Monroe couple trying to capture city’s past

MONROE — Jerry and Nancy Senner have lived here together for more than 50 years, and they’re working to preserve memories of an even earlier era.

Seven years ago, they founded the Western Heritage Center, a museum at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds. Now the Senners are launching a project to record oral histories of the area.

They’ve dubbed June as “Old Timers Month,” and they’ll be interviewing people who have lived in the Skykomish Valley for at least 50 years.

“We want people to come tell us what it was like,” said Nancy Senner, 73.

Like the museum, the project is focused on the area’s mining, logging, railroad and agricultural history.

“So it’s road, river and rail,” said Jerry Senner, 72. “We’re looking at the people. Every time one of those people dies, they take a whole library with them.”

The Senners hope to capture and preserve those interesting stories.

Jerry grew up on a dairy farm in Monroe. He met Nancy while attending the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

She was a Michigan native who had never traveled west of the Mississippi River. On the way to Washington, she nearly turned back at the Rocky Mountains.

“She didn’t know if she wanted to go any further. I told her I’d blindfold her,” Jerry joked.

The couple settled in Monroe where they raised their three sons and a daughter. They lived there most of their married life.

Jerry gave up farming and tried a number of trades. He installed septic tanks, worked in the salvage business and sold real estate. His sons learned how rebuild tractors in shop class.

“The old farm tractors first caught my interest in history,” Jerry said. “You can get the boy off the farm but you can’t get the farm off the boy.”

He long dreamed of opening a museum. He established a nonprofit for the Heritage Center in 1996 but didn’t find a space to house it until 10 years later.

Now he has 22 antique tractors at the museum and about that many at home. Nancy has a 1909 Aultman-Taylor steam tractor on display at the museum.

“We hook it up to air so the kids can blow the whistle,” Jerry said.

The museum boasts several exhibits that move or turn to showcase old-time action. There are corn grinders, milk machines, a water wheel and hay rides.

The Senners plan to incorporate the audio recordings in museum exhibits.

They hope to fund the $600 project by selling commemorative bricks. People can buy one for $50 to be engraved and displayed at the museum.

Anita and Erick Flickinger are helping with the recordings, audio equipment and editing. They’ll store the completed work in an audio archive.

Nancy plans to conduct half-hour interviews on Wednesdays and Thursdays while Jerry mans the museum. The project is set to begin in June.

“We figured calling it Old Timers Month might get some people out,” Nancy said. “We need to save that history before it’s gone.”

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; anile@heraldnet.com.

Share your memories

If you want to share your recollections of earlier life in the Monroe area, call the Senners at 425-232-3494.

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