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Elvin Hoy Oral History Interview, September 13, 1979

Oregon State University
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JL: Mr. Hoy, why don't we start with when and where were you born?

EH: I was born in Falls City, Nebraska, on the 3rd of March, 1903.

JL: And how did you come out west?

EH: My parents moved out to Portland when I was one year old. My father was a retired minister and got into the contracting business in Portland, Oregon and built many, many homes in Portland.

JL: How did it happen that your father, having retired from the ministry, became a contractor?

EH: Well, his health was getting rather poor and he was advised to retire from the ministry. Apparently, he was under too much strain and doctors advised him to leave that work and get into outdoor work, to get completely away from the strain of the parish and his worries about the parish. So, he moved out to 00:01:00Oregon to get outdoor work in the contracting business.

JL: That's interesting. Of what denomination was he a pastor?

EH: He was a Lutheran minister. He graduated from the Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary which is now a non-denominational community college-a four-year community college.

JL: Tell me how he decided to come out west. Why to Oregon?

EH: Well, he wanted to get out to outdoor work and he'd heard of the wonderful prospects for activity in Portland. Some friends advised him to get into the construction business so he tried Portland and made quite a success of it.

JL: Why in construction?


EH: He was interested in building houses.

JL: Had that been something in his past? Did his father...

EH: No, he knew nothing about the construction field. He just started with his first house; got an architect and a boss carpenter to help him build his first home and with that experience he expanded into a fairly large volume of building homes every summer.

JL: How large a family did he move out from the east to the west?

EH: Just the three of us: my mother, father and... I'm sorry, four of us: mother, father, my brother, and myself. Sister had already died.

JL: You had a brother who was older?

EH: Older. He was seven years older than I.

JL: What was his name?

EH: His name was Clarence Michael Hoy.


JL: What was your mother's maiden name?

EH: Susan Rebecca Ficks. F-I-C-K-S.

JL: And your mother and father met back in the east and married in what year?

EH: Oh, Lord, I don't know. Let's see, she was born and raised in Watsontown, the same town that my father was raised in and... I'm not sure of the date of their marriage at all.

JL: You don't know how they met or anything?

EH: No.

JL: Well, how did you travel from the east to the west?

EH: By train.

JL: You probably don't remember anything about that?

EH: I was one year old. (Chuckle)

JL: What are your first recollections of Portland?

EH: They--the first recollection, when I was a small boy, was of the Rose 00:04:00Festival and particularly the night parade of streetcars, with all of the lights, and the roses all over the streetcars. It was quite a spectacular occasion for a young boy. Everyone in Portland raised roses in those days. You weren't patriotic if you didn't have your yard full of roses, and so we all donated roses to the different exhibits that were paraded. I guess this was shortly after the time that the Pasadena Rose Festival started; I think it was around 1896.

JL: And your mother participated in growing roses and contributing also?


EH: Right. As a matter of interest, mother had been quite an artist over the years. She graduated in art school, and she got off on the sidetrack of making rose beads out of rose petals. I'd have to go out with a great big clothes basket and collect all the rose petals I could find, get the basket full, bring them in the kitchen, and chew them up with the meat grinder. (Chuckle) That rose pulp then would be strained through a cheesecloth and [that would] get a lot of the juice out of it, and that pulp then would be rolled into little beads. She had hand carved a lot of different designs; she was very clever at wood carving and had this set of wood tools that she had used in making wood designs, artistic plaques, and one thing and another. So, she made in board 00:06:00either a geometric design, or in some cases the petals of a rose, and you draw your bead down that board and that would print that pattern on your bead. Usually you'd do several on a hatpin; you rolled each, one at a time, on a hatpin and then they were put in an oven, and baked at very low temperature and very slowly. This was a woodstove oven and if you baked them too fast, why then the beads dried out and cracked, so you had to get the moisture out of them very slowly; but, then it was a job to get the beads off the wire or the hatpin or whatever they were on, so usually you greased them first because if they stuck, 00:07:00why then you'd break the beads trying to get them off. But the beads had a very nice scent, had this rose scent, and we particularly saved those to make necklaces and bracelets to send to our relatives in the east.

JL: Ohhh, what would she do with the beads besides send them to the relatives? Would she sell them?

EH: No, no, she never sold any beads. Gave them to friends.

JL: How long did these beads last?

EH: Well, if you took care of them they would last indefinitely--the scent wouldn't last indefinitely--but the beads were rather fragile and you had to be careful in handling that you didn't break them.

JL: Do you have some still?

EH: I don't, no.

JL: How interesting; and you would help her make these rose beads?

EH: I got into a variety of artistic activities with her. I enjoyed working with 00:08:00the wood tools. We had a large circular plaque in the dining room in which clusters of grapes were carved out, and around the border grape leaves were carved, and then some of the edges were burned with a burning tool, and then the wood was painted over. The grapes were painted either the purple of the Concord grape or yellow, greens; and the leaves were appropriately colored. So, it was a combination of using cutting tools, burning tools, and ordinary paint on wood. But it was a beautiful plaque; you had your third dimension bringing out the clusters of grapes. That was one of the things I always enjoyed.

JL: What kinds of things did you do with your father?


EH: Largely gardening.

JL: He was a gardener also then?

