Reed Magazine February 2004
2004
AN ORAL HISTORY OF REED COLLEGE

Red Reed

Because John Reed, a Portlander who wrote Ten Days that Shook the World, and William Z. Foster, long-time president of the Communist Party, were incorrectly associated with the college, Joseph said that Reed fell under general public suspicion. In the ’30s, a Portland police captain named Brown created the Red Squad. “It was originally formed to resist Harry Bridges and his longshoremen on the waterfront. Captain Brown expanded his power to include any people he thought suspicious and, boy, those kids at Red Reed were, by definition, suspicious. The Red Squad, in the ’30s and ’40s, was very active. Keeping its eye on a lot of people, it turned out. Reed being one of the particular places.” Joseph thought that some of the personal traits of Reed students may have fit the anarchist profile: long hair, beard, and a sloppy dressing style. But a stronger reason for the misconception lay in the fact that Reed students were disinclined to be involved in the Portland community—they were heavily involved in their own community. “It was hard for businesspeople who did like Reed and respected Reed to bear the burden of liking Reed.”

The Fair Rose Plan

“There wasn’t much off-campus activism, by the way. The only thing I remember that involved doing anything off campus was what was called the Fair Rose Plan. Early on, there was an effort in Portland to get an ordinance against discrimination. The city council wasn’t Get the stories before they’re lost forever.” about to pass such an ordinance. So the kids at various schools, not just Reed, but the University of Portland and a couple of the other schools in town I know, were involved. They designed a rose decal, and on the rose was written ‘Fair Rose.’ If you would promise not to discriminate, you could have the decal for your store. The kids went downtown, went door to door, store to store, particularly restaurants, to get them to put up Fair Rose signs.” Businesses that refused the sign were boycotted. The effort of these students led to the passing of a Portland ordinance against discrimination, the first in a long series of steps toward equality.

“Shelley by Moonlight”

Joseph remembered a student at Reed who had come to the college through the veterans rehabilitation project. He suffered from psychoneurotic damage and always had a book in hand. “One night he was across the street, at the end of the Eliot path, waiting for a bus, reading under the street light. In those days, the police kept a very close watch on the Reed campus. (‘Those Reds out there.’) They patrolled and came around frequently. This young man, under stress, would get extremely nervous, almost to the point of fainting. Well, he was standing there, under the lamp, reading. The police car stopped, and a policeman yelled to him to come to the car.” The student had a stress attack and was thrown in the back of the car and jailed. “The next night, many street lights in the Portland area had kids reading under them. Most from Reed, but not all.” Time magazine wrote it up and called it “Shelley by Moonlight.”

End of Article

Read more on the oral history project

   
Reed Magazine February 2004

2004