Opinion: Respect the History — We’re Called ‘Papermakers’ For a Good Reason

Papermakers

Camas, WA — I’ve been bothered by a trend over the past few years to shorten the Camas High School mascot name from Papermakers to “Makers” so I’ve spent some time researching its root cause.

There are three scenarios in play:

1) Design: It’s easier to design a uniform, practice jersey or sports memorabilia because it requires fewer letters. As a designer, writer and someone with the last name “Geigenmilller” I get that, but I would never shorten my name to “Miller” as 1) that disrespects my history — Geigenmiller means Violinmaker or “one who owns or operates a mill” in German; 2) Doing so dishonors my family; and 3) Shortening to “Miller” or “Maker” takes away the history. Maker of what? Some suggest that using the term “maker” implies an inherent authority. Plus, it feels like part of history is being erased, and it’s not a good idea to erase history. The history of the mill in Camas isn’t perfect, but it’s the history. We can certainly discuss the environmental concerns the mill brings, but that doesn’t mean we re-write the past. Being a “Papermaker” isn’t political. Even though the mill will likely close in a few years, we are still a mill town. It’s OK to say that. Solution: If you want to shorten the jersey name, then just imprint “Camas.” Pretty simple.

2) Language: It’s just easier to say. I’ve heard announcers tell me it’s easier to say “Makers” over “Papermakers.” This is simply nonsense. “Roll Papermakers” requires two more syllables. Solution: Let’s just say “Papermakers” or “Papermaker Pride.” #PapermakerPride is a good hashtag. It honors the history and the moment.

3) Attitude: There is a concerted movement to erase the history. Yes, this is true. There are many newer residents that love Camas, its beauty, its schools, its people — but they’re embarrassed that it’s a mill town. I think for some it’s concern about the environmental issues associated with the mill, or for others it’s simply an attitude. Why? Are you ashamed thousands of workers made their living at the mill since the late 1800s? These thousands of people provided a good living for their families. Did they live in the elegant houses so many of us live in (myself included). No. But, they spent money at Runyan Jewelers (which still stands), paid a few cents to watch a movie at the Liberty Theater (which we all love) and swam at Sandy Swimming Hole (a favorite contemporary summer fun place). Those who argue in favor of the shortened name say it still implies mill work, but again I ask “maker of what?” You can’t erase the history. If you’re making a political statement given the environmental issues at the mill, spare us. We all know that. In time, those issues will be fixed. Solution: We’re a mill town, and that’s OK. Let’s celebrate it. Use Papermakers.

Basketball

Isaiah Sampson led the Papermakers with 18 points. The boys basketball jerseys simply say “Camas.”

History of the Papermakers

Let’s take a quick look at local history.

In 1883, LaCamas Colony Company selected the current townsite for their new paper mill. Mr. Henry L. Pittock, the owner of the Oregonian newspaper of Portland needed plenty of water to power paper-making machines for his newspaper and found it in the lakes behind the LaCamas region. The name “LaCamas” originated from the “camas roots used by the Indians for food.”

  • 1883: Aeneas MacMaster opens the first store in town.
  • 1884: First school and post office was established in town.
  • 1906: Camas was incorporated as a town.
  • 1907: Northbank Highway opened from Vancouver, through Camas and Washougal, to Stevenson.
  • 1908: The LaCamas Post, forerunner of the Post-Record newspaper, was created.
  • 1928: The Crown Willamette Paper Company merged with the San Francisco-based Zellerbach Paper Mill Company forming Crown-Zellerbach Corporation.
  • In WWII the Camas plant produced ship rudders in the machine shop. The rudders were being installed on the Liberty ships under construction in Vancouver and Portland. After the war, the plant’s management became more interested in technical and research problems.
  • 1960: Crown Zellerbach Corporations changes ownership and name several times – currently being merged, but known as James River Corporation. It is now known as Georgia Pacific.
  • 2006: The city celebrated its 100th year as an incorporated city.
Papermakers

The mill in the 1950s.

Source: www.cityofcamas.us

Also see: Camas History

That’s a tiny piece of history. Today, we create our own story, our own history. And, I love being at all these events to record your history.

Papermakers

From www.opb.com, who did an in-depth documentary about the history of Camas.

Conclusion

Camas is progressing, and that’s OK, too. When the mill finally closes, there will surely be environmental cleanup tasks. And, we’ll get those done. It’s good to build a new pool, build new schools, and upgrade our parks, but it’s not cool to alter the history by changing the mascot name. I ask you to keep saying “Papermaker” and say it with pride. It’s part of who your kids are. My oldest son is a Papermaker graduate, and we have two middle sons who are current Papermakers. They’re not makers.

Our name is unique. We’re don’t have generic names like Panthers (no offense, Washougal), or Tigers, or Falcons, or Beavers.

As the city progresses, longtime residents are losing the things most dear to them (open spaces, Crown Park Pool, and likely the closure of the mill). We have to respect their time here. They’re losing things precious to them. Please don’t disrespect them by taking away or shortening their name.