EH: He did a very good thing for the family. After a few years, he bought a couple of lots out in the then suburbs, at 28th and Alder Street. That was on the corner of a nursery so we had a row of chestnut trees down the lane at the edge of the nursery. Then there was a little path, a very narrow road, down the side of our house, bending down the hill back into the nursery. Along the side of our house, we had four black 00:10:00Republican cherry trees; it's like a small Bing. Then father built a grape arbor up over the back of the house, and over the walk down to the double-car garage, and over the roof of the garage. He had a variety of grapes that he got from Vermont and elsewhere. A lot of our relatives in New Hampshire and Vermont sent cuttings out so we had mostly Concords, but a lot of Elizabethan and yellow and other grapes, white grapes, also. Back of the garage, he had a chicken coop and over that, he had loganberries, and over the back of that he had five rows of raspberries. Then he planted a couple of apple trees and a peach and a plum. And along one side he had an area that he gave me to raise strawberries; that was out in the edge of this little lane that went around behind us. So that was 00:11:00my patch to take care of. Then he had a pretty good-sized garden and I got a distaste for gardening because I had to spend too much time weeding after school when the kids all wanted me to play baseball.

JL: Ohhh. (Laughter)

EH: But I revived that interest in gardening in Hawaii some years later and had a lot of fun growing exotic plants; and now that I'm retired that's my main activity in retirement, since I can't walk very far and have difficulties with angina. So, my main exercise is through gardening.

JL: I see. It sounds as if your family were farmers really.

EH: No, no. No, this was just a...

JL: An avocation.

EH: ...ancillary to his construction work.

JL: Tell me about his construction work. He came west and had enough money to purchase his first lots, or...


EH: Well, he had to borrow some money, too, to get building materials and supplies. Once he sold the first house, from the mortgage and loans on that house, he'd have money then to construct his next house. But, after a few years he really went into a production cycle, somewhat like the Levitt townhouses. His was a forerunner of that type of production cycle out west.

JL: Tell me about that.

EH: He would get a farmer to come in with a team of mules and dig the basement of the first house, and move over to the basement of the second, third, and on up to the seventh house. He had seven going that summer. Then the rough carpenters would set the forms and pour the concrete for the first basement, and 00:13:00then we'd mix-- Dad and my brother and I would mix the concrete and haul it around by wheelbarrow and dump it down inside the forms, between the earth and the form, for the basement. That was real hard work, mixing all that concrete by hand; you didn't have cement mixers back in those days.

JL: Who mixed the cement?

EH: My father, brother, and myself.

JL: I bet you built up muscles. (Chuckle)

EH: Then, after the forms were taken off the rough carpenters came in and built the first floor and finally [completed] the roughing out of the walls and partitions of the house and the roof; then the shinglers came in and finished off the roof. Then you had your lather come in and put lath over all the rooms, 00:14:00and the plasterers put on the plaster by hand. You squeezed it in between the wood lath; nowadays, we use the big sheets of gypsum board and nail it up on the wall, but those days you had to put up the lath, and then plaster, and put finish plaster over the rough plaster. Then the finish carpenters came in and put in the door jams and window casings, and in those days we had some wainscoting and there was usually a board around the room for hanging pictures. There was some type of molding that's used that had a rounded edge from which you could hang pictures; you very seldom see that in a modern house. So, as the first house got finished by the rough carpenters, they moved to the second 00:15:00basement; and then the finish carpenters followed them; and then the painters finished the first house and then followed to the second house. So you had this progressive construction of seven houses by virtually the same crew, and that was somewhat the Levitt Town idea of mass production of housing.

JL: How did he learn how to build homes like this? Where did he get his experience?

EH: He learned by hiring good boss carpenters and boss painters, and saw what they did, and then he was able to boss the carpenters. He usually had a foreman, but he knew how to give them instructions by the time he built the second and third house, and finally became a good contractor in the business.

JL: He sounds like an intelligent man.

EH: He learned it--by experience.

JL: Do you feel you were closer to your mother or your father during these early years?


EH: I was probably closer to my mother because father was out in the contracting business most of the time. I had more time with my mother and did more work around the house with my mother.

JL: What did you enjoy doing besides, I guess, gardening your patch...

EH: Playing baseball. (Chuckle)

JL: You were athletic then?

EH: Oh, I became leader of a group of youngsters in the area because I was the eldest of this group of about 10 or 11 boys; and now-retired Colonel Haynes was then top sergeant of my gang. I use the word gang advisedly because it was just a neighborhood group that played games together; it wasn't in any way, or 00:17:00any sense, the type of gang of a modern city. For your interest, we just had an alumni reunion of Theta Delta Nu from Oregon State University up at Rosario [Resort], Washington, and Colonel Haynes flew out 3,000 miles for this reunion, as I did, 3,000 miles from Arlington. He flew from California and so here was my childhood pal joining us in this reunion. Most of us had graduated 50 to 55 years ago.

JL: Ohh. Terrific.

EH: Last year we had a reunion in Florida and called it our Florida Fling. This year we had our reunion in Rosario, Washington; called it our Rosario Romp.

JL: I wanted to ask--where were these homes that your father built, using the Levittown...

EH: They were, oh, scattered all over Portland but to a large extent on the east 00:18:00side. He did very little building on the west side. Virtually all of it was in the northeast sector of Washington and our house, at 28th and Alder at that time, was just outside of that sector. Of course, the city limits has gone miles and miles and miles beyond that. At that point we were just two blocks outside of the cemetery whose edge was the boundary of the city. I think 26th was the boundary and 28th was just several blocks outside of the city limits.

JL: So, where did you go to high school and...

EH: Well, I went to grammar school, Sunnyside Grammar School, in that area; and then we used to walk through the cemetery down to Washington High School below 00:19:00the cemetery. I got a scholarship from Washington High School to go to Oregon State University. That's where I got my start. I lost Father when I was a year into high school. [When I was] a freshman, he fell off a two-story scaffold on a pile of brick, and had internal injuries and died the next year.

JL: Oh, my gosh.

EH: So, I had to go to work in the afternoons and evenings. They let me out of high school an hour early so I could work from 2:00 p.m. 'til midnight. That year I worked for the Western Union, pedaling telegrams for 3 cents on my bicycle.

