Monday, September 26, 2011

Fortieth Anniversary of The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act

l to r Wally Hickel, then Secretary of Interior, William
Hensley, Alaska Federation of Natives and
Senator Ted Stevens
University of Alaska Fairnbanks
When Russia sold Alaska to the United States in 1867 there were about 400 white people in the territory and something like 85,000 natives.  It’s a fair bet the 400 never engaged the 85,000 in a discussion about how to bring them in on the deal.

William Hensley, an Alaska Native (Inupiaq) legislator and business man who was a leader in the effort to create a fair land settlement for Alaskan Natives, pointed out in a speech he gave in 1969 that of the 375 million acres that made up the new state of Alaska, just 500 acres were in the actual ownership of Alaska Natives.
The legislation that made Alaska a state had no resolution of aboriginal claims when it passed in 1959. In fact, the legislation gave the state the ability to choose 103 million acres from the public domain lands while it stayed silent on native claims.
At statehood, there were about 54,000 natives in Alaska, spread across a vast geography, distanced not only by miles but by different cultures and languages.  Still they organized a group called the Alaska Federation of Natives and began to make sure they were not shoved aside yet again.  Remarkably, they were able to convince the Secretary of Interior, Stewart Udall, to freeze the transfer of lands to the state, building pressure for a lands settlement, but the odds were long against something even remotely fair. 

Bill Van Ness, center, between Senator
Henry Jackson of washington and Supreme
Court Justice William O.  Douglas
Then came the discovery of oil on the North Slope in 1968.  While Alaskans had been drilling, pumping and refining oil in Alaska since 1898, Prudhoe Bay was the biggest find in North America and bound for use elsewhere.  The requirements for pipelines, leases, shore side development and all the accoutrements of a mega-project required a settlement with the natives. 
In 1966, a young graduate of Western Washington University and the University of Washington Law School, Bill Van Ness, got a call from Senator Henry Jackson’s office.  There was an opening on the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee and the senator had heard that Van Ness was one of those bright young people with lots of energy who populate the staffs of effective senators.
Van Ness wanted to teach and had a fellowship at Yale lined up that would be an excellent first step in his law professor career choice. But he also had kids, a clunker car and debts from school. 

Bartlett in the center with the 49 star flag
Alaska University, Fairbanks
Handed the native claims issue, Van Ness was horrified to learn that the world knew almost nothing about Alaska Natives and there was almost no literature on their legal status.  He realized there would be no legislation without information and he advised that the committee retain a big think tank to develop a baseline set of information about Alaska natives – who they are, where they live, how they eat and house themselves, what happened during the 150 years of Russian rule and what all these things and others would mean for a deal that would stand the test of an American courtroom.

