Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

October 20, 2000

LUTHER P. (LEN) JOBE of Portland, barber to the labor movement for decades, basks in the spotlight this fortnight as the latest retired unionist to be tapped by the Northwest Oregon Labor Retirees Council for its Labor Hall of Fame.

Jobe operated the one-chair barber shop on the street-level floor of the old Portland Labor Temple at Southwest Fourth Avenue and Jefferson Street from 1957 until 1966 when the grand new Portland Labor Center opened in an urban renewal area at 201 SW Arthur St. His shop in the new building was on the ground floor just off the spacious marble-floored lobby. When labor's love was lost in a bank foreclosure in 1978, Jobe bought a barber shop at 2411 NE Broadway. Much of his labor clientele followed him there. When he retired 15 years ago at age 65, his son, Leonard, took over the shop and still barbers to many of his dad's old customers.

Because he preferred the nickname Len, Jobe was known by that sobriquet until his son, Len, short for Leonard, started running the Northeast Broadway shop. At that point Jobe reverted to his given name of Luther.

EVEN BEFORE HE MOVED into the Labor Temple, Jobe was the barber for many unionists in a shop several blocks from buildings occupied by union offices. To let passersby know that his place was union, Jobe had a union sign painter letter his window with the words "UNION BARBER SHOP" in big bold print. By advertising his union membership, Jobe attracted many patrons from the nearby Labor Temple, and two other neighboring union office structures - the Steamfitters Building and the Boilermakers Building.

Jobe's entry into the barbering trade was a case of following in the footsteps of his father and an uncle, who were barbers, and an aunt who was a beautician. His brother, James, also became a barber.

Jobe was born on June 13, 1920 in Wichita Falls, Texas. His mother died when he was 10, leaving his father, three daughters and two sons, in Yuma, Arizona. Until he settled on barbering, Luther's dad tried his hand at other occupations as he moved from job to job to scrape out a living in the Great Depression of the 1930s. Young Luther went to nine different California schools in one year. By 1937 his father and his second wife moved to Portland. At age 17 Luther took up barbering.

LUTHER AND HIS WIFE, Vivian, were married in 1940 and began to raise a family. With World War II under way in Europe, the shipyard industry was busy in Portland and across the Columbia River in Vancouver, and Luther took a job at the Oregon Shipyard in St. Johns. He joined Boilermakers Local 72.

Jobe left his shipyard job to join the U.S. Navy in 1944 and went through boot camp in a wartime naval facility at Farragut in northern Idaho's panhandle area. Because of his experience as a barber the Navy assigned him to that duty at Farragut but later transferred him to work as a barber at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

UPON RETURNING to Portland in 1946, Jobe resumed his barbering career and became active in Barbers Local 75. The first office he held was that of guide. Later he was elected vice president and occupied that office for a number of years before moving up to president. He also served as president of the Barbers Credit Union. And he was a delegate to international conventions of the Barbers Union.

In retracing his career, Jobe said Local 75 merged with Meat Cutters Local 143A in the late 1970s as part of a nationwide merger of their internationals. In the merger Jobe became a vice president and an executive board member of Local 143A. In 1985 when United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 was established by merging Oregon and southwest Washington locals, Jobe was made a vice president and board member of the Tigard-based union.

Jobe still represents Local 555 as one of its delegates to the Portland-based Northwest Oregon Labor Council (NOLC) nearly 50 years after he was first elected as a Barbers Local 75 delegate to the Portland Labor Council, which was later renamed the Multnomah County Labor Council. He was president of the MCLC's Label Trades Section. Today's NOLC evolved from the earlier councils and also includes former central labor councils in Washington, Columbia and Clackamas counties. His continuous service of nearly 50 years as a delegate to a Portland-based labor council probably is a longevity record. He's also probably the longest-serving delegate to annual conventions of the Oregon AFL-CIO, having attended most of them for the past 43 years.

JOBE AT AGE 80 continues to vigorously promote the patronage by consumers of union-label merchandise and services. He's the label trades representative on the NOLC Executive Board and he represents the label trades at meetings of trustees of the non-profit Oregon Labor Press Publishing Company, Inc., which publishes the Northwest Labor Press.

TO GET A LICENSE as a barber when Jobe entered the trade it was necessary for an applicant, after attending barber school and working as an apprentice, to cut hair, give a shave and pass a written test before a state board of examiners. In the 1970s the Oregon Legislature eliminated those requirements, causing a decline of professionalism in the trade, Jobe noted when he was interviewed for this article. He recalled that he, as president of Barbers Local 75, and Robert Hansen, then the union's business agent, "lobbied at Salem for the preservation of professional standards in the barber trade," but to no avail.

As a union member, Jobe has long taken a keen interest in politics. In his working years he often talked politics to his customers and he also enjoyed conversations with public officials. He remembers that in 1959 Roy Hill of the Painters brought Congresswoman Edith Green and a Massachusetts senator named Jack Kennedy into his Labor Temple shop, and introduced the latter as "the next president of the United States." In later years at his Labor Center shop, Jobe called out greetings to politicians as they walked past his shop's always open doorway. Among those who responded by coming in for a brief visit were another Massachusetts senator, Edward (Ted) Kennedy, and Oregon's legendary U.S. Senator Wayne Morse.

HUNTING AND FISHING are two of Jobe's recreational activities. He hasn't done much of the former in recent years, but he still enjoys fishing trips with son Len.

Luther and Vivian also had three daughters, Karen, now deceased; Diane German and Carol Turner. There are also eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. A granddaughter, Kathy Spencer of Halsey, in Linn County, is carrying on the family tradition; she's a beautician and a barber.


BROTHER GENE R. (SWEDE) LINDHOLM of Estacada, president of Local 112 of the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics & Allied Workers International Union, has retired. Local 112 represents workers at the Owens Illinois/Brockway Glass Plant in the Parkrose area of northeast Portland. Lindholm devoted 42 years of service to the membership of the GMPP&AW Union. He negotiated several contracts with his union brothers and sisters for better wages, benefits and working conditions. Lindholm said he "will miss the challenge but will enjoy" his much-earned retirement. He expressed his thanks to his many friends in the Oregon AFL-CIO for all the help and support he has received over the years. He also thanked the Northwest Labor Press "for the excellent job of keeping members apprised of the issues and well-informed."


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