As we drive around with our overpriced SUVs and BMWs (I’m guilty of that, too) take a moment and walk down 4th Avenue, look at the smokestacks at the mill, and talk to someone who’s lived here their whole life. They have pride in their work. Listen to their story. Buy them a pastry at Caffe Piccolo. I think you’d enjoy it, and learn a few things.

I’d love to hear your feedback.

Sincerely,

Ernie Geigenmiller

 

Papermakers

Liberty Theater.

Papermakers

Straub’s Funeral Home, as pictured in the 1940s. Wilmer Swank opened Swank’s Funeral Home in 1911. It was eventually renamed Camas Funeral Chapel, and then Straub’s.

24 replies
    • Matt Edwards
      Matt Edwards says:

      Our Dairy farm, Johnston Dairy, was est in Camas, Wa in 1890. Butler reservoir, named after my great grandparents, still resides behind Lacamas Elementary.
      & for years, you could grab your local dairy needs, from Johnston’s strive in Dairy, next you what is, Smitty’s resteraunt (my first taxable job). I played CW baseball, swam in the pot holes, played arcade games ar Carl’s market, ate breakfast at Roxy’s, & lunch at Ideal Corner… ate Top burger too.
      I am a proud, Lacamas Leopard, JDZ Spartan, & Camas High Papermaker; Class of 1997.

      Reply
  1. Shelly Peebles
    Shelly Peebles says:

    I get it about the shortening of names for teams….Huskies are the ‘Dawgs’, Cougars are the ‘Cougs’, etc. But those are honestly just endearing nicknames that still have the same meaning. When I went to school in Camas in the 80’s, we were the Papermakers and nothing else. And I also understand the logistics of fitting the long name on uniforms. But there are definitely ways around that. Like stacking the font… Paper on top, Makers on the bottom. Or just use “Camas” (which is what we did in the 80’s). I wouldn’t feel as passionate about this if I truly thought it was just a cute nickname. And there are likely many newcomers who have begun using it because they’ve heard it and thought it was just that. But it’s not. The reason many of the long time Camas residents get so heated about this discussion is because we’ve been around long enough to know that there have been folks who didn’t like the name Papermakers and tried to get the mascot changed. Thankfully the CSD district fully respects and loves the history of the Papermakers as much as we do! ❤️🖤

    Reply
  2. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Ironic, considering when I was a student we would beg to be allowed to change our name/mascot for the HS every single year. We were always told “no” because “the mill is the largest financial tax supporter in town.”
    Wafertech went in shortly thereafter. There was a joke that since they would become the largest tax base that we would have to become the Camas Wafermakers.
    The mill has destroyed much of the environment in Camas- the clean-up required of the company if they were to officially decomission it has been cost prohibitive for years. Every time they discuss closing down, the only argument to staying open has been to avoid paying for the environmental & ecological restoration.
    Plus, I know too many families who were treated poorly by the legion of different companies who operated the mill over the years. My dad worked for the mill for over 20 years, but overnight, his entire division was just gone during one of the many buy-outs. Forced retirements, massive cuts to pensions, laying off seasoned employees to hire inexperienced workers at half the cost…
    Personally, I am all for dumping the Papermaker moniker. It didn’t truly represent us as a school back then, and it certainly doesn’t need to now. The mill just laid off even more hard working employees- they are down to a skeleton crew. The mill is a liability and an eyesore that will continue to be foisted on downtown Camas while the big corporations try to play Hot-Potato with avoiding the massive clean-up the property will someday require.

    Reply
  3. Jim Peebles
    Jim Peebles says:

    I talked to some friends who are in the know and they seem to think that the Camas athletic director is behind this movement to change the mascots name. I looked it up and I believe his name is Rory Oster and I think we need to have a community meeting with this guy. Anybody else interested?

    Reply
  4. Ernie Stille
    Ernie Stille says:

    Amen Ernie, as a life long resident of OLD camas 50+ years I agree with you 110% . I want my grandchildren to be PAPERMAKERS ! I was at a football game a year or so ago and wanted to buy a decal for the back of my SUV and all I could find at the booster booth was the big C or a big C with MAKERS in the middle of it. No Way I wasn’t going there as I really don’t like the uniform pants that say MAKERS down the leg either. So I purchased the Big C and promptly went to the nearest graphics shop in town and had a PAPERMAKERS decal made to add to it ! I also purchased a black Camas Wind Breaker and had PAPERMAKERS added to the back of it ! It’s called PRIDE and that’s what I feel being from this mill town ! Once a PAPERMAKER forever a PAPERMAKER ! I BLEED BLACK RED AND WHITE ….

    Reply
  5. Judy Straub
    Judy Straub says:

    Why do people move into a community and suddenly want to change our traditions? Camas has been the Papermakers for over 70 years. Let’s leave it that way.

    Reply
    • Patty Smith
      Patty Smith says:

      I totally agree! I didn’t even like seeing the logo of “Joe Papermaker” made into a paper machine! Frank Sill honored us with that logo! Camas will always be home to many of us. Forever!

