Oregon State University Libraries and Press

G. Burton Wood Oral History Interview, May 8, 1979

Oregon State University
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JL: Mr. Wood, why don't we start with how your family came to Oregon?

GW: Well, our family on my mother's side--of course, many years ago-crossed the Plains in a covered wagon and settled in southern Oregon.

JL: What was their name?

GW: Their name was Gregory. I can't tell you exactly when the family settled in the Medford area in Jackson County, but when they did arrive, the Gregory's raised four daughters and two sons, and my mother was one of the Gregory's. My father came from Indiana. I really don't know for sure where my mother and 00:01:00father met, but they were married in southern Oregon.

JL: Do you know why the Gregory family came to Oregon?

GW: I do not know that, no. I wish I did, but I don't.

JL: And why they settled in the Medford area?

GW: I think they came out to find a better opportunity in the "go west" period of the history of our country.

JL: Did you know your mother's parents?

GW: Yes. Yes, I knew my grandfather and my grandmother very well, and I can remember them. They were very wonderful people. I never did know the grandparents on my father's side because I lost my father when I was about six years old, and so after that it was not possible for me to learn anything about them.


JL: What do you remember about your mother's parents?

GW: Well, my grandfather was very strict, stern--basically a farmer. He was a very tall, stately gentleman with a flowing white beard; and he was a very kind man, but a very stern and strict individual of the old religious school. That's pretty much what I remember about him. My grandmother outlived him. She enjoyed a very full life and she was a fine, charming lady, very gracious and very, very 00:03:00tolerant of children which, of course, we were at the time.

JL: Did your grandparents live with your family?

GW: Well, they lived in Medford where I was born. My mother and father lived in Medford for many years, and then after I lost my father, my mother stayed in Medford and worked. We rented a home almost across the street from where my grandparents lived so we were over there frequently.

JL: What religion were your grandparents?

GW: I don't remember. I don't remember what their faith was.


JL: They were Christians?

GW: Oh, yes. But I don't remember what the particular faith was. So that was pretty much our background.

JL: Do you know how your mother and father met in Medford? No,

GW: I do not. No, I do not.

JL: What year were your mother and father married?

GW: I'd have to look that up in the family Bible. If I had realized that this question might come I could have prepared for it. It's in the family Bible, I'm sure, but I don't remember.

JL: What did your father do?

GW: My father was in the real estate and property development business. We had a 00:05:00very nice home in Medford and that home where I was born is still there. I was about five or six years old when this my father's death] happened. I have a very sketchy knowledge about him and his background. Later on my mother remarried, and that's when we moved to Corvallis in the 1920s.

JL: You don't know how your father became interested in real estate?

GW: No, I do not. In fact, I have tried to trace the genealogy of the family at 00:06:00the National Archives office in Seattle; but I was only there for a couple of hours, and I wasn't well enough aware of how one used the system to have accomplished very much in that two-hour period. Once I get back up there and start searching the past why I'm sure I can run across the family. I know my father came from Indiana, but I don't have any family history beyond that; and so I had to go through every Wood family in the National Archives records of the 00:07:00census of 1890 and 1850 to try to find a trace of the family, and I wasn't able to establish that.

JL: Was your mother educated when she was young?

GW: Yes, she was a high school graduate. But none of the family went beyond high school at that time.

JL: What kind of things did you do with your mother when you were small in Medford?

GW: Well, I was a typical child. I went to school and I enjoyed making things and playing as all children did. For example, there were big trees in our 00:08:00backyard, so one of the enjoyable things was to find some old steel cable one end of which we could locate on a high part of the tree, and the other end of it on the corner of the barn, and we had a little roller or little pulley that fastened around the chain with a T-handle on it. We would climb the tree and pull that little pulley up with the rope, and just step off of the limb and ride 00:09:00the cable down to the corner of the barn. That was the big sport that we had. The other thing we enjoyed doing was living near the railroad tracks. Medford was an important railroad junction and in those days there were probably twenty to thirty trains a day each way. And so we enjoyed watching the trains go by; and we'd walk the tracks down to the engine shops they had there, and then we would play on the equipment; do that sort of thing.


JL: What did the engineers think of that?

GW: Well, of course, if we got in their way, they were very much disturbed, but as long as we didn't bother anything they were very good to us. They didn't mind our climbing up and down the boxcars and various other types of cars. Medford at that time was and still is, a very important fruit growing area; and one of the things we used to do was to go to the Medford Ice and Cold Storage Company warehouse, where they made ice and loaded the refrigerator cars with shipments of pears and apples out of the Medford area. We enjoyed watching them load the cars.


JL: How did they make the ice?