Alaskan Earthquake, 1964
US Geological Survey
Bob Bartlett had been the territorial representative from Alaska from 1945 and was elected its first senator in 1959.  Senator Jackson and Van Ness briefed him on what Van Ness had found and described their recommendation for a fancy think tank.  Bartlett thought it a disaster to put this critical piece in the hands of people who did not have experience in Alaska and, like so many people who have lived in and cared for Alaska, countered with an Alaskan solution.  He advised bringing in the Federal Field Committee for Development Planning, an organization put together during the Johnson administration to coordinate Alaska’s recovery from the 1964 earthquake.  What they didn’t know about academics, they countered with a recently developed understanding of aboriginal people in Alaska.
The earthquakes in Indonesia, Chile and Japan and their extensive live news coverage have obscured just how massive the Alaska earthquake was.  It was a 9.2 Richter event, the second largest ever recorded, and the shaking went on a full four minutes.  Centered in the Prince William Sound area, 75 miles southwest of Anchorage, the Pacific Plate slid under the North American Plate an average of nine meters for several hundred miles.  18 people were killed in Oregon, Washington and California by the resulting Tsunami.  The long duration of the shaking created local waves from 30-70 meters high that killed more than 70 Alaskans.  All in, 131 people died. 
The Field Committee’s work with this devastation made it intimate with most facets of Alaskan life – a unique body of knowledge in the world.  Their earthquake work brought them into close contact with native leadership as well as the needs and conditions of natives, so, when they were asked by Van Ness to produce a study for the senate committee, they were able to produce it rather quickly.
In 1968, “Alaska Natives and the Land” was published by the Field Committee and Alaskans found themselves in two difficult realities – they were floating on a sea of oil and were complicit in a deep injustice to a people who had occupied the land for millennia. 
It described Native Alaskans as poorly educated, poorly fed, poorly treated with many unable to get through a year with both heat and food.  As dreary as the image was, it contained information about where people were, how they lived and what needed to be addressed.
“How can Alaska Natives be enabled to improve the circumstances under which they live?” the Field Committee wrote.  “And how can settlement of their land claims and protests – the subject of legislation before Congress – contribute importantly to this end?  It is these two questions made one that are now the opportunity of government to answer.”
William Hensley put it this way in his speech:
“We are testing the American political system. We have found it responsive up to this time, and have hope. We know the history of our country in dealing with the American Indian, and want to see a final chapter not written in blood, or in deception, or in injustice. We want to be able to live longer and more decently, without having to stoop in indignity because of a degrading welfare system. We feel this is possible, if we can secure the kind of land settlement we are proposing.”
Having rejected the welfare based reservation system in use in the Lower 48, they focused instead on a corporate model, 12 regional corporations and over 200 village corporations charged with bringing opportunity where there was none.  They would divide a billion dollars and 40 million acres of land among them, along with mineral and other rights, provided they share among all of them the financial value of what lay underneath their land. 
Forty years ago, the corporations struggled early, focusing on what they knew – primarily timber and fishing.  However, their most important investments were directed at educating new generations of their own leadership.  Over the three generations since the settlement, they have built a cadre of home grown business administrators, accountants, economists and lawyers.
With such a small market at home, the corporations began to look beyond Alaska, acquiring companies in the Lower 48 and some across the world.  They became extremely adept at federal contracting, particularly after a Small Business Administration program became available to them in the early 80s.  In 2008, the Alaska Business Journal reports that the 12 regional corporations had annual income of nearly $7 billion.
The number of Native Alaskans below the poverty line today is at 22%, down from nearly 50% at the time of the settlement. 
The corporation of which William Hensley is President, NANA, is on fire.  Developer of the world’s largest zinc mine, it has shared nearly $600 million in mining income with its sister corporations over the past 20 years. 
Household income in the Kotzebue area, the northeast part of the state, home to the NANA Corporation, has gone from $18,000/year to $58,000/year, the Business Journal reports.
The success of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and its outcomes enrich the long time, special relationships that exist between Alaska and Washington state.  The settlement has also meant a better life for natives.  While the challenges of remote life in hostile environments are extremely difficult, the choice to deploy the corporate model over the welfare model has worked in

Bill Van Ness never became the Ivy League lawyer he thought he would be.  After working ten years on the Interior Committee, he founded a great Seattle and Washington, DC law and public affairs firm, Van Ness Feldman.  He continues his work with Native Corporations and, since its founding in 1983, has served on the Board of the Henry M.  Jackson Foundation.

Alaska Natives and the Land (Large Document)

Cool site with interviews of principals in the creation of the settlement

Henry M. Jackson Foundation


Monday, September 19, 2011

Tough Guys

The disturbances and arrests in Longview, Washington following the International Longshore and Warehouse Union raid on the new grain export facility there need some historical context.  The company that built the facility chose the Operating Engineers union for the jobs at their site, but has been unable to ship grain because of continued actions by the ILWU.  A federal judge has approved a restraining order at the request of the National Labor Relations Board, but the union has defied it.
Huffington Post Labor Writer David Macarey has the assault on the terminal by 500 baseball bat-carrying ILWU members as “breathing new life into the labor movement.”  He goes on to say that the attack, which featured windows being broken, people dragged out of their cars, tons of grain dumped and rail cars damaged, all of which resulted in 19 arrests, as “It's American, it’s patriotic, it’s grassroots.”  Later, longshoremen shut down the ports of Seattle and Tacoma.
The context needed here is not the adrenal rush of a head-busting, unlawful labor action, but the changes in the industry threatening our region and whether we can compete using the Ice Age tactics demonstrated in Longview combined with the middling productivity on our Seattle docks. 

