Huck Finn on the Columbia
Tom and Huck were not the only two boys to have vividly recounted adventures along a big American river. In this excerpt from Another Way the River Has: Taut True Tales from the Northwest (Oregon State University Press, 2010), Oregon native Robin Cody hears an old-timer’s memory of life on the Columbia in days long past. Cody’s other books include Ricochet River and the Oregon Book Award–winning Voyage of a Summer Sun. He read from this book in May at the Springfield Public Library, an event cosponsored by the Duck Store.
“I once lived here,” Sam said.
Wait. What? “Where?”
“Right here. When I was twelve, I spent a whole summer at Frankfort, here. A fishing village. These broken piers?” He pointed out stubs of evenly spaced black timbers, the remains of a wharf. “Just before World War II.”
I eyed the shoreline, reclaimed by fifty-year-old firs. Thick underbrush reached down to the water. A pair of buffleheads cruised near shore, diving and disappearing, popping up again.
“My friend and I came on a little steamer from Astoria. Two boys, alone, on our first summer away from home. I don’t recall my friend’s name,” he said, after a pause, “but his grandmother met us at the dock. I can see her now. Gray hair in a bun. She wore a faded dress with a flour-dusted apron around her waist. At one end of the dock was a big red fish station. Under the dock, fishing boats were tied stern-to-pilings. The steamer landing was the village center. A row of wooden houses stood back from the beach. A plank walkway angled from one house to the next. A roadless fishing village.”
You stayed with the grandma?
“She laid down rules. Stay out of the kitchen except at mealtimes. Wash on the back porch. Keep the wood box filled. For a bedroom she showed us the hay loft over the barn. Good enough for boys, she said. It was perfect. We slept in the hay under deerskins. There were no beds to make, no floors to sweep. Nothing to pick up. Bats overhead. Mice in the straw. Cows and chickens made the first soft stirrings each morning. Mornings were cold. Colder still was the tap water into a gray enamel wash pan on the back porch. And then to the warmth of the kitchen, its wood stove.”
A narrow black cormorant topped the buoy, its wings spread wide to dry. Caspian terns patrolled the high sky. And Sam had disappeared inside himself.
“By day we were Indians,” he said. “We gathered berries and licorice root from the woods. We built a raft of old fish boxes. The grandmother, busy with canning and sewing, left us alone. We were expected to be nothing but boys—half savage, dirty, always hungry. I think we were the last generation of boys to be trained as fishermen. The village didn’t last another generation.”
Trained? As fishermen?
“The grandmother put us in the hands of Fred, an old Finn. We went out nearly every night in his gillnetter. With the net out, we drifted. Fred instructed us in sex and swearing. In Finnish. The hours of the first drift would pass and the sun would drop where the river meets the sea. Sometimes there was only starlight, or the tiny light at the end of our drift line. The work began when Fred started hauling in the nets. By hand. Nets with fish in them, you can’t imagine. Heavy. Gather the net into the boat. Those early gas-engine boats needed a squarer. Someone on the opposite side of the boat had to row, to keep the boat square to the incoming net. That was my job. I pulled at the oar and kept the boat square to the net. I kept the boat steady as these great gleaming salmon flopped into the well. Salmon piled up on our bare feet, to our ankles, to our knees. Usually we made two runs on the outgoing tide. The second haul came in the cold dark hours before dawn. My friend and I fought over who got to man the sweep. Rowing kept you warm. All I had was one wool sweater.”
I’d seen at the Astoria Maritime Museum such a sweep, such an oar, on a gillnetter. This was some sixteen feet long and thick as a lodgepole pine. The breed of people who plied that oar in bad weather must have had long limbs and industrial-strength hinges at the shoulder.
Astorians of my mom’s generation were long and strong. Before basketball became an urban game, Astoria High School Fishermen won six state basketball championships from 1930 to 1942. These boys issued from three or four generations of Swedes, Finns, and Norwegians before gas engines made the river accessible to people of normal dimensions. The University of Oregon Ducks, then known as “The Tall Firs,” won the first-ever NCAA basketball tournament in 1939. Three of the five starters came from Astoria. Cause and effect is illusive with human subjects, but imagine the offspring of oarsmen swapping chromosome for a few generations with the sisters of their like-bodied friends.
“When the boat filled with fish,” Sam went on, “we crossed the river to Astoria and unloaded our catch. Fred collected his cash and left us in charge of the boat. He headed for the saloons. Later he’d come staggering down the ladder to the boat and fall asleep. This was our glory time. I was in command of the boat. Run it back across the river to Frankfort! I’d lay a course that would clear the sand banks, the seine nets, the ferry crossing, and then around the point here.
“I can close my eyes now,” Sam said, and he did. “A small boy is at the wheel of a fishing boat. A moon lights the water. Another boy sits at the stern with bare feet hanging over the side, swinging to the motion of the boat’s passage through the waves. An early experience,” he said, “becomes something you go to find but can’t quite get back to. The sense of possibility keeps haunting the mind. Those events shaped my life.”