GW: It was in a mechanical process. They would make the ice into a rectangular shape about a foot thick--it was about two feet high and about four feet long--and they would make it into just a kind of a slab. These were made in tanks and then just surrounded by refrigerant--just like we make ice cubes today. And then these big cakes of ice would be moved by conveyor to a loading 00:12:00platform and dropped in the refrigeration compartments of these refrigerator cars. And, of course, as kids, we always liked to have some ice to play with. When they would unload the cars, there would be a watermelon or some other fruit that would be damaged in some way, cut, so they would often give that to us. That was another temptation. Of course, we made our own toys, and our life was a 00:13:00very modest one.

JL: What did your mother think of your playing at the railroad yards?

GW: She didn't like it. It was a safety factor, and she was afraid that somehow we would get hurt. You know, kids did walk down the tracks, and those trains when they came would move very fast, and she was always afraid we wouldn't get off the tracks. She worried about it. But it was just part of the life. Of course, we had fewer organized recreation programs then than we have now.

JL: How many brothers and sisters did you have?

GW: I have one sister.

JL: And what is her name?

GW: Her name is Eleanor. She's younger


JL: Would you take your sister with you to do these things?

GW: Not very often because there were so many boys that, at that time, it was more convenient to play with other boys. I had a cousin who lived just down the street; this was my mother's sister's son. He was a little older than I so the two of us did a lot of things. He would build kites, and I would build a kite, and we would fly the kites; and we did those kinds of things much as young people do today.

JL: You mentioned that your grandfather was a farmer. Did he grow fruit?

GW: No. Grandfather was more, what I would call a dirt farmer rather than an orchardist. He lived to be a very old gentleman, and when I really knew him he 00:15:00was probably kind of semi-retired and didn't do very much work at the time.

JL: Do you remember discussing politics in your family?

GW: No, I don't remember that we did. My father, being in the real estate business and development, was gone some of the time, and as a result of this our family life was a little more sketchy than the average family where the father was a seven-to-six employee or an eight-to-five employee. He traveled quite a bit working on different projects so we didn't have quite the average family 00:16:00life. And then, up to five or six years of age, there isn't very much that happened. Most of what one remembers, I think, nappe after that because before that you're growing up, and you're young, and you haven't established much in the way of a set of values; that begins to come along a little later. So, I don't know too much about family life at that time, unfortunately.

JL: What do you remember of Jacksonville?

GW: Well, Jacksonville was a very interesting town at the time. There was a small railroad train that ran from Medford to Jacksonville, and as a youngster I became quite well-acquainted with the engineer of that train.


JL: Because of your playing activities there?

GW: Yes. He used to let me ride in the engine compartment of the train and pull the cord that rang the bell on the engine from Medford to Jacksonville. So I was over there often. When I wasn't in school, I rode with him as frequently as I could. It was something to do. In addition, of course, I had a paper route. I grew out of those things as I got a little older. But Jacksonville was a busy town. It was a thriving town and had a little railroad came right into downtown Medford; it just ran from Medford to Jacksonville and back, and hauled freight 00:18:00and all the passengers.

JL: What do you think of the restoration of Jacksonville now?

GW: I'm impressed with it. I think they've done a very, very nice job. The museum there is fine. Is your home in southern Oregon by chance?

JL: No, I've visited there. I'm impressed with the historical preservation and Restoration of the area.

GW: Well, I am too!

JL: Do you think the reconstruction is authentic?

GW: I think so. It's hard to attain real authenticity; when you reestablish something you have the tendency to reestablish it in a little more finished form than most of us remember it, you know. The hotel, for example, where they have 00:19:00rooms where Mrs. Wood and I have stayed overnight is nice, but it's established in the more modern sense. If you were to go back to Jacksonville when I knew Jacksonville--we used to go over there occasionally and play some pranks, as young people would--and then see Jacksonville today and what everyone else sees 00:20:00in it, it's not quite the same. But they've done a very creditable job of preserving it; but the roads are different, and the buildings are different, but it's acceptable.

JL: You were born in 1909, is that correct?

GW: 1909, right.

JL: What was the major form of transportation for your family?

GW: My father had an automobile and, of course, we went everywhere in that. He was fortunate in having an early automobile--we were one of the few people who had one--but he sort of needed it in his business. He had a 1909 Jackson; it was a nice car and it was an expensive car, and we went around in that. Then after we lost my father, of course, we didn't have an automobile and so, when we went 00:21:00any place, we could go by stage or I had a bicycle - or we walked most of the time.

JL: What were people's reactions to your family's car?

