Medford in 1948

A Look Around Medford
(By Malcolm Epley, managing editor Klamath Falls Herald and News)

    A quick look around the neighboring city of Medford yesterday disclosed a most impressive building program over there. The structures we saw in process of building were residential, commercial and industrial, and the total of cash going into them must run into a mighty big figure. Ours was not a conducted tour and no doubt we saw only a portion of the new construction under way. there.
    Already a most attractive residential area, the East Main Street district (if that is what it is called) is getting a lot of new homes. We were told that some of these are being built for sale, and others by the owners--all of them worthy additions to an array of fine residences built in other years.
    In the middle of the business district the J. C. Penney company is constructing what promises to be an outstanding commercial structure, while another noteworthy development is the W. H. Fluhrer warehouse which was just being landscaped when we passed. A large fruit packing house structure on the railroad was noted along Highway 99 south of town; just across the Main Street bridge from the center of town a new park development is under way. Attractive formal plantings of shrubbery have just been completed in this recreational area, which is most fortunately located for benefit of the entire community.
    The downtown area was a scene of busy activity, with foot and auto traffic notably heavy for a Friday.
    Our visit took us to the Rogue Valley Country Club for a meeting. The new clubhouse development there is outstanding, and would do credit to a community many times the size of Medford. A large dining room, with murals and photographs of scenery of the surrounding region, and a flagstone terraced bar and lounge with huge windows overlooking the countryside, are noteworthy features of this establishment.
    These are just a few visitors' impressions that indicate Medford is looking up. There are many evidences there of community pride and progress that are well worth emulation. Klamath can take neighborly pride in the general attractiveness and progressive air of the adjoining county seat on the west.
Medford Mail Tribune, March 1, 1948, page 4

Medford Visitor Impressed
By City's Beauty, Laxity

    Two weeks ago I stepped off the bus in Medford.
    I walked about, looking at windows and thinking better of your city at every step. It must have been late, for I saw a sign that read "Girls' Community Club." I knocked and was admitted by a very lovely lady. She made me feel so welcome. I admired the surroundings very much. I told her I would like to spend the night with them. She was sorry, but my gray hair was against me. "Too old?" I asked. "What did they mean to do with ladies who are no longer blonde and beautiful?" She didn't answer. I asked what was across the street. She said it was the Salvation Army, so over I went. I have always loved the great army of workers. The boys of World War II have much to say about their kindness; they are so kind and good to the underdog. They do not ask questions about what you do or who you are.
    They made me welcome. They were having their Youth Meeting. I had a wonderful evening with music and songs and, later, refreshments were served. Coffee, punch and cookies.
    I asked about a hotel where a woman alone would feel safe. They readily said the Grand Hotel, and the price would be very reasonable. I found it as they had said. I stayed there a week, and I shall always feel like it is home.
    I love this little city of yours, and you people are so fine; the salt of the earth. You have beauty on every side. I found a lovely little place to live among wonderful people near the courthouse which is such a beautiful building, and the grounds are kept so nice.
    I pass the Methodist Church every day, and at night I stop and gaze at the lighted windows. I get such a lift every time that I resolve to live a better life and be my brother's keeper.
    The library, with its great store of knowledge only for the asking, and such nice ladies to serve you. It is wonderful!
    With all this beauty, I saw something that made my heart stand still and my blood run cold. I was driving down Front Street, and we saw a man and woman coming out of one of the bars, so unsteady on their feet that they could hardly walk, leading two children.
    Were my eyes deceiving me? No, it was all too true! On Monday I went to see the Chief of Police, and told him what I had seen. He was very gracious and told me the laws were such that their hands were tied, and also they had three men on duty at night, and you all know that is not enough men for this size of a city.
    He also told me the law says that any father or mother can take their own children in a bar and give them beer to drink if they care to do so. What are we doing as Christian people? We had best clean our own doorsteps before we send missionaries to China and Africa. I also heard a gentleman make the statement in the Methodist Church last Sunday night that there are parts of Jackson County that had never heard a sermon preached.
    Stop and think what this all means to our children. They have two strikes against them before they get started. Liquor and no Christian training. What do you expect your juvenile officer to do? He is a fine young man and loves children, and wants to give them a fighting chance. He is so human and a Christian, and that combination is hard to beat, but, we as people, what are we doing?
    We have our responsibility. These men can do only what the law says they can do. Let's get together and get a city ordinance passed to stop this thing and give our children a chance to be the business men and women of tomorrow.
                                                                                   THE STRANGER
                                                                                    (Name on File)
Medford News, August 27, 1948, page 1