The Terrible Teens
While the terrible twos are, for many parents, a pitched battle of wills with their offspring, the teenage years can feel more like the Hundred Years’ War. With the eye of a reporter, the curiosity of an anthropologist, and the open—and sometimes wounded—heart of a mother, award-winning author and longtime UO journalism faculty member Lauren Kessler, MS ’75, embeds herself in her daughter’s life and recounts the experience in her latest book, My Teenage Werewolf (Viking, 2010).
Lizzie comes home from school, walking down the long access road from the street where the bus drops her off. She makes her way to the side door of our house. She’s wearing (for the fourth day in a row) a particularly unflattering pair of brown corduroy jeans that sag at the knees and butt, a gray Oregon Girls Rock T-shirt (three days for that item), and a pair of blown-out Sketchers. On her back is a twenty-pound pack that includes, among other things, several dozen broken pencils, two or three sack lunches that she thinks I don’t know she hasn’t eaten, and a science book so heavy it makes you wonder if there really is that much science a seventh-grader needs to know. She drops everything on the floor of the foyer, kicks off her shoes, and starts to walk down the hall past my writing room. She knows I’m in there. I’m always in there, but she doesn’t stop.
“Hi!” I call out. “So, how was school?” I ask before she completely disappears from view. She turns her head and gives me a look. There may be nothing quite so withering as the look an almost teenaged daughter can give her mother. What is it, exactly, that look? Exasperation, annoyance, disgust? And that’s on a good day. Sometimes it’s pure, unadulterated antipathy. She sighs dramatically and mutters something under her breath. I don’t want to know what she says. I can tell where this afternoon is headed.
“So, how was school?” I repeat. I hear the false, purposeful brightness in my voice, and, of course, so does she. Why am I doing this? It’s like baiting a bear. She’s edged back into view, standing in the doorway to my room. Her hand is on her hip, her head cocked to one side, her eyes focused on a point about six inches above my head. I know this posture. I stood in front of my own mother like this countless times. The stance communicates two of the sacred tenets of teen girlhood: boredom and defiance. The message is unmistakable. I choose to ignore it.
“School?” I prompt her.
“You’re always asking me about school,” she says accusingly. “Stop asking me about school.”
“Well,” I say sweetly, “that’s how you spend seven hours five days a week, so naturally I . . .” She interrupts me.
“I hate school,” she says.
“You don’t really hate school,” I say.
“I hate it.”
“No, you don’t.”
“Oh yes I do.”
“Oh no you don’t.”
I’m listening to this conversation as if I were not the one enmeshed in it, and I don’t believe what I’m hearing. She’s twelve and in a crappy mood. What’s my excuse? It’s a cliché that adults revert to being children when we visit our own parents. I wonder if I’m the only mother out there who reverts to being a teenager when faced with her own (almost) teen.
I’m suddenly reminded of a bit of nasty dialog the writer Gay Talese caught between a famous director (Joshua Logan) and a famous Broadway actress (Claudia McNeil) in one of his iconic pieces of new journalism. The conversation begins with Logan critiquing McNeil’s stage performance and devolves into this:
“You’re a shocking rude woman!”
“Yes, Mr. Logan.”
“You’re being a beast.”
“Yes, Mr. Logan.”
“Yes, Miss Beast.”
“Yes, Mr. Logan.”
“Yes, Miss Beast.”
I remember reading this, years ago, having no clue who Logan and McNeil were—their heydays were before my time—but being completely immersed in their mutual hostility. It comes as a shock—and a wake-up call—that this is sometimes the story of me and my daughter: completely immersed in mutual hostility.
But it wasn’t always like this.
There was for us a golden era, a magic decade of peace, love, and understanding that is common in the early years of the mother-daughter relationship. It’s like you get a free pass for the first decade or so. You don’t even have to work up a sweat. These are the years when Mommy is a saint and a genius, beautiful and beneficent, the font of everything cool and fun. I remember the scores of Wednesday afternoons my daughter Lizzie and I spent together when she was in elementary school. Wednesday was early-release day. I would pick her up at school at one p.m., and we would go roller-skating or bowling or spend an hour at a downtown tearoom sipping hot chocolate from bone china cups and nibbling on the world’s fanciest PB&Js. We did projects—making candles, friendship bracelets, tie-dye. We made Valentine’s Day cards by carefully ironing sheets of waxed paper between which we had sandwiched the shavings of red and pink crayons. (Thank you, Martha Stewart.) We rode bicycles. We hung out at pet shops, oohing and aahing at puppies and letting ferrets crawl up our arms. If this sounds a bit precious, it was—but in the unironic sense of the word: special, beloved. She actually looked forward to these times. There was no sense of obligation or dread—Oh god, I have to go do something with my mom again. No rolling of eyes, no looking at me as if I were the enemy or, less dramatically, as if I were the least interesting object in view.