GW: Well, it was somewhat of a novelty at that time. I guess you could say they would stare. They were interested as people are when any novelty or something new like that comes along. We never did have a horse and buggy; it was always an automobile. My grandfather did not have a car; but I believe he did have a horse 00:22:00and buggy. It was, of course, a much less active society then than now, and the bicycle was extremely important. But there were more cars coming along. My first job of any real consequence was working on a delivery truck for the grocer. The grocer delivered groceries in a Model-T food pickup truck, an open-body vehicle about half-way between a pickup truck and a truck. I would go down to the store 00:23:00after school and I would help him then. We'd load up all the groceries and we'd put them in little wooden boxes. He would drive the vehicle, and my job as an assistant was to take the box of groceries up to the porch and knock on the door; and, when the lady came, I would carry the groceries inside, take them out of the box and put them on her counter, and carry the box back and put it in the little Ford truck.

JL: How did you know what groceries the woman wanted?

GW: The woman would call in by telephone, or she would let him know-but usually by telephone--and he would fill the order--take them out. Most of the time, this 00:24:00was on a monthly-account billing. At least with the man I worked for, Saturday was the big day; I worked all day Saturday instead of just after school.

JL: What grocery store was this?

GW: I don't remember. That's too long ago.

JL: This was in Medford?

GW: In Medford, yes.

JL: Do you remember the name of the man you worked for?

GW: No, I don't. I should have kept a diary, I guess. As I look back on it now, I think of the many times when it would be interesting to have done two things: one was to have taken some photographs; and secondly, to have kept something of a diary which I did not do. And so I have not retained much of this, which is unfortunate.


JL: Was your mother ever employed?

GW: Oh, yes. The only way we got along as a family was that I worked after school I had a paper route and then she worked as a bookkeeper in a business in Medford. The business she worked for in Medford was known as the May Company, as I recall it. It was a department store and she worked there for many years.

JL: Was it uncommon for women with children to work?

GW: Well, of course, women worked then in clerical positions much as they do now; they worked in secretarial and office positions much as they do now. But, 00:26:00for the most part, women did not work as is currently the case today, and they did not seek the higher and more managerial and influential positions that women today aspire to and obtain. So it was quite different.

JL: What kind of hobbies did you have as a child in Medford?

GW: Well, I was always fascinated by automobiles and machinery. I enjoyed this, and I guess this is part of the reason that I used to walk down to the railroads yards and look at the trains, and why I became friendly with an engineer of a 00:27:00little railroad between Medford and Jacksonville. I guess it explains why I used to get on my bike and ride out to the gasoline bulk plant, called the Associated Oil Company at that time.

JL: Gasoline Bulk Company?

GW: Bulk plant. It's a gasoline distributing plant. We call them bulk plants. That's where the oil comes in, and gasoline comes in, in bulk. It came in a tank car then, instead of pipelines as it does mostly today. And then these bulk plants would wholesale it out to the various users--service stations and so on. When I was not in school, I enjoyed riding my bicycle several miles out of town to the bulk plant. I'd made friends with the driver of one of the Associated Oil 00:28:00Company's tank trucks. He had a big solid-tire Peerless truck that had the tank on it and he would let me ride with this tank truck from Medford to Ashland while he made various deliveries at Central Point, Talent, so on. And so that was always an experience. The big truck had a speed of about eleven miles an 00:29:00hour and then, after I had ridden with him, oh, dozens of times, he would slide over in the seat and let me steer it.

JL: How old were you?

GW: I was probably then about ten, which was much too young to do what I did, but he was a very generous individual and he could discern my interest in vehicles. So, I had a long-time early interest in automobiles. And it still continues today.

JL: What do you remember about the logging operations around that area?

GW: Nothing. I didn't have any contact with them and I don't remember much about them. We just didn't have the organized recreational programs back 56 years ago 00:30:00that we have today.

JL: Most of your free time then was working on your paper route...

GW: I worked on the paper route; and I worked every night and Saturdays at the grocery store as a delivery boy. It was important that I work. I didn't make very much, but what little I made helped the family put me through school. I had to buy my own shoes and my mother just could not earn enough money to support us all, so I had to earn all that I could from my paper route and it was fun.


JL: So when did your mother remarry?

GW: Oh, gracious.

JL: How old were you at the time?

GW: I was finishing grade school when this happened. It was at that time that we 00:32:00moved to Corvallis.

JL: You moved with your new father?

GW: Yes.

JL: And what year was that, do you remember?

GW: As I recall, it was 1922. I was just finishing up grade school because I know that I did attend Central School here in Corvallis. I graduated from Central School, and then I went on and graduated from Corvallis High School.

JL: What was your stepfather's name?

GW: His name was Douglas.

JL: And what did he do then?


GW: He was an upholsterer. He ran an upholstering business.

JL: Why did he come to Corvallis?

GW: I don't really know why he came here. I just don't know what motivated this.

JL: Do you recall anything about the World War I years? How did they affect your life?

