The 1920’s were called the Jazz Age. World War I was over and the country was in a post war expansion. People were acting a little crazy. The dance rage was the Charleston and the Black Bottom. Movies had replaced vaudeville and were very popular. It was also the beginning of the Automobile Age. Roads were poor at best, but everyone wanted an auto and Henry Ford was making cars affordable.
Radio had been around for a while but mostly crystal sets. At the beginning of 1922 there were only 28 licensed stations in the nation, but by the end of that year, the number had grown to 576. Radio advertising began in 1923.
It was the start of easy credit; people were urged to charge it and many took advantage. The stock market was red hot. Everyone wanted a piece of the action and margin accounts were much more liberal than they are today. Obviously this contributed to the Stock Market Crash in 1929. But in 1922, who was worrying? It was said that every shoeshine stand gave stock tips. Not much has changed, except it is difficult to find a shoeshine.
Women were getting the right to vote and were celebration their newfound independence in many ways. Skirts were shorter, swimsuits took on a daring looks for the era and more women were smoking in public. National prohibition started in 1920 so the larger cities had their speakeasies.
The tomb of King Tut was discovered and opened in 1922. (Tutanhkhamen, curse of the pharaohs) It contained riches beyond imagination. People were fascinated and followed the newspaper stories daily. Many tombs discovered earlier had been looted, so this was something special. In the case of King Tut’s tomb, everything was returned to the Egyptian government. They had a museum built to display the treasure. Movie theaters around the country were named “The Egyptian,” as well as the newest theater in Coos Bay built in 1924.
This area was also prosperous in the early 1920’s.
In 1921 the North Bend Hotel had been completed at a cost of $125,000. It had 48 beautiful rooms and the First National Bank as a tenant on the ground floor.
The Coos Bay Armory was completed and the Knights of Pythias’ home was erected. The noble theater was being remodeled.
A road had just been completed from the Ferry Landing in Glasgow t Lakeside.
C.C. Farr (Len’s father) was the County Agent. The North Bend Mill and Lumber Company opened with a double shift, employing 160 men.
Dr. Horsfall was elected President of the Coos-Curry Medical Society and Dr. Phil Keizer was re-elected President of the North Bend Chamber.
Myrtle Point played Marshfield at the new Armory. (Marshfield 12, Myrtle Point 10) Players for Marshfield were Allen, Driscoll, C. Johnson, Patterson and McGinnes. Elton Schroeder was a guard for the Myrtle Point team. According to him, this was the only game Myrtle Point lost in 1922. In 1923 they were undefeated.
Penny’s was advertising high quality boy’s suits for $6.90 and men’s bib overalls for $1.19.
Marshfield Schools had a bonded indebtedness of $5,100, while Astoria’s debt was $223,000, the highest in Oregon. The cost of education per pupil in Marshfield was the highest in the state, $155 compared to Roseburg at $88.
John Ferguson of Ferguson Transfer was Mayor of Marshfield, and for the first time, automobiles were required to have license plates. There was a great deal of resistance to this law.
According to the Coos Bay Times, the Noble Theater had a huge crowd for the opening of the Mary Pickford Film, “Little Ford Fauntleroy.” The new Elks Lodge was the place to go dancing and the saloons were busy in spite of prohibition. When the loggers came to town they did a little celebrating and the area was known to have several houses of ill repute. They finally closed around 1950.
Even though it was prohibition alcohol was available. The South Slough was considered the hot spot of moonshining. It became a flourishing small business with some residents making all or part of their income operating a still. Ruth Marie Wolfe, a young mother of two still in her 20’s, was considered the top distributor. It was said her husband was fearful of the law but she loved excitement. Moonshining lasted in the area until 1945.
The Fourth of July was a big celebration. There were parades, horse races, logging contests and band concerts.
A quick review of the Coos Bay Times of 1922 would draw you to the conclusion that anything was news. Although divorces were few, they were covered in detail. Guests at the local hotels were listed in the paper. The city directory named every taxpayer in the county and what they paid.