The ILWU gained its control of the west coast waterfront after the 1934 dock strike in San Francisco .  It still maintains control over the terminals, though it lost a big piece of the marine economy when the Teamsters out-maneuvered them when container technology first swept through the industry in the 1970s. 

Leading up to the 1934 strike, today’s ILWU was the West Coast branch of the International Longshoreman’s Association.   The San Francisco local wanted more than money.  Its members wanted to control their destiny and get rid of the humiliating and corrupting "shapeup" that started each day, when the companies walked through crowds of men on the end of the pier and chose who they wanted.  "You."  "You."  "You."  
San Francisco Library Collection
On Bloody Thursday, July 5, 1934, the police charged 2,000 strikers at Pier 38 on San Francisco's Embarcadero.  Many were beaten, two were shot dead.  But the violence of the police helped the union win the day, the strike and control of west coast waterfronts.  They capped it all off with a four day general strike, the first since Seattle in 1919.  Three years after the strike, the ILWU split off from the ILA and Harry Bridges, their controversial leader, became the union's president.  To this day, longshoreman do not work on July 5.

The ILWU was at its zenith and the dockworkers acted like they owned the waterfront.  There were many days when a lot of people on the dock appeared to be doing very little.  Herb Mills, an ILWU member who worked in the 1930s San Francisco waterfront, describes a pretty cushy system.

San Francisco Library Collection
“Eight-men crews were the norm, even though most situations didn't need more than two or four men at a time, so the work crews developed the 4-on, 4-off system, wherein at any given moment during the workday, four men would be sitting around drinking coffee and playing cards while the other four actually worked.”

Shipping technology would soon interrupt this happy scene.  The intermodal shipping container was coming and its arrival would change the basics of the waterfront.
The old break bulk system of handling one piece of cargo at a time, from the hold of a ship, to a rope sling carrying just over a ton, to yet another individual transfer on the ground was replaced by a container crane operator and a truck driver moving 20 foot by 8 foot containers carrying 25 tons in one move.  Bar codes and scanners replaced clipboards and paper.  Then the boxes got to be 40 feet, then fifty feet and the ships carrying them also got bigger and bigger.
All of this picked away at the control of the docks the union had after the 1934 strike.  The union agreed to steady-men, well-trained people who were union, but essentially reported to the company, not the hiring hall.  In exchange for an early retirement bonus to its older members, the union allowed the use of B members, part timers who had a lesser say in union affairs and only part time work.
And there was the fundamental question of who would put the goods into the containers and who would take them out?  More and more it was the Teamsters doing that.  The intermodal nature of the containers allowed cargo to be driven off the docks to warehouses elsewhere, out of the jurisdiction of the ILWU. 
The tensions grew and in 1971-72, the Longshoremen struck again, the longest strike in its history, 134 days.  This was a strike the union would lose.  It had no strike fund and relied on the military shipping to Vietnam as a way of getting its members some money.  The union had allowed British Columbia dockworkers to have a separate contract and Canada provided an option for shippers.  The Teamsters were not letting their container stuffing jobs go away and, larger and more politically capable, protected their work. 

I did a documentary about the container at that time and a longshoreman I interviewed summed it up this way:
“We used to be big.  Now we got nuthin.”
The longshoreman who work in Seattle today have far more than nuthin.  They make good money and have excellent benefits.  The average Seattle longshoreman earned $44.05/hour and earned $107,000 in 2010.  And, unlike a lot of workers, their salaries have risen, not stagnated.  Salaries are up13%, up from $38.49/hour, in 2005.  And, as they've demonstrated in Longview, their willingness to be tough guys and defy the law still makes them formidable on the docks. 
However, they are focused on the wrong foe.  Many of those Seattle salaries and a great deal of public investment are at risk by a new world order that is coming in the shipping industry. 

Most of the containers arriving on Seattle docks are bound elsewhere to bigger consumer markets.  Seattle is mostly the modal interface from ship to truck or train.  The widening of the Panama Canal in 2014 will double its capacity and further work will triple the canal's capacity by 2025.  This means that ships from Asia can bypass Puget Sound and have an efficient all-water route to big markets on the east coast. 

