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Here on the Edge

How a Small Group of World War II Conscientious Objectors Took Art and Peace from the Margins to the Mainstream

Steve McQuiddy

Publication Year: 2013

Here on the Edge answers the growing interest in a long-neglected element of World War II history: the role of pacifism in what is often called “The Good War.” Steve McQuiddy shares the fascinating story of one conscientious objector camp located on the rain-soaked Oregon Coast, Civilian Public Service (CPS) Camp #56. As home to the Fine Arts Group at Waldport, the camp became a center of activity where artists and writers from across the country focused their work not so much on the current war, but on what kind of society might be possible when the shooting finally stopped.

They worked six days a week—planting trees, crushing rock, building roads, and fighting forest fires—in exchange for only room and board. At night, they published books under the imprint of the Untide Press. They produced plays, art, and music—all during their limited non-work hours, with little money and few resources. This influential group included poet William Everson, later known as Brother Antoninus, “the Beat Friar”; violinist Broadus Erle, founder of the New Music Quartet; fine arts printer Adrian Wilson; Kermit Sheets, co-founder of San Francisco’s Interplayers theater group; architect Kemper Nomland, Jr.; and internationally renowned sculptor Clayton James.

After the war, camp members went on to participate in the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance of the 1950s, which heavily influenced the Beat Generation of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Gary Snyder—who in turn inspired Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, leading the way to the 1960s upheavals epitomized by San Francisco’s Summer of Love.

As camp members engaged in creative acts, they were plowing ground for the next generation, when a new set of young people, facing a war of their own in Vietnam, would populate the massive peace movements of the 1960s.

Twenty years in the making and packed with original research, Here on the Edge is the definitive history of the Fine Arts Group at Waldport, documenting how their actions reasonated far beyond the borders of the camp. It will appeal to readers interested in peace studies, World War II history, influences on the 1960s generation, and in the rich social and cultural history of the West Coast.

Here on the Edge answers the growing interest in a long-neglected element of World War II history: the role of pacifism in what is often called “The Good War.” Steve McQuiddy shares the fascinating story of one conscientious objector camp located on the rain-soaked Oregon Coast, Civilian Public Service (CPS) Camp #56. As home to the Fine Arts Group at Waldport, the camp became a center of activity where artists and writers from across the country focused their work not so much on the current war, but on what kind of society might be possible when the shooting finally stopped.

They worked six days a week—planting trees, crushing rock, building roads, and fighting forest fires—in exchange for only room and board. At night, they published books under the imprint of the Untide Press. They produced plays, art, and music—all during their limited non-work hours, with little money and few resources. This influential group included poet William Everson, later known as Brother Antoninus, “the Beat Friar”; violinist Broadus Erle, founder of the New Music Quartet; fine arts printer Adrian Wilson; Kermit Sheets, co-founder of San Francisco’s Interplayers theater group; architect Kemper Nomland, Jr.; and internationally renowned sculptor Clayton James.

After the war, camp members went on to participate in the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance of the 1950s, which heavily influenced the Beat Generation of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Gary Snyder—who in turn inspired Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, leading the way to the 1960s upheavals epitomized by San Francisco’s Summer of Love.

As camp members engaged in creative acts, they were plowing ground for the next generation, when a new set of young people, facing a war of their own in Vietnam, would populate the massive peace movements of the 1960s.

Twenty years in the making and packed with original research, Here on the Edge is the definitive history of the Fine Arts Group at Waldport, documenting how their actions reasonated far beyond the borders of the camp. It will appeal to readers interested in peace studies, World War II history, influences on the 1960s generation, and in the rich social and cultural history of the West Coast.

Published by: Oregon State University Press

Cover

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pp. C-i

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ii-iii

Contents

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pp. iv-vi

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-x

I am neither a conscientious objector nor an authority on the subject. I am merely a writer who recognizes a good story when he sees one. Little did I know, however, that this story would launch me on a journey of nearly twenty years from idea to publication—a journey that would require immersion in the complicated topics of peace and war, and a willingness ...

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Chapter 1: An Unusual Gathering

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pp. 1-13

In January 1943, a little more than a year after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Bill Everson boarded a bus in Fresno, California, headed for a camp in a place he’d never seen. His draft number had come up, and although he didn’t want to go, he knew he must. He’d already missed the earlier call for his scheduled departure, lingering in the station with his...

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Chapter 2: The Cost of Conscience in America

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pp. 14-25

In the fall of 1934, a book appeared in England and America titled Peace with Honour. Essentially an appeal to reason, it sets out a case for the renunciation of modern war—the industrial, massive destruction committed by humans and their machines. Political leaders declare that they do not want war, the author says, yet they apparently do not want ...