JL: Tell me about that! My gosh!

EH: They gave us a route of telegrams to deliver. We got 3 cents for each telegram we delivered; but, in order to make it pay, as soon as I came down in the afternoon between two and four o'clock, they sent me around to a lot of the 00:20:00big buildings to pick up telegrams and night grams that were to be sent out that night or that afternoon, and I'd get 3 cents for each telegram that I'd pick up. Well, if I got a large building I might pick up 25, 30 telegrams, so I made most of my money in those first two, three hours. But I had to stay on duty so if there's any telegram that came in for delivery, why, I'd have to take my turn delivering it.

JL: What year was this?

EH: Let's see, let me back up. That was the year 1917, 1918.

JL: So, it was during the war years?

EH: Yah, let's see, the war started--I graduated in 1920, so I must have started in 1916-17, so this was the fall of 1917, I think, that I was working for Western Union, pedaling telegrams.

JL: How did the death of your father affect your mother's life then? Other than...


EH: Well, very drastically because there were a lot of medical bills to pay and in his illness the payment of the premium on his life insurance was forgotten. In those days insurance people didn't send you out notices, and mother didn't know about a lot of these business details, and father was too sick to tell her about the insurance. So, on his death she didn't have a penny of insurance. So, the subsequent year when I was working for the shipyard, she saw to it that with my first earnings I started taking out a 20-pay life insurance with the Metropolitan Life and Co. Twenty years later that was all paid up and it's been paid up ever since, so they're making money off of what I gave them when I was starting, when I was 19 years old.

JL: My gosh.


EH: Yah, I paid on that from 1919 to 1929, so they've had that money ever since 1929 to invest and make money on, and I'm still kicking around.

JL: Where was your brother during these years-during the war years?

EH: Well, he graduated from Washington High School also, and then he went to Benson Polytechnic to take some technical subjects and was my father's finish carpenter until my father's death; and then he started driving a truck for a wholesale grocery house and finally bought a group of trucks and got a contract with two, three [wholesale! grocery houses to deliver to the groceries all over 00:23:00the town, whatever the orders were. Every day the groceries would phone in what they had to have, and a group of four or five trucks would get the orders from these several wholesale houses, and go around this route of grocers and grocery stores and make all the deliveries. That was in the day when we used to have the Ma-and-Pa small grocery. Those are extinct, now that you have the large giant markets and all the rest of them.

JL: Well, Mr. Hoy, did this money that you earned as a Western Union telegraph carrier go to supporting your mother and your family's household needs?

EH: Right. It went to help buy food to meet our family needs. Mother had to borrow a lot on the house; she made loans on the house and she built up credit. 00:24:00They gave her a lot of food from Meier and Frank on credit because father had been a retired minister, so she built up a bill there that had to be taken care of. On her death my brother and I found that the house was very heavily in debt; we had all these medical bills still outstanding, doctor's bills and what not, and bills at Meier and Frank and other places. Mother had started to take in boarders to help meet expenses but still hadn't paid off a lot of these debts, so, on the sale of the house we spent virtually all the money on the sale to meet the mortgages and loans on the house and meet these other debts.

JL: Oh, my gosh.

EH: The only thing I got out of the estate after the death of my parents were two watercolors that my mother had painted. My brother got a little something 00:25:00out of the estate from handling it; and being the executor, he got some pay as executor of the estate. I was in school, working my way through school, so he loaned me some money to finish my last couple of years at Oregon State, but I virtually got nothing out of the estate except the paintings from my mother...

JL: Well, those mean a lot. What year did she pass away?

EH: 1924.

JL: I would like to ask how religion has affected your life?

EH: (Chuckles) I've had a very checkered career in religion. I was christened a Lutheran in Watsontown, Pennsylvania, where my father had been a minister. 00:26:00But, when we moved out to Portland and he got the home out in the suburbs, the nearest church within miles was a stone Congregational church where my brother and I went to Sunday school. Frequently, Brother would go out and play baseball with the kids while I went to Sunday school, and on the way home I had to coach my brother on what the Sunday school lesson was so when Dad interrogated us, Brother would have all the right answers, (laughter) Maybe I got a bribe of an ice-cream cone on the way home, (laughter)

JL: And you went for it, huh? (Laughter)

EH: Well, my brother was seven years older than I; he was my big protector. But, following the Sunday school and this Congregational church, Father later became 00:27:00interested in a Baptist minister who was a little too modern for his church. He was minister of the white Baptist church, the First Baptist Church in the west side of Portland. He had a schism with his church and took about half of them out to the east side and rented a building, a frame building, from the Methodist people who had just built a new stone church. Dad became very much interested in this pastor who was a pretty well-renowned minister, and Dad became associate pastor in this Baptist church.

JL: Along with doing contracting work?

EH: Right. Right. He and Mother prevailed upon me to be baptized on an Easter Sunday in the Baptist church, so the kids in the neighborhood were all making 00:28:00bets on how many bubbles I could blow before I came up. (Laughter) I was in the Young People's Baptist Union, the Y.P.B.U., in the latter part of my high school days. I couldn't go in to many of the social activities during the week because I was working but...

JL: This was when your father died?

EH: Yah.

JL: Oh, I see.

EH: Well, it was when father was assistant pastor of the church and I was sort of coerced into joining the church because Father was associate pastor. My brother refused to join the church. I refused for a while until my mother talked me into it to keep peace in the family, (laughter) But, down at then-Oregon Agricultural College, when I was a pledge in the Theta Delta Nu 00:29:00fraternity, although most of them were Baptists, our faculty advisor taught the Sunday school in the Methodist, Southern Methodist, church so virtually all of us went down in a body to the Sunday school of our faculty advisor; so, I spent a year in the Southern Methodist [Sunday] school. And the second year I got interested in a girl who belonged to the Central Union Church, so I went to that church for a year.

