3. Answering the Call
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36 chapter 3 Answering the Call Youth’s natural idealism sometimes tends to shrink from the grim realities of present-day politics. A thirty-one-year-old ex-bomber pilot from World War II, who was practicing law in a small town in California, said to me, “I’d run for the legislature in a minute if I thought I could vote just as my conscience dictated, without having to worry about campaign contributors or the bosses of my party.” This was how I replied to him: “Maybe a whole lot of young men like you will have to run first, in order to bring about the conditions which you seek. When you don’t even put your name on the ballot, you leave the business of state government to the political hacks.” —Richard L. Neuberger, from Adventures in Politics, 1954 Chapter 2, “Give the Young Folks a Chance” The Straub family arrived in Springfield, a small but growing mill town next to Oregon’s second-largest city, Eugene, at the southern end of the fertile Willamette Valley, in the summer of 1947. They moved into a cramped little trailer in a small trailer park—Bob, Pat, three little children (Jeff, Mike, and Jane, who was just a few weeks old), and Bismarck, their black Labrador dog. It wasn’t the most promising beginning. A couple of weeks after they arrived, someone began poisoning dogs in the neighborhood. “Boy, I wanted to get out of there fast,” Bob recalled.1 With this imperative to relocate, Bob found a five-acre plot in the Thurston area, east of Springfield. They immediately bought it and moved the small trailer onto it, relieved to escape the fear of losing their family dog, and happy to be making a start on their own land. Bob was working as a supply clerk for Weyerhaeuser, as the company finished construction of the new mill. After the first year, when the mill began operation, Bob shifted jobs and ran the personnel department. On weekends and evenings Bob worked to build their new family home. He started with the garage first, then moved on to the kitchen and utilities. When those were done, he sold the trailer and, with the money from the sale, was able to finish the rest of the house.2 “Our daughter Patty was born in Thurston,” Pat recalled, “while we were living in the garage of the home that Bob was building.” With two adults, four kids, and Bismarck, managing that household was quite a challenge. Pat Answering the Call 37 planted and grew a large vegetable garden. Pat had certainly come a long way from her days of comfort and understated luxury in the Villanova suburbs of Philadelphia. Living in the Oregon countryside was a very different life. But, with Bob busy working, she didn’t have much choice. Pat was in charge of raising the family and she relished it. “She kept us all with clothes and happy and kept the house up,” Mike Straub remembers, “At first she didn’t know much about cooking and child rearing so she had some stuff to learn. But she really worked at it and we really had a happy childhood.”3 The two boys developed what Pat eventually concluded were allergic reactions to some foods, forcing her to begin looking for dietary answers. She began reading books and articles written by such organic food and gardening pioneers as J. I. Rodale, publisher of Organic Gardening and Prevention magazines. Pat experimented with different food combinations and became knowledgeable about organic gardening and cooking with whole, unprocessed foods—going against the prevailing postwar American belief in, as chemical giant Dupont advertised it: “better things for better living … through chemistry.” Bob respected Pat’s opinions on these matters and followed her lead,4 including drinking such unpalatable combinations as brewer’s yeast in his morning orange juice. Pat’s efforts bore fruit, as her sons and the rest of her children went from being “thin and sickly” to healthy and vital into their adulthood, though they dumped the nasty-tasting brewer’s yeast concoctions down the toilet whenever they could get away with it. “All of a sudden we started eating all this awful, nutritious stuff, but we stayed healthy forever,” Mike Straub recalls. Her newly acquired abilities and interests would provide Pat with a lifetime of joy and sharing—and her family, including her future grandchildren, with a lifetime of healthy, (mostly) delicious eating.5...


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