The size and cost of these vessels require fast turnaround times and so, along with the super ships come super cranes.  The new cranes will increase the number of containers off-loaded each hour to substantially higher levels than the Port of Seattle's middle-of-the-scale container productivity.  In Korea, containers are off-loaded remotely by operators using joysticks in air-conditioned offices, proving the point that if you can take out an individual terrorist by a remote controlled drone, you can very likely handle a metal box on a ship that way. 

The industry looks at the west coast US ports differently than it did at the beginning of the container revolution.  There is a substantial ocean option through the recharged canal and a capable competitor to the north.  With higher productivity and significant new investments, Vancouver, British Columbia has become a significant threat to those high paying jobs and public investments on our side of the border.  It has gone from a backwater port to a front line competitor because it knows what it wants.
All of these pressures and others face the longshoremen and the public infrastructure on which they work.  They pose a much greater threat to their jobs than the choice of which union to use at a brand new grain terminal in Longview, Washington.

Video of 1934 Strike
Early Days of ILWU in San Francisco
Longshoreman comments to media (watch out, full of profanity)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Two Women

In the years following the August, 1945 surrender of Japan, hundreds of government officials, academics, judges, lawyers and assorted experts began to arrive in Tokyo to join the military’s effort  to pacify and reform Japan’s people and institutions. 

Eleanor Hadley
Seattle PI
 They brought with them their old politics, their emerging perceptions of the new world order and their dreams of doing the right thing by their country and the people and cities who lay before them in ruins. Like our time, the pursuit of those things created conflict and polarity of purpose.  However, unlike our times, they survived these problems and produced a remarkable result though, for some, at great personal cost.
The occupiers needed people who could speak Japanese and knew Japan’s institutions and had experience with Japanese people.  Two young women who had graduated from Mill’s College fit that bill, 31 year old Eleanor Hadley and 22 year old Beate Sirota. 
Hadley grew up in an accomplished Washington state family.  Her father, Homer Hadley, was influential in the design of the first floating bridge across Lake Washington.  In fact, the north span of today’s I-90 is named after him.  Her mother was an educator who worked on educational reform in the state.
Hadley studied economics and and went to Japan in 1936 to study there and was again in the country 1938-40.  She was a witness to the devastation the Japanese brought to Nanking. 

Hadley was fascinated by the Zaibatsu, the economic backbone of prewar Japan.  Four companies, Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Sumitomo and Yasuda were the major players, but the concept of interlocking, family controlled business expressed itself through many Japanese companies.  These companies had business holdings that utterly dominated all the key industries of the Japanese economy and they colluded among one another to freeze out competitors and fix prices.  They represented a kind of economic nobility within the country that worked against needed reform.

Beate Sirota
Mills College
 During the war, Hadley worked in the Department of State as an economic analyst focused on Japan and was called to the occupation at the beginning of 1946.
Sirota grew up in pre-war Japan where her father, a Ukrainian Jew, taught music at the Imperial College of Music.  She was completely fluent in Japanese and went to study at Mills College, eight years after Hadley graduated.  During the war, she put her language skills to work for the U.S. government and for Time magazine.
Now working as a translator for MacArthur’s staff, she was perhaps the first civilian women to enter Japan after the surrender and found her parents in a detention camp. 

General Charles Willoughby
US Army
 Both of them ultimately found their way to the Government Affairs Division, whose job it became to draft the Japanese constitution.
There is a triangle at the heart of this story, the points composed of the two young women and Major General Charles Willoughby whose role in the occupation was to command the Intelligence Group.  Willoughby was a hard and imperious man, who hated the New Deal and New Dealers and felt that General Francisco Franco was the second greatest general in the world.  General MacArthur liked to call him “my little fascist.”
German born, he came to America at age 18 in 1910, enlisted in the Army, served three years and then taught languages in the Midwest.  He reenlisted in 1916 and served as a Second Lieutenant in Mexico and France.  He was with MacArthur in the Philippines and was in the PT Boat that delivered MacArthur to Australia when the Japanese overran the US defenses. 
Not unusual for an intelligence professional, Willoughby wanted control over information.  The two young women represented a lack of control.  Hadley and Sirota were sought out by journalists because they knew the country and its language and Sirota had actually worked as a journalist during the war.  Willoughby despised journalists.
Also, the Japanese resisted the campaign against the Zaibatsu and found an ally in the conservative, autocratic Willoughby.  He saw the dissolution of the Zaibatsu through the lens of the New Deal and the people carrying out the policy as na├»ve and politically motivated.  The effort was not insubstantial.  The anti-trust team, led by Hadley, originally targeted more than 16 Zaibatsu for dissolution and more than 20 more for reorganization.  Their assets were seized, holding companies eliminated, inter-locking directorships outlawed. 
The goals of the occupation changed over time, from a reform of a society and its institutions to the reconstruction of Japan as a tool in the Cold War.  Many of the reforms instituted by Hadley were reversed or muted by the cold warriors within the occupation or, by subsequent administrations in the years after.