There was little need for charitable relief in the local area. The Elks Lodge with the Salvation Army gave out 19 Christmas baskets. Jobs were plentiful and newcomers to town were sometimes met by agents offering jobs.
Employment was diversified. Farming was big, especially the dairy business. There was still a little employment in the coalmines, and the area had several shipbuilders. In addition to lumber manufacturing there were box factories, shingle mills and battery separator plants. Logging was king. Coos Bay Lumber Company employed 1,500 people and their large mill was considered to be the largest in the country. There were many small logging outfits, but this was a boom or bust industry depending upon the price and sale ability of logs. Logging itself was very dangerous. Accidents and even death in the woods was common. In one of his books, Do W. Beckham stated that if a logger was killed in the morning, it was after the workday before he could be brought to town.
Western White Cedar Company was organized in 1922. Cedar was in large demand. There was also a Spruce Mill in Myrtle Point.
To go anywhere by auto it was necessary to take a ferry. Although by 1922 there was a paved road between North Bend and Coos Bay, most city streets were unpaved and planks were used to avoid the mud. The practical way to get to Eugene or Portland was by train, with two a day available.
On July 23, 1922, a fire in Guildesheims Junk Store quickly spread and destroyed or badly damaged 23 businesses. As a result, the location of Coos Bay’s business district was changed from Front Street to the area of the Chandler Hotel. The channel had been dredged in 1916 and the silt deposited on many of the marshy lots so land was available.
In February of 1922, a group of the busiest business and professional men in our community agreed to start a rotary club. How did they learn about rotary? Perhaps some had been members elsewhere or perhaps the Portland Rotary, their sponsor, was the guiding force.
The charter shows 22 members. I will briefly tell about each charter member.
Ben Chandler – was elected president. The Chandler name was well known in Coos Bay. W.R. Chandler came here in 1899 and invested in many of the buildings still standing today: The Chandler Hotel, Elks Temple (Security Bank Headquarters today), First National Bank Building and the Coke Building. His son, W.S. Chandler, was the architect for these buildings. Ben was involved in several businesses and served on many boards, including being Vice President of First National Bank and a Silent Partner in A.B. Daly Company.
Vern Gorst – was elected Vice President. He was born in Minnesota in 1876, went to Alaska in 1896, ran a dog sled transport and panned gold. By 1904, he was in the Launch business in Bremerton, Washington, and by 1910, started and operated Auto Stages in Southern California, Southern Oregon and North Bend. He was an airplane pilot and was awarded the First U.S. Airmail Service in 1925. This led to more planes and eventually he was known as the grandfather of United Airlines. If you are interested in this type of history, there are several books in our library. Look up “Gorst.”
Charles Howard – was the first club Secretary and Superintendent of Schools in Marshfield.
J.E. Montgomery – was Treasurer. Montgomery was President of the Southwest Oregon Bank located at Market and Front. He lived at 963 Elrod.
W.J. Conrad – was Sgt. At Arms. Conrad came from Minneapolis and was one of many people who came here because of C.A. Smith. He became an Independent Timber Broker and founded W.J. Conrad Lumber Company in 1927. It is still located in the same area and now owned by Lumberman’s. W.J. lived at 6th and Hall. I believe Dr. Ted Terry lives there now.
Club Directors were:
John Goss – an attorney with Goss, Kendall and Murphy, located in the 1st National Bank Building. John was also the Port Attorney.
George Sailor – Secretary of Beuhner Lumber Company of North Bend and also Secretary of Coos Bay Shingle Company.
Charles Hall – was President of Coos-Curry Telephone Company with offices in the First National Bank Building. Hall was married to John Ferguson’s daughter.
A.L. Martin – Manager of Mountain States Power Company at 199 W. Central.
M.C. Maloney – President and Treasurer of Coos Bay Times Publishing Company and also served Editor and General Manager.
