As It Was

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Colorful vignettes dedicated to the regional history of Southern Oregon and Northern California. As It Was is an all volunteer effort -- produced by Raymond Scully and narrated by Shirley Patton in partnership with writers from the Southern Oregon Historical Society.

If you have a writing background and would like to submit an As It Was essay for consideration, email your written piece to publicrelations@sohs.org.

A collection of As It Was essays is available in a high-quality paperback book at the JPR Online Store.  Each episode is also available below.

Every traveler discovers that history isn’t found only in books, movies or online; it can be experienced in person. The Frances Shrader Old Growth Trail east of Gold Beach, Ore., offers that opportunity.

The fruit boys of Grants Pass, Ore., had a profitable business at the train depot, until the activities of some hoodlums put their enterprise in danger.

U.S. Marine Corps Major-Gen. A.A. Vandergrift couldn’t bear watching some 4,000 of his World War II troops deteriorating daily from tropical diseases in the South Pacific.

The county jail in Jacksonville, Ore., had nine prisoners before the night of the October 1909 escape. The sheriff was away and the deputy thought he had everything under control when the prisoners took their customary after-dinner exercise in the corridor outside their cells.  Seeing all was calm, the deputy left for his supper from 6 to 7:30 p.m. When he returned all was definitely not right.

Far from the battlefields of the Civil War, a grave stone near the remote Rogue River town of Agness, Ore., reads:

During World War II, keeping troops entertained on their long sea voyages was a major task. Technical Sgt. Larry Wagner of Ashland, Ore., knew just how to do it.

In 1865, three Holy Names Sisters traveled to Jacksonville, Ore., to establish St. Mary’s Academy. The school had 12 boarding students and 33 daytime students.  It soon outgrew its location and was moved to California Street.

Early newspaper society columns kept up with local residents.  Here are some excerpts from the “Local and Personal” column in the Ashland, Ore. Daily Tidings of Sept. 2, 1919:

As a child in Phoenix, Ore., Mary Jean Barnes Sturdevant saw famed pilot Charles Lindbergh fly over Medford in August 1927 and drop a signed proclamation calling for the advancement of aviation.  Mary Jean was hooked.

Gertrude Price Wardlow, who moved with her husband to Weed, Calif., in 1920, described the part of town where African-Americans lived as a snow-covered mountainous area known as Railroad Avenue.

In the early 1900’s, intellectuals, scientists and prominent visitors seeking information on Southwest Oregon knew to visit Dr. Walter Haydon in Marshfield, Ore.  Haydon was born in England in 1854, studied medicine and nutrition in London and took lessons in carpentry and metal work for his future travels.

Nineteen-year-old John Lucian Gardner of Eugene joined the Oregon Mounted Volunteers in 1855 to fight against the Indians of Southern Oregon.  He died in an ambush a few months later, his body buried in an unmarked grave in the Riddle family cemetery in Riddle, Ore.

Relations between whites and Native American tribes throughout Northern California and Southern Oregon were rarely easy, and for many years, devastating for native peoples.  After gold was discovered in 1851 near today’s Yreka, Calif., hostility and violence grew.

Grants Pass High School has two 1948 state football championship trophies.  There’s a tragic story behind how that happened.

Numerous accounts of cougar encounters sprinkled the pages of early Oregon newspapers.

The Civilian Conservation Corps was also known as “Roosevelt’s Tree Army” for its work in the nation’s forests, including fighting forest fires and planting 9 billion trees over nine years beginning in 1933.  President Roosevelt put Depression era youth to work in every U.S. state and territory.

Public schools across the country began introducing hands-on agriculture as a supplement to the academic curriculum around 1900.  Oregon mandated that agriculture be taught in upper grades.

Irish settlers came to Lake County, Ore., in the second half of the 1800’s, many fleeing the great potato famine that over 50 years drained Ireland of half its population.  It wasn’t long until Lake County became known regionally as “Little Ireland.”

Donald Meamber never forgot the time baseball great Babe Ruth visited Yreka and its grade school.  Meamber, who grew up in and around Yreka during the 1920’s and 30’s, was in the fifth grade at the time.

Back in the days when a bridegroom was expected to have at least $1,000 in the bank and a job that paid $100 a month, Bill Bowerman was coaching at Franklin High in Portland in l934.  He loved Barbara in Los Angeles, but he was earning only $80 a month and saving for medical school.

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