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Chapter 3: Shared Misery and Gallows Humor

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pp. 26-45

When the first CPS camp opened in May 1941 at Patapsco State Forest in Maryland just outside of Baltimore, twenty-six conscientious objectors arrived, accompanied by twice as many reporters and photographers. The United States was not yet at war, so the curiosity element was strong. Who were these people, where did they come from, and ...

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Chapter 4: Community, Cooperation, and Sacrifice

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pp. 46-69

As the calendar turned to January 1943, the camp addressed the routine matters of day-to-day living and how they might abide the circumstances of their conscription. The Tide featured a front-page graphic of a dock piling extended into a cross and a full-page prayer that began, “Dear God Most High, in these times of chaos incurred by our own...

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Chapter 5: Against Them the Creative Act

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pp. 70-90

The foundations for creative work at Camp Angel were there from its inception. The more-or-less monthly Tide newsletter, even with its stamp of officialdom, tried to accommodate the artistic urges of its contributors—although the poetry tended toward doggerel, and the artwork was simple line drawings. The Untide wasn’t any more accomplished...

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Chapter 6: Democratic Sausage Making

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pp. 91-105

“Attention Portland newspapers! Contact editor of Waldport paper for information concerning activity of conscientious objectors there!” So came this warning from national radio commentator and newspaper columnist Walter Winchell during his popular weekly pro-gram in January 1944. Winchell was huge, heard by millions across the country every Sunday evening, and on that week’s program went on a ...

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Chapter 7: No Use for War

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pp. 106-126

Shortly after the fine arts school officially opened in March 1944, they were joined by Waldo Chase, a largely self-taught artist and craftsman from Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, as their first visiting artist-in-residence. Chase, a forty-five-year-old pacifist who fol-lowed a simple and cooperative lifestyle, quickly gained popularity with his classes in drawing, color woodblock printing, and weaving with a ...

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Chapter 8: As Close as It Gets to a School

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pp. 127-147

Not long after Kermit and Kemper arrived, they were joined by their good friend, a woman who came to occupy a unique place in the Fine Arts. Manche Langley, twenty-six years old and single, came from Portland, where her father had been a district attorney and her aunt one of the city’s first female lawyers.1 Surrounded by academics and intellectuals, Manche developed a curiosity and confidence that sometimes took ...

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Chapter 9: The Revolution Begins

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pp. 148-173

The day after the Fine Arts meeting about their uncertain future, Everson burst into the Untide Press room, Adrian wrote, “turning cart-wheels and waving a stool over his head.”1 His Waldport Poems would be reprinted, in its entirety, in an upcoming edition of New Directions, the anthology of experimental writing edited each year by James ...

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Chapter 10: Be Cheerful, Keep Smiling

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pp. 174-196

While New Year’s weekend at Camp Angel invited reflection and some degree of indulgence, the central coast communities were anticipating an overall lively time. “The Waldport Chamber of Commerce Inc., are sponsoring a Big New Year’s Eve Dance Dec. 30th, at Cap’s with all the proceeds going to the P.T.A.,” announced the Lincoln County Times ...

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Chapter 11: What Now?

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pp. 197-226

“Two wonders of god’s creation captured my attention,” Chuck Cooley wrote on a calm July day. “The ocean and the beautiful birds.” That summer, the Oregon coast had exceptionally low tides, opening the beach far beyond normal and offering a bonanza of crabs and clams for residents up and down the coast. The other marvel was the myriad swallows that had built their mud nests beneath the eaves of the ...

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Chapter 12: Unscrew the Locks from the Doors!

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pp. 227-248

In the summer of 1947, an unassuming book appeared in stores, titled On My Way Home. A kind of diary-travelogue, it reported the cross-country journey of Richard Phenix, a twenty-nine-year-old former army captain who had spent his time in the war as a supply officer, most of it in the States. Now discharged from the service and recognizing that he had little experience as a civilian worker, he set out in his car to ease ...

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Coda: Let Us at Least Salute It

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pp. 249-254

Looking back from the perspective of seventy years, it may seem that the story of Camp #56 and the Fine Arts at Waldport can never be told completely. The story of the Beat Generation and its effects on society has taken its rightful place in our nation’s cultural history, and the record of how the baby boomer generation changed the shape and scope of America has been examined and evaluated enough to satisfy even the ...

Appendix 1: Lives after the Fine Arts

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pp. 255-260

Appendix 2: Fine Arts Group Members and Associates

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pp. 261-262

Appendix 3: Creative Works at Waldport

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pp. 263-272

Appendix 4: The Birth of the Untide Press

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pp. 273-276

Copyrights and Illustration Credits

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pp. 277-278

Notes

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pp. 279-304

Bibliography

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pp. 305-314

Index

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pp. 315-326


E-ISBN-13: 9780870715990
E-ISBN-10: 0870715992
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870716256
Print-ISBN-10: 0870716255

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: B&W Photographs and Illustrations.
Publication Year: 2013