In the first decades of the twentieth century, unions began to organize in earnest, provoking often-violent confrontations between unions and companies and sometimes between rival unions. The gloomy economic prospects immediately after World War I dampened people’s outlook and encouraged a narrow nativist attitude. The good times of the 1920s ended abruptly with the Great Depression. World War II brought war industries to the Northwest and boosted the coastal economy.
In the early twentieth century, loggers and millworkers lived mostly in company-provided towns or camps, where the accommodations, food, pay, and working conditions ranged from nearly adequate to awful.
World War I Comes to the Coast:
As the first of 130,000 Pacific Northwesterners donned uniforms and went to war, the U.S. Army’s Spruce Production Division began its home-front effort to boost production of the strong, lightweight, straight-grained wood for airplane construction.
Tourists Discover the Oregon Coast:
Seaside and Newport were the earliest coastal towns to develop a tourist trade. The first visitors had to travel by water and stagecoach to reach their destinations.
The Great Depression:
When the crash of 1929 sent the nation’s economy into free fall, the extractive industries that were the backbone of the coastal economy suffered as the nationwide malaise curtailed industrial production and domestic spending.
The Tillamook Burn:
The great Tillamook forest fire of 1933, purportedly touched off by a careless logging operation, burned 240,000 acres — an area one-third the size of Rhode Island — of mostly virgin Douglas fir forest in Tillamook and Clatsop counties.
Labor Unrest between the Wars:
By the end of the 1920s, conditions for workers had improved, but life in the mills and woods and along the waterfront was far from ideal.
World War II:
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the war in the Pacific was near at hand for those who lived along the West Coast, since it was happening, as it were, in their front yard.