People living in Ferry County know what it means to live in a remote area isolated from the rest of the world like some castaway stranded on a deserted tropical island in the middle of nowhere. Imagine a young girl living in an area so remote she never even saw a car until she was six years old. That’s what life was like for Pauline Truax who was born September 14th, 1910 and grew up in Pleasanton, Nebraska. Her father was a mail carrier, but back then the mail was still delivered by horse and buggy, not by automobile. Pauline’s father John Truax was born in 1869. He was a warm, friendly man. Pauline’s mother Bessie was born in 1890. By all accounts she was a good cook. She once told Pauline that in order to be a good cook a person has to use a lot of butter and cream. Sounds good doesn’t it? Pauline fondly stated, “They were wonderful parents who were very active in the Methodist church.”
Pauline came to Oroville when she was nine and a half. According to Pauline, her Uncle Ernie (her dad’s brother) made it sound so wonderful he was able to convince the family to move out to Oroville to share a farm with him. It was while living on the farm that Pauline’s driving career began. She had her first and only driving lesson at age 14 in her father’s Model T. The lesson consisted of her making one turn around the meadow and coming home. That was it. Pauline said, “I got a driver’s license for 50 cents.” Imagine that! She went on to say there was no test, they just gave it to her. Later on sister Ruby wrecked her father’s automobile. That was the end of the Model T. Fortunately no one was injured.
Eventually the farm wasn’t making enough money to support two families so Pauline’s father, John, moved his family into town. He obtained a seasonal position with the local irrigation project. People nicknamed these workers “ditch walkers” because that’s exactly what they did. The men walked along side the wooden irrigation flumes making sure the “ditches” were in good repair as well as removing debris from inside. In the winter the family man would do whatever he could to provide for his family such as woodcutting. In spite of some hard times Pauline’s folks never discussed how they would feed the family or their worries. Pauline fondly reminisced, “We didn’t have a lot financially, but we had a lot of love.”
In September Pauline’s mother Bessie had a baby girl, Ruby. She was a sickly little girl and was in and out of the hospital for the first two years of her life. In spite of being ten years younger than Pauline, the two sisters were very close. Pauline was also close to her brother Harold who was only a year and a half younger.
In 1930 at age 19 Pauline married Walter Thompson in Oroville. The two were married for 20 wonderful and happy years before Walter passed away. Pauline remained alone from 1950 until 1969 before remarrying. Such was her love for and devotion to Walter. In March of the following year the newly married couple moved to Republic. About 11 months after moving there the young couple had their first child, Helen, in1930. Son Richard followed five years later in 1935.
In 1930 Union Oil built a new warehouse in Republic. Walter was hired as manger and became the very first distributor for the company from 1930-1950. From 1930 until 1941 when the war started, things were tough in Republic so it was difficult getting the business off the ground. According to Pauline’s son Richard, when the war began and petroleum was rationed the “business took a nose dive again.” In order to make ends meet Pauline ran a gas station which was built in 1938. It was situated in the building that Central Service is currently located in on the corner of Clark Avenue and Highway 20.
For most of the 20 years Walter ran the oil business, the family lived in one of the old stone houses which were built by local pioneers the Welsh brothers. According to a family friend the Union Oil truck doubled as the family car. He said the family was really packed in and Dick had to sit on his mother’s lap until he was quite big.
In the late 30s Pauline became a member of the Golf Association. The association was formed when a group of businessmen got together and began purchasing land as it came up for sale. It cost twenty-five dollars to become a member which was a significant amount of money in those days. According to Pauline, Ed Walters, who owned a local clothing store, was quite active in the group. One of his daughters, Mary Ann, is married to Ralph “Rowdy” Bremner, the current president of the Golf Association.
When Walter died in 1950 Pauline took over and ran the oil business. She’s not really sure how it all came about, but apparently Union Oil asked her to run the company on a trial basis for an indeterminate amount of time. They were so impressed with her success that they asked her to take over on a permanent basis. Pauline became the very first female consignee, not just in Washington, but in the entire United States. This was an extremely impressive feat, especially for the times. Pauline saw to it that gas, oil, and fuel oil were delivered throughout the county. Occasionally she even had to drive truck herself. She said she got stuck a lot that first winter until she learned to drive in the snow. Pauline eventually sold the company to George Turner, an employee who had worked for her for 13 years. Pauline fondly stated, “He was a wonderful man.”
While she was still working for the oil company Pauline purchased a plot of land on scenic Curlew Lake. She had a house built there and used it as a summer home. At times she had a home in town in addition to her lake house. Her life in Republic was a whole different world. People didn’t take vacations or do things outside Republic. Everything was self-contained. Pauline was very social and actively involved in church and Eastern Star (the women’s Masons). She participated in all types of social activities such as cards, parties, etc. She was always entertaining. Pauline stated with a smile, “Back in the days when I was active, there weren’t many people I didn’t know. I got out and asked for business. I visited and drank lots of coffee.” She retired from Union Oil in 1964 at age 54.
In 1969, while at her sister’s, Pauline met her second husband John Lysne. The two eventually married and lived in Seattle for a year and a half until John was able to retire after serving the Navy at Lockheed for 20 years. The couple moved to the house on Curlew Lake at Pete’s Retreat. John then proceeded to enlarge and upgrade the house. Pauline said, “It was quite nice.”
After John passed away Pauline lived in the apartments located below the hospital for five years. She felt she wasn’t eating right and made the decision to move to Klondike Hills Assisted Living. She has been a resident there since December 2007. It was around this time that Pauline decided to hang up her driver’s license at an astounding 97 years of age. Her two children Richard and Helen both live in the area and are close to their mother. Helen, now 79, lives just two miles out of town and Richard, 74, lives at Pete’s Retreat in Pauline’s former home. Pauline is one of those special individuals who make an instant and lasting impression. Anyone who meets her can’t help but fall in love with her. Her sweet, kind, and gentle smile warm the heart. Those who know her well or have only met her once must surely know how truly blessed they are to have been touched by such an extraordinary lady. I know I am.