Working in Oregon through history

| Print |  Email
Archives - April 2009
Wednesday, April 01, 2009

It wasn’t that long ago in Oregon when hard-rock mining with a pick axe was a common line of work, when crews of immigrants competed for work laying railroad tracks, when farmers harvested wheat by hand and loaded it into horse-drawn carts, when men waded into the Columbia River to net fish by the thousands, when the idea of a woman wearing pants to work was considered a radical notion, when the notion of shipping jobs oversees would have seemed insulting and absurd.

The new book Oregon at Work 1859-2009, by Tom Fuller and Art Ayre (Ooligan Press; oregonatwork.org) of the Oregon Employment Department, traces the evolution of the workplace since statehood through a lively collection of anecdotes, oral histories, photographs and statistics. In the current climate of layoffs and cutbacks, it serves as a reminder that life and work in Oregon have rarely been easy over the past century and a half.

Consider a typical day for Augusta Clawson, who worked as a poop deck welder for the Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation in 1944: “The tight band of the helmet makes your temples so sore that it even hurts to touch them when you’re away from the Yard. The gloves make your hands sweat. The arcs give off fumes, and lots of us have burns. But none of us kicks.”

A similar attitude drove Greek immigrant Haralambos Kambouris, who helped build the railroad line from Roseburg to Grants Pass in 1913: “Inside the tunnel there was water and they wanted to replace the supports… It was dangerous for many reasons and, also, very dirty and hard.” Kambouris notes that while some crewmen dropped out, he never missed a day.

The work ethic wasn’t just a means unto itself. It was also a path to innovation, job creation, even industry transformation. Take the story of John West, who started out salting the fish that migrated past his riverfront property and expanded into Oregon’s first cannery. Or Howard Vollum, who parlayed his fascination with the oscilloscope into the creation of Tektronix, the state’s largest private employer in pre-Intel days.

Because Oregon at Work covers such a wide swath of subject matter, it doesn’t delve as deeply into some of these stories as the reader might like. But the details Fuller and Ayre provide in this sweeping account tell a lively story that is brimming with precisely the sort of can-do attitude that will serve us well as the recession deepens.

BEN JACKLET

OverallGirls PHOTO COURTESY OF MISSION MILL MUSEUM

Above: “coverall girls” at the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill in Salem rebel against wearing dresses to work. Below left: building ships in 1944. Below right: miners in the gold rush town of Quartzville.
Welder.jpg
Miners.jpg
PHOTOS COURTESY OF OREGON HISTORICAL SOCIETY



Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

More Articles

Opening soon: 3 of the coolest new breweries in Oregon

The Latest
Thursday, March 19, 2015
brewthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

There are 278 companies licensed to operate as brewery, according to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Here are three new beer-making hubs slated to open soon.


Read more...

Shades of Gray

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

Are we too quick to diagnose corruption?


Read more...

6 highlights from the Craft Brewers Conference

The Latest
Friday, April 17, 2015
thumbPHOTOS BY  JASON E. KAPLAN

The 32nd annual CBC attracted a record number of attendees (11,000)  to the Oregon Convention Center.


Read more...

Are wolves good for business?

Contributed Blogs
Friday, March 06, 2015
030615-wolf-thumbBY JEFF DELKIN | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

As a local business owner, I believe it’s important to build our economy on a platform of conservation values.  


Read more...

Beyond Bodegas

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Five years in the making, the Portland Mercado — the city’s first Latino public market — will celebrate its grand opening April 11. A $3.5 million public-private partnership spearheaded by Hacienda CDC, the market will house 15 to 20 businesses in the food, retail and service sectors. It has some big-name funders, including the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and JPMorgan Chase. The project goals are equally ambitious: to improve cross-cultural understanding, alleviate poverty and spur community economic development. 


Read more...

10 Oregon companies positioning themselves for growth

The Latest
Friday, March 13, 2015
vcthumbBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Ten startups have secured venture capital, angel or seed funding in 2015.


Read more...

Celestial Eats

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER AND EILEEN GARVIN

A power lunch at Solstice Wood Fire Cafe & Bar.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS