Fall 2011

Issue 112:3

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In this Issue:

Murder on Train No. 15: Race Relations, the Home Front, and the Trial of Robert E. Lee Folkes

by Neil Barker

Historian Neil Barker uses the 1943 trial of Robert E. Lee Folkes, an African American who authorities charged with the murder of a white woman on board a Southern Pacific train, to explore race relations in Oregon during World War II. Examining police records, trial transcripts, newspaper accounts, and correspondence from the time period, the author discovers that social tensions surrounding issues of race, as demonstrated by the highly charged reaction to the case, played a leading role in defining life on the home front during the war years. Additionally, he argues that, as evidenced by the efforts put forth by activists within Portland’s black community in support of Folkes, the trial served as “yet another example of the rich history of activism within Portland’s African American population.”

Building an Alternative: People’s Food Cooperative in Southeast Portland

by Marc D. Brown

People’s Food Store, now known as People’s Food Cooperative, opened in 1970 in a small southeast Portland building that had housed feed and grocery stores since 1911. Its business model — a collectively managed, cooperatively owned, natural-food store — reflected the anti-corporate attitude of its founding era. When People’s began, Portland hosted many cooperatively owned businesses, and some visionaries imagined a landscape filled with cooperatively owned businesses of all types. Although that vision has thus far failed to emerge, People’s continues working under the same business model, in the same neighborhood, forty-one years later. Marc D. Brown explores the history of People’s to provide a better understanding of the vision of those who advocated for community based businesses and of how People’s managed to survive where many other cooperatives founded at the same time did not.

The Trouble with Cross-Dressers: Researching and Writing the History of Sexual and Gender Transgressiveness in the Nineteenth-Century American West

by Peter Boag

Historian Peter Boag reflects on the methodological, linguistic, and historiographical difficulties, limitations, and breakthroughs he experienced while researching and writing his bookRe-Dressing America’s Frontier Past(Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011). He also describes the ways journalists and dime novel authors, as well as historians and scientists, expunged from the story of the Old West the troubling gender and sexual identities associated with cross-dressing, as those story-tellers went about creating a myth of a wholly heterosexual American frontier at the turn of the twentieth century.

Red Heads to War Dogs, Taft 1941–1942

by G. Thomas Edwards

The Second World War brought tremendous change to American society. Professor emeritus Tom Edwards illustrates how the experience of Taft, Oregon, a small town on the central Oregon coast, is an example of these societal shifts. In the summer of 1941, Taft hosted its Red Head Roundup, a popular celebration honoring redheads. Even before Pearl Harbor was attacked, citizens of Taft and nearby communities responded to Oregon’s defense council, serving as voluntary air raid wardens, firemen, and police. Two organizations — Company A, Lincoln County Guerrillas, and the Oregon Women’s Ambulance Corps — attracted considerable publicity. Soldiers and coastguardsmen with war dogs came to Taft to protect beaches. Meanwhile, Taftites enthusiastically supported the war and accepted regulations, blackouts, and shortages.

Okinawa 1945: Monroe Sweetland and American Prisoners of War

by William G. Robbins

Monroe Sweetland was “A Man for All Seasons,” according to historian William G. Robbins, who is at the beginning stages of writing Sweetland’s biography. Born in Oregon and raised in Michigan, Sweetland was a student organizer for the League for Industrial Democracy before returning to the place of his birth to join in founding the Oregon Commonwealth Federation in 1937. In 1943, he joined the American Red Cross and was assigned to the Central Pacific. Part of that assignment involved processing American and Allied prisoners of war on Okinawa, many of whom spent extended periods in Japanese camps. Robbins found Sweetland’s remarkable account of those experiences, titled “Hatred, Limited,” which is reproduced in its entirety here.

Shawash Iliʔi Kǝnim Ikanum (Grand Ronde Canoe Story)

by David G. Lewis

Although canoes were central to the traditional cultures of Kalapuya and Tillamook peoples, their creation and use was abandoned after forced removal to the reservations. The Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon has been working to revitalize that culture in several ways, including through creating a new shovel-nosed canoe and mounting an exhibit at the Willamette Heritage Center. Historian, Tribal member, and Manager of the Cultural Resources Department, David G. Lewis offers a brief overview of those efforts.