Hard times then and now | Tom Camfield

Tom Camfield
Posted 5/10/21

If you come across a serious accident the first thing to do is stop the bleeding. With homelessness, it’s pretty obvious what the equivalent of bleeding is. At present, we have a serious …

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Hard times then and now | Tom Camfield


If you come across a serious accident the first thing to do is stop the bleeding. With homelessness, it’s pretty obvious what the equivalent of bleeding is. At present, we have a serious homeless problem centered in part at the local fairgrounds and money seems the obvious form of first aid.

I am fortunate enough not to be homeless, but I’m aged and unfit enough not to be able to check out the situation “on the ground” or aid much other than financially. I will take the word of others that the homeless problem today is pretty desperate but still better coordinated and supported than it has ever been. Those interested in aiding financially should contact Oly/Cap, St. Vincent DePaul, Bayside Housing, etc. One of my main information sources is highly-successful Habitat for Humanity with which my wife Jean has been actively associated since its inception many years ago.

The year is still young, with the various benign institutions still trying out the wings that are parts of their newly reorganized federal and state administrations — groups that are banding together to provide food, shelter and mental health care.

I see about 18 or so full pages (25 comments) on an April 22 letter herein dealing with homelessness. It doesn’t take much of that space by Marge Samuelson, Douglas Edelstein and David Thielk to describe the painful, harsh reality of the situation — and to plead the case for empathy. Most of the space, however, is devoted to endless anonymous ravings that apparently view empathy as a social disease. They remind me a lot of Donald Trump and I don’t linger long over the individual anonymous words and phrases.

Rather than wading into this morass, I have chosen to recall when the town was young. Port Townsend and environs used to be more of a refuge and I was the little kid accompanying his father in leading the family cow a mile or so down San Juan Ave. to visit the Hansens' bull.
Little things meant a lot when I was growing up in Port Townsend in the 1930s — a time ever since known as the "Great Depression." But Port Townsend, fortunately, had a new paper mill; and my father worked there. Still, out of necessity, the town grew more out of function than beauty. We fortunately had an army post to help sustain us during the pre-war Depression years.

My grandfather Ernie helped build the mill around 1927-'28. My father became one of the first employees about the spring of '29. Ernie spent his younger adult years as a homesteader in Michigan, South Dakota, and mainly Alberta. It was in the semi-wilderness of Alberta (near the one-horse town of Edenville/Meeting Creek) that most of his 10 children were born including my father in 1907. (See overstuffed cabin photo above). Which probably explains why we paid for indoor plumbing with space back in the mid-late '30s. 

My three younger brothers and I were crammed into one small bedroom, in bunk beds. But the long outside walk to the outhouse on chilly evenings became a thing of the past for my sainted mother. I shared a bed with a younger brother, who wet same. Another bedroom in our new house would have been nice. However, my father spent' his childhood in Alberta (see above) and had a different conception of space. And despite the empathy that accompanied his financing when he built his house, he also had to provide facilities for the milk cow and calf, pig , chickens . . .

No, he'd never done any of this before. The house is still occupied after some 85 years and he built another 10 years later.

That first time around, my father combined early years of thrift and hard work with receiving one of the first home-construction loans following the bank failures of the early ‘30s. When that proved insufficient, he was given a “Pay me when you can” line of credit from Tony DeLeo, who ran the town’s building supply business.

While born under Herbert Hoover, whose contribution to American society was the Great Depression, I spent nearly all of my childhood during the three-plus recovery terms of Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the empathetic young adulthood of Port Townsend.


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  • MargeS

    Nice article Tom. A lot of people may not realize what all happened in Port Townsend, Jefferson County, when the Paper Mill came here. Not only did it provide well paying jobs, it also influenced the building trade, new workers needed homes for their families, many of these were built in the late 1920s & 1930s. New businesses came to town, Safeway, J.C. Penney's, gas stations, shoe stores, etc. There were still problems for some of the residents of Jefferson County, the paper had weekly articles about family's needing a sewing machine, a mattress for the kids, foster homes for children. We sometimes don't pay enough attention to what is happening in our own community. Thanks for the reminder.

