Wednesday, October 7, 2009
The Challenges I KNEW About
This action also occurs in the mid-1980s. Google maps is FABULOUS in real time, but old maps and pictures dating from a certain time period are a lot harder to come by—in fact I haven't found any appropriate maps. I found the before and after pic from a gentrification program called the I-5 Corridor Project and I found a couple histories, though honestly, the most useful piece I found was a Realtor description of the Boise Neighborhood. She was touting the gentrification, which by definition means she had to say where they started
What I Didn't Know I Didn't Know
Vanport! I knew Portland had an ugly time in its racial history when blacks couldn't live in the city. And I knew Vanport had been a city on the Columbia River where the blacks lived. And I knew something about a flood... those were the ONLY facts I had right. During World War II (1942 to be specific) the largest Public Housing project in the country was completed at Vanport, Oregon. I'm willing to bet (now that I've read a little, though I didn't see this, specifically) that the call for it was because of the white men gone to war and the need for reliable labor—so give people a place to live nearby, so they can come work. Vanport was 40% black—Oregon's first integrated community—1942, you can imagine, means it was early for integration more generally. But the building was shoddy. In 1948 there was a breach of one of the Columbia River dams and the equivalent of the levy breaking during Hurricane Katrina brought enough water down on Vanport to FLATTEN it. Fortunately, time of year and time of day meant it was fairly empty—school children and workers gone to their schools and jobs. Only 16 people died (amazing considering more than 16,000 lived there). I am schooled enough in history however, to know people only count when they 'count' and so it would not surprise me to hear numbers were greater, but if nobody is looking for somebody... you get what I mean. But even with a relatively low loss of lives, those people lost everything.
Anyway, thus began the absorption of blacks into North and eventually Northeast Portland (Northeast being where I lived—a relatively diverse part of town—one of few I've seen that has multiple races living all together in largish numbers, rather than just two, or else one dominant with tokens of others.)
Needless to say, I didn't even mean to and I learned some stuff, and it is likely to make the book better. There is some stuff you just can't make up... like historically registered roadside landmarks: see Paul Bunyon, put up in Kenton in 1959 for the Oregon Centennial. Oh yeah... he's in the book.