Back in those halcyon days—which were, I am sure, less uniformly glorious than I am choosing to remember—Lizzie pitched fits, as the old expression goes, but the anger was superficial and transient. The battles were contained and low risk (yes, you can watch an extra half hour of TV; no, you can’t have cookies for breakfast); the damage, minimal; the resolutions, quick. When it was over, she would sit on my lap. At night, I would curl up next to her on top of the covers of her bed—the four-poster bed that had been mine as a child—and rub her back until I heard her breathing deepen. In the morning, I would wake her with a kiss. She was warm and smelled like a loaf of fresh bread.
A Champion’s Take on
Athletics and Academics
Thousands of fans cheered Bill Walton as he was honored at Mac Court earlier this year before tipoff of the Oregon-UCLA basketball game. But that afternoon in a far more intimate setting, students enrolled in a sports business course had a very tall classroom visitor who talked about sports and business as well as life and learning. Freelance reporter and undergraduate journalism premajor Andy Drukarev wrote the following story for the Oregon Daily Emerald.
As part of his personal farewell to McArthur Court, NBA Hall of Fame center and former Portland Trail Blazers star Bill Walton conducted a Q-and-A session with members of an undergraduate sports business class in Lillis Hall on Thursday afternoon.
Wearing a black and gray half-zip fleece and dark blue corduroy pants, Walton entered the room facetiously shouting, “Here we go, Bruins!” in anticipation of tonight’s men’s basketball matchup between Oregon and UCLA—Walton’s alma mater—as eager students and faculty, including former Oregon athletic director Pat Kilkenny, looked on.
Walton played with the Trail Blazers from 1974 to 1979. He was a member of the 1977 Portland championship team.
After a quick introduction, Walton gave candid answers to a wide range of student-generated questions focused on a variety of topics, from the business and economics of college and professional basketball, to life lessons he has absorbed throughout thirty years in the public eye.
Walton referenced many of his own experiences, particularly those that involved former UCLA head basketball coach John Wooden, to convey his thoughts on life, gratitude, and education.
“Coach Wooden, when he told us that we had to develop as human beings, he also told us that the way to develop is by training your mind and learning how to learn,” Walton said. “Education is the number-one key to success.”
In recent years, Walton has suffered through debilitating nerve pain and explained how he has grown mentally and spiritually from that experience.
“Your body will fail you before you ever want it to,” Walton said. “Your mind will be the last thing that keeps you going. Take the best care of that.”
The first step to nurturing one’s mind, Walton said, is to fully embrace the intellectual possibilities made available at an institution of higher learning, like the University.
“What you learn here in school you will never remember,” Walton said. “But what you will learn is how to learn, so that when that question pops up and you need an answer, you will know how to go find it.”
But Walton didn’t just share deep life lessons that he has learned throughout the course of his many experiences.
When asked what he thought of the NBA’s one-and-done rule, which requires players to stay in college for at least one year before turning pro, Walton quipped, “[One-and-done] sounds like the Pac-10 in this year’s NCAA tournament,” and the audience broke out in laughter.
The response to Walton’s comments from the 150 or so students in attendance was overwhelmingly positive.
“He was extremely articulate,” University freshman Isaac Rosenthal said. “He’s a very good, insightful speaker, and it was really easy to tell the impact that coach John Wooden had on him.”
University freshman Craig Loper added that he was surprised Walton’s talk seemed to focus more on life lessons than basketball and sports business.
“I didn’t expect that at all,” Loper said. “Some of the things he talked about were so true. I kind of came here expecting just basketball and what his experiences had been, but to hear his perspective about life in general was really cool.”
Walton’s session lasted about fifty-five minutes, and he spent nearly fifteen minutes after the completion of the discussion to sign autographs and pose for pictures with Oregon students before heading off to McArthur Court to see the Duck men’s basketball team play the Bruins.
[The Ducks beat the Bruins 71–66 in overtime.]
Excerpted in this issue
Another Way the River Has: Taut True Tales from the Northwest by Robin Cody (Oregon State University Press, 2010)
My Teenage Werewolf by Lauren Kessler. Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright © 2010 by Lauren Kessler.
News, Notables, Innovations
CREATIVE COMMONS PHOTO BY WOLFRAM BURNER CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Protesters gather outside Agate Hall objecting to Pacifica Forum meeting inside.
The most vigorous protests seen on campus in many years took place this past winter—and they were not focused on global warming, Wall Street shenanigans that nearly scuttled the world economy, or America’s ongoing involvement in shooting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Protesters passionately attacked the presence on campus of the Pacifica Forum, a discussion group that describes its central purpose as providing “information and perspective on the issues of war and peace, militarism and pacifism, violence and nonviolence.” Critics accuse the group of pro-Nazi, antigay, antiwoman, anti-Semitic, white supremacist hate speech that contributes to an atmosphere of fear on campus. The group’s access to University meeting space is due to a UO policy allowing retired professors to use some facilities at no charge; ninety-four-year-old Orval Etter, an emeritus public policy professor, hosts the group. As protests of the weekly meetings swelled, large numbers of campus security personnel and Eugene police officers were on hand to keep peace. The Register-Guard described the ongoing conflict as “a colossal headache for top UO administrators, who find themselves squeezed between scores of protesters who want Pacifica thrown off campus and civil rights advocates who say that would violate principles of free speech and open academic debate.” Following initial protests, Pacifica meetings were moved from central campus to Agate Hall (at the edge of campus) and, as protests continued, eventually to the Baker Downtown Center (an off-campus University facility) or other locations as scheduling allows. While events surrounding the Pacifica Forum and associated student protests may be analyzed and debated for years, Oregon Quarterly has asked two students, with differing perspectives on the controversy, to describe the key issues as they see them today.
Hate is a difficult thing, drawing out negative emotions from others. Hate confuses the social conscience and is hurtful. When hate speech persists, it is difficult to uphold composure and keep logic present. Under such circumstances, the protests against the Pacifica Forum have been tried and tested. The presence of the Pacifica Forum has the effect of both harming and negatively representing this community. First, the Pacifica Forum has invited hate groups (including the National Socialist Movement), which threatens the community’s safety. Second, P.F.’s language causes the normalization of hate speech and bigoted language, just as growing up around the n-word leaves the perception of its acceptability. Third, P.F. uses deeply offensive language, so bad that others can get away with different language and say it’s “not as bad” and in so doing, defend their own bigotry. Fourth, P.F.’s hate speech can become internalized by its targets and cause psychological harm.
Conscious of the problems stemming from P.F., students came together and formed Breaking Bigotry. We asked the forum’s members to leave campus willingly—it never hurts to ask. They did not oblige. We approached University authorities to ask the forum to leave, because their members threatened students and have violated the visitor code of conduct through intimidation. This process yielded no gains, as the administration and Student Senate feared backlash and government political restrictions. Dialogue through official channels yielded little results, yet we continued conversation throughout the protests.
We chose vocal protest to avoid giving tacit approval—recognizing that neo-Nazis commonly use academia as a platform. Recruitment of Nazis is not academic enterprise. We escalated disruptive tactics, generating an incentive to leave. We attempted to create such an unproductive environment for their meetings that they would willingly leave. Their presence on campus gave them perceived collegiate legitimacy and de facto use of student’s tuition and community tax dollars to fund Pacifica Forum’s meeting. We were openly disruptive; we did not want to debate, because that would suggest there was something to debate and imply legitimacy. For observers, this may seem undemocratic; but having sat through meeting after meeting of hateful lunacy, the only conscientious response was to object to the meeting itself and not allow the ideas growing room. The forum made many students uncomfortable—remember campus is our home. Someone came into our home; we told them to leave.
As people objected to the more raucous protests and emotional energy, we became more deliberate. We decided to attend only the most vicious of presentations and object to specific claims. After months of protest, the University administration then discursively moved the meeting to the Baker Downtown Center, off of the main University campus. This separated the forum from the campus communities they target, but leaves the Baker Center at their mercy.
Cimmeron Gillespie, a junior political science major and coorganizer of Breaking Bigotry, “a coalition for safer communities,” attended his first Pacifica Forum meeting in December 2009.
Put simply, the First Amendment wasn’t written to protect comfortable speech.
That’s why I’ve defended the Pacifica Forum—a geriatric loony bin I’ve spent the last three years criticizing and mocking—during its latest escapade.
The forum, too, has rights, and the arguments for kicking it off campus amounted to either sheer ignorance or willful disregard of the First Amendment and the values it enshrines.
First, since the University had a standing policy, which allowed retired professors to reserve rooms for free, it would have been unconstitutional to exclude the Pacifica Forum based on its content. As a public institution of Oregon, the University is bound by the First Amendment, which is extended to all states and cities through the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Second, contrary to a popular slogan floating around Facebook profiles and protest signage, hate speech is free speech, like it or not. The Supreme Court ruled in Brandenburg v. Ohio that inflammatory speech can only be restricted when it is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action.”
Quickly realizing this whole First Amendment business was something of a sticking point, the protesters’ rallying cry became “safety” and “community standards.” Meeting after meeting was held, and letter after letter written, where students demanded the forum be removed from campus because of the climate of fear it created.
However, once again, the protesters were mistaken. The right to feel safe in a public space, if it could be said to exist at all, is not a legitimate justification for censorship. The Supreme Court declared as much in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District, ruling: “Undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance is not enough to overcome the right to freedom of expression.”
But it was not just the immediate threat of an ACLU lawsuit that should have stayed the University’s hand. There were broader issues at play, too. Our system of government is predicated on a free and open society—part of a classic liberal philosophy that goes back to John Locke and John Stuart Mill.
