Russell (Russ) Schillinger lives on the land where he was born in 1930, soon after his parents, William and Frances, moved from Edgewood, Wash. The elder Schillingers met and married in North Dakota and headed west to Washington in the early 1920s. They arrived in Victor with children Helen, Bob and Ron.
William (Bill) planted berries and grapes on his acreage at Victor, overlooking North Bay. The property had originally belonged to the Stock family, and the Schillingers’ grapes were sold to Stock’s winery. Frances also picked grapes with other women on Harstine Island for wineries located there.
The boys helped build the barn and other farm buildings, created a trout pond, and learned to plow. Russ was 14 when Bob Davidson of Vaughn hired him to plow. Davidson picked him up after school, and Russ either rode home with a Davidson worker who lived in Victor, or hitch-hiked.
The Schillingers turned to dairy farming in the early ’40s. The boys delivered raw milk to local stores and to people along the way, in Victor, Allyn, and Vaughn.
When milk required pasteurization, Russ took the milk to Key Center, where local dairymen dropped off their 10-gallon cans for Darigold.
Bill switched from dairy to beef cattle in 1953. Russ’ daughter, Karen, and husband, Tom Johnson, who live in the remodeled farmhouse, still have a few head.
By 1968, the Schillingers added Christmas trees to their farm to help pay higher taxes.
Russ started first grade at the one-room school near the bay in Victor. In 1942, when local schools combined, he rode the bus to Vaughn. He was part of the first graduating class of Peninsula High School, where he was student body president, received an “inspirational award,” and lettered in all three sports — football, basketball, and baseball.
Russ and his brothers played hardball on a team comprised of Victor, Vaughn, Allyn and Belfair players. They took the championship one year. He said it was Hank Niemann’s home run that won the final game. Hank pitched right handed, but batted left-handed, and hit the pitched knuckleball clear out of the field.
After graduation, Russ joined the Naval Air Reserve, but didn’t have active duty until 1953, when he was stationed in Hawaii, and where he married Patti in 1954.
Russ met Patti when he was helping deliver milk. She was about 10, visiting an older sister in Belfair. Russ was a few years older.
Russ logged and did construction work, starting with Harmon Van Slyke and Wes Davidson, but branching out on his own before long.
In 1980, he was thinning Department of Natural Resources forests and chipping nonmerchantable timber for paper mills. Within a few years, he formed Schillinger Enterprises, Inc., to cover his logging, construction work, and Christmas tree farming. Russ was president, Patti secretary, and now son-in-law Tom is president.
Russ and Bob Dressel, self-proclaimed timber industry “junk dealers,” started a chipping mill in Belfair. They gathered or bought all the “ugly” logs nobody else wanted, and turned them into high-quality chips for paper mills. The paper mills couldn’t get enough chips in the early ‘80s, so the Schillinger-Dressel North Mason Fiber Co. did well at recycling wood waste.
They designed a hydraulic stump splitter on an excavator, and Russ says they were too busy to patent it. Within six or eight years, all the big companies had them.
Russ officially retired in 1995, including having served 30 years as a volunteer fireman in Victor’s District 5 Station. He and Patti golf as much as they can, at nearby Lakeland Village, or points farther south.
The couple enjoys their 30-year-old hillside home, the view of the bay, and bald eagles that cruise by.