Burt Turner and his wife taught music at the YMCA located at Tillamook and Williams. In 1936, Turner was hired under the Works Progress Administration (WPA) as the community bandmaster. Former students of his described the band practices as follows: “Even small children who were not even in the band came to rehearsal to watch and imitate. Burt would march up and down the street and it was quite a spectacle. The police would block the main street with cars. Burt was like a basketball coach who let everyone play regardless of their skill level. This fairness gave all the kids a chance to get better.”
[in Robert Dietsche, Jumptown. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, 2005.]
Community Activist. Physician Assistant. Leader. Advocate. Mentor. Husband and Father. Josiah Hill, III was all of these and so much more. He envisioned a Portland community where there would be no need for blood-lead level testing for its children. As a board member of the Oregon chapter Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), Josiah Hill met Dr. Richard Bayer in 1997. They joined forces on the lead issue. With the primary goal of decreasing the risk of childhood lead poisoning, Josiah created an alliance between PSR and the Coalition of Black Men (COBM). By 1998 Josiah and Dr. Bayer hit their stride when the volunteer testing program began working with SKIP (Screen Kids, Inform Parents). Children in high-risk populations were screened for early diagnosis and treatment for a range of health issues. Josiah Hill’s conviction and gentle manner broadened the coalition further to include PSR, COBM, Common Bond, Volunteers of America, Multnomah County Health Department and the Oregon Health Division. He orchestrated the opening of a volunteer-staffed free lead-testing clinic.
Vanport City was a hastily constructed city of public housing located in Multnomah County, Oregon, United States, between the contemporary Portland city boundary and the Columbia River. It is currently the site of Delta Park and the Portland International Raceway. It was constructed in 1943 to house the workers at the wartime Kaiser Shipyards in Portland and Vancouver, Washington. Vanport was home to 40,000 people, about 40 percent of them African-American, making it Oregon’s second-largest city at the time, and the largest public housing project in the nation. After the war, Vanport lost more than half of its population, dropping to 18,500, as many war time workers left the area. But, there was also an influx of returning World War II veterans. In order to attract veterans and their families, the Housing Authority of Portland (HAP) opened Vanport College. The college enrolled 1,924 students its first year.
Vanport was dramatically destroyed at 4:05 p.m. on May 30, 1948, when a 200 ft section of the dike holding back the Columbia River collapsed during a flood, killing 15. The city was underwater by nightfall leaving its inhabitants homeless. The Vanport Extension Center refused to close after this disaster and quickly reopened in downtown Portland. Dubbed by a national magazine “The College that Wouldn’t Die,” it became present-day Portland State University.
Artist Martina Gangle, 1906-1994, led an extraordinary life as an artist, political activist and community organizer. Gangle grew up in a family of migrant agricultural labor. During the 1930s, she worked as a WPA artist, during which she created two murals in tempera for Portland’s Rose City Park Elementary School, “The Columbia River Pioneer Migration” (1940). Gangle later worked as a welder in the Vanport shipyards. More info on her life and career is at http://www.ochcom.org/gangle/.
Share your story about the Alberta Street community. Post your thoughts, memories and images of people and events you feel have been significant at any time in the history of the Alberta Street community.
Use the “submit a post” link in the left-hand column to add your words, pictures and video. Your story will help shape the themes for the five new community murals, which Art on Alberta and Sabin CDC will produce this spring with the help of the community.