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A little peace of history

Published on February 12, 2018 8:15PM

Workers at Civilian Public Service Camp #56

Workers at Civilian Public Service Camp #56

Steve McQuiddy

Steve McQuiddy

The connection between a wartime work camp on the Oregon Coast and the social and cultural revolutions of the 1960s will unfold at the Cape Perpetua Winter Speaker Series this Saturday, Feb. 17.

Award-winning author Steve McQuiddy will give a slideshow presentation on his book “Here on the Edge,” which tells the story of Civilian Public Service Camp #56, located just south of Waldport during World War II. There, pacifists and political objectors spent their daylight hours planting trees, crushing rock, building roads, and fighting forest fires for 50 a week for no pay.

At night, they published books, produced plays, and made art and music. They were the Fine Arts Group at Waldport, and their focus was not so much on the current war, but on what kind of society might be possible when the shooting finally stopped.

“Here on the edge,” they wrote, “we can only watch ... and bide on the time when what we are, and that for which we have taken this stand, can be tangent again to the world.”

This talented group included poet William Everson, later known as Brother Antoninus, “the Beat Friar;” Adrian Wilson, a fine press printer and McArthur “Genius Grant” recipient; Kermit Sheets, co-founder of San Francisco’s Interplayers theater group; award-winning 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 and Allen Ginsberg, who in turn inspired Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, leading the way to the radical upheavals epitomized by San Francisco’s Summer of Love.

“Nearly all the great social movements in history can be traced to small groups working in obscurity, sometimes for years,” McQuiddy said. “It’s powerful to actually see the evidence of how small actions really can make a big difference.”

McQuiddy’s talk, which is free and open to all, starts at 1 pm at the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center, 2400 Hwy. 101, three miles south of Yachats.

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