About 20 years ago, or so, after finishing my job, for a young customer, at his apartment, over in the south hills, (he was grad student at the U of O), I sat with him for several hours late at night, … into the early hours of the morning, as he told me of his research, preparing his dissertation.
He explained how, the local “WOW Hall”, where all the youth gather for concerts here in Eugene, is actually the old union hall for the Wobblies – the International Workers of the World (IWW), the Communist Union.
Being from Chicago originally, and aware of its Communist history, after seeing the WOW hall, I’d suspected the Wow Hall was associated with the IWW, but I hadn’t bothered to investigate it.
James (not his real name) told me how it came to be there, how the Pacific Northwest came to be so left wing!
I’ve searched for his paper at the Knight Library, but haven’t found it as yet – – – here, I’ll just give you a short synopsis:
Back in the 20’s, when the Unions were being opposed by greedy wealthy business owners, during the Industrialization of America, the large businesses began to hire thugs to oppose the strong-arm tactics used by union organizers and of course, violence erupted.
(If you’ve listened recently, union organizers are again talking about “getting into the streets and getting a little bloody.”)
Police were called, but understaffed and when the violence got out of control, and the bombing and arsons erupted, the FBI stepped in undercover.
As they began to be successful in making cases against the union’s violent anarchists, some of those charged, decided they didn’t want to spend their time incarcerated and ran – they became fugitives. Being a fugutive, back then, wasn’t easy ….
The movie, “The Grapes of Wrath” succinctly depicts the struggle in California during that time. Oakies” also had to move from “camp to camp” …. no they weren’t FEMA camps, but one can see patterns beginning …..
Most of those, successful in “disappearing” and kept from getting caught, found their jobs in the Pacific Northwestern Logging Camps. Trails developed – safe places where they could work, and the info was shared with others. They gathered together, send money back to their loved ones, and yet, staying hidden, they had to keep moving from logging camp to logging camp.
Later, as unions became more accepted, and things cooled off, these men settled into the Pacific Northwest permanently; Eugene became a center for a large segment of these radicals.
When the 60’s developed, and the anti-war movement grew, more leftists gravitated to this area. When marijuana was legalized here, more liberals / progressives followed.
On my first visit to Oregon, I’d met and been guests of, some Quakers, old Wobblies from Philadelphia. They shared they’d been told by FBI agents to get out of town ….. they banned together, moved, and started a commune (Alpha-Farm) in Deadwood, Oregon – they own a small business in nearby Mapleton, Oregon – Alpha-Bit.
Mapleton sits on the banks of the Suislaw River; Deadwood is upstream from where Lake Creek and the Suislaw converge and continue on to Florence and the Pacific Ocean – when the salmon and steelhead run, hundreds of boats fill the river ….. near where the Movie “Sometimes a Great Notion” was filmed; the book was by local author, druggie, activist Ken Kesey ….. before he became friends with Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead lived here.
I found it interesting that as religious people, they said they were “warned by the government and not arrested” and yet one of the main ways they support themselves now is by a government job – a contract delivering mail to post offices hidden away in Oregon’s Coast Range.
Were they instead, hidden away – protected? And if so, why?
There’s much more to this story; I’ll update it as time permits.