Some protesters went so far as to suggest that it’s the community’s job to root out and quash horrid opinions, like those of the Pacifica Forum, but to advocate such is illiberal, oppressive, and contrary to the ideals of our country.
Indeed, as Mill wrote in his treatise On Liberty: “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”
If we claim to value free speech at this University, we must accept it wholly and without exception, warts and all.
Carl Ciaramella, a senior journalism major, has covered the Pacifica Forum since 2007, both as an editor of the Oregon Commentator and a reporter for the Oregon Daily Emerald.
ARCHITECTURE AND ALLIED ARTS
Many Cooks, Delicious Soup
Community effort turns wasteland into garden.
Remember the tale of Stone Soup? It’s the story of three hungry travelers who came to a village hoping for a good meal.
After arousing the locals’ curiosity by announcing their intention to make soup from stones, they set a huge pot of water over a fire in the center of town, dropped smooth river rocks in it, and brought it to a boil. The villagers were so amazed at the idea of creating soup from stones that they began dropping by and offering a head of cabbage, or a few carrots, or some beef or potatoes. “A rich man’s soup,” they said as the bubbling pot began to emit delicious aromas, “and all from a few stones!”
It seemed like magic, and in a way, it was.
Magic of a similar sort has recently taken form in a vacant lot behind the new federal courthouse in downtown Eugene. Formerly home to the massive Agripac cannery, the two-acre lot was nothing but compacted gravel. You couldn’t pierce it with a shovel and it would barely grow a weed. But now, thanks to the enthusiasm of a federal judge, a University of Oregon assistant professor, and a wide spectrum of folks from campus and around the local community, it supports a flourishing garden that has truly been created of the people, by the people, and for the people.
On a chilly Saturday in March, the site looks like an ant colony, with dirt, leaves, and compost being transported in every direction by at least fifty people varying in age from about eight to eighty-five. Working side by side, they’re shoveling, wheelbarrowing, laying planks, and smoothing dirt to create beautiful raised beds and walkways. They’re all dressed pretty much alike, in sweatshirts, rubber boots, gardening gloves, and caps to ward off the wind. Little would you guess from a cursory look that along with dozens of UO students and community members, the happy, mud-spattered group includes a judge, a probation officer, and a group of ex-cons. “There is a lot of joy here,” says Judge Ann Aiken ’74, JD ’79, chief judge for the U.S. District Court of Oregon. “Some of the best conversations have taken place over a pitchfork.”
It all started one day last fall when Aiken looked out a courthouse window and contemplated the ugly lot behind the building. In her mind she saw a garden take form. It would combine the principles of social service, community cooperation, and sustainability. And it would be beautiful.
Aiken called Ann Bettman ’77, MLA ’79, UO adjunct assistant professor of landscape architecture and former director of the Urban Farm, and asked if she would like to get involved. “Yes, I’m in,” Bettman answered immediately. The two met Anita Johnson ’51, part owner of Eugene Weekly, at a local restaurant, and Bettman grabbed a napkin and drew a quick sketch of what the garden might look like. Then everyone made a few phone calls and before you knew it, the city, the county, Eugene Water & Electric Board, a couple of congressmen, the UO, and numerous local companies had pledged time, equipment, loam, seeds, irrigation supplies, and more.
“The more people hear about this project, the more they want to be part of it,” says Karmen Fore ’93, MA ’98, district director for Congressman Peter DeFazio, MA ’77. “People believe in the vision. This is a positive representation of what this community is all about: goodwill and community spirit.”
“This is a real stone soup,” Bettman says. “We’re not quite in the center of town, but we’re very visible. We’re just out there doing it.”
Students from the School of Architecture and Allied Arts (AAA) are working in the garden on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the former prisoners are working there (voluntarily) on Mondays and Wednesdays. The groups come together on Saturdays, joined by volunteers from the UO’s Holden Leadership Center, an organization that encourages volunteerism and leadership among students.
Talk to the participants in Judge Aiken’s reentry court, a program that helps drug offenders who have been released from federal prison learn skills and reintegrate into society (so that they can avoid ending up back in prison), and you’ll hear nothing but gratitude for the chance to work in the garden. “We made bad choices, but this shows we’re capable of change,” says Daniel Gibson. “I want the opportunity to prove that I am a good person.”
Caleb Chez, another reentry court member, puts his thoughts in more symbolic terms. “We’re coming here of our own free will to say that we belong,” he says. “Being here makes me feel that I’m Abel, rather than Cain.”
It’s a simple thing, this garden, but powerful stuff.
Both the city, which has donated use of the property for the next three years, and the UO, which is managing the project through AAA and the Holden Leadership Center, have taken leaps of faith for this project, Fore says. The future is uncertain. The city plans to sell the property in three years. No one really knows how the project will be funded in the future, or who will direct it. “We’re painfully aware of the issues around sustaining the project,” Aiken says. “We’d like to get it endowed so that we can sustain a faculty member to take on this project.”
