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Bruce McMillan – Baker City

In my opinion, hate is just as effective as love in uniting people.

Bruce McMillan

“I was born in 1937. That means I am about the same age as the Grand Coulee Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge and Jane Fonda. It also means I was born when the Second World War was underway in Europe. My first real memory of it was not until 1941 however. I have this clear picture in my mind of my parents and a couple of neighbors sitting around a radio and listening to the reports from the Pearl Harbor attack. From then on I listened to the radio news each morning with my dad and, of course, quickly formed my ideas about who were the good guys, (the Allies, including the Russians) and the bad guys, (the Germans and the Japanese). We lived in the small town of Ritzville, Washington, where there were many descendants of German settlers. Many spoke German when talking to each other, and were not as critical of what the Nazis were doing as some of the rest of us. On the other hand, the few Japanese families that lived in Ritzville suddenly disappeared.

It was my impression that the country really came together and fell in behind President Roosevelt. Pious families had pictures of Jesus and Franklin on their walls, side by side. Everyone seemed highly committed to the war effort. I remember going house to house collecting tin cans for, so we were told, recycling into war materials. In school we were encouraged to buy war bonds. Many food-stuffs were rationed. The automobile speed limit in Washington was reduced to 35 mph to save gasoline. Kid’s games were centered around the war. We dropped items out of trees shouting, ‘bombs away on Tokyo.’ Or we derided playmates with ‘roses are red, violets are blue, Hitler stinks and so do you.’ There was great sadness when Roosevelt died. But we were at war and the country gave the brash, unknown, Harry Truman their support.

During this time there were strange government things going on at Hanford, near Tri-Cities. No one seemed to know what it was, but there was suspicion that it had something to do with the war effort. In 1945 when I was 7 years old, we moved north about 80 miles to the tiny town of Ford, Washington. Shortly after that the war ended. Soldiers came home, including three of my uncles. Food and items that had not been available were suddenly plentiful. We were isolated from the big celebrations, but I remember it being a time when everyone was happy. Oh yeah, we also found out what had been going on at Hanford and I felt pride in the bomb that leveled Nagasaki. I had mixed emotions years later when we learned that dangerous emissions were often released from the plutonium plant which was upwind from both Ritzville and Ford. I guess we will never know if being occasionally sprayed with radio-active material affected me, but it is an excuse I can always fall back on.

Bruce in his Element – Outdoors!

While the Second World War ended, it seemed no time until the Cold War began. Being a child of wartime, this seemed normal to me. Whereas we had loved the Russians, now we had to hate them and this was not a difficult transition. They were communists! The big, dangerous looking bear on the posters helped shape our attitudes. The Defense Department became concerned about the possibility of an attack from Russia by flying over the north pole. Our civilian population was called on to provide early warning. This was called the Ground Observer Corps and my parent’s store was designated as one of the many stations where volunteers would watch for the Russian invaders. Being about 10 at the time, I was old enough to participate and I took to it with more passion than many of the adults, or so it seemed to me. We were supposed to learn the silhouettes of various planes, theirs and ours, and when one was spotted we were to phone it in. After a few weeks with nothing happening, the volunteer observers tended to lose interest. Once we were told by the Air Force that they would be sending a plane over as a test. Our eyes were glued to the skies. When the test-plane did not materialize, I was disappointed and everyone’s interest definitely waned. It was not long before radar stations replaced the Ground Observer Corps.

For me, those were kind of my formative years and I was doing what a child does. Everything seemed so simple and everybody hated this other party. The Nazis were easy to hate and the hate pulled us all together. Just like love does. In my opinion, hate is just as effective as love in uniting people.

After the Second World War there was the Cold War and then the Korean War started. I joined the National Guard when I started my senior year in high school. I was 17 and continued with the Guard through my college years. There was a gap between the Korean and Vietnam Wars and by the time the Vietnam War started my military obligation was out of the way.

In college, I majored in Forest Management and then got on with the Forest Service. Over my 35 year career, I did just about everything. I retired when I was young enough to enjoy the many outdoor recreation opportunities our area offers. I also squeezed in some international travel and a lot of tennis. During my work years, three remarkable citizens were born and grew up in my house. I had help from their mother with that part.”