GW: Well, yes, I remember something about the war years because we had a military base at Medford. It was located south of town and we had a fleet of 00:34:00aircraft there. I guess the reason that I know a little bit about it was that my mother's sister became acquainted with one of the servicemen at that base and they were subsequently married. I can remember the airbase; I used to ride out there on my bike when I had free time, because I was fascinated by airplanes too. The aircraft that they had at the airbase at that time were, of course, bi-winged, two wings, and they were powered by de Havilland engines. It was just 00:35:00fascinating to me to be out there and see these planes come and go. These were very slow planes; the air mail service, as I recall, was just getting underway, but we had this base there. And I can remember troop trains coming through Medford. They were either going enroute to California, or coming from California into the Oregon area, into Portland and Seattle, probably for embarkation 00:36:00overseas. But I remember the troop trains.

JL: What was the attitude of the townspeople toward the military personnel?

GW: They were very tolerant about it. The people at the airbase were nice people. The air force at that time was more of an elite division and they had pretty high-class people; and they were well accepted. The townspeople liked them; they always spent good money and I guess they spent most of everything that they earned. It was not a major factor, but it was a factor in the 00:37:00community at that time.

JL: Do you remember your impressions when you saw your first airplane?

GW: Oh, yes, I was thrilled when I saw the first one and realized that this engine, running a little propeller, pulling a very flimsily-made structure, could move a man through the air. And, of course, there were a lot of accidents at the Medford airbase; several of the pilots were killed coming in, landing, and going. But it was fascinating to see the people fly.


JL: Then your first planes were seen at the airbase?

GW: That's really the first ones that I remember much about, and, of course, that brought in a great deal of activity. It was just fascinating to me to get out there to see them take off and see them land. And, again, I guess, this is part of my interest in mechanical things of that kind. I'd spend as much time out there as I could, and I was always interested in picking up little parts of airplanes. The landing gear was all made of wood; and in order to give some flexibility, they would wind two pieces with a heavy cord made of rubber 00:39:00strands; and as the landing gear would come down, it would stretch this cord out and would give it some cushion, like a hydraulic mechanism operates today; and, of course, I enjoyed that. I enjoyed getting a piece of the rubber cord that was the size between a dime and a nickel, and bringing it home; I could play with it as a youngster and, of course, trade it for something else that some other youngster had that I wanted (chuckles).

JL: What were your feelings when you had to leave Medford to come to Corvallis?

GW: Well, I enjoyed it. I thought it was a good thing. I thought it was another 00:40:00opportunity. I'd always had to work so hard in Medford that I thought maybe this would give me the opportunity to be less involved. As it turned out, it didn't; but then, that's what I thought. It was an adventure.

JL: Did your grandparents come with you?

GW: No! No, we're the only part of the family that moved away from Medford; the rest all stayed there.

JL: How did you get to Corvallis? How did the four of you get to Corvallis?

GW: My stepfather bought a 1917 or 1918 Model-T-this 1922--and so we drove the 00:41:00Model-T to Corvallis with what stuff we could bring.

JL: Where did you live when you came here? f

GW: We rented a house just about where the Oregon State University Physical Plant building is now set on Washington Way, near the railroad tracks again. We just couldn't get away from railroad tracks, I guess. But, you know that run between Gill Coliseum and the Print Shop and Physical Plant offices across from the Heating Plant? We were right in that area. The house was torn down.

JL: Did your stepfather set up an upholstery business?


GW: Yes, he operated a great deal of it out of our home because that was cheaper. It was the more profitable way to do it. He would just bring the chairs or the settee or whatever it was to our house, and we converted the garage into a shop and operated out of the shop.

JL: Did you help him?

GW: Some.

JL: Did you enjoy doing that?

GW: Not particularly. I wasn't particularly attracted to that, but it was all right.

JL: Do you remember your first impressions of Corvallis as you were driving in your stepfather's Model-T?

GW: Well, I really don't remember very specifically about Corvallis. Corvallis 00:43:00always has been a very pleasant, friendly community, and it was a nice community. There were lots of things to do. One of the activity centers at our time, that we enjoyed, was going to the YMCA building on the Oregon State campus. The YMCA building periodically would have movies, and we used to enjoy going to the movies, much as I'd enjoyed going to the movies in Medford--I'd 00:44:00forgotten about that. I'd enjoy going to the silent movies and I became kind of a movie fan.

JL: What movies do you remember?

GW: Oh, I guess, as much as anything, I remember the serial movies that would come in each week. It slips me right now to remember who it was, but each week they would have a serial, kind of like The Perils of Pauline, and each week would bring you up to a crisis so you would have to come back next week and see how the crisis was solved.

JL: This was at the YMCA on campus?


