Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

January 19, 2001

WHEN NEWHOUSE'S OREGONIAN published its 150th anniversary special edition in early December, it printed some of its usual rubbish about the Nov. 10, 1959 to April 4, 1965 strike against the Portland Oregonian and the old Oregon Journal. A number of union members not connected to the strike or the printing trades called the Northwest Labor Press to voice indignation at the "Onian's" obviously slanted history. In the last issue of the NW Labor Press this column was devoted to a rebuttal written by Linda Hansen Marlia, whose father was a union printer at the Journal until the long-running dispute started.

I worked as a union reporter at the Oregonian until 5 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10, 1959, when the members of Stereotypers Local 49 went on strike and nearly all of the 850 men and women union members at both dailies honored the picket lines outside both buildings. Many of them marched on the picket lines on the first day and on subsequent days and weeks and months.

After the newspaper unions started the Portland Reporter as an honorable alternative for the tens of thousands of readers who'd cancelled their subscriptions to the scab dailies, Mrs. Marlia's father, Philip (Swede) Hansen, became an advertising salesman for the Reporter, and I became the stock sales chairman and also an investigative reporter for the tabloid.

WITH THAT PRELUDE, let's take up the subject of the wounding of Donald R. Newhouse in the basement of his home in northwest Portland's Westover Heights on Sunday night, Oct. 16, 1960, nearly a year after the strike started. Donald, 41, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was a young cousin of Samuel Isadore Newhouse of New York City's Park Avenue, the billionaire founder of an empire of newspapers, radio and television stations and magazines. SIN, as he was sometimes irreverently referred to, had bought the morning Oregonian for $5 million in 1950, and immediately began coveting the locally-owned Oregon Journal, an afternoon newspaper, which he finally acquired for $8.3 million in August 1961. In the mid-1950s, SIN dispatched cousin Don, an engineering whiz, to Portland to become the production manager of the Oregonian. Looking back, it seems apparent that he was sent to learn how to put out a newspaper without skilled union workers at such time as SIN decided to have his resident managers provoke a strike to get rid of the pesky unions and facilitate his acquisition of the Journal.

The Oregonian's 150th birthday edition had a time-line reference to the shooting which said: "Oct. 16, 1960 - Donald Newhouse, The Oregonian production manager, is shot and wounded in the hip in a shotgun attack at his home by an unknown assailant."

BUT, IN A HISTORY of the Oregonian in its 150th special, one of the paper's columnists, Steve Duin, wrote this about the shooting: "... the shotgun ambush on Donald Newhouse, S.I.'s cousin and The Oregonian's production manager, knocked the strikers off their moral high ground. Newhouse was shot in the hip while at home, and died, more than a decade later in 1973, of complications from the shooting."

The implication that strikers were involved in the 1960 shooting of Don Newhouse is a union-slandering untruth perpetuated by the Oregonian and also by the old Oregon Journal, and disseminated coast-to-coast by the news wire services in their October 1973 obituaries on Don Newhouse.

I WAS AT THE SCENE right after the night-time shooting at the Newhouse home along with uniformed officers and plainclothes detectives of the Portland Police Bureau. I was there as a reporter for the Portland Reporter along with another reporter for the paper and a photographer. Newhouse was shot while busy in the basement workshop of the large home into which the family had only recently moved. About 100 shotgun pellets struck Newhouse's right hip as he stood at his workbench. The blast was fired through a wood-framed basement window. It was obvious to detectives that the shooter could not have seen the face of the standing Newhouse, given the limited visibility offered by the basement window. Because the Newhouse family had not lived there long, detectives looked into the background of the previous occupant. Detectives were told that he allegedly had been sexually involved with one or two married women. This caused detectives to think that the shooting could have been committed by a vengeful husband who did not realize that the target of his ire had moved.