      Reply
  6. Sandra Gangle
    Sandra Gangle says:

    I just moved to Camas in September, so I don’t have an emotional attachment to the name Papermakers. However, I believe that a town’s history is important to preserve and the history of Camas’s papermill should certainly not be eliminated without a lot of community discussion. Personally, I appreciate living near Crown Park and Fallen Leaf Lake Park and I love hiking around LaCamas Lake and Round Lake, all of which beautiful features of our city I believe resulted from generation donations of land by mill owners. I really appreciated reading more about the history of the city and seeing the old photos of the mill and downtown buildings in your article. Let’s not be too quick to change the name of the Papermakers, even though the mill won’t be operating much longer. There might well be other appropriate ways to choose a new mascot while still highlighting Camas’s unique history.

    Reply
  7. Sarah Gooch
    Sarah Gooch says:

    Very well written article! Thank you. I appreciate your respect for the “old” and the history of our town. As a lifelong Camas resident and a child of a mill worker, I am well aware of both the good and the bad that the papermill has caused for the town of Camas but that is still no reason to try and change our school mascot! Once a Papermaker always a Papermaker!!

    Reply
  8. Kurt Haunreiter
    Kurt Haunreiter says:

    Yes, many communities still celebrate their history despite that they’ve moved beyond it. The mascot for Fort Vancouver is a trapper, yet no one can argue that trappers did not have a detrimental impact on their environment or that the trade no longer persists in present day Vancouver. The tradition of making paper is an ancient and respected one. Like trapping, it was the foundation the community was built on. It’s easy to judge the past with the ruler we use in the present…called 20:20 hind sight. I’d prefer to embrace and remember the history – nice article…..always a papermaker class of 1984. (P.S. 1985, Sir James Goldsmith purchased controlling shares of Crown Zellerbach, later that year was sold to James River Corporation.)

    Reply
  9. Susan Holland
    Susan Holland says:

    I think that if it wasn’t for the mill, we wouldn’t exist as a town! That being said, we are the PAPERMAKERS!
    Always and Foever! #PapermakerPide

    Reply
  10. Jeff Guard
    Jeff Guard says:

    I made comments on another thread, but I have more fuel for the fire. Other local communities with odd mascot names at their HS: Ridgefield Spudders – A nod to their farming roots. But just try and make fun of it to a Ridgefield alumni or student. Then pick yourself off the floor. Another? The Tillamook Cheesemakers. I dare you to even raise the question when in Tillamook. Bottom line, leave the name alone. If you don’t like it, there is one easy remedy. Move.

    Reply
  11. Penny Speer-Stewart
    Penny Speer-Stewart says:

    No, do not shorten it. This name is completely original, has huge history. My daughter is the third generation in our fami my to gradu ate as a Proud Papermaker. My father worked at mill for over thirty years. My grandparents and many other family members work for the mill. My grandfather helped dig the mill ditch.

    Reply
  12. Alisa
    Alisa says:

    As a former coach of 20+ years, a teacher and a parent, I don’t feel this is a “big deal”. As someone stated earlier, many schools, teams, etc – use shortened versions of their mascot. This does not desperage their history, it simply is a catchy phrase used.

    I have oft been bothered by the “political correctness” issue of our day – getting all worked up over words, and the power we give them. We have changed mascots, we have changed job titles, we have to walk on eggshells for fear of offending someone – everyone – around us. I don’t feel this is something that we should have to worry about. Let the kIds be kids – they will always come up with some new and clever phrase. We will ALWAYS be the Papermakers! But I also love to say…… ROLL MAKERS!

    Reply
  13. Catherine Ford
    Catherine Ford says:

    Respect history, especially the newcomers. There are many of us who have had family working at the mill since it began. I myself am a 40+ year PANTHER alumni, but the mill and the Papermakers are a proud part of this entire community’s history. If wealthy, upper class, snobbish newcomers are ashamed of a mill town, they should move elsewhere. LEARN the history of your town (Prune Hill, anyone???) and be PROUD of it. Respect it, and don’t change things just because you don’t like the image. Many great men and women built Camas and Washougal, and made it a place you wanted to come to. ❤️

    Reply
  14. Christine
    Christine says:

    Originally I believe the mascot was Joe Papermaker (a guy in a letterman jacket) and in the 80’s I remember Joe becoming more buff and the Mean Machine making its debut … but regardless of who or what the mascot was, we were still the Papermakers!! Personally, I think “Makers” just sounds wrong… not an enduring nickname like Cougs or Dawgs. I’m with the rest of you who are behind staying true to the full Papermaker name!! #PapermakerPride

    Reply
  15. Vickie Gibson
    Vickie Gibson says:

    Papermaker pride all the way baby. I was raised in Camas, work in Camas, raised my children in Camas, My mom worked as a secretary for many years in the bag factory at the mill. We are a Papermaker family. My family is celebrating it’s sixth generation in Camas. It’s history and roots are what makes it a great place to live and grow. Progress can be a good thing, but not always at the expense of the roots of the community. This shouldn’t even be a discussion.

    Reply

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  1. […] Camas, WA — Last Friday, I wrote an opinion article called “Respect the History — We’re Called ‘Papermakers’ For a Good Reason,” which addressed issues many in the community have with shortening the Camas High School mascot name from Papermaker to Maker. See the article here: Opinion […]

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