GW: No! This was in Medford. One of the movies that I enjoyed thoroughly was the early movie of The Sheik of Araby; I remember that and I enjoyed it very much. And, of course, I enjoyed the early Douglas Fairbanks movies; I was a great fan of his because he was a daring adventurer. So it was enjoyable.

JL: How much did the movies cost at the YMCA?

GW: I can't remember now whether we paid 10 or 15 cents, something like that.

JL: And children were allowed?

GW: Oh, yes. I don't think it cost us kids very much. I used to go frequently because it was a nice recreation opportunity for us.


JL: Where did you spend most of your free time when you came to Corvallis?

GW: Well, I spent most of it working. I went to school, of course, and I was active in school. Again, I had a part-time job in a grocery store.

JL: What grocery store was that?

GW: I worked in the Southside Grocery. The building is still there. I don't remember what's in there now: a beauty parlor, or blueprint shop, or something.

JL: What did you do there?

GW: Well, I was a stock boy, and a clerk, and a delivery boy. I bought my first bicycle, for example, after I moved to Corvallis and paid for it, $2.00 a week, 00:47:00from my earnings in the grocery store.

JL: Did most of your money go to the family, as before in Medford?

GW: Well, it was more mine then, when I was in high school; but I bought some of my own clothes. I had this job and I delivered groceries after school on my bicycle--I had a basket on the front. It was a very interesting experience.

JL: Where was the Southside market located?

GW: Southside Grocery was located on 15th Street and the first street this side of Western; I don't remember what it is now. The buildings are still there. It was operated by a man by the name of Monjay, Ernest Monjay, and they operated 00:48:00for many years. I was a stock boy, an order filler. When these orders would come in, I would get the paper bag and the scoop--everything was bulk, practically--and so I would take these little cartons like the Toa Yuen uses here now if you want to take home some of your leftovers. That's what we used for peanut butter and most everything. All the coffee was fresh ground; you'd, put it in a grinding machine and grind it. The cheese all came in a big wheel about 17 or 18 inches wide in diameter and we'd cut a wedge, weigh it, and wrap 00:49:00it. That's what I did. I filled orders. I always liked to fill orders for cookies because if I found a broken one, then I could help dispose of it. But it was interesting and I did that.

JL: Did other kids your age work also or were you an exception?

GW: Quite a few of them did. I probably worked more than most. I've always been interested in money so I could do a few things with it, and it gave me a little 00:50:00more personal freedom; I could have a little better bicycle than a lot of kids because I worked and bought it myself.

JL: How much were you making at the Southside market?

GW: I was getting about 20 cents an hour at the time, but twenty cents would go quite a long way.

JL: Do you remember what was happening on the Willamette River in the twenties?

GW: Not very much. I didn't get downtown too much. As soon as school was out, I went to work; and on Saturdays I went to work a little after eight o'clock, and I was running errands all day long and working in the store and filling orders, 00:51:00so I don't have too much of an early impression of Corvallis. I always enjoyed Corvallis.

JL: Did your parents take you to church?

GW: I didn't become really very active in church until my parents moved to Portland. My parents moved to Portland about the time I finished high school, so it was then that I became very active in the Hinson Memorial Baptist Church in Portland in the young people's work. I spent a lot of my time at that.


JL: When you were in Corvallis, did you have much association with OAC besides going to the movies? What do you remember of campus life?

GW: Not very much really. I don't remember very much about the campus until I got back in my student days. My life was in high school. I was always interested in activities in high school and I participated in them. When one works, you don't do a lot of the things that other kids do. So I worked pretty much and I would help out.

JL: Were you active in athletics at all?

GW: No, I never was active in athletics.


JL: You lived very close to the College at that time.

GW: Yes. Well, I used to see some of the events, but I didn't go to the athletic events. I was studying hard, trying to maintain a reasonable grade-point average and working; and, between those two things, it kept me pretty busy.

JL: And what subjects did you enjoy the most in high school?

GW: Oh, I enjoyed my languages, and I enjoyed history, and I took a lot of Latin 00:54:00when I was in school and I enjoyed that.

JL: Do any teachers stand out in your mind?

GW: Oh, yes. My English teacher, Vera Horner, she stands out, very notably.

JL: Tell me about Vera Horner.

GW: Oh, she was a small person, fabulous, very inspirational teacher and just a great person.

JL: How was she inspirational?

GW: Well, she had a way with young people. She could sort of be friendly to them and, at the same time, demand performance from them. She just had a great 00:55:00personality. You loved her almost to the point where you'd do most anything, you know. She would expect you to do things and you would do them; just like my language teacher, Libby Krichesky. I think she Libby Krichesky may be still living in Portland; I haven't heard recently. But she was another of these great people that could charm you right out of your shoes, and yet be a very strict taskmaster. She made you want to excel and put a high stimulus on performance 00:56:00and I always liked that. I remember the women teachers. Of course, I had more of them than I had men teachers, but women teachers were fantastic, particularly these two.