Frank D. Cohan – a Pharmacist and owner of Owl Prescription Pharmacy located at 144 Central. This later became the Busy Corner Drug.
George Dix – a Physician educated at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He came to Coos Bay at the invitation of C.A. Smith and served as the company director. He also had a private practice with offices in the Coke Building. Dr. Dix also owned a dairy farm that later became the Brookmeade Dairy. In his capacity as CB Lumberman’s Doctor, he condemned the water in Powers and sold them cans of milk from his dairy.
Charles Hudson – was Treasurer and Assistant Manager of North Bend Mill and Logging Company.
Robert Banks – in 1905 was a partner with Kruse in two local shipyards. One was located just north of the Mill Casino where Weyerhauser has some old buildings. Banks is the only direct connection to current rotary members. His daughter, Mary, married Jack Granger and their daughter, Sue, is married to Jim Graves. A special edition printed by The World in late December has a story about Banks and the Grangers.
L.J. Simpson – was the son of Asa Simpson. Asa built the first mill in this area in 1856. The Simpson’s had mills in many other areas. They also built the first shipyard in the area in 1858. Louis was directly responsible for the founding of North Bend. He purchased the land for the town site, had it divided into lots and sold most of them for about $125 each. Louis donated the land for Mercy Hospital located on the corner of Sherman and Vermont. It was built in 1904. He was Mayor of North Bend in 1907. Books have been written about the Simpson’s and Shore Acres, where he built two mansions. The first mansion burned in a fire about 1920. The second was used by the military during World War II and later torn down when the area became part of the park system.
Carroll Smith – was Vice President of Western Lumber Manufacturing and Resident Manager of Coos Bay Lumber Company. He lived at 945 S. 5th.
C.M. Chauncey Byler – was Simpson’s partner in various enterprises. He was responsible for building the road north to Lakeside and building a large resort next to the lake.
Henry Kern – was President of First National Bank of North Bend and President of North Bend Iron Works.
E.P. Lewis – was Manager of Pioneer Hardware located on the corner of Broadway and Central. He lived at 972 N. 2nd.
I.R. Tower – founded the Tower Ford Sales and Service at the corner of Broadway and Elrod. He undoubtedly had the largest auto dealership in the area. Tower was also a co-founder of Coos Country Club.
Albert Kohler – was the founder of The Hub Department Store, later run by his son Al, Jr. At the time rotary was started, his store was on Front Street. But when that section of the city burned, the store was relocated in the area of the Chandler Hotel. The Hub was the largest and best-known department store in Southwestern Oregon. Many tears were shed when Al, Jr. died and the store was eventually sold.
A.H. Powers – was one of the great movers and shakers of the era in this area and certainly a very colorful man. He was born in Canada in 1861, came to the United States at age sixteen and got a job as a Teamster on a horse operated logging outfit in Minnesota. By age twenty-one, he had his own logging company in Northern Minnesota. He came to Oregon by invitation of C.A. Smith when logging was no longer productive. He later became a partner in the Smith-Powers Logging Company. He was so well liked that dozens of his former Minnesota employees followed him here. This brought families of Scandinavian decent to the area. He moved his family to Marshfield in 1907 and built a home at 5th and Hall. (The home is currently a Bed and Breakfast). In search of logs, he built railroad tracks to Powers and Branches to other timber areas. Powers became a town about 1912 with a peak population of 2,500. Al was well loved by his employees and considered a very fair man. He was president of many business groups and served on countless boards. He was also president of the port, which was in private hands during that era. He was in a large part responsible for getting the Coos Bay channel dredged in1914. His daughter, Lucy, married Dr. Dixon and Florence married J. Arthur Berg, a Coquille attorney. Son, Al, Jr., married Ruth McBride. When Al retired, his oldest son, Fred, took over management of Smith-Powers. He moved to Indio, California, where he died in 1930. He was truly a man of vision and courage.