Name and location of repository
Level of description
Oral history interview with Fred L. Peterson
- 1982-02-11 - 1982-04-28 (Creation)
0.1 cubic feet; 6 audiocassettes (4 hr., 18 min., 55 sec.)
Name of creator
Fred Lawence Peterson was born in Owatonna, Minnesota, in 1896. In 1902, he moved with his family to Portland, Oregon. He served in the Oregon National Guard and was sent to France during World War I. After his discharge in 1919, he began operating a pharmacy in the Hollywood neighborhood of Portland. He married Madeline E. Peterson and they later had one child. In 1940, he was elected to the Portland City Council, and in 1953, he was elected Portland mayor. He ran for re-election in 1956 but was defeated by Terry Schrunk. Peterson died in 1985.
Sources: "Fred Peterson," by Robert Donnelly, Oregon Encyclopedia, https://www.oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/peterson_fred_1896_1985_/; vital records on Ancestry.com; information provided by Peterson during his interview.
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Scope and content
This oral history interview with Fred L. Peterson was conducted by Linda S. Dodds at Peterson's home in Portland, Oregon, in four sessions from February 11 to April 28, 1982, as part of the Oregon Historical Society Research Library's oral history program. Jack Pement of the Oregon Journal newspaper was also present during sessions 1 and 2, and occasionally contributed to the interview.
In the first interview session, conducted on February 11, 1982, Peterson discusses his family background and early life in the Lents neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. He also shares his memories of the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition, talks about his service in the Oregon National Guard during World War I, and describes how he became a pharmacist after the war. He shares his memories of working in an Army hospital during the 1918 flu pandemic. He speaks about running a pharmacy in the Hollywood neighborhood of Portland, particularly during the Depression. He describes how he became involved in politics, talks about his campaign for Portland City Council in 1940, and discusses his experiences as a council member. He also talks about his friendship with Fred Meyer.
In the second interview session, conducted on February 25, 1982, Peterson continues to discuss his service on the Portland City Council. He talks about the council's activities during World War II, about how Portland changed during the war, and about other members of the council. He discusses the political career of Dorothy McCullough Lee, shares his reasons for running against her for Portland mayor in 1952, and talks about his campaign. He also speaks about his role in establishing the Washington Park location for the Oregon Zoo, and about his other accomplishments as mayor. He then talks about his failed re-election campaign in 1956.
In the third interview session, conducted on March 10, 1982, Peterson speaks further about his service on the Portland City Council and as mayor. He talks about his accomplishments in those roles, including his involvement in the development of parks and recreational facilities, and his work to resolve a milk shortage in Vanport. He speaks again about his reasons for running for mayor and about his 1952 and 1956 campaigns.
In the fourth and final interview session, conducted on April 28, 1982, Peterson discusses Portland zoning laws in the 1930s and 1940s and describes how the city treated unhoused people during the Depression. He talks about the work of Portland's post-war redevelopment committee and about the plan presented to the city by Robert Moses, an urban planner from New York. He speaks about people with whom he served on the city council, particularly Dorothy McCullough Lee, and discusses the relationship between the council and the Portland Police Bureau. He closes the interview by speaking further about his term as Portland mayor.
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Conditions governing access
Copyright for this interview is held by the Oregon Historical Society. Use is allowed according to the following statement: Creative Commons - BY-NC-SA, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/
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Related archival materials
A small collection of Peterson's photographs, Org. Lot 133, is also held by the Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
Preferred citation: Oral history interview with Fred L. Peterson, by Linda S. Dodds, SR 9600, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
An incomplete transcript (107 pages) is available for in-person use at the Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
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Finding aid based on DACS (Describing Archives: A Content Standard), 2nd Edition.