JL: What grade were you in when you had Vera Horner as your English teacher?

GW: Well, I don't remember. It happened when I was in high school. I graduated from my high school in 1927 which means I probably entered about 1923.

JL: Did she teach you anything about local history, as you no doubt know, her 00:57:00father taught Oregon history at the college?

GW: Oh, I'm sure she did, but I just don't recapture that.

JL: Did she take you on field trips at all? Do you remember anything like that?

GW: No, not that I recall. But she was just outstanding. Both of these very fine women could cause you to develop more than you ever suspected that you would produce, you know. They were constantly urging you to go on, and you just developed the greatest admiration and respect and almost love for these ladies. 00:58:00They were just fabulous people.

JL: Was Vera Horner interested in you personally?

GW: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

JL: Is that what made her distinctive?

GW: Oh, yes. She'd like every student that she had; she found some way to identify with each individual. She kept it on a personal basis, and yet, she was always professional. She would motivate you to excel; tell you that with just a little more work you could do it, and so you'd work so hard to prove her right. I will always remember her and always be grateful to her memory because of this. I think as one goes through life, if you succeed very much it's probably what 00:59:00people rubbed off on you, you know. I guess every person has a kind of a little Bible of their own history and in this little Bible, or whatever you want to call it, you have a page for these different people that influence you; and these two fine people have pages in this book of mine. And I think that if I ever amounted to anything that, very likely, it was more due to them than to myself, because they kind of brought it out of me; and I liked that.


JL: Did you have an aptitude for writing?

GW: Oh, I don't know that I did. I had an interest in it, and I had an interest in language and communications and this sort of thing, but I never did follow it really professionally. As a result of this interest I was always able to write reports and to organize myself a little more effectively than otherwise would have been the case, I'm sure. So that's why I think a great deal of credit goes to them, because of the patience that they had, kind of the dedication they had to try to cause a person to excel beyond what they really felt they could do.


JL: What extra-curricular activities did they have at Corvallis High School when you were going there?

GW: I never was very active in the High-O-Scope, which was the school paper, but I did a little bit of that. But I was interested in high school plays and that sort of thing; I enjoyed that.

JL: Did you act or did you otherwise participate in putting on productions?

GW: I appeared in several high school plays. I was a member of the Thespian Club and was primarily interested in acting then. You've got to remember that 01:02:00all the time this was going on, I was trying to work, trying to maintain my grade average, and, at the same time, enjoy a few things.

JL: What was your mother doing in these years?

GW: Oh, she was just being a good housewife. Mother was never much of a joiner and so she didn't belong to organizations. We had a good life.

JL: Were you a close family?


GW: Yes.

JL: You got along well with your sister and stepfather?

GW: Yes.

JL: So what prompted the move to Portland?

GW: Well, again, it was an opportunity. My father wanted to get out of the upholstery business and he had a chance to get into a new development in Portland; and so he joined a friend of his in a stock-and-bond business in Portland. We lived out in the Alameda district in Portland while we were there.

JL: And you had finished high school by this time?


GW: Yes, in 1927, and then went up to Portland. I took a full-time job out of high school with Montgomery Ward in their mail order department. I knew I wanted to go to college but I didn't have any money, so I worked up there two years and tried to save enough money to go to college.

JL: Did you live with your parents at that time?

GW: Oh, yes.

JL: Did your parents encourage you to pursue an education?

GW: (pause) I guess they did. Yeah, they agreed to the idea although they didn't particularly push me. It was, I think, more of my own doing. I think it goes back to some of the motivation that I got at Corvallis High School.

JL: From these teachers that you spoke of earlier?

GW: From these teachers, yes. They kept telling me that the opportunity was 01:05:00there: All that I had to do was to kind of equip myself for it and, if I were to do this, I could take some advantages of it.

JL: They must have seen you as an exceptional student to encourage you in this way?

GW: I doubt that, I doubt that very much (chuckles). No, I think they thought that this could be done by most of the kids that went through high school and so I don't think I was singled out at all. I wasn't that good a student. I could have been, but I wasn't. I think many young people are either all one way or all the other: I mean they're all academic, and this is their life, or they're all the other way. I got along in school but I was not one of the academic 01:06:00highlights. But they were wonderful people and this, I think, is part of the reason I came back to Oregon State the fall of 1929.

JL: Was it difficult for you in Portland to earn enough money so you could go to school?