JL: My gosh.

EH: And then my junior and senior years I was too busy in engineering activities to attend very many church services, and finally, when I went to Hawaii, I got interested in studying Buddhism and the religions of the Japanese--Shintoism. 00:30:00I didn't join, of course, any of those exotic Oriental churches but I was interested in Confucius and learned a lot from the Chinese faculty at the University of Hawaii. So, I had quite a checkered religious career.

JL: I can see that.

EH: When we were married, my wife was teaching mathematics at the University of Hawaii and I was teaching applied math and engineering design at the University of Hawaii. She was of American Chinese ancestry. Her grandfather had been a consul, Chinese consul, in Honolulu and her father was a prominent banker. He was the treasurer of foreign currency in the Bank of Hawaii and was asked by the mayor and governor to entertain a lot of prom-inent people coming through Honolulu so he put on a lot of large Chinese dinners for these [people].

JL: Just a minute. Let me switch [tapes] here. O.K.


EH: My wife's father, William K.F. Yap, Y-A-P, and my fiancée, Ruth Yap, both played the organ for the Chinese Christian Church and the church itself was a blending of the occidental and oriental styles. The front of the church had beautiful oriental tiles and an oriental pagoda tower, but the rest of the church and the interior was quite Caucasian in style, and we were married there 00:32:00in a joint service. The minister of the Central Union Church where my wife had studied organ and where we had gone to services also, conducted the main part of the wedding service, but the Chinese minister of the Chinese Christian Church gave the invocation in Chinese and the first part of the service in Chinese for the benefit of the Chinese people present, although the bulk of the people were from the university faculty and alumni and students and friends of ours. So, the main part of the service then was in English conducted as a standard wedding 00:33:00ceremony by the minister of the Central Union Church, and then the closing was again in Chinese by the home pastor. I'd had the best man give an envelope to each of the ministers, the usual gratuity to the minister conducting the marriage service, and the following week I got the return of the money from the minister of the Central Union Church because he said, really, the money should go to the home pastor of the church I was married in, and in any event I probably needed the money more than he. And he was so right. (Chuckles)

JL: Oh, (laughter) so you have been active in religions of the world. Did you have many discussions about religion with your father?

EH: Not too much. I was very young at that time and he didn't want to get me too 00:34:00confused between Lutheranism which he'd left and the Congregational church; and the basic religions were very similar. There wasn't an awful lot of difference.

JL: So, religion wasn't so much of an everyday part of your family life?

EH: Oh, yes. He read the chapter in the Bible before dinner every day; upset Mother when the food got cold, (laughter)

JL: You had become a Western Union Telegraph carrier during your high school years and then you graduated in 1920. Tell me how you decided to come to O.A.C. How you heard about it and decided?

EH: Well, during the war I got a job in the summers at the Willamette Iron & 00:35:00Steel Works making boilers, marine boilers, one summer and the following summer I worked for the Standifer Shipyard Corporation in Vancouver, Washington, making ships for our war fleet.

JL: How did you get involved in those activities during the summer?

EH: Well, my brother got me the job in Willamette Iron & Steel. He knew I was adept in mechanics. He and I did a lot of work on automobiles. We used to tear automobiles apart and rebuild them and make what we call 'bugs' in those days, B-U-G. Bug.

JL: What's that?

EH: That was the slang for a little rundown car which was rebuilt in the form of 00:36:00a small sports car. We used a lot of wood products in those days in the reshaping of the body and making the sports styling of it.

JL: What did you like about that? What was it that...

EH: The mechanics of working on the engine and so on, and, as I say, that led to the job at Willamette Iron Works helping make boilers for the war effort, and that got me into mechanical engineering at Oregon State University.

JL: Well, tell me about how you make boilers. What part did you play in that? What was the process? What did you do?

EH: Well, I started out in the drafting room making blueprints and making photographs of enlarged small prints for the draftsmen. Every day I'd roll out 00:37:00several sheets of blueprints for the different draftsmen and that was for $50.00 a month. Then, during the latter part of the summer I got a job at running a rivet heater machine, heating rivets for the rivet crew to put them into the boilers. So, that lead me to the same type of work on a rivet crew on the big ships over in Standifer's the next summer.

JL: And you enjoyed this type of work then?

EH: Well, it was hard work but it was war work and we were all trying to help out in the war effort. My brother was in the Army and I tried to lie about my age and get into the Army, but I didn't make it.

JL: They didn't believe you, huh? (Chuckles)

EH: No.

JL: What was your mother's feeling about your doing these jobs, working on the boilers and...


EH: Well, she knew that it was necessary that I help learn to earn the livelihood of the family. I had to contribute to the family just as my brother was; I had to help support the family, so she was quite content that I get work of any sort that was available.

JL: What type of occupation did she want you to go into? Was she particular? Artwork, you said was important?

EH: No, she didn't try to push me into any type of work at all. It was up to me to decide what type of work I wanted to go into, whether I wanted to go into building work, contracting work, or whether I wanted to go into the boiler and shipyard type of work I got into. You fall accidentally into a lot of types of 00:39:00work. You do things that have to be done in order to earn a living, so, you take the job that is available whether you like it or not. There were jobs available for young kids in riveting, rivet heating jobs, passing rivets, and all that sort of thing, in shipyards.

JL: So, how did you hear about O.A.C.?