Beate Sirota is at the end of the table in this photo taken in 1946.
We're not completely sure, but are fairly settled that Eleanor Hadley
is the woman seated front left.
 They worked in a chaotic environment.  There was little food and people were starving.  More than 15 million Japanese had no homes. Repatriation of Japanese soldiers scattered across the world peaked in 1946 when 200,000 a week were returning. 
Growing up in Japan, Sirota observed the position of women in the society and did not like it.  Incredibly, she had an opportunity to change it all.
The formation of the new Japanese constitution has many roots, the decisions agreed to at Potsdam, the pre-surrender planning that was taking place in 1944 and 1945, and the changes made on the ground by MacArthur as his intellect and ego read the situation.
The Japanese began work on a new constitution in 1945 and had prepared a draft by the end of the year.  However, it retained much of the old 1868 Meiji constitution.  The State Department and the occupation leadership were becoming anxious about the lack of progress and what they saw as the conservative nature of the Japanese written version.
In February of 1946, fearful that the Japanese would propose an unacceptable version and force the US to publicly reject it, MacArthur ordered that General Courtney Whitney, who headed the government section of the occupation, to create a constitution – and right now. 
Pulling together a steering committee and a number of sub-committees, the staff put a version together in nine days.  Sirota and Hadley were the only women assigned to the project who had substantive roles.
Hadley presented a framework of principles that would guide Japanese business. Sirota’s work came down to two articles of the constitution that reached deeply into the Japanese family and fundamentally changed it forever.
“Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis.”
“With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes.”
The constitution was approved by the Japanese people six months later and become the fundamental law of the country.
The two women moved on to their careers.  Beate studied music, modern, ethnic and folk dance and married Jack Gordon, also working at the allied headquarters and they moved to New York.  Eleanor got ready to take on her new assignment, a job offered in the new Central Intelligence Agency, once she had finished her doctorate at Radcliffe.  But things started going wrong.  The post was delayed, not funded and finally the offer was pulled back.  Other efforts to work for her government and build on her experiences in Japan fell apart. 
The fact is, General Willoughby had both the women as communists, but it didn’t affect the career choice of the arts Sirota made.  But it blew up what Hadley wanted with the rest of her life. 
Willoughby had placed this in her security file:
“Although no positive derogatory information is on record in Miss Hadley’s files, in view of her close association with this extremely leftist element in the Tokyo Correspondents’ Club, she is being made subject of continued investigation.  Moreover, her position in the Government section, where she enjoys close personal association with known leftist personnel, such as Thomas A.  Bisson, further suggests that she is being exploited by, in and outside GHQ.  It is believed that Miss Hadley’s relative immaturity and her lack of sufficient experience for a position of such responsibility would make her easily susceptible to such exploitation.”
The lefties at the Correspondent’s Club included Joseph Fromm, a reporter for the publication that became US News and World Report.  Bisson, a GHQ expert on the Far East wrote a book called “The Limits of Reform in Occupied Japan,” a point of view that did not play well with Willoughby.  Willoughby hung that book and the ideas of its author around the neck of Eleanor Hadley and broke her government future into pieces.
Still trying to get back into government service, Hadley sought out General Courtney Whitney, who headed the constitution process in 1946.  Twenty years later, he wrote to Senator Henry Jackson as part of an ongoing effort to help restore her security status.  An excellent lawyer, Whitney wrapped Hadley in the mantle of MacArthur. 

