I have known Eddie Kahut since we were both members of the 1947 Woodburn American Legion baseball team that won second place in the state championships. We lost twice to DariGold of Portland in the double elimination tournament. We lost the pitching arm of Eddie in the second game when he and third baseman Dale Yuranek collided trying to catch a foul ball between home and third base. His knuckle ball and nickel curve were deceiving.
Ed and I became friends then and have remained so for 70 years. We have coffee four to six times a week at McDonald's east on Highway 214. Ed frequently brings to our "show and tell" time mementos of things he is interested in (small car collections, old boxing photos, jackknife collections, old newspapers and old pocket watches). He knows more about Woodburn history than anyone else that I know personally.
His interest isn't confined to things historical. He showed up with a manuscript about Russian Old Believers settling in Woodburn. His wife Shirley's brother is a professor at a Midwest college and he arranged for one of his master's degree candidates to spend two weeks in Woodburn doing research for his thesis on Old Believers in Oregon. He stayed at the Kahut filbert farm in Woodburn, used Ed's car, you get the idea. Ed Kahut is a man of many, many interests.
Recently, he brought a couple of old cigar boxes and newspaper accounts of the tobacco raised and dried on the Becker Farm just east of Woodburn. There were a couple of cigars in one box labeled Willamette, and another box contained a couple dubbed Oregon. They were marketed by a New York distributor.
My curiosity piqued about that time, so I arranged to visit Ed in his home on a Saturday afternoon to learn more about the cigar manufacturing going on in Woodburn during the '20s and '30s.
Turns out that the cigar manufacturer was Eddie's uncle Ed Becker, his mother's brother. His tobacco was good enough to gain the attention of cigar makers on the East Coast, but Ed lost interest after his mother died in 1943.
Ed recalls great times that he and his brothers enjoyed in the tobacco drying barn. Yes, they rolled a few cigars of their own and then went down to the river bank and got sick after lighting up. They were inquisitive boys, you know.
I expected a degree of disorder at Ed's home, but his wife Shirley is an excellent housekeeper and nourishes a little collection fondness of her own. She has a wonderful display cabinet jam-packed with bells of every description.
Ed Kahut is a very complex man who has many interests. He starts each day with a one-hour workout at Everybody Fitness, then goes to McDonald's east across Highway 214 from Woodburn Health Center, where he shares his interests with an equally inquisitive bunch of good ol' boys. He has earned a presidential citation for being the fittest 60-year-old man in America (he was 70 when he won the recognition).
Take the time to scan the pictures that accompany this story. They tell a story of their own.
Better yet, get to know Eddie. He is a living treasury of days gone by. At age 87, he's experienced a great deal of the history of Woodburn. He's been around since long before Woodburn was known as the little burg out there by the boys reform school.
If you'd like to follow up on the topic of tobacco farming in Woodburn, the Woodburn Historical Museum has more information on that. It's located at 455 N. Front St. and is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.