“Is this a city project, a social service project, or a food-growing project?” Bettman asks rhetorically. “We don’t know. We don’t know how long it will be there. It’s currently a three-year commitment, but maybe we can keep spinning all this if we all love it enough.”
Aiken and Bettman are sure that something will work out. “Growth is coming to Eugene,” Aiken says. “We should embrace the possibility of making the best of this community and not wait for others to come and make the decisions for us.”
Meanwhile, food from the garden will go to people who work in it as well as to various community groups, as yet undecided. But one thing is for sure: this garden will welcome all who wander by. “What happens if people come along and eat the food?” Aiken says. “Well, that’s sort of the point. They can walk by and nibble. We don’t want fences.”
In the fable of Stone Soup, the villagers and the travelers sat down to feast together and then sang and danced through the night. Aiken dreams, when fall comes, of a harvest dinner in the street between the courthouse and the garden. She envisions big tables, music, and the community coming together to celebrate.
“Never had they tasted such soup,” one might say. “And fancy, made from stones!”
—Rosemary Camozzi ‘96
Dear Diary . . .
Recently discovered diary reveals campus life a century ago, becomes source material in history course.
Twilight cloaked the Willamette Valley as the southbound train from Portland glided into the Eugene Electric Station on September 12, 1915. Woodrow Wilson was president; war was raging in Europe; and the latest dance crazes—the grizzly bear, turkey trot, and bunny hug—were deemed by some “vulgar and barbarous.” But the most significant event recorded in the diary of one passenger was that she was university bound.
At seventeen, Lucile Saunders ’19 wasunaware that almost a century later the ostensibly mundane musings of an ordinary University of Oregon freshman chronicled in her handwritten diary would become a rich primary source of historical significance to future generations of UO students. But it did.
In 2006, Conor Ross ’08 was conducting research on early University of Oregon student life. As he combed through Knight Library’s vast collection of archived materials, he found plenty of information about presidents, deans, faculty members, and famous alumni, but very little from a first-person, student perspective. Fortunately, one item existed: the 1915–16 freshman-year diary of UO undergraduate Lucile Saunders—the only source of its kind preserved by University Archives.
With Lucile’s diary as the foundation, Ross pitched the idea of creating a freshman interest group (FIG) to Kevin Hatfield, adjunct assistant professor of history, and for the past three years, students in the Hidden History FIG have been given a rare glimpse into what it was like to be a UO freshman nearly 100 years ago. (The FIG is being retitled Reboot the Past, Upload the Future next fall to better reflect the Web 2.0 technology that is ever more fundamental to the course). According to Hatfield, Lucile’s diary not only offers students a unique window through which to view someone of their own age, in similar circumstances, on their own campus, but also provides a mirror to reflect on themselves and their own experiences as part of the history of the University. Guided by faculty assistant Matt Villeneuve, students create their own twenty-first century student diaries using current technology in the form of digital journals, blogs, podcasts, photo collections, and video, which are then preserved—along with oodles of other University-produced material—in a modern-day online resource repository, the University Archives Scholar’s Bank.
Helping to open the door to Lucile’s world is Heather Briston, the Mary Corrigan and Richard Solari University Historian and Archivist. The first week of the term, students visit Special Collections and University Archives for an immersive and tactile tour of the University’s rich past. Lucile’s era on campus comes to life as students sift through old photographs and scrapbooks and pick up and touch objects like dance cards and beanies from 1907. “The project helps students understand that they are a part of the history of the University from before Lucile all the way through today,” Briston says.
Chronicled in several composition books, along with letters she had written to her mother and her nine-year-old sister, Iris, Lucile’s diary collection is a richly woven tapestry depicting the intense experiences common to many students: the joys and woes of a college freshman away from home for the first time. With only a suitcase, an umbrella, $24.85 in her pocket—just enough after train fare to pay the University entrance fee—Lucile was one of approximately 300 students attending the UO that year. It was a challenge; she juggled jobs, schoolwork, and an active social life while battling bouts of homesickness. She wrote about money anxiously and often. Although there was no in-state tuition in 1915, there was also no financial aid. Lucile received the occasional dollar or care package of food from home, but ultimately she paid her own way, carefully budgeting for housing, food, and school supplies. In a letter to her sister, Iris, she wrote: “You should see the big fat books I have for the course. This one cost $2.10 and looks like a small edition of the encyclopedia.”
While many of today’s freshmen rely on a combination of student loans, scholarships, and their parents’ support to help pay for college, Lucile took her near-total independence very seriously. She wrote, “Dr. Straub [for whom Straub Hall is named] keeps nagging at me about writing home for money. I wouldn’t take money from them for anything because I don’t approve of families robbing themselves to support able-bodied children in college.” To stay afloat, she did odd jobs, including sewing, housekeeping, and babysitting the child of her journalism professor, Eric Allen, namesake of Allen Hall, and addressing envelopes at the University for twenty-five cents an hour, until finally landing a coveted reporting job at the Eugene Daily Guard (later The Register-Guard).