EH: Well, my high school advisers recommended I go into mechanical engineering because of aptitudes. I took mechanical drawing. I did the whole year of high school mechanical drawing in one semester, because I'd helped my father [with] the drawings when I was nine or ten years old. He used to have a carpenter 00:40:00come in during the winter, the boss carpenter, to help him design homes, instead of hiring an architect. Well, he and the boss carpenter would design the homes with Mother's suggestions on the feminine side of it: the housewife's needs, you know, the kitchen and so forth. I helped sketch houses, and I helped make blueprints from what the boss carpenter had sketched on brown paper. I got to read drawings when I was nine and ten years old, and begin making them myself. So, when I was in high school I knew quite a bit about drawing and reading drawings, so I zipped through the beginning drawings which were so simple: 00:41:00just drawing little rectangular figures and cubes and then cylinders, and I zipped through that miles an hour, and, as I say, finally was given advance assignments by the instructor, and he was so amazed that he finally gave me the whole second semester and the latter half of the first semester.

JL: You must have been exceptional.

EH: So, I had A plus in mechanical drawing in high school, and A plus in mechanical drawing in college.

JL: So, your advisors told you about the program at O.A.C.? Was that your first contact with this College?

EH: Well, actually my first contact with anybody from the College was with a sophomore from Theta Delta Nu who learned that I had a scholarship and rang our doorbell one evening, talked to me, got acquainted, and invited me to go down to 00:42:00O.A.C. with him in his Ford, and so I stayed at the fraternity house that first week until they finally decided to pledge me.

JL: Was that common practice for...

EH: That was the first contact I had with any person from O.A.C.

JL: Was that common practice for a fraternity to recruit somebody for the College?

EH: Well, the fraternities always go out in the summer and try to talk the kids into pledging their university. They work all through the senior year in high school trying to get kids interested in their fraternity. That's pretty common practice.

JL: I didn't know that.

EH: Yes.

JL: What was your impression then?

EH: Well, I was quite amazed because I didn't have any athletic activity and I hadn't the opportunity to get into social activities: dancing and that sort of thing. I didn't know how to dance when I went down to college. A junior in the 00:43:00fraternity insisted that I had to learn to dance, that everyone had to take a girl to our pledge dance, so, after dinner he would teach me to waltz for half an hour for a few nights, and then he taught me how to fox-trot for a few nights. I feel sorry for the girl I dated for the dance; I had to have the first and last dance with her but all the other dances I traded off with the boys who were considered good dancers, (laughter)

JL: How did you happen to get a scholarship? What was that about?

EH: Well, my father had died and I was working my way through high school; I had no money to go to school on, and I was a top student in high school, had very good grades, so, they felt on the basis of academic ability and on the basis of need that I was a good candidate for a scholarship.

JL: Who was 'they'?


EH: The combination of the high school faculty and the senior council of the high school, because the money was raised through different activities of the high school. For instance, every dramatic presentation usually gave all of the net proceeds to the scholarship fund; then the kids put on different programs from time to time and contributed to the scholarship fund. I got the huge scholarship of $600.00 to carry me through a year of college, (chuckles) it almost did.

JL: It did!

EH: My average expenses for the five years I was at Oregon State College averaged $880.00 a year. I kept very detailed records of every penny I spent.

JL: You came to O.A.C. in 1920?


EH: Right.

JL: And you had decided on mechanical engineering, or was that scholarship specifically for mechanical engineering?

EH: No, the scholarship was for anything I took at Oregon State. Any college.

JL: So, you came down, and where did you stay for...

EH: Theta Delta Nu Fraternity.

JL: And you decided that you wanted to major in mechanical engineering or...

EH: Well, that was decided before I ever came down to O.A.C. That was decided in high school.

JL: You had decided that?

EH: In my senior year at high school, yah.

JL: There was no doubt that you would study...

EH: No, there was a confirmed conviction by that time of the interest in engines I'd worked on, and having worked on many automobiles, I had a mechanical bent.

JL: What did you think of the Mechanical Engineering Department? Were you satisfied with it or...?


EH: Well, I...

JL: What were you impressed with in the department?

EH: Being entirely new to the field of higher education, I had nothing to compare the program at Oregon State with. I didn't know anything [more] about mechanical engineering [at Oregon State than at] any other school, so when you ask me how I could evaluate it, I just accepted it as a good program. I worked hard. Engineering was difficult; the classes were large and you didn't get the individual attention in those days that we had hoped for. I remember in physics we had a very large lecture group and fairly large laboratory classes. Many of the science courses were conducted in the fashion where they would throw several 00:47:00sections together in lecture sessions, and give you your reading assignments and your textbooks, and then break you up into smaller sections for your laboratory work. But the engineering program was a very stiff program. It was a no-nonsense course. We worked hard at it.

JL: Who stands out in your mind as influencing you during those years at O.A.C.?

EH: Well, very largely the older boys in the fraternity. It happened that a lot of them were war veterans who came back, and they had a lot of influence on we younger fellows. Some of them had already had a couple or three years of college 00:48:00and were coming back after the war to finish up, and I was influenced quite a bit by the upperclassmen in the fraternity because I didn't have the contacts that the average high school student would have. As I said before, I didn't have any social life, so to speak, I worked all the time; weekends I had to study to catch up with what I'd missed during the week. So, I didn't have very much social life the first year or so at college, because I was so busy with engineering and trying to catch up with the fraternity activities. But the fraternity insisted that everyone go into an activity of some sort or another, and since I had no athletic experience, why they thought I ought to go out for the freshman debate team. Well, I didn't have any experience in speaking and was 00:49:00kind of bashful and backward at that time-wasn't a very good speaker. But finally in the last quarter of the year, I did make the freshman debate team and got into the Lincolnian Forensic Society, and also in the last quarter I tried out for the squad that was to debate Washington State College. There weren't more than about six or seven of us there trying out for the debate team, but I spent a lot of [time on] research, and had a big card file and a lot of information, and technically I had one of the best presentations; but I made the lousiest speech of anyone present, (laughter) So, he [the debate coach, Charles B. Mitchell] put me on the squad primarily because I had the best research file of anyone, but...