Detectives could find absolutely nothing to connect the shooting to the 11-month-old strike, and doubted that strikers even knew of the Newhouse family's move. The Portland police chief, Bill Hilbruner, told me and others that police had no more reason to suspect a striker than a strikebreaker, noting that production boss Newhouse had a reputation as a strict disciplinarian who sparked antagonism among some of his scabs. Chief Hilbruner didn't say so but he might have been thinking of an incident five months earlier when his police stopped several of Newhouse' s scab production workers in an automobile containing a small arsenal which included a 12-gauge shotgun and an illegal sawed-off shotgun. The trigger also could have been squeezed by a crackpot. Not long after the shooting, a man phoned the home of a Portland lawyer and told his wife: "Tell your husband Newhouse was lucky. He won't be so lucky. He'll be next." The only connection between Newhouse and the attorney was that they were co-chairmen of a highly-publicized auction to benefit two civic organizations.

BY CHANCE, I WAS IN BOSTON when Don Newhouse died in 1973 at age 54 in a hospital there. He'd been promoted after the strike to be general manager of cousin SIN's newspapers at Springfield, Mass. His obits in the Boston press kept alive the union-slandering myth about his shooting being strike-related. Don Newhouse died not from the hip wound but while undergoing open-heart surgery. Nonetheless, Don's widow bitterly blamed his death on the Portland strike and years later berated an Oregon union woman at a mental health conference in Indianapolis upon learning where she was from. Some years prior to his death, Newhouse's heart had undergone the strain of dealing with the trauma of his daughter having been accosted and raped after she left work late one night at the Springfield newspaper plant run by him.

The May 1960 case of the scabs with guns in their car was but one of a number of instances in which Don Newhouse's newspaper production scabs acquired police records in Portland. Some left behind police records in the cities from which they scurried to Portland to "rat" - a printing trades term for strikebreaking - at the Oregonian and Oregon Journal.

"... GOOD PEOPLE, ALL ..." was a phony phrase used with a straight face by blustery Mike Frey, Sam Newhouse's resident publisher of the Oregonian, to describe the scabs he, Don Newhouse and their underlings had hired to replace striking and locked-out union members. As a reporter who'd covered both the city and county police beats, the district attorney's office and the criminal courts for the Oregonian before the strike, I drew on that experience and those contacts to track down the police records of scabs hired to produce the struck Oregonian and the Journal. I wrote stories about the scabs' arrest records for the Labor Press and also used that information in flyers printed by the Portland Inter-Union Newspaper Strike Committee for distribution to the general public.

One of the worst crimes committed by someone who'd been a strikebreaker was the vicious assault and rape of a 16-year-old high school girl near Southwest 16th Avenue and College Street in May 1960. The girl's jaw was broken in the attack. Within hours Portland police arrested a 19-year-old marijuana smoker and burglar as the rapist.

SIN's Oregonian headlined its first story on page one but moved follow-ups inside upon learning that the suspect, who admitted the attack to police, had been a "good people" scab until five days before the crime. The Newhouse newspaper never identified the rapist as its former employee.

BEFORE SPACE RUNS OUT, a rebuttal should be made to comments about the strike which were attributed by Duin to Wallace Turner, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the pre-strike Oregonian. Turner honored the strike picket line, got a reporting and anchor job at KPTV Channel 12, and moved from there in 1961 to serve in new President John F. Kennedy's Administration. In 1962 he was hired by the New York Times as a correspondent for its San Francisco news bureau. He later became the S.F. bureau chief and years later was assigned to Seattle to open a news bureau there. Now retired, he lives in Seattle.

The article by Duin quoted Turner as saying the printing trades workers enjoyed "a golden stream" of wages and benefits, an allegation properly rebutted by Linda Hansen Marlia in the Jan. 5 Labor Press. Turner was also quoted as saying that he had "objected to the strike." If Turner had any objections to the strike, he did not voice them to me and other reporters in conversations four or five of us had on the sidewalk outside the Oregonian Building at 1320 SW Broadway a week prior to the strike. Nor did he voice them when he appeared on the picket line on that same sidewalk along with the rest of us on the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 10, 1959, the day that members of Stereotypers Local 49 went on strike. Also, Wally did not voice any objections to the strike at meetings of Portland Newspaper Guild Local 165. If he had, I would have heard them because I was there.


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