    Monday, May 10, 2021 Report this

  • Justin Hale

    The situation at the Fairgrounds is unacceptable, who would want that camp next to their home? The homeless situation is a problem all across this country, and I have yet to hear of a workable solution to solve it. As I said in response to that other letter to the Leader " if you build it they will come". Cities have been throwing money at the problem for years and nothing changes, at least not for the better. Money alone is not going to solve the problem, the more you give someone the more they will take. Add to that the thousands of homeless illegals crossing our southern border every day, the worst situation in 15 years. So far the current administration doesn't seem to have a clue on how to deal with it but never fear Kamala is on the job.....

    Wednesday, May 12, 2021 Report this

  • MargeS

    Sorry Just in hale, your boy Trump is not coming back. He didn't do anything about homelessness, his solution to the border problem was to build walls, Kamala Harris is the kind of person that will not be creating a lot of disruption, but she will, in her way, become educated and know that she has the presidents support. As to the homeless, there are many people working at finding homes, health care for those who need it most. Try being part of the solution for once and quit just rattling your ridiculous Trump inspired bull.

    Wednesday, May 12, 2021 Report this

  • Justin Hale

    Just can't give up that Trump-hate can you, I call it PTSD(post trump stress disorder)......

    Under the Biden administration, the illegal border crossing is at a 15 year high. They're all homeless! Biden added to the homeless problem multiple times more than Trump did.

    Thursday, May 13, 2021 Report this

  • MargeS

    Yes, he locked them up. With Trump sending out the message he wants to run in 2024 and Republicans unable to admit he was a terrible president, people need to remember. You call it hating Trump, I say he scares the hell out of me. If you have something to say about Tom's blog please do so, but don't drag in your Trump lies.

    Thursday, May 13, 2021 Report this

  • Justin Hale

    The only ones who dragged Trump into the discussion were Tom and yourself Marge, it's part of your PTSD problem.

    " he locked them up.", That's what you do when someone breaks your border laws, or you send them back across the border to wait for their chance to enter the country the legal way, that's what Trump did. Biden is using the exact same facilities that Trump used, except that because of his open border policies Biden has welcomed thousand of illegal homeless people into our country. And you're worried about Trump and three years down the road.....you're priorities are a little screwy Marge.

    Thursday, May 13, 2021 Report this

  • Thomas Camfield

    “Thousands of homeless illegals crossing our southern border every day; the worst situation in 15 years.” So says Justin Hale in finding fault with the homeless encampment at the Jefferson County fairgrounds. President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris have been in office all of three months, and I think it’s a bit soon to be judging them on this handy distraction from the pandemic.

    Let’s see; “15 years ago. ”That would have been the early months of the second George W. Bush administration, May 2106. George W, reigned from Jan. 20 2001 ,through Jan .20, 2009—and 15 years ago would have been well within that.

    Here’s how things looked 15 years ago (2006) under Republican President George W. Bush.

    “As of March 2006, the estimated unauthorized population in the United States was 11.5 to 12 million, of which 4.5 to 6 million entered legally with inspection and 6 to 7 million entered illegally without inspection. Those who entered legally with inspection include nonimmigrant visa overstayers (4 to 5.5 million) and border crossing card violators (250,000 to 500,000), while those who entered illegally without inspection evaded immigration inspectors and the Border Patrol. On average, there are 700,000 to 850,000 new unauthorized migrants arriving annually by all modes of entry. An estimated 6.2 million (or 56 percent) of all unauthorized migrants are from Mexico. (Sources: Pew Hispanic Center Estimates based on March 2005 Current Population Survey; DHS reports) . . .

    “Two of the 10 fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the United States, Laredo and McAllen, are located on the Texas-Mexico border. Estimates indicate the population of many border cities will double in 30 years. The population along the Texas border region is increasing at twice the rate of Texas as a whole. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)”

    Thursday, May 13, 2021 Report this

  • Justin Hale

    "Most of the space, however, is devoted to endless anonymous ravings that apparently view empathy as a social disease. They remind me a lot of Donald Trump".....I'll save my empathy for the citizens who have to live next to the mess at the fairgrounds Tom. I'll save my empathy for the citizens who live in the towns on our southern border and have to deal with illegals flooding into their neighborhoods, a situation aggravated by the Biden administration's open border policy.

    Friday, May 14, 2021 Report this