JL: Why was your speech poor?


EH: Well, I just had no ability at public speaking; had no practice in public speaking whatsoever. He had two good boys, who had good presence and good personality and all that, on the team, so I was one of the pluggers on the squad who helped provide material for the team.

JL: Competition between the debate squads was common?

EH: Yah, well, actually that eventually got me into journalism. At the close of the session he motioned me over; he said, "You've done a lot of research here and have a good card file and all that, now I want you to write up a little story about the tryouts tonight, and take it over and give it to the Barometer 00:51:00to publish." And I said, "Well, I never wrote a story in my life." And he said: "Well, all you need to do is write two or three paragraphs. Start off in your first paragraph that so and so were the debaters, and their backup were this other guy and myself, so you four were on the debate squad against Washington State College, and the debate was to be held so and so at such and such, and [mention] Washington State and so on, and then in the next paragraph mention something about the subject, and some of the details, and some of the other people who were at the tryout. But don't forget to mention the coach." (Laughter) Well, I went over to the Barometer office and there was only one person working there at night because most of them were off at the basketball game, and a lot of them were down at the print shop, proof reading and so on. 00:52:00This one boy was there for emergency stories and waiting for the copy to come in from the ball game, so I told him I had this story from the results of the tryout for the Washington State Debate team. So, he said, "Well, sit down and type it up." And I said, "Well, I don't know how to run a typewriter." "Well," he says, "You have one finger. Poke it." So, I sat there poking out the story, and he didn't have time to correct it or change it. He said, "Write a headline." So, I dreamed up a very short headline which I thought would fill. So, that was published exactly the way I wrote it-errors and all. (Laughter) So, my advisor in the fraternity said: "Well, you're doing good. You got a story in the newspaper. You'd better go out for journalism then." So, I got on the Barometer 00:53:00as a reporter in my sophomore year since I was good. I wasn't good enough to go out for varsity debate, so I got pushed into journalism as a...

JL: Were you interested in journalism?

EH: Not particularly, no. But I was pushed by the fraternity to get into some activity. I wasn't good for much of anything else, so I was pushed into newspaper work. I did pretty well reporting; got interested in sports reporting and one thing and another, and then my junior year as a result of all the work I did they made me a night editor of one of the issues. I don't know whether they still follow that today or not but...

JL: Tell me about that.

EH: ...back in my day they had five different staffs. One for each day of the week so that you wouldn't have to spend too much of your time away from your other classes doing journalistic activities reporting for the daily paper. Well, 00:54:00I was very, very lucky. I had an excellent day editor who had been a major in English, and she revised a lot of the copy. A very, very good copy editor. She wrote the headlines, and I contributed a lot to the success of our issue of the week largely [due] to her ability.

JL: Who was this? What was her name?

EH: I don't know her name. I've forgotten. This was 55 years ago and I don't remember her name. I came on duty about five o'clock and picked up all the copy that she finished and took it down to the print shop.

JL: Where was the print shop?

EH: Oh, downtown near the Gazette Times. It was a small private print shop. For a few years the Gazette Times did print the Barometer, but then we got a private 00:55:00contractor with another printer a little cheaper. I'd take the copy down and give it to the printer to be set up. During the day there would be somebody running copy down as it was finished, but I would take the work of the last hour or two, and the headlines that she wrote, and give it to the printer to set up, and my job was to see that the proofreaders were checking everything out in the copy that we sent down. But the big job of the night editor was to make out the page composition. So I had to rewrite some of the headlines for the more important stories and make them, maybe, two- or three-column headlines. I had to figure out which were the most important stories of the issue. If there was a big basketball game, of course, you had a big headline clear across the page if 00:56:00you won that big game; if you lost, why, it was just a three-column headline, (laughter) But I had to check the makeup of the inside pages with the editorial copy, fitting in the ads. Of course, the ads had priority on the inside because that was the bread and butter of publishing the paper. But I had a lot of fun "putting the paper to bed" as we called it. When we went to press we said that was "putting the paper to bed".

JL: Ohhh. How many years were you in this position?

EH: I was on one year, in my junior year; and then, because we had put out the best newspaper, and again because of my reputation and various activities

I was by that time second editor of the Beaver, in my junior year, was also 00:57:00editor of the Tech Record, the engineering Tech Record, my junior year-so, as a result of all those activities and the best newspaper of the year I was elected editor of the Barometer. I got the huge sum of $50.00 a month for being the editor of the Barometer.

JL: And you really weren't even interested in journalism?

EH: Not at the beginning, no.

JL: You became interested.

EH: Well, for a while in my sophomore and junior years, I decided if I was going to do much writing I'd better take a couple or three courses in journalism. But, my senior year, you automatically got three credits each quarter because you're editor that was counted as a laboratory; you didn't have to take any exams or anything but you automatically got three credits for being editor. Then, of course, I took the course in editorial writing the first quarter. I'd have to write the editorials all year. So actually, I got 12 credits of journalism in my senior year; so, by the time I graduated, although I had a 00:58:00major in mechanical engineering, I had a minor in industrial journalism, which was a peculiar combination.

JL: Yes. What were some of the more important stories that you did during your time as editor on the Barometer? Can you think of any highlight?

