Logo Click BACK to return to Basecamp
Lost Teachers
Search Info
White beveled edge

Neda Dispatch

Meet Neda

Neda Archive

Cool Links
Centralia Massacre

Pacific NW Labour History Assn

Wesley Everest



The Fighting Spirits of Centralia

You call that justice?
"It was murder, bloody murder."

"No, it was justice."

"The man was beaten 'til his own mama probably wouldn't recognize him, thrown onto the freezing cold floor of the jail, then shoved into a car, castrated and led to a bridge where he was hung. Since he was still breathing, the poor chap was hung again and then shot. All of this happened as hundreds of the jolly good citizens of our town cheered.

Two ghosts, Ralph and Wilma, hovered above the grave of Wesley Everest. They were citizens of Centralia, Washington back in the early 1900s. Now they were free, yet crotchety old spirits who roamed around picking arguments with each other. Their favorite topic was the Centralia Massacre of 1919, as it was called. This January afternoon, they were taking one of their afterlife buddies, Howard, on a tour of their hometown.

"Oh you Wobblies are all the same," said Ralph.

"Wobbly? What's a wobbly? It sounds like a children's toy or maybe a chair with uneven legs." Howard was a bit confused.

"A Wobbly," explained Ralph matter-of-factly, "is a member of a union group called the IWW-the 'I Won't Works'."

"Ahem," interrupted Wilma. "IWW actually stands for Industrial Workers of the World. We were a group of miners and timber workers, women and minorities, all fighting for the rights of the working class, for better working conditions and fair pay, and for things like 40-hour work weeks and sanitary conditions."

Ralph was getting worked up. "Ah, you were a bunch of communist, good-for-nothing…"

"Okay, okay, so what does this have to do with this guy's grave that we are standing at," interjected Howard.

The parade marched down this street
"Now that is an excellent question," said Wilma as she began to tell the story. "It was November 11, 1919. It was the first anniversary of the end of World War I and an American Legion parade was being held in town. We Wobblies got news that some of the marchers were planning on attacking our IWW office over on Tower Street. This would not be the first time. Our headquarters had already once been destroyed, workers had been fired upon and arrested, and leaders had been assassinated. The people in power were not so fond of us. So on the day of the parade, we were armed and ready to defend ourselves. It's a good thing, because sure enough, our doors were torn open and Legionnaires stormed our office. We had no choice but to shoot. Four Legionnaires were killed and this is when Wesley Everest, one of the Wobbly defenders, fled towards the river. He was chased by a group of angry men and captured, and well, we know the rest of the story." Wilma motioned to the grave. "Yes, Wesley truly was a hero of our times."

Ralph looked furious, like smoke was going to spew out of his ears at any moment, but before he could say anything, the three ghosts heard some voices. The sound of the female voice made Ralph and Wilma stop their bickering momentarily.


BEATING THE COLD: just stick your face in the snow

"I think the sound came from that direction, Jen. The gravestones seem to be older over there, and Wesley Everest was killed in 1919."

"Okay, Neda, you go check it out. I'll go look over there," said the other woman pointing in the opposite way. The two women walked up and down the assorted rows of headstones and slabs, quickly scanning the names and dates. They didn't seem to find what they were looking for. "Shoot, it's too bad we can't get a picture of his grave." "But hey, at least we found his cemetery." The women consoled themselves with that fact, took a quick picture and headed back to their car.

Watching all of this, Wilma looked saddened. "What a shame, it's such an important historical grave…it's too bad it goes unnoticed. At least people now are becoming interested in learning about Wesley and the tragic events of that day."

"I wonder what those two women were up to and why they were taking pictures?" said Howard.

"Yeah, let's go find out," replied Wilma. With that, the three ghosts took off into the air and started following the women.

Jen looks frightened…perhaps she's seen a ghost!
"Oh, I knew it!" shouted Ralph as they walked across the street at Washington Park. "I knew those ladies looked intelligent and would come honor the memory of us Legionnaires." Ralph gazed emotionally at the Sentinel, a statue of a soldier standing guard in he heart of the town. "You see, Howard, you should never believe any of the nonsense Wilma tells you. Let me read you this inscription: 'Slain on the streets... while on peaceful parade wearing the uniform of the country they loyally and faithfully served.'"

This statue (along with Neda's orange fleece) dominate the city's park
"We had been fighting hard to defend our country. The Wobblies were radicals. They were always causing trouble. In 1919, they overreacted with deadly force and so they deserved to be brought to justice. It is this statue honoring the memory of our dead soldiers that is in our town's center. I don't see people walking around talking about stupid Wesley Everest as being a hero."

Wilma looked more than a little annoyed. "But must I remind you, the people in this town have not been talking about the massacre at all. It was like a code of silence for so long -- not taught in the schools, no materials in the library... at least not until recently. Only now, after people like ourselves have died and there is not such an immediate connection have people started feeling comfortable talking, writing and even painting about it." Wilma turned Howard and Ralph away from the statue so that they were facing a brightly colored mural across the street. It was a picture of Wesley, arms outstretched like a martyr.

This two-story high mural was painted in 1997
Howard looked at his watch. "Ah man, I gotta run. I'm supposed to have coffee with Elvis at 4 p.m. Today is his birthday, so I don't want to be late. Bye guys, thanks for the tour…and hey, for once, try to think of something you guys can agree on!" He laughed and jetted off, leaving Ralph and Wilma standing alone next to the mural of Wesley the Wobbly and the statue of the soldier.

They stood there in silence, shifting their gaze between the two symbols of the slain. Finally Ralph spoke. "Well, Wilma, we may not know who fired first, but here's something we can agree on... lives were lost and that in itself is a tragedy."

Wilma nodded in agreement. She grabbed Ralph's hand and together they floated up into the air.


Please email me at: neda@ustrek.org


Links to Other Dispatches

Daphne - Does money really talk or should it take a walk?
Jennifer - A crater of tears and a forest full o' love
Nick - Pop goes the price of corporate farm corn
Stephen - Political corruption: the good, the bad and the ugly
Daphne - Final exam grades for sale!...For real?
MAD - Is that a worm or a spliced, mutated gene in your apple?