GW: No, not really. I got a job in Montgomery Ward in the mail order department, and I started out filling orders on the sixth floor of the Montgomery Ward building out on 27th and Thurmond, when I was right out of high school. I worked in the furniture department and people would buy a lot of--I don't know whether 01:07:00you know what a congoleum rug is--but, in those days, it was a piece of linoleum that was made to look like a 9 by 12 rug or an 8 by 10 rug. It was just printed linoleum but it was the size of a rug, and it was attractive. Where you couldn't afford a carpet, why, you bought one of these out of the catalog. My job was a very difficult one. If an order ticket came up to the sixth floor, and it said a blue rug with such-and-such a number was wanted, why I went to the bin, and got a blue rug, and put the label on it, put it on a cart and took it to the freight elevator. That was my job (chuckles). I guess these Corvallis High School 01:08:00teachers kind of instilled in me that whatever you do, regardless of whatever your job is, always try to do it as well as you can. They sort of got this philosophy across to me, and so I tried to do it as best I could. I watched myself and I worked hard, and so finally I moved from that job on the floor into an office job where I was kind of an order manager. I was in that job for about a year. Then I left it to come back to Oregon State. I'd saved up by that time as I recall about $150 to $200.


JL: Was that a hard decision to make to spend your money all to get an education?

GW: No.

JL: There was no doubt in your mind that that was how you wanted to spend your money?

GW: No.

JL: Why did you decide to come to OAC?

GW: Partly because of being in Corvallis, I think. I liked Corvallis, and what I had experienced at Oregon State I liked; and so I came down here and I became very active in the First Baptist Church. It was there that I met the gal that I ultimately married many years later. Anyway, it was no hard decision.

JL: What did you study when you first got here?

GW: Well, I was interested in business and so that's what I entered, the School 01:10:00of Business; it was called the School of Commerce then. I lived over in the dormitory.

JL: Which one was that?

GW: I lived in what was then known as Cauthorn Hall, over in the big Weatherford Hall complex. Dr. Donald David Hill, a professor of farm crops, was my advisor. He's been a great friend through all these years--still living.

JL: With all the interest you had had in mechanics and machinery and engines through the years, why didn't you plan to take mechanical engineering or something to do with machines?

GW: Well, I guess I was interested in mechanics more in a hobby than in a 01:11:00vocational way. I had always been interested in business, and having worked in the grocery store on two different occasions, and having had my own paper routes, it just seemed natural for me to get an education on the business side of things; so that's what I started out to do.

JL: Were you active in extracurricular activities on campus?

GW: Yes. Yes.

JL: Which ones?

GW: Well, I got involved in campus politics. I was active as a freshman in freshman class politics. I was a candidate for the presidency of the sophomore class - lost it. And I was on the student Board of Control, and active in 01:12:00debate, and in many things on campus.

JL: What were some of the issues you debated?

GW: Oh, we were arguing about the chain stores at that time, in 1929--whether the chain store system of distributing food was a good thing or a bad thing for the American people. Here were all these little businesses that were competing against these big giants. Was it fair, or was it not fair, for the small independent businessman to try to survive in a battle with the corporate giants? This was one of the major things that was going on at the time. Of course, 01:13:00there were political issues.

JL: How did it happen you became interested in participating in debates on that issue?

GW: Well, this happened to be one of the topics that was selected regionally. As 01:14:00a freshman I took a speech class and I sort of enjoyed it. And I became interested in debating then, through one of the professors that I knew. His name was Alvin E. O'Konski. He subsequently became a United States congressman from Wisconsin 1943-1972. He was a very interesting character.

JL: He was at OAC?

GW: Yes, he was in the Speech Department at Oregon State. So the topic was selected regionally. Why they selected it, I don't know; but it was one of the topics that was selected, and so I became very active in that, and we debated in schools all over the Northwest. Sometimes we would take the affirmative and sometimes the negative; we'd be for it one time and against it the other time. And it was fun. I enjoyed going on these trips.

JL: Did you also work when you were a student?

GW: Oh, I worked; you bet I worked. I got a job working as a student janitor, which was a very important Oregon State program at that time to help young people who wanted to earn some money to go to school. I couldn't have made it at Oregon State if I hadn't of had the student janitor job. I was a janitor in 01:15:00the Women's Building on campus during my freshman year.

JL: Was it customary for students to work on campus then?

GW: Oh, yes. Yes. Lots of them did because times were difficult. In the Women's Building, I guess, there were five or six of us that did the same thing every day. We'd work from 6:00 to 8:00 every morning and then we'd work from 5:00 to 6:00 at night just cleaning up offices, and sweeping floors, and emptying wastebaskets, and cleaning toilets, and so on. I got up at six o'clock; I had an alarm clock wired right under my pillow and it would go off. I made an arrangement with the Memorial Union Building that I could go over there after eight o'clock, after everybody had been fed, and get a glass of milk and some cereal or some toast or whatever it was. I was working three hours a day and getting thirty-five cents an hour at that time, which was very helpful. It was just great; it kept me in school.