EH: Well, one of the most exciting episodes was during the leap year party that the girls wanted to give. Various fraternities and the dormitories put on a leap year party, student leap year party. But the different dormitories and 00:59:00sororities wanted to go out serenading the fraternities afterwards. Well, the dean of women [Dean Kate W. Jameson] wasn't very excited about that and vetoed it at first, but she did agree that they could stay out a half hour later. Normally, dances quit at 11:00 p.m. and you were in the dormitory by 11:30 p.m., so she extended that a half hour; they didn't have to get back to the dormitory until 12:00 midnight. Finally, she did acquiesce, with approval of the president, on permitting the sororities and the groups, and Waldo Hall and one of the other dormitories, to go out and serenade. But there are always some people or some groups that will not abide by the rules and so there were three or four sororities that stayed out until 1:30 or 2:00 in the morning, and some of the people in the neighborhood complained to the president: what kind of a school was he running, letting his girls out singing and yelling with the boys at 2:00 in the morning.


JL: This was President Kerr?

EH: Yah, and President Kerr [William Jasper Kerr, president, O.A.C, 1907-1932] was pretty straight-laced too, and so he called the dean of women and wanted to know what was going on. I think they got the campus police out to catch some of the girls that weren't in their dormitories yet; brought them into the dean's office and raked them over the coals. Well, anyhow, the dean laid down the law that all sororities that had broken the rules were on strict probation for the rest of the year: no dances, no parties, no socializing, strictly 01:01:00academic. Well, many of us felt that that was a little harsh on one sorority; in this one instance that she should have tempered that decision where no visitors were to be allowed in the sororities during their probation. Let's see, the edict came out on a Friday, and as of that evening there were to be no visitors in any of the sororities and so on. Well, this one sorority was having their annual formal ball that Saturday night and they already had a lot of alumni, and a lot of the parents, in the sorority and planning to attend their annual formal ball. Furthermore, they had their programs printed, they had gifts 01:02:00purchased, and they had a contract with the band, and had about half the cost of the evening already paid. The band wouldn't come unless they had this advance payment; so, if you forfeit the contract, why, you lost that payment. They felt it was extremely harsh to lose all of that money, and it was extremely difficult to send a lot of the alumni and the parents back home without going to their annual formal dance; so, there was quite a fuss with the dean about that. Being editor of the paper, I had to side in with the students; we sent some reporters out talking to the different fraternities and groups, and they all had general agreements that that was too harsh on this one sorority and that the dean of women should have been more lenient. So, I was subsequently called on the carpet by the dean of women, and subsequently by President Jasper Kerr, about my 01:03:00editorial criticizing the dean of women for being too harsh in her punishment on this particular sorority: that the punishment on the rest of the sororities was considered valid and she should punish the sororities, but she should have shown some commiseration for at least this one sorority that already had their friends in, and so on. Well, that was one of the most exciting stories of the year. The other was when the football coach was fired because he'd lost several games, and there was a lot of excitement.

JL: Who was that?

EH: Oh, I don't remember his name. [Richard B. "Dick" Rutherford]

JL: That was in 1924 then?

EH: Yah, 1924, and he'd lost a lot of games and the athletic board had met and was going to fire him, so we had a big spread in the newspaper about it. I got quite an exciting story with a two-column front-page editorial.


JL: Were you more interested in journalism that mechanical engineering or did they complement each other?

EH: Well, no, they were two diverse fields, but I was devoting a lot more of my time to journalism, obviously, working afternoons and nights on the paper, than I was to my engineering field and I had to come back the following semester for one of the laboratories in senior engineering that I'd missed because I was taking the course in editorial writing and had a conflict with that course; so I had to come back the following year to get my degree. I had 20 more credits than required in 1924 after four years, but I couldn't get a degree unless I had finished this required course in mechanical engineering.

JL: What professors stand out in your mind in mechanical engineering or journalism?


EH: Well, in mechanical engineering, Sam Graf [Samuel H. Graf] was an outstanding professor. And Dean [Grant A.] Covell, C-O-V-E-L-L, was an outstanding professor and administrator. In those days the administrators often had to teach a class or two and...

JL: Which classes did he teach?

EH: Well, I think he taught a course on--we're talking about Dean Covell--he taught a class in the legal side of engineering contracting and so forth. But in journalism the outstanding man was Professor [Francis L.] Snow. We all called him Pop Snow.

JL: Why is that?

EH: That's just a nickname the kids gave him. He was Pop. (Laughter) He popped off a lot and he was a popper, (laughter)


JL: What made him so outstanding?

EH: He was head of the Journalism Department and so he and I worked very closely together because the Barometer was really his laboratory for his classes in journalism. A lot of his kids wrote stories for the Barometer and broke into writing by writing for the Barometer.

JL: Why did you like him so much? Why did you think he was so outstanding?

EH: Well, he and I had arguments about what I wrote in my editorials at times, but we had to get together because I had to rely on him to provide some of the students to work for the paper, and he had to rely on me for support for providing the laboratory facility, so to speak, for his School of Journalism. But we got along pretty well.


JL: Well, you mentioned two names in mechanical engineering: Graf and Covell. How did they influence your life here at the College? Did you know them personally, for example, on a social level?

EH: No, the Engineering Department didn't have so many social activities like many of the other schools did. We had our spring picnic and-well, the one big affair was the engineer carnival; that was held every spring. When I was a freshman they thought it would be a lot of fun to doll me up as a girl, so they got a sorority next door to loan me some girls' clothes (laughter) and fix me up 01:08:00with a big brassiere and all that (laughter), and I had a wig with a lot of curls and stuff so I was all painted up and I was trying to kid some of the boys--sidle up to them and try to get a date with them (laughter); kid them along. It was an annual spring event in the Engineering Department.

JL: I know that in the School of Forestry they wore red ties, and there was a real camaraderie. You didn't have that in engineering then?

EH: Well, we were working very close together, and you had close relationships in the small senior classes by the time you got to the senior year. A lot of the weaker students were weeded out, and occasionally a lot of the good students had to leave to go to work to earn money to come back to school, and we were pretty close in some of our senior classes.


JL: What kind of man was Dean Covell?

