We are debuting