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A News Century

The bounty in our back pages

December 31, 2005

By their fruits ye shall know them’

So declared the people of Hood River in 1905, at the Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland, declaring the bounty of this agricultural community.

The full story from the first issue of the Hood River News-Letter can be found in the special section “100 Years of News,” in this edition of the Hood River News.

The section is a combination centennial edition and New Year’s gift to our readers.

“100 Years” also serves as a tribute to the history of the county. Our history remains a vital part of what we present in the Hood River News, be it the weekly “Yesteryears” column or articles such as our page A1 feature on Lester Moving and Storage celebrating its 75th year in business.

In covering the news and events that make up local history, The News (which became the News in 1909) and its predecessors the Glacier and the Sun followed time-honored paths: entertain, advocate, inform, and educate.

Our “back issues” are a rich resource, and a few outtakes that did not make the “100 Years” are also worth a look:

1906: “Surprise party at Dethman’s: One of the most enjoyable surprise parties was given Tuesday night at the home of Mr. and Mrs. C.W. Dethman in honor of their son’s twentieth birthday, and to say that Frank was surprised, is mildly put. Some sixty-five persons, young and old came tramping in, came in wagons, some in buggies, others on foot; but the whole neighborhood was on hand to bring good wishes … Games, singing and dancing were indulged in until a late hour when a sumptuous lunch was served...”

The like of this rarely appears in any newspaper today, but it makes for excellent reading today.

1923: Headline — Plan to Bridge Columbia River at Hood River

“Bridge talks are nothing new in Hood River, for they have furnished a popular theme for talks before local organizations. We have also had estimates of costs — all the way from $600,000 to two million dollars. And they have all died a-borning. But a project was submitted to prominent men of this county on Tuesday that has already been greeted with much enthusiasm and if it does not go through it will be because it is impossible to sell $75,000 worth of 6 percent bonds among business men and ranchers of this county and north side of the Columbia, for the bridge will, if it is built, link up White Salmon, Underwood, and the big territory stretching away to Yakima...”

Shades of the early-century bridge discussion is another recurring debate concerning the river that graces our front door: How to develop the Port of Hood River waterfront property – also “providing a popular theme for talks before local organizations.”

The bridge got built. It took awhile, but the bridge got built and fuilfilled its promise.

Hood River News continues today with the tradition of publishing commentary on national issues, but the focus remains on local issues. A 1968 editorial, reprinted in part, shows signs of age but echoes with concerns of today, under the headline “The Grape and the Pear”:

“The grape and the pear have little in common, except that both are fruits, and yet there is reason for producers of tree fruits in Hood River County to take a look at a recent development in the grape industry.

“A boycott of table grapes grown in California has been called in New York by union organizers of farm workers. California depends on New York for the marketplace for 15 to 20 percent of its table grape output.

“The tendency to oversimplify for political reasons has come into play. All the appeals of growers to debate the issue with influential politicians supporting the boycott are brushed aside. So the American public will never know about the meat of the matter. The small grower who can’t afford to pay $1.90 an hour for help will just have to go out of business if the outlaw methods of the boycotters succeed. Hood River County’s trouble is that the whole fruit industry is made up of small growers. Unless (they) are able to band together and find a voice to tell their story, the next decade will see a revolution in the organization of the industry in ownership scale.

“It has been a long and difficult job for union organization to crack into farm labor. But it is nothing compared with the job of finding a voice to bring justice to the silent, independent small grower who is feeling the squeeze of growing costs and returns that don’t grow in proportion.”

Today, the grape and the pear are rich parts of our local cornucopia. Throughout the changes in Hood River County, including the diversifying 1980s, 1990s, and the current decade, what we grow defines us: by our fruits they shall know us.

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