Harry Lane started his professional life as a doctor and early-on gained a reputation for honesty and generosity to the poor. Before serving on the United States Senate from 1913-1917 he served as the Mayor of Portland from July 1905 until June 1909.
Lane was different from previous Portland mayors because he took a stand against the city’s municipal problems. He did not like most politicians -- he thought them to be corrupt and influenced by railroad and liquor interests.
Lane ran for mayor as a reformer. Prostitution, saloons, and corporate privilege were among his top concerns. He was frequently at odds with the rest of city council over these issues. In fact, Lane broke the record for the number of times he vetoed ordinances passed by the council. Most of these vetoes were eventually overridden by the councilmen, however.
The railway company that operated The Oaks during its earliest years, the O.W.P., was a large and powerful corporation. Harry Lane's most significant objection to the amusement resort was the manner in which O.W.P. officials used their influence within City Council to obtain special privileges not given to smaller businesses. “Culture Clash” topic, “Corporate Privileges” describes the mayor’s grievance in greater detail. Likewise, the topics, “Crowd Control” and “Alcohol” help readers understand the characterization of the railway as a corporation more concerned about profits than the welfare of the public.
Historians such as Ruth Barnes Moynihan and Jewel Lansing point to an evangelical revival in Portland beginning around 1904. This is the year that Portland adopted a local option liquor law. After 1904, local jurisdictions had the opportunity to approve or disallow prohibition in their area.
Outlawing the sale and manufacture of alcohol was not the only concern of Portland’s religious leaders at the turn of the century. They were also concerned about corruption in the municipal government that led city officials to turn a blind eye to vices including prostitution and drunkenness. Additionally, they opposed commercial amusements that did not observe the Sabbath by closing their doors on Sunday.
The Oaks caught the attention of at least two religious leaders during its earliest years. The sermons of Reverend H.C. Shaffer of the First United Brethren Church and Reverend J. Whitcomb Brougher of the White Temple made the newspapers for their attacks on the amusement park.
"Culture Clash" topics, "Sunday Closing," "Romance," "Dancing," and "Alcohol," discuss these issues in further detail.
In 1908 Portland made history for being the first city to offer a woman a paid position within its police force. Social feminism and the social hygiene movement, two ideologies of the Progressive era, influenced Lola Green Baldwin. As a result, her role as a female detective was much different than that of her male counterparts.
Baldwin’s primary mission was to protect young women from prostitution. She began this type of work in 1905 as an employee of Portland’s branch of the Traveler’s Aid organization during the Lewis and Clark Exposition. This organization assisted women who flocked to host cities of international exhibitions in search of work. Its goal was to steer women into respectable positions and to encourage them to avoid the pitfalls of prostitution.
In both positions, Baldwin conducted her work with the belief that her gender provided her with the nurturing skills and morality to prevent young women from becoming prostitutes and to rehabilitate those who had already “fallen.”
Baldwin sought to apply the morality of more traditional times to the consumer culture of the Progressive Era. Public places of amusement such as The Oaks posed a challenge for Baldwin because they encouraged a casual mixing of men and women. At the very least, such places fostered a level of informality between the sexes that the policewoman did not feel was appropriate. Worse, they presented opportunities for immoral people to mingle with innocent young women and men.
“Culture Clash” topics, “Dancing,” “Romance,” and “Swimming” discuss Baldwin’s concerns about The Oaks and the varying degrees of influence she had over operations there.