Hot Days, Cool Nights Make Medford's Fruit Best in the Land; Pear Brings Many Blessings
   "Tuck in that belly and square up them shoulders. Dam'it, try to look like soldiers even if you ain't."
    The top sergeant was molding recruits into fighting men for the crack 91st--"Let 'Er Buck"--division. The scene was the flat plain known as the Agate Desert area some seven miles from Oregon's Medford. Camp White it was that had been dedicated with proper ceremonies in the fall of 1942.
    Between that time and the day five years later when the War Assets Administration offered the facilities piecemeal to the highest bidders, thousands of men learned here how to beat the sons of Hitler and Hirohito. They tramped the many miles of hard-surfaced roads to the "hep, one, two, three" of hated drillmasters, observed the necessity of keeping rear-ends down under the streams of live ammunition on the obstacle course, drew supplies from the quartermaster warehouses, and got a clean shirt for that important date in town from the post laundry.
    But hold on! This is supposed to be the story of a city. What have marching men and dirty shirts and warehouses long since emptied of K rations got to do with that?
    The truth is, they have a lot to do with the story of Medford, another of Oregon's fast-growing cities. It's like this:
    Not unlike a lot of other sections of Oregon, the Jackson County area has, within recent years, had considerable of a lumber boom. The 22 mills of 1940 have grown to 110 sawing today. With them, the number of persons employed in the handling of lumber and lumber products has gone up over 160 percent. This shows up on the county capital's Main and Central streets as new store fronts, skyrocketing bank deposits and crowded buses trying to handle the 59 percent greater town population.
    But there is a skeleton in that closet--the problem of too much cutting for the amount of timber available. Foresters and lumbermen talk in terms of allowable cuts, site quality, overripe timber, replacement factors and the like. What the cold statistics show is that the present-day cut amounts to about 400,000,000 board feet per year. Against this should be balanced the figure of 200,000,000 feet that can be counted on as "long range" when the lands now being stripped are going through their 75-year growing cycle. What a lot of people have been asking is, "What then?"
    "The White City development," says W. E. Bates, timber management assistant for the Rogue River National Forest, "points the way." And that gets us back to the dirty shirts, warehouses and marching men of Camp White, for White City and Camp White are one and the same.
    In Georgia, in New Jersey, in Alabama, as a matter of fact, in just about every case, the end of the war also meant the end for the big training camps that had cost so much. A few were set aside for possible use, maybe a dozen more were modified into needed temporary housing. But on the whole, wreckers and movers soon left only streets without a purpose and foundations that could but act as trellises for climbing weeds.
    That same pattern began to unfold at Camp White. The powerhouse, chapels, recreation halls, barracks buildings, theaters, even the sentry box at the main gate, went on the auction block. That is--this happened until a few Medford citizens, with vision and the cash to back up their convictions, bought all that remained in the central cantonment area. This included about 750 acres of land, ten 60x150-foot warehouses, a number of small buildings, a considerable quantity of vacated foundations, and some 6½ miles of siding plus 3000 feet of loading dock.
    Today, the steam in the boilers of the old post laundry dries lumber in the battery of dry-kilns resting on the reinforced concrete floor of the old laundry building. The obstacle course is again occupied, but this time by more than 20,000,000 feet of cold-decked logs waiting for local mills. The warehouses, too, are filled with activity, for they house factories making mouldings, window sash, window frames, mop handles, walk-in coolers and other products from wood.
    Key to the program unfolding here is a central plant that takes rough green lumber from the small mills of the area and puts it into shape for the remanufacturers to use. With the ex-laundry as a rallying point, grading chains, re-saws and a planer have all been added. All of this adds up to jobs that never existed before for 157 men. It also adds up to an answer for the "what then" boys surveying for the timber reserve situation.
Treated Raw Materials Requirement in Plan
    Pointing out that the operation is not much over three months old, Glenn L. Jackson, vice president of the California-Oregon Power Company, this year's president of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and one of the prime movers in the White City plan, said: "There is a great need for properly processed raw materials if we are to build stable payrolls. With this type of a setup right at Medford's door, we have those materials, along with all the manufacturing and transportation facilities, that anyone could want."
    "We really have only begun," Jackson continued as he swung aside to let a loaded lumber carrier back up to a waiting processing plant. "We are out after any type of industry that means a stable payroll for us. With it we are going to get not only the answer to reduced lumber production, but will be able to absorb all of these new people who are coming in on us."
    And coming in, indeed they are. Don Lane, chamber manager, reports inquiries from interested people are way ahead of last year. Mail requests for information alone exceed 25 per day. A lot of the people, Californians like neighbor Ginger Rogers, are looking for a place to get away from it all. Retired people with a small income make up a good percentage of the prospective citizens, as do those with money to invest in something that will bring a modest return.
    All of this is making Medford a mighty bright spot on sales managers' maps. It also is manifesting itself in such things as a new super store for Sears Roebuck and a modern, streamlined J. C. Penney Company layout that is as removed from the yellow-and-black-fronted store vacated across the street as milady's open-toed shoes are from high-button gaiters. Certain it is that these large chain outfits with all their facilities for research and study of economic backgrounds are betting on no losing horses.
    Unfortunately, all of the newcomers are not spending as much time in investigating before they invest. Blinded by the big agricultural incomes (agriculture up to very recently was the biggest source of income and still brings in an estimated $25,000,000 per year), a lot of acreages are being purchased that do not add up to a proper economic unit. The idea of a cow, some chickens, a few pear trees and prosperity is too easily sold to the unsuspecting.
Blind Buying Noted in Small Acreages
