100 summers in Truckee
Bertha J. Woolverton has spent nearly ever summer of her life in Truckee – for the last 100 years!
Even though she may not be considered a full-time Truckee resident by conventional standards, Woolverton, who recently celebrated her life’s centennial, has experienced decades of change in the area and helped shape much of Truckee’s rich history hands-on.
“My family has always loved Truckee,” Woolverton said. “It’s definitely one of the nicest place to be.”
Woolverton was born April 28, 1902, the daughter of Mable and Joseph E. Joerger, longtime cattle ranchers and landowners in the serene Martis Valley.
But Woolverton’s history in the area can be traced back even further to sometime in the mid-1800s when her grandfather, Joseph Joerger, a young dairyman from France, stumbled across the town.
He quickly shifted his business pursuits from dairy to cattle raising after discovering that it required far less time and fewer hired hands to manage.
Later, Joerger’s son (Bertha’s father) was also captivated by the area’s charm and decided to carry on the family business. He, too, spent each summer on the family’s ranch off Schaffer Mill Road and Highway 267.
“Each summer, we’d bring the cattle up to Truckee to get them out of the heat in the Valley, where they’d spend the rest of the year,” Woolverton said.
Woolverton recalls the endless hours she spent splashing around Donner Lake, meandering alongside the Truckee River and wandering the streets of downtown as a young girl.
“We climbed every mountain around, and did a lot of fishing, hiking and dancing,” Woolverton said. “There used to be this great, open-air place in town where everyone in the area would come together and dance.”
It was not all fun and games, though, but hard work, too, Woolverton said.
“We had a lot of work to do out on the ranch,” she said. “My sister and I had to help my mom with the cooking and cleaning and milking the cows.”
Even though the Joerger family has since sold off most of its property in the Martis Valley, Woolverton said her family’s ties to the area are as strong as ever, as her children and grandchildren continue to make the trek to Truckee as often as possible.
Unfortunately, health problems have rendered it virtually impossible for Woolverton to make the long journey from Rancho Mirage, where she currently resides.
“The pneumonia I had did a real number of on my lungs and the doctors say that I can’t go anymore,” Woolverton said with a sigh. “I really want to go to see the development, because things are changing so fast up there. That’s why I’ve been begging to go. I want to know what’s happening to my Martis Valley.”
Aside from wanting to see the construction on the new bypass for Highway 267, Woolverton said she’s itching to see the supposed “million-dollar homes” going up in the area.
“They didn’t have such things as million-dollar homes back in my day,” she said with a gentle chuckle.
Regardless of whether or not she gets to visit again, Woolverton said she will never forget the times she spent in Truckee.
“I’ll always love Truckee – just like all of you who live there do,” she said.