If you looked past the two bouncy houses set up Monday in Centralia’s Washington Park, an unusual piece of local history was on display at the annual Thurston-Lewis-Mason Central Labor Council’s annual labor day picnic.
Set up along with historical photos were two books filled with records from Centralia restaurant unions dating back to the 1940s.
“We did have a pretty strong (union) presence probably from the teens through the 50s, 60s,” said Lewis County Historical Museum Director Jason Mattson.
Peter Lahmann, secretary of the Thurston-Lewis-Mason Central Labor Council, told attendees Monday the annual event — which alternates between locations in Thurston and Lewis Counties — allows the council and area unions to give back to their communities.
It was also a chance to teach people about the history of unions in the area, as displayed at the Lewis County Historical Museum’s booth.
“Today, there isn’t a unionized restaurant in town,” Lahmann said.
Lahmann is part of a group of people working to organize a recognition of the 100th anniversary of the 1919 Centralia Massacre, when Wobblies (members of the Industrial Workers of the World union) and American Legion members clashed during the Armistice Day Parade, leading to several deaths and a lynching.
Even after 100 years, the event is still controversial.
“A lot of people have talked to me about it this morning who didn’t know anything about it,” Lahmann said.
While talk of unions still brings up memories of the incident today, Lahmann said people should remember the good unions have done.
“A lot of safety regulations we have today, one — they’re written in blood,” he said. “Workers fought to get those protections.