As It Was

Classics & News: Mon-Fri • 9:30am & 1pm | News & Information: Mon-Fri • 9:57am

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

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.

Applegate Farmer Exposes Fake Zebras

Dec 30, 2016

In 1910, the Barnum and Bailey Circus came to Medford, astounding the town with a herd of exotic zebras.  At least one man refused to be fooled by their beautiful black stripes. 

One rainy night in 1912 the Stratton family’s neighbor in West Medford, Ore., Wells Lounsbury, came to their door with a suitcase.  He said he had walked from Central Point but hadn’t found his family at home.

Arthur Shaw’s love of classical music and his desire to share it with others began while in high school. One day while he and other musicians were practicing by the school auditorium, some athletes came clumping by on cleated shoes, interrupting the music.  Shaw determined to do something about it.

Picard, Calif., doesn’t exist today, but in the late 1800’s, it was a small town in California’s Butte Valley south of Klamath Falls. 

Before she died in 1948 in Talent, Ore., Susan Haines Clayton had become one of, and maybe the last, Union Civil War nurses still alive. 

The Long Tom Rebellion is sometimes considered the only Civil War battle fought in Oregon -- and it happened after the Civil War had ended.

When the Medford Corporation was railroad-logging out of Butte Falls, Ore., in the 1920’s, life for a logger’s family was not easy.

A century-old picture postcard shows ice skaters standing nearly motionless on Lake Ewauna at Klamath Falls, Ore.  The postcard is part of the Klamath County Museum collection.  Some skaters apparently froze in place so they wouldn’t be blurred in the photograph.

In 1856, George Wohlfert emigrated from Germany to California, making his way to California and traveling north to Petersburg on the South Fork of Salmon River.

Born in 1916 in Tolo, Ore., Janet Reed Erskine remembered being in a pageant at age six, more interested in her new dress than anything else, until she got in front of the audience.  She loved to perform.

Over the years, Klamath County has had its share of difficulties keeping criminals safely confined.  The county’s first jail, made of sandstone blocks in 1899, was easily compromised. Located behind the courthouse in Klamath Falls, Ore., it became known derisively as the county’s cracker-box jail.

Sixty-nine years ago Dennis Bambauer learned he was an ethnic Japanese when he was whisked by armed military police from his Los Angeles orphanage to the Manzanar Japanese Internment camp in Southern California. It was the spring of 1942, a few months after Pearl Harbor, and the government forced all West Coast Japanese and Japanese-Americans into detention camps to avoid espionage or other collaboration with the enemy.

Grants Pass merchants raised enough money in 1907 to bring R. L. Berry to town as a highlight to their “Great Industrial and Irrigation Fair.”  Berry had lived in Grants Pass as a youngster and the city felt honored to welcome back a local boy who had dazzled crowds in Portland as a hot air balloon aeronaut.

Even today people ask how Greenhorn Creek, an early mining district south of Yreka, Calif., got its name.

Fights over fish in the Rogue River were common in the early 1900’s.  Fishing was a profitable business, and fishermen didn't like being told how to fish or when to stop. 

The Medford Mail Tribune reflected the town’s excitement in describing the dedication of the first municipally owned airfield in Oregon on Sept. 6, 1920.  The newspaper article’s first sentence said, “Beautiful in its sentiment, spectacular in its thrill-features and record-breaking locally in its immense assemblage of humanity and autos, the dedication of Medford's army aviation field and the christening of it as Newell Barber Field yesterday afternoon was successful beyond the most sanguine expectations.”

A grisly murder turned out to be unfounded when the victim showed up in good health.

On December 7, 1941, the USS Tennessee was berthed on Battleship Row in Pearl Harbor next to the USS West Virginia and the USS Arizona. Seventeen-year-old Boyd Gibson was on the Tennessee getting ready to go on liberty and head to town at 8 a.m.

When the Oregon State Forestry Department needed a dispatcher during World War II, it hired Frances Port Clark.  She knew of the woods and the work of rangers and fire fighters from her father, a ranger for the Crater National Forest at its station in Applegate.

As a youth, Edsel Colvin said he gained an education by hanging out in the back room of his father’s candy store in Curry County, Ore.  In 1921, when Colvin was 8 years old, Frank Colvin bought the store, the Gold Beach Confectionary.  Besides candy, the store offered newspapers, cosmetics, tobacco, ice cream, guns and ammunition, and root beer. But no real beer; prohibition was in full swing.