“To me, it is the height of absurdity that a person of Miss Hadley’s integrity, loyalty, and devotion to her country could be under a cloud.  However, being intimately familiar with the vicious attacks launched against General MacArthur in connection with the dissolution of the Zaibatsu and the economic purge, in both of which programs Miss Hadley participated, it occurs to me that such attacks may be at the root of her difficulties.  A great public figure is not damaged by slander; an unknown staff person may be.”
Charles Willoughby remained the intelligence officer for MacArthur and is widely blamed for not warning the general of massing troops on the Chinese border as the American forces moved north during the early days of the Korean War.  The Americans were overwhelmed as China did what it said it would do -- entering the war if the Americans crossed the Yalu River.
As a military officer and a civilian, Willoughby worked for General Franco and lobbied the US government to site bases in Spain to fight communism.  He worked for H.L.  Hunt, the Texas oilman, and helped him create The International Committee for the Defense of Christian Culture.  He died in 1972.
Eleanor Hadley worked as a teacher, wrote several books and finished her career at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies.  She died in Normandy Park, Washington in 1997.
Beate Sirota Gordon will be 89 years old in October and will speak about her life, women’s rights and peace on September 22 at Seattle University.

Details of Sirota-Gordon's Appearance at Seattle U

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


The most important tool at the 50th High school reunion is the name tag – one with a thick, healthy font and good copy of the yearbook photo.  I recognized exactly two people by their faces out of the roughly 90 attendees at my reunion last month.
Oregon City has long been a paper mill town just south of Portland – with two large mills on the south end of the city, one on the Oregon City side and another on arch rival West Linn’s side.  Both had been there for over a hundred years and the one on the Oregon City side was supplied, in part, by a train that ran down the middle of Main Street around 1 AM.  It took a steady hand to maneuver a car between the parked cars and the train, its one headlight sweeping crazily from side to side and you with a couple of beers after playing pool in the basement of Jerry Carlson’s house.   

