took some courses at the University of Oregon at night. We took a couple, one of them in 00:09:00the geology of Oregon.

TD: Was that offered up the valley?

JR: No.

TD: You had to go to Eugene?

JR: Yes, you had to go to the University for that.

TD: Wow. Good.

JR: Public speaking. Oh, this has nothing to do with Jack, I used to teach swimming classes in Blue River itself for three years. So, I got the PTA to put it on and they were afraid they were going to get sued because something would happen. So, it died, which was a shame, for it was a good program.

MG: Did you have kids at this time.

JR: No we didn't have any children.


JR: Dick Fredriksen was there after Jack.

MG: Oh, okay.

JR: Fredriksen, and then they moved to Corvallis. I don't know who came after that.

TD: Ross Mersereau. Jack and Jean occupied the residence first, then it was Dick Fredriksen and his family. Then it was Ross or maybe Al Levno was in there too. Yeah, Al may have lived there too.


MG: Do you recall any interaction the district ranger?

JR: Ed Anderson.

MG: Ed Anderson, okay. Yeah, I talked to him last year.

JR: Oh, really.

MG: Up there with Mike Kerrick.

JR: Oh, Mike.

MG: They live about two houses apart from each other, what's the name of that town? It's up in the McKenzie valley there. It's not that far up.

JR: Yeah, I guess I've heard.

MG: Well, what do you remember about your interactions with other members of the Andrews staff? Was that something that would it happen regularly?

JR: I didn't have much to do with the Andrews, really. I know I used to go out, especially after rain and check each watershed and measure. I had nothing to do 00:12:00with the forest, but I did have a chance once. When Jack and a group of boys went on a trip down to Arizona and had a week or so there, I was asked if I would like to man the tower lookout. I was there about a week.

TD: That was Carpenter Lookout.

JR: Carpenter Lookout, the most beautiful job in the world. I'd look out and you'd see just forest below you and it was beautiful.

TD: Good view of the Three Sisters.

JR: No, I don't think you could see the Three Sisters from there.

TD: Is that right. . .

JR: I don't think so.


TD: You could see the Three Sisters. So, it's a nice view.

JR: Oh, yeah.

MG: So, you spent a week up there.

JR: I spent a week there and that was a high point

TD: Who asked you to do that?

JR: Ed [Anderson]

TD: Ed, the district ranger.

JR: Yeah, because it was just in the fall, when the college students, who had been there all summer, were going home and going back to school. So, and the weather looked sort of bad and they felt they should have someone up there. Toward the end of the week, you could see clouds to the west, and it got higher and higher and then it rained.

TD: So, then you could go. You could leave?

JR: Yes, I could go. I didn't want to leave. That's interesting.


MG: I guess there wouldn't be very many people coming out to see you at the lookout. Did you have any visitors while you were at the lookout?

JR: I didn't know anyone who would be likely to come and see me. I didn't see anybody the whole week. But I communicated, of course. I just left when they came for me, when they decided it was time to go.

MG: So, the roads only went partway up and you rode horses in the rest of the way.

JR: That's right.

MG: Do you recall the conditions of the roads at that time? How long did it take you to get in there from the access roads?

JR: Couldn't have been very long, I wasn't used to riding horses. It couldn't have been very long.


MG: Do you remember some of the things that kept Jack busy? Or things he was concerned about at this time? What kinds of things on a daily basis seemed to be time consuming?

JR: For him on the Andrews?

MG: Yeah.

JR: I don't know, I don't know.

MG: Would he spend a lot of time actually on the Andrews or did he tend to spend time in Corvallis.

JR: He spent most of it on the Andrews.

TD: Not only did he work with the experimental watersheds, as I recall he had a study on rainfall interception by the tree canopies.

JR: I didn't even know about that.

TD: Didn't you know about that?

JR: I'm afraid that I didn't worry too much about what he was doing.


TD: He measured such things as stem flow and uh. . .

JR: He also studied roads and the effect of logging or making roads and the effects it had on trees. He got his masters degree in watershed management. He was interested in seeing what happens when it rains.

MG: Initially, he was actually in charge of the Andrews in his role as project leader for the watershed project. Is that right?

JR: Yeah.

MG: What was the reason for the move back to Corvallis in 1961? Was that because of the Forest Service?

JR: No, I just figured it was because it was easier to go back instead of the other direction. Easier for him to do that.


[End of transcript at 17 minutes of the audio recording. The entire oral history (generally poor audio quality) continues to 1:58 with discussions between Rothacher and Dyrness and with some comments and questions from Geier. Dyrness describes work and social interactions with Jean and Jack. Jean Rothacher says she did not have much knowledge of Jack's work. Geier asks about interactions between the research community and the local community; the Andrews Forest staff was quite small and interactions with local residents were limited.]