    Some concept of the trend can be found in the increased number of farms in the county having five acres or less. There were 1300 such in 1940, and there are over 2000 today. "This spells for inefficiency," says W. B. Tucker, county agriculture agent. "Production on these small places is limited, and many of the purchasers are over-capitalized on equipment. The net is that the owners have to be otherwise employed."
    Again, White City is the answer. Also firms like Timber Products Company, who have added 100 people to their payroll since war's end with their new veneer products division that makes plywood, veneers and doors. And the Tucker Sno-Cat Corporation that builds a machine which laughs at deep snow and which has a market throughout the world.
    Nor should we forget the growing income from the tourist industry. According to local horseback estimates, vacation-bound people add in the neighborhood of $6,000,000 of income that filters through to new and old residents alike. In this connection, the nearby Rogue with its reputation as a fishing stream is a good drawing card. Crater Lake, too, is claimed as an attraction with a glance in Klamath Falls' direction and the advancement of the argument that more people visit via their town and by way of the more easterly rival.
    But the thing that makes Medford most famous, the real Prince Charming of both their economic pattern and their reputation in all the byways of the United States, is the pear. Called the "king of fruits," glamorized as the Christmas gift box most likely to please, the Comice, the Anjous and the Bartletts have a romance of their own that literally and figuratively makes your mouth water.
    Just who planted the first pear tree and discovered that the combination of soil and climate was just right to raise the country's best is not too definite. It was, however, well over 50 years ago, and some of the orchards planted around that time are still producing marketable fruit. Statistics have figured out that the 10,000 acres of trees in the Rogue River Valley, if planted in a single row, would provide shade all the way to New York. And while in the mood for figures, try to visualize a row of cans stretching from Medford to Honolulu and you will have some idea of what one year's production would look like were all the pears canned.
    Actually, the big majority of the fruit is sold in the fresh market. That explains the rows of cold storage warehouses, extensive facilities, heavy concentration of refrigerator cars, and mountains of packing boxes that are so in evidence. Every big fruit wholesaler and jobber of any consequence in the United States has a connection here.
    Normally, an area depending largely on a single crop for a big share of its agricultural income (in Jackson County better than half comes from pears) is considered to be less sound than one enjoying a greater diversification. Local boosters refute the argument with the assertion that there never has been a crop failure here. And they point with pride to their improved marketing position today as evidenced by what happened at the end of World War II. That in itself is a chronicling of a miracle of merchandising that could happen only in the United States.
Birth of Gift Package Important to Growers
    With the army and the navy no longer customers and European countries more interested in buying wheat than fruit, Medford packers had cause to wonder at war's end. Now they look back and laugh at their worries. Actually, there was no slacking of demand at all. The 40 percent of local production formerly going into the foreign market was all absorbed in this country with cries for more. Why? Had the pear come into its own? Was this fruit considered in the cafes of Paris as the "piece de resistance" being appreciated in New York, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh at last?
    In truth, it was the birth of the gift package idea that is credited with bringing such prosperity to the area that one farmer this year has contracted the entire production of his 440-tree orchard at a price that will bring him over $20,000. Originators of the program of selling boxes of carefully selected and packaged pears directly to commercial establishments and individuals, Harry and David Holmes pointed the way and maybe saved the Medford pear industry.
    Always looking for some new way to say "thanks" for the past year's favors of business, thousands of commercial firms have taken to the idea and each year's end send big boxes of luscious Royal Riviera pears packed by Harry and David at Bear Creek Orchards. Equally welcome is this suggestion when it comes to thinking of something for Aunt Matilda who has just everything and Uncle John whose supply of socks is prodigious and you can't remember his size anyway.
    These two brothers, owners of an orchard and a lot of pears rotting for want of a market, pioneered a merchandising slant that even their strongest competitors say has helped Medford. And all because they took the cream of the valley's pear crop, selected and reselected until they had only the very best of that, packaged it with scrupulous care and a touch of the dramatic, shipped it just right under controlled temperatures, and delivered it with complete instructions on how to ripen and serve. The whole trick was to make it simple and easy for the giver and as painless as writing a check can ever be.
    The idea, started in 1932, is now a big business. Expansion of the original gift of pears, and just for Christmas, has brought about the "Gift of the Month" idea of today. This in itself is a year-round operation which is a fascinating story too long to be told here.
Education Deemed Important Factor
    The important thing, however, is not the year-round payroll, nor the volume of pears sold through the gift-package idea, nor even the important publicity given to Medford and Oregon by this selling program. It is, instead, the educational job that has been done on the American public on how to properly ripen and use the kind of pears raised here in the West. That adds up to more stability for a region depending on one crop to the extent of 50 percent of its agricultural income.
    That is not to imply that the 22 different soil types found on the level valley floor will raise nothing else. No other section of the state can report higher yields per acre on sugar beet seed. Beef cattle and dairy herds are important and becoming even more so. The growing of grass seed on the irrigated lands here and the production of some truck crops all help to boost the agricultural income of Jackson County.
    But the story of Medford is not entirely that of cold statistics on incomes and diversification and sustained yields. It is rather the spirit of accomplishment as shown by White City. It is also the friendliness as exemplified by the warm and compelling sales literature that comes from Harry and David. And more than that, it is a chronicling of the accomplishments of the people in their new city park, the pride they feel in their water supply, the opportunity of their many civic and fraternal organizations, and the records of their high school band and athletes.
    All of these are the story of Medford, Oregon's southwestern outpost on the California frontier.
Oregonian, October 17, 1948

