Cottage Grove

Oregon’s 1940s hipsters:

COTTAGE GROVE — What started as a small Civilian Public Service (CPS) camp in 1945’s Waldport, Oregon, emerged into what became the Beat Movement of the early 1960s. These conscientious objectors from World War II became some of the key members to produce art and poetry that helped revolutionize the nation.
Steve McQuiddy, historian and local author, wrote about this camp and its workers in his new book “Here On the Edge,” which he presented during the Axe & Fiddle’s History Pub on Sept. 3 in Cottage Grove.
“There’s a current that runs through society,” McQuiddy said. “Gary Snider wrote about it and called it the “great underground,” a current underneath society that rises up. So in the 1940s we weren’t ready to (rise) but the government in concert with three conservative religious organizations took a bunch of radical people and put them in the same place all together – and this is what happened.”
Around 12,000 of these conscientious objectors – individuals who claimed the right to refuse military service on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience or religion – were set up in 150 camps across the county; Waldport, Oregon was Camp 56. McQuiddy said that it wasn’t that they wanted fascism or racism to win; rather, they wanted to create a world where such atrocities wouldn’t happen.
One man was there because he said the Bible told him, “Thou shalt not murder.”
These objectors, however, were usually white men, McQuiddy noted, as most black men were sent to prison instead of a work camp.
Camp work in Oregon focused on planting trees and fixing trails, as well as some firefighting. The camps were run by three historic peace churches: Mennonites, Quakers and Brethren. Although many members came from religious households and would spend their free time studying the Bible, a trio of men wanted to do something else with their time.
Harold Hackett, William Everson and Glen Coffield would spend their evenings writing poetry and reading plays, listening to jazz and writing. Eventually they started a weekly newspaper called the “Untide,” which was an alternative to the regular camp newsletter, Tide.” Their motto was: “What is not tide is untide.”
“What began as a lighthearted venture turned into organized activity,” McQuiddy explained. “The Camp in Waldport focused on fine arts and had a motto called: ‘Here on the Edge.’ We can only watch and prepare and bide the time, for that which we stand can be tangent again to the world.”
The paper became popular outside of the camp; despite the poverty facing the country, people were buying pacifist poetry. Other camps were creating different kinds of organizational focuses, such as nutrition or education.
Among the more famous fine artists to come from the camp were Morris Graves, Bill Stafford, Henry Miller and Kenneth Patchen. Patchen in particular connected with poet Allen Ginsberg, and when Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” was published with Pocket Poets Series, they used the same design from Untide.
Even John Lennon’s not cutting his hair for peace has ties to the Waldport camp. Coffield had refused to cut his hair or shave for one year as a peaceful protest in the camps.
“These young men were creating and acting in truly progressive and revolutionary ways, and were plowing ground for newer generations of massive peace movements,” McQuiddy said.
During the Q&A period, McQuiddy sat down with author Josh Fattal, where he stressed to not throw away anything.
“You might think people won’t care about postcards or photos – don’t throw it away,” he said. “Get in contact with a historical society; there will be someone who will care.”
At the end of the evening at Axe & Fiddle, McQuiddy said that the young men in the camps were no different than the young people of today who are working to enact change.
“It’s easy for a lot of us today to say, ‘We’re screwed and things are messed up,’ but we see it again and again,” McQuiddy said. “Younger people were the same then as younger people everywhere, and they know it doesn’t have to be this way. It hasn’t been this way in the past and here’s how people create a change and help build change.”



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