We lived in an apartment above the Bush Furniture Company on Main Street and there was no option but to drive by the train and the disconcerting headlamp, all this shrieking and clanking coming off an eerily slow speed. 
I’d been leery about going to the reunion because I hadn’t been to one since the 10th year reunion and felt, when I left Oregon City after burying my mother next to my father, that I was done with the place.  My time there was happy, the education caring and good and the baseball teams in the school and in the Portland Industrial League consistent winners.  
But after some anxiety, there I was, at the High Rocks Steak House, immediately at ease, touching some wonderful, accomplished people in the meeting room, laughing and touching them again and doing the math of the Oregon City Pioneers of 1961. 
Of the 223 people who graduated, 33 were dead, one as early as 1962, most after 2000.  Twenty one of them were missing – simply unaccounted for – a somewhat ominous idea since the organizers of the Class of 1961 franchise were dogged investigators.  They had the mailing addresses of 167 people and the emails of 112 people.  Most, like me, had left.  Just 34 had stayed in the town while 48 remained in the greater Portland area.  The rest were elsewhere in Oregon – a bunch on the coast – and distributed fairly heavily in Washington and California and then randomly across the country.
We could only stay for the first event of the reunion and so made the most of it, leaving the bar with the last couples.  Next morning, I gave my wife the tour of Oregon City, which had just under 8,000 people when I graduated and now was home to 30,000 people. 
The place retained the prosperous blue collar look from our high school time, but it clearly had taken some hits.  The Bush Apartments, where I lived during high school, were gone, part of a conflagration that had vacated a very large part of the northern end of Main Street, leaving several ugly gaps where people had lived and worked. 
The goofy mascot was now replaced by a harder edged guy who meant business and was better-armed.
The Enterprise-Courier building was gone too.  It was the only daily newspaper in Clackamas County but it had purpose in the town beyond its circulation numbers.  It nurtured young people like me and forgave them their many miscues, like the headline that read:  “Nine Canby Students Get Straight Ones.”  
This little daily also fought to make the small but active downtown competitive with the inevitable shopping center that did come, two miles up the highway, and it had the effect on the downtown predicted by the editorial page.  The mill on the Oregon City side had closed recently, with a loss of 175 jobs.  Reading about it broke your heart.  Two years before, the employees purchased it from a paper company called Blue Heron, and their wage concessions, converted into stock in the new company, were now without value.
Taking this picture of the Willamette Falls and the West Linn paper mill, I looked across Highway 99 and noticed that the gas station and restaurant where Robin Tomlin worked was still there -- at least the restaurant part.  He’d pump gas, change oil and mash a big pot of potatoes when he was not out with the cars.  I’d visit and cash in a free lunch.  Robin was a hell of a baseball player who overcame a bizarre family to become an FBI agent.  Had he not left town after his sophomore year with a man who told him he would make him a major league baseball player, we would have played for the Oregon High School championship in 1961.  His shoulder went bad at San Jose State and he became a helicopter pilot in Vietnam.   I've always wondered if I ever flew in a helicopter he was piloting.  Robin is one of the 33. 
My heart, a bit heavy, sang when I saw Tony’s Fish Market at the foot of the Tenth Street hill.  Its neon sign was freshly painted, but it was the same one that was there when we’d bring a bag of carp we caught in the Willamette river and sold them to Tony Petrich for crab bait at 15 cents a pound.  Sometimes we would bring 50 pounds of the fish, who happily worked the outfall pipe behind the Clackamas County Courthouse in a then very polluted Willamette River.   It seemed like a lot of money.
I immediately noticed the crayfish at $5.95 a pound.  They were a staple at Tony’s and at one of the three ball fields or ball field remnants I showed my wife that morning.  Kelly Field, now re-branded as the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, was the best of the fields and there would often be a big pot of crayfish boiling for major events like when the House of David baseball team would barnstorm through or when the Portland fast pitch softball league had a big tournament. 
The crayfish were served in a big newspaper cone and many of the bodies found their way underneath the stands making up a fast food rubble that would feed the surrounding fields for a couple of days. 
I ordered crab, crawdads and a bottle of wine for lunch and set outside in the little patio next to the concrete crab boiler and baked in a warm sun.  That's the table right there. The crawdads were bigger than I remembered.
Oregon City has taken all the hits the country has taken since the financial collapse, but its unemployment is a bit better than the rest of the state.  However, because the Oregon economy is about half the size of Washington state’s economy, its hard times have a harder bite.  Oregon lacks the defense industry sector that Washington has and doesn’t get the counter-cyclical benefit military spending provides.  Washington state’s defense industry supports nearly 200,000 jobs, according to Berk, the Seattle economics firm.  Oregon ranks just 45th in defense contracting and takes in about a third of what Washington gets from Pentagon contracts.  In addition, Oregon doesn’t have a defense giant like Boeing or huge military bases from all three services as does Washington.
Looking at the unemployment stats, you find another difference in the economy between the two states – rural communities in Oregon are significantly harder hit.  Washington’s farm economy is double the size of Oregon’s and farm commodity prices have been strong for some time.  Most of the farm counties in Washington have significantly lower unemployment rates than those in Oregon, even though the statewide unemployment rates are about the same.  In addition to farming, south central Washington has the Hanford clean-up, the project that never ends.  The southern tier of Oregon – the big empty counties like Malheur, Harney, Lake and Klamath, don’t have the kind of high value farm products produced in the Washington's Palouse wheatfields.  On the west side of the Oregon Cascades, the cluster of Jackson, Douglas and Josephine Counties is particularly disturbing -- two, three and four points above the state unemployment average.  Cutting Oregon in half east and west, only one county, Lane, the location of the University of Oregon, has no double digit unemployment.
According to Real Estate data collector Trulia, the median price of a home in Oregon City is now about $200,000, about where it was in mid-2003.  At the peak, the end of 2007, the median price was $315,000, which means a lot of the homes we drove by were underwater.  One in three homes sold in Oregon this past spring was a foreclosure sale.
After lunch, we drove around a bit more, looked at the home of John McLoughlin, Chief Factor of the British-owned Hudson’s Bay Company who moved to Oregon City in 1829 after he was forced out of the company for helping all those Americans who were coming to Oregon.  Then we took a ride on the Oregon City Municipal Elevator, which connects the lower and upper sections of the town and avoids the 722 stairway steps that scaled the steep bluff before 1915 when the first iteration of the elevator went up. 
At 1 PM on a sunny Saturday, Barbara and I were about all the traffic there was, so we drove home to Seattle.