Like most freshmen, she was always on the run: “I worked two hours today, had four classes, chased an Emerald story, and helped decorate Villard Hall for the rally.” When she felt homesick, she wrote, she’d go to see a “picture show” or climb Skinner Butte and write in her diary. Lucile made time for football games and rallies; she explored the University’s underground steam tunnels, and took every opportunity to relieve her “pent-up dance craving.”
Today’s students can certainly relate to Lucile’s entries about quarreling with her roommate, Verna, while living in the UO’s women’s dormitory Mary Spiller Hall (razed in 1951) and chuckle at her dating dilemmas. On December 10 she wrote, “My most unpleasant adventure, the kind I have been warned against so many times, just transpired and I’m still all aquiver from it.” A boy from her journalism class walked her home, but evidently got a little too cozy on the portico. “That’s the first time I ever slapped a man, but I don’t regret the act. Such things always sounded like heroics in a book before,” she said, adding, “I also hope I hit hard enough so his face smarts.”
Lucile Saunders McDonald (she married Howard McDonald on Christmas Day, 1922) went on to establish a long and successful career as a pioneering woman journalist, writer, and Northwest historian. She died in 1992 at the age of ninety-three.
Hidden History student Olivia Williams realized that some things never really change. “The stuff Lucile talked about in her entries, like parties, outings, dances, and chats, were similar to what my friends and I express on Facebook,” she says. “We’ll say things like ‘Going out tonight!’ or ‘Had so much fun with all my friends at the Walton dorm.’ Maybe it’s just because the main thing on a teenage girl’s mind is to have friends and be social . . . it seems like that feeling or emotion hasn’t changed much throughout the century.”
While monumental events such as the Great War in Europe did not have much of an effect on Lucile’s day-to-day life, the fact that the diary doesn’t read like a history textbook makes it all the more compelling. “The purpose of the FIG is to challenge and encourage students to move beyond the memorization of historical facts to interpreting history as a historian might,” Hatfield said. “We’ll always start with Lucile’s diary because it’s a wonderful primary source.”
Likewise, as University of Oregon students of the future look back on the fall of 2009, they may not read anything about economic meltdown, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the raging health-care debate, or that the United States elected its first African American president. What they will learn about is how the H1N1 swine flu virus clobbered students; how they were never too busy to update their Facebook status or text a friend; how they krumped, stanky legged, and swag surfed to satisfy their pent-up “dance cravings”; how it still rains a lot in Oregon; and how they really, really loved their Ducks.
To access the Hidden History Hub, go to hiddenhistoryhub.pbworks.com.
—Sharleen Nelson ’06
On May 21, the Memorial Quad was scene to the investiture of Richard W. Lariviere, sixteenth president of the University of Oregon. The investiture, the formal event at which the authority of the president’s office is ceremonially conferred, included a traditional academic procession—marchers in full regalia from all parts of the University, twelve visiting college and university presidents, and delegates representing eighty-five institutions of higher education.
Between 2002 and 2007, minority students at the UO had a six-year graduation rate of 67.1 percent, compared with the overall UO six-year graduation rate of 65.3 percent, according to a research report from the Education Trust, an organization that advocates for closing “gaps in opportunity and achievement.”
A new UO research center, the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies, focuses on the interconnectedness between Latino and Latina people in the United States and Latin America. The center works collaboratively with the UO’s newly established Latin American studies major.
A federal stimulus grant of $9.1 million, awarded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will allow the UO to expand its internationally renowned zebrafish research facility, where researchers conduct biological, genetic, and biomedical research.
The UO Foundation endowment ranked first in investment yield for the Pac-10 during the year ending June 30, 2009, and for the previous three-year period. It also ranked second in the past five years, and third over ten years.
Global business consultant and former dean of two prestigious business management schools Cornelis A. “Kees” de Kluyver ’70, MBA ’71, will head the UO’s Lundquist College of Business. UO faculty members Judith S. Eisen (biology) and Carol Silverman (anthropology) are among 180 artists, scientists, and scholars named 2010 Guggenheim Fellows. Ashton Eaton broke Dan O’Brien’s 1993 world record in the men’s indoor heptathlon at the 2010 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships; the Oregon women took the team championship—their first national title in twenty-three years. Dana Altman, who has accumulated thirteen-consecutive postseason tournament appearances and eleven straight twenty-win seasons in sixteen seasons at Creighton University, has been named the Ducks’ nineteenth men’s basketball head coach.
All past UO TV commercials are now available for viewing on YouTube (easy sign up required). Go to youtube.com/user/uomarketing.
Students in Kathleen Karlyn’s course on movie stars and feminist theory learn tools of analysis that sharpen their skills as media critics. “We are all conditioned to consume media culture in a passive way,” she explains. “I tell my students I want them to become active, critical consumers of the media that make up so much of their world.”
