Reflections from Joe Coffin

Reflections from Joe Coffin

The following is taken from a questionnaire sent to CPS men by Paul A. Wilhelm and compiled in 1990. This excerpt is Joe Coffin's response to the section asking the men to list major events from their CPS experience:


"I was married to Audine before the war while we were both at Whittier College, and was one of the very first married men to be inducted--July '42. By November I had decided to walk out of CPS 37, but Dr. Conway of Eastern State Hospital chose me for the new Unit #75. I elected to go there. He also agreed to hire Audine and to furnish us living quarters. As 'House Mother' and Unit Director, Audine and I were close to all the fellows. We had very high morale in a very negative community--many of whom worked at the Hospital.

Some time in the second year, Dr. Conway, under pressure, required that hospital employees buy War Bonds. Audine refused and was fired. She went to Spokane to get a job and find a home. At this time some Japanese American detainees were being released from internment camps and coming to Spokane looking for homes. Gordon Hirabayashi came to Spokane for help. He had refused to obey curfew laws, and had gone to court over relocation. (His 1980s lawsuit was pivotal in gaining redress for the interned Japanese-Americans.) We met him through F.O.R., NAACP and some church people. Audine helped get a group of businessmen and some men from CPS 75 to form the Spokane Interracial Center.

Still no house could be rented, so Gordon and Audine located a fine old mansion near the community hospital and made an offer to buy it. My father borrowed on his life insurance so we could make the down payment. This coalition of people of good will collected enough money to launch this wonderful project. In a short time the house was full of Japanese and Caucasian couples and singles living cooperatively, with Audine as leader. Many CPS men came on their days off and stayed in a 'dorm' basement...When we last heard, this exciting work had served for 40 years and its community board was planning its future. It is exciting to remember the feeling of achievement to be part of engendering this project in the midst of war with Japan."


--Taken from Wilhelm, Paul A. Civilian Public Servants: A Report on 210 World War II Conscientious Objectors. Washington D.C.: National Interreligious Service Board for Conscientious Objectors, 1990.