JL: Women's Building? What building do you mean?

GW: It's the Women's Gymnasium now. That was my freshman year I was a janitor there. In my sophomore year, I moved from the Women's building to the Commerce 01:16:00Building -- over to what they now call Bexell Hall, School of Business. I did that because it was an opportunity for me to work a few more hours a day. I worked over there and gradually I got working more hours. I got to work from 6:00 to 8:00 in the morning and from 5:00 to 7:00 at night so that I could keep myself going.

JL: Cleaning up the building?

GW: Yes. I would clean the offices, sweep the classrooms, remove the newspaper, and clean the restrooms, and just do everything-general janitor service. I had some help. Then the man who was in charge of the Commerce Building had to leave for some reason, and so I was able to get a job as head janitor of the building; I worked about four to six hours a day then and still went to class.

JL: Wasn't there a student loan fund at that time?

GW: Oh, I borrowed occasionally from the student loan fund, but not very much. 01:17:00It was difficult, and much more difficult, to get a student loan then than now because you didn't have the government participating in the student loan fund; if you could plead your case, you could get fifty dollars, and if you were really lucky, you could get a hundred dollars. But if I could work more hours, why, then I didn't have to use the loan fund; so I just started working more hours.

JL: When did you have time to study?

GW: Well, I would try to do my work from about five o'clock to around eight o'clock at night, and then I would work from 6:00 to 9:00 in the morning, so that would give me about six hours a day. And I did my studying after that. My grades in my sophomore year were not the best. They weren't the worst, but they weren't the best.

JL: What did you do in your leisure time?


GW: Oh, I was still trying to study and maintain a reasonable grade-point average, and so I spent a lot of time studying. Then I was active in the First Baptist Church. Then in my sophomore year, when I moved over to the Commerce Building, I worked longer hours. And then I became more involved with the gal I later married, so I spent more time with her. We went for walks. We used to enjoy going down by the railroad tracks and just walking out the track. And that's the way we'd spend leisure hours--just visiting and enjoying ourselves.


JL: Did you ever take the train to Newport?

GW: I did take the train two or three times to Newport. It only went as far as Yaquina, then you had to take the ferry across. But that was enjoyable. I think it was 75 cents round trip, as I remember. In the early days, it was called the Corvallis and Eastern Railroad.

JL: You did this as a student at OAC or was this before you moved to Portland?

GW: Well, before that and after we were students. But, in my work, I saved enough money to buy a car and that was my leisure time. As I say, I've always 01:20:00been fascinated with cars, and so I bought a car.

JL: And worked on that, you mean?

GW: I worked on that and if we had enough gas, why, Mrs. Wood--Mrs. Wood now--and I would get in the car and we'd drive to Philomath or, on occasions, we'd just get in the car and drive over to Bend and back for the day.

JL: How long did that take?

GW: Well, it didn't take too long. We would drive over in about four hours.

JL: How did you meet your wife? What is her name by the way?

GW: Ramona Jackson. Her father Elmer Polic Jackson was superintendent of of buildings at Oregon State. After we got acquainted, I got to know her father 01:21:00better and he was, in a sense, my boss. The automobile was the fun thing at that time.

JL: You began your career as a student at Oregon State virtually at the beginning of the Depression?

GW: Yes. I enrolled at Oregon State University--it was Oregon State College at that time--in 1929, and as I mentioned previously, I did move into what was known as Cauthorn Hall in the big men's dormitory complex.

JL: It must have been a difficult time for a student.

GW: It was a very difficult thing. It was very difficult. My family was out of work and I actually dropped out of school during part of this period to work full-time so I could keep the family together.

JL: Your father had been in stocks and bonds, you said?

GW: Yes, and that went down the tube about the time I started college-that was a 01:22:00stock market crash. And so he had a very difficult time and he had to get out of that business; he lost everything he had. It was at the end of my sophomore year that my family got out of a job, so they came back to Corvallis, and I moved out of the dormitory and moved back home. I took a job and worked all I could, and used part of my money to help my family, because no one was working.

JL: Where did you work?

GW: Well, that starts another whole chapter of my life. I got working more hours at the Commerce Building and going to school. Then I finally got this job with 01:23:00Dr. Kerr William Jasper Kerr, president of OAC, 1907-1932. So that was a great break for me.

JL: What year was this?

GW: Well, this was at the end of my sophomore year at Oregon State. Let's see, my freshman year was 1929-1930; my sophomore year was 1930-1931; so it was about 1931 that I got this job with Dr. Kerr-1930-1931.