Karlyn’s students explore feminist film criticism by applying its principles to case studies of female stars, including Shirley Temple, Greta Garbo, Madonna, and Oprah. Karlyn leads students in examining the stars in their historical and cultural contexts, analyzing how each star is created and marketed by the entertainment industry, and exploring how fans contribute to stardom.
As director of cinema studies, the University’s newest program, Karlyn is definitely teaching what she knows. Cinema studies is an interdisciplinary program that incorporates courses from three different academic units: the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Architecture and Allied Arts, and the School of Journalism and Communication.
In her course, Karlyn uses stars to illuminate subjects such as the diva phenomenon, melodrama, sexuality, and race. She expects active participation and thoughtful consideration from each student; groups of four or five students work together to prepare and lead class discussions. A recent session included an in-depth comparison of early film starlet Greta Garbo and Twilight saga heroine Kristin Stewart with regard to the manipulation of viewer’s emotional responses and the use of music in characterization. She describes the classroom atmosphere as “upbeat,” and notes, “I learn from my students, and they learn from each other.”
By the end of the term, Karlyn’s students have developed a keen critical eye—something she says is crucial in today’s media-infatuated society. “This, of course,” she explains, “is a goal of all educational endeavors: to help students discover how they can enrich their lives, and the lives of others, by expanding their minds.”
Name: Kathleen Karlyn
Education: PhD ’92, UO; BA, University of Connecticut, ’69; MLA, Johns Hopkins University, ’73.
Teaching Experience: Member of the UO faculty since 1987; director of the Cinema Studies Program since its inception in 2009.
Awards: Center for the Study of Women in Society Research Grant in 1999 and University of Oregon Humanities Center Research Grant in 2000.
Off-Campus: Karlyn has been dancing Argentine tango for several years and will be making her first trip to Buenos Aires this summer.
Last Word: “I’d like my students to experience the rewards of understanding intellectual material that they already enjoy in a less sophisticated way.”
—Melissa Hoffman ’10
P/OR – UO x 134 = ?
Here’s a metaphysical math problem: what do you get when you subtract Ducks from Portland?
Well, those bright Columbia rain jackets will have to go. Ditto the Nikes cushioning the feet of the joggers in Waterfront Park, followed by the park itself, or at least its name: Tom McCall was a Duck. Many hundreds of volumes of poetry and prose will vanish from the shelves of Powell’s, while unhappy happy-hour denizens at pubs across the city will lift only empty, lemon-rimmed pint glasses to their lips: the Widmer taps have all gone missing, too. The Oregonian will suddenly find that half its Pulitzer Prizes have vanished, as well as a goodly percentage of its staff. Farewell to the influence of four Oregon Supreme Court chief justices on countless Portland—and U.S.—changing issues, including women’s rights, labor laws, and whether the words “under God” have a place in the Pledge of Allegiance. You can forget about those yellow Livestrong bracelets, certain memorable TV spots for Coke and Honda, and the sight of Bruce Campbell shilling for Old Spice. Also gone is the airy, recycled architecture that houses the highly caffeinated creatives who dreamed up the phrase “Just do it” one Stumptown morning decades ago. The Roth IRA will have to be renamed, and Taco Time replaced. So long, Trail Blazers, we’ll miss you. But all is not lost: we’ll get to keep Flying Spaghetti Monsterism and our computer mice . . . their inventors went to OSU.
It’s been 134 years since the University opened in a muddy Eugene field; the UO has been doing productive work in the Rose City and beyond ever since. Over the years, students of law, medicine, architecture, business, and journalism have made their way north, where course work combined with internships and work experience sprouts new companies, ideas, and callings. The results, we’ll agree, have helped create a richer Portland. As the White Stag Block—located at 70 NW Couch Street—hits its stride, new generations of students will be carving out new lives and careers in Oregon’s largest city. Oregon Quarterly is dedicating this section, Around the Block, as a place for their stories, and those of the thousands of Ducks who call Bridgetown home. Add them all up, and it’s a flock to be reckoned with.
—Mindy Moreland, MS ’08
‘Summer in the City’ courses, June–September
This summer at the White Stag Block, students will design footwear, explore cutting-edge technology through food and couture, dream up products to address the daily needs of Haitian earthquake victims, create comics and travel sketchbooks, experience Portland’s Time-Based Art Festival, and much more. Many courses provide professional development and are open to continuing education students.*
Strategic Social Media Workshop, July 10 and 17
Learn about social media as a business tool in a School of Journalism and Communication workshop combining readings, discussions, in-class activities, and student presentations. Details at turnbullcenter.uoregon.edu.
Design Camp, July 27–August 6
High school students can try their hand at architecture, digital arts, product design, and (new this year) landscape architecture.*
In the White Box Visual Laboratory, July 1–30: WeeGee
Original photographic prints by Arthur Felig (1899–1968), better known as WeeGee, a Ukrainian-born photojournalist and filmmaker famous for his black-and-white renderings of gritty urban life in mid-century New York.