Virginia Buchfinck always thought 100 years was a long time away.
Today, cards bearing that number line a shelf in her Baker City home.
A note near her chair reads: “Happy 99 years, 11 months, 24 days.”
She turned 100 on Thursday, Oct. 10.
“It’s almost unreal,” Buchfinck said Monday. “God must have a reason for me still being here. I’m very blessed to be where I am, and in the health I am.”
A party to celebrate this milestone is set for Saturday, Oct. 12, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the First Lutheran Church fellowship hall, 1734 Third St.
A century of change
Virginia was born Oct. 10, 1919 at West Linn.
Life has changed more than a little bit in 100 years.
“We’re living in a different age. Totally,” she said.
When asked what affected her life the most, she doesn’t hesitate.
Cars weren’t always part of her life, either.
“My dad had the first car on the hill,” she said. “The first time we went to the beach I was 5 years old.”
They slept in a tent on the sand. Later, they rented a cabin.
“We never did stay in a modern motel — there wasn’t one,” she said.
She never rode a bicycle, either.
“Girls did not ride men’s bicycles,” she said.
Virginia met Erhardt Buchfinck at the Lutheran Church in Oregon City. They married in November of 1942.
Two daughters soon arrived: Kathryn in 1944 and Sherril in 1945.
In 1949, the Buchfincks saw a sales advertisement for cabins in Baker City.
“There was an ad in the Portland paper. It sounded really great,” she said.
They traveled across the state to look at the Oregon Trail Cabins located on Elm Street along Powder River.
At first, not terribly impressed, they decided to head back west the next day. But they reconsidered, and stayed the weekend.
Baker City became their new home.
“We decided to stay,” she said.
They bought the Oregon Trail Cabins and the adjoining trailer court. The motel first had one story, but the Buchfincks later added a second story right before the filming of the Hollywood musical “Paint Your Wagon” came to town in 1968.
Erhardt did nearly all the construction himself on nights and weekends. At the same time, he was working on building the highway over Dooley Mountain.
The family had a house on the property, and Virginia staffed the motel office most of the time.
“We rented at all hours of the day and night,” she said. “I was always up until 11.”
During the summer her employees were high school girls. Kathryn and Sherril also learned their way around the motel business.
“They grew up at the motel, and worked at the motel,” she said.
More than 50 units creates a lot of laundry.
During the time of “Paint Your Wagon,” the Buchfincks rented all but six rooms to the crew.
“We had all the production crew and secretaries. One fellow came early and stayed a year,” she said. “We didn’t charge any more for the rooms than we normally did.”
Although film star Lee Marvin had his own house during the filming, he still made rounds about town. One time, Virginia remembers, Erhardt was called to pull Marvin out of a bar and take him home before he got arrested
Other film stars came to the motel from time to time.
“Jean Seberg came to the motel to swim — they all came to swim,” Virginia said.
The Buchfincks owned the motel for about 30 years. They were also a partner in the Sunridge Inn when it came to town.
“Erhardt practically oversaw the building of the Sunridge,” she said. “He was out there every single day.”
They sold the Oregon Trail Motel several times — resuming ownership twice, and even taking over the nearby restaurant at one point.
“We didn’t know anything about restaurants but we had good help,” she said.
She’s stayed active at First Lutheran Church since arriving in Baker. For many years she played organ at church services, as well as for both funeral homes in town.
In 1982, she started Kids Club at the church, a Friday outreach for elementary-age children.
“I was with it until three years ago,” she said. “I even went on the hayride with them last year.”