Subscribe to get tough, fair journalism seven days a week.
Subscribe today

Remember when? Share the story with Keizer oral history project

As a city Keizer is only 27 years old.
But as a community it goes back much further than that.

The Keizer Points of Interest Committee (KPIC) is looking to capture personal memories of the Keizer area via its Oral History project.

The idea has been percolating for years, but never seemed to get off the ground.

“But we never gave up,” said Terri Hoag, vice chair of KPIC. “It was always on our list of to-dos, and we decided if we were going to do it we’d better do it before we lost too many people.”

Lately the committee has been gung-ho, with Jill Bonney-Hill spearheading the project.

In a partnership with Keizer-23, the group has filmed two interviews with longtime Keizerites so far – Evelyn Franz, who grew up on a farm in east Keizer, and Dr. Vern Casterline, who set up the city’s first physician’s office.

The episodes filmed are shown daily at 5:30 p.m. on Keizer 23, the city’s government access channel, and available streaming at The series is being hosted by Jason Cox, news editor of the Keizertimes.

There is a sense of urgency driving the project, the committee members agreed. As time slips by, people die and their memories go with them.

“There’s a lot of information, facts and data that’s going to be lost if we don’t get it recorded somewhere,” Hoag said. “That was our main reason – to get memories of Keizer in people’s own words as to what happened and what they experienced.”
Franz shared stories of growing up on the farm, and roller skating down River Road to class at Keizer School. Casterline talked about house calls he made as a physician, and the occasionally unconventional modes of payment he’d get from patients who didn’t have the money to pay him.

“I’m sure they both had a lot more that they could have said,” Hoag said.

Hoag is a lifelong Keizerite whose grandfather, Guy Smith, farmed the land a solid portion of the city now sits on. For relative newcomers Bonney-Hill and Julie Thomas, another committee member, it’s a chance to get to know their town’s past.

“It’s a fairly new community to me,” said Thomas, who relocated to Keizer last year after spending 28 years in Salem. “I’m getting to know the community where I live better. I joined KPIC because I think it’s important to give back to the community. This just kind of went right in with it.”

Bonney-Hill has lived in Keizer for nine years now, but still considers herself a relative newcomer.

“I wanted to learn more about Keizer myself, and we want to get as much history as we can from people who lived here and made Keizer what it is today,” she added.”