"Dikes are Safe at Present": The 1948 Columbia River Flood and the Destruction of Vanport

Moving Vanport College

Relocation memorandum from Assistant Dir. Putnam

Vanport Extension Center administration worked quickly to find a new location for the college.  This memo from Assistant Director Phil Putnam to Dean of Students J.F. Cramer recommended moving to the former Oregon Shipyard building in St. Johns, which became the new home of the VEC in July 1948.

Putnam, as well as VEC director Stephen Epler, lived in Vanport with his family before the flood.

The Oregon Ship Building

A panorama of the building that became known as "Oregon Ship."

"When September came, much work was still to be done.  We sat on chairs without writing surfaces; there were no blackboards or any of the other classroom conveniences; the building was filled with the smell of fresh paint and the noise of hammering, sawing, and other construction work.  No one complained, however, and school started as though nothing had happened."  (The Viking, 1948-49)

Phil Putnam at Vanport

"Phil Putnam saved his wife, baby, and uncompleted doctoral dissertation after warning the residents of his apartment complex.  He later walked back to the flooded area, dove into the waters to rescue a dog, wrung out his clothes the best he could, and then tossed his soaked shorts into the slough, remarking, 'I've plenty more at home.'  It took him a moment to realize that his only remaining clothes were those on his back."  (Dodds, The College That Would Not Die)

Vanport Summer Session 1948 statistics

Enrollment statistics for the 1948 Vanport summer session, following the flood.

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