Winning Essay in City School 'Salute to Medford' Contest
    (Editor's Note--The Mail Tribune is glad to publish the winning essay in the contest recently conducted in the Medford junior and senior high schools in connection with "Salute to Medford Week," sponsored jointly by the Oregonian and the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce. Title of the article is "My Community, its History and its Future." Winner of the contest was R. D. "Bob" Heffernan, Jr., senior at Medford High School.)
By R. D. "Bob" Heffernan Jr.
    The history of the Rogue River Valley is as turbulent as the river from which it derives its name. Beginning with the coming of the Oregon and California Railroad, Medford became a name on the map and a nucleus of what is our present community. Few early-day railroaders would recognize the valley today, with its teeming mills, packing houses and well-tilled farms, for the wilderness area they pushed through in 1883. [The valley had been occupied by whites for 30 years by 1883; it was not a wilderness.]
    Essentially, Medford is an agricultural community. Since the turn of the century it has owed its prosperity and depressions to the fruit industry. However, in the past decade our large stands of virgin sugar pine and fir have attracted lumber interests from all over the country. This has added greatly to local prosperity. J. H. Stewart is given credit for introducing fruit to the valley. [Domesticated fruit trees were planted in the 1850s; Stewart helped establish commercial orchardry.] He planted his first trees in 1885 and shipped his first carload east in 1890. Following his example, orchards were planted throughout the valley. Medford pears became a delicacy enjoyed by the "crowned heads of Europe" and the "tycoons of Wall Street."
    Lured by attractive stories and pleased by what they found, the adventurous and younger members of wealthy families from the Eastern Seaboard and the Middle West settled in the valley to grow fruit and enjoy the beauty of our natural surroundings.
    With these people came the "golden era" of Medford, characterized by gracious living, and a plan for a greater Medford. During these years the opera [house] and other civic projects flourished; famous world stars sang on the stage of the Page Theater. An old streetcar rumbled down Main Street following the tracks to Jacksonville six miles away. Civic-minded men like Martin Reddy [he means his brother, Dr. J. F. Reddy] had visions of a railroad trunk line to Crescent City on the coast. It is said that the remains of the beginning of this road may still be seen; however, the promotion failed and it was never completed. With the coming of World War I, Medford lost to a great extent the atmosphere which had prevailed during the earlier times. [The Orchard Boom went bust in 1912; still, Medford went on to promote the Pacific Highway and Crater Lake Highway and bring pure water from 27 miles away, all while paying off the debt incurred during the boom. Medford then secured the construction of Camp White and its later development into an industrial park.]
    With the years between World War I and II, Medford grew and thrived. Where once vacant lots stood, lumber mills and tourist courts were erected. Medford, like other American cities, had weathered the Depression and was striving to make up for lost time. Then came Pearl Harbor and, following in its footsteps, Camp White. During the war thousands of soldiers saw the valley and loved it. Through their letters, Medford became known to families from the coast of Maine to the plains of Texas. Many of these men became so infatuated with the valley that they have returned to make their permanent homes here.
    Medford is fast approaching a new era of development, an era which must find new industries to replace the gaps left behind when the mills and logging operations are slowed down by the depletion of standing timber. If Medford is to keep on growing, such problems as irrigation, lower freight rates, and a new central industry must be considered. I am confident that the valley will solve these problems, and steadily progress to become one of America's great communities.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 21, 1948, page 3

Last revised June 6, 2020