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"We had Ku Klux Klans in Gresham. I can recall one time, and I think I was probably in the eighth grade coming home from school, and there were the remnants of a cross that had been burnt in front of the office of the local doctor. It had always been assumed by everyone that the local doctor probably was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, but it turned out that he wasn't. And that was a warning to that doctor, I think, because in a short period of time, he was no longer in Gresham.
     "The Ku Klux Klan at one time was very strong, locally."
     Question: "Why?"
     "Well, the Ku Klux Klan, some of the things they were against – maybe I shouldn't be saying this – but some of the things they were against, they were against the Catholics. They were against immigrants. They were against the colored people. Those were three things they were definitely against. Now, why, I don't know. They have explanations for all of that. I wouldn't understand it."
     Question: "You weren't a member?"
     "No, I wasn't a member. [Laughs.] No member of [my] family was a member. But it once did touch upon my father."
     Question: "Tell me how?"
     "Well, see he was an immigrant. He came from Germany. This happened many years later, many years later. I was up at the restaurant up in Gresham, sitting down, and a guy who had been living in Gresham for many years – he wasn't at the particular time – he came over and sat down beside me. He said, 'You remember when that cross was burned in front of Doc Harris' office?'
     "'Yes,' I said. 'I seen the smoldering ruins of it.'
     "He said, 'I made that cross.' He was a member of that group. He was a member of the KKK. He told me, now he told me this – you had to interpret what he said, kind of, reading between the lines. But, he says, 'when it got to the point when they were going to start acting against some of my friends, I dropped out.'
     "It just happened that he was a close friend of my father's. I've often wondered if that's what he was referring to."
     Question: "What did they do to your father?"
     "Nothing, nothing, nothing."
     Question: "But you said they were –"
     "Well, this was what this one individual told me. He says, 'When they were beginning to think of doing something to one of my friends, I dropped out.' Now, he didn't say any more than that. He didn't have to. I thought I was reading what he was saying."
     Question: "And you think that was because your Dad was a German immigrant."
     "Well, I think so because he was an immigrant. He was an immigrant. They were against immigrants. They didn't realize that we're all immigrants. Hey, about the only natives is Indians and they came in years ago from Asia across into Alaska. So, they too are immigrants. [Laughs.]"

Walter Schmitt on the KKK

   

Other Excerpts from Walter Schmitt's Interview:

Grasshoppers
Dealing with Grasshoppers
Fertilizing & Crop Rotation
Small World
The Crash & Leaving for California
Losing Your Farm
Free Dances & Movies
Closing Banks
Getting Paid with Potatoes
Hoover and Roosevelt
WPA
Railroads & Trucks
Movies in Gresham
Tumbleweeds
Decline in Farms