Interview with Charles Cooley

Interview with Charles Cooley

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Charles Cooley:

"So were your parents fairly accepting of your decision?

Yes. It was sort of a strange thing because they'd had such a big part to play in what I'd believed. But when push came to shove they were worried about what would happen to me if I was that much out of line with the average thinking. So they were proud of me, but they were a little worried. But as luck would have it, I had only two people who tried to give me a hard time. One was the Scout Chief in my county. I was a Scout Master. When I refused to take the boys on an aluminum drive to pick up old pots and pans, he got pretty upset with that. He was a former Marine. I was at the office one day getting a camp permit to take the boys to camp. Chief Olds saw me and he said "there's a rumor going around that I know can't possibly be true. They said that you claim to be a conscientious objector." I said, "well I am." He was so upset, he just walked off in a huff. But he's the only one other person that I know of that really was terribly upset. I think what happens with most of us is if people think that we believe something sincerely, you don't have a lot of trouble. But if they think you might be sitting on the fence, boy everybody will pull you, in every direction. So that's I think been my good fortune. I had to give up the Scout Troop. I wouldn't have done it later on in my life. I would have been what I call a fighting pacifist. I think I could have won. I think I could have beat the Scout Chief. But it didn't occur to me at the time. So I just let it go at that.

You said that you had one other person who gave you trouble? 

Well, I can't remember who that is now. One is so vivid. But I know that very few people did. When I was out there in Oregon I did an awful lot of hitchhiking on weekends. Toward the end we didn't have to work on Saturday so I had both Saturday and Sunday and I'd get in with somebody and right away they'd want to know where I was from. I'd tell them I was at the camp. I even think I made some converts out of some of the people that picked me up. In other words, I never hid the fact that I was a pacifist. About half wanted to learn what we did and how we were treated. And about twenty percent were pleased in finding someone who questioned the war, the military and the government. Five percent seemed to be in almost complete agreement.

I've heard that there were a couple of African-Americans at Waldport. I was wondering what was it like to have such a diversity of religions and diversity among racial groups? 

I think it epitomized what, most of us at least, believed. In other words, that the human race ought to be able to get along. I never sensed any problem at Waldport. But some of the southern schools, some of the southern camps, tried to keep their camps from being interracial. There was quite a concern at the northern camps about what can we do to bring pressure on the system to put an end to that segregation or the attempt to keep it a segregated thing, to keep it all Caucasian so to speak. In other words, the average pacifist would also be a believer in racial harmony."


--Taken from Siuslaw National Forest and Portland State University History Department. "Camp 56: An Oral History Project." Pp 23-7.

For more of the interview see <>