EH: He had been a judge and had rather a severe judge demeanor. A lot of the boys were scared to death to be called on the carpet by the judge if they were flunking out of school or something, (chuckles) I got along fine with him because I got good grades. I knew his son. His son was in some of my classes so I got to meet the dean at his home through the son on occasion; so we got along fine.

JL: What kind of a teacher was he?

EH: Pretty strict teacher; he lectured. He gave typical lectures like a judge would and was very strict in his grading, and if kids questioned his grading, he wouldn't change it.


JL: Did you know of a person named John Garman who taught photography?

EH: No, no, didn't know John Garman.

JL: What do you remember about J.B. Horner?

EH: He was professor of English and history as I recall, and had some classes in the Mines Building. He got the museum started in the basement of the Mines Building primarily because Mines had a large collection of minerals in the basement, and some of the kids brought in different birds, and that was the basis then for starting a museum. He added to it and tried to get away from the strict mining aspect of it, tried to get something of the history of Oregon into it.


JL: Do you remember that as a student?

EH: No, I didn't know too much about the museum except just looking through the collection of minerals which were quite fascinating, and I love birds and I enjoyed seeing the birds, but I don't remember too much about the other exhibits he had.

JL: Did you ever have him as a professor?

EH: Never did, no, but he and his wife and daughter came to our fraternity house for dinner on one or two occasions, and I had chats with him then; but those were about the only contacts I had with Horner.

JL: How would women have been regarded if they had been students, taken one of 01:12:00the classes in mechanical engineering?

EH: Not having had any women in the class I can't speak from experience, but I suspect that some of them [the male students] would look down their nose at the girls as being a little too forward, to try to come into a man's sphere of interest, (chuckles)

JL: You never witnessed any kind of prejudice or anything?

EH: No, I didn't because there was no girl taking mechanical engineering. We didn't have any girls in our classes in those days, not in mechanical engineering, at least.

JL: Was it discouraged, or do you know of any women attempting to enter the field?

EH: Well, women in that day--remember now, this was 55 years ago and in that era women weren't as interested in mechanical activities or construction activities 01:13:00as they are now. They were more the homemaker, and they were quite happy to raise families.

JL: What would you have thought if one had been your classmate?

EH: I wouldn't have been worried. I would have stuck my nose to the grindstone and done my own work and not be bothered, (chuckles)

JL: What kinds of things did you do on dates when you were at O.A.C?


EH: Well, I didn't have too many dates because I was too busy in engineering classes, and when I did take a girl out, why, we went to a dance, or we went to a movie, and then we went to one of the shops in Corvallis and had an ice cream sundae, or ice cream soda, or-they used to have a mixture they called "short and thick". They would beat up a couple flavors of ice cream with either chocolate syrup, or a little pineapple or other flavors, and instead of making a sundae, an ice cream sundae, why, they'd whip the whole thing together, mix it all up. One of the main ingredients was malt and the kids loved to have a lot of malt; the more malt they had in it why that was the thicker it was supposed to be. The thickness was according to the amount of milk that went into it; the kids didn't want too much milk. In other words, it was halfway between an ice cream sundae and a milkshake, and then they put some nuts on top. That was called a "short and thick".

JL: Where was this served?


EH: I forget the name of the bake shop and...

JL: It was downtown?

EH: Yeah, it was downtown. What is one of the prominent places the kids go to nowadays? It might be one of the main places.

JL: The Big "O"?

EH: No. We never had that.

JL: Squirrels?

EH: No. Never heard of that. (Chuckles)

JL: It's probably different.

EH: Yeah. It seems to me there is a restaurant down in one of those main streets that has the name of one of those pi aces we used to go to 55 years ago. I can't think of it now.

JL: I wish you could. What kinds of projects did you work on in mechanical engineering? Any around the Corvallis area?


EH: All the projects were in the Engineering Department in the laboratory.

JL: Nothing to do with local...?

EH: Well, in the freshman year we had a class in civil engineering where we went out to the neighborhood and surveyed some of the streets. We had to rent a level, as they called it, or if we were closing a boundary, we had to use transits, so we learned how to run all these instruments and do the regular work of a civil engineer out in the field. That's the only activity we had out in the community when we were taking this course in the Civil Engineering 01:17:00Department, which was required of all engineers whether they became electrical engineers or what. In other words, your freshman and sophomore classes were pretty standard and you didn't depart until you got into your junior year, and then you started specializing either in electrical lab with a lot of fancy electrical motors, or civil engineers went into designing buildings and what-not, and mechanical engineers started working on condensers and big diesel engines and that sort of thing.

JL: What did you do during your summers when you were at school?

EH: The first summer out of school I worked at a grocery wholesale house delivering like my brother did. My brother had a big truck, so, since I was a small skinny kid, why they put me on a small panel truck, picking up from other wholesale grocers.


JL: This was in Portland?

EH: Yes. Some other grocers' wholesale items that they didn't happen to have on hand were ordered by their grocers. So, I'd rush around and pick up these items to fill out the order for the big trucks to take out on their scheduled routes. Then in the afternoon I delivered to the railroad station a bunch of boxes to be sent to different grocers out in the suburbs. These would be dropped off at each station for the grocer in that area, so my panel truck had to take it down to the railroad station for delivery. So, I had a whole variety of activities as truck driver for the wholesale house. But then the second summer I happened to get a job as a painter for a Scot. I didn't make very much money in that truck-driving for the wholesale house--the pay was very poor--but I happened to 01:19:00get a job [as a painter] with pretty good wages because I had done some painting for my father in some of the houses.

JL: This was in Portland?

EH: This was again in Portland, so between my sophomore and junior years I worked for this professional painter, doing everything from outside painting of three-story houses to inside finish enamel work in bathrooms and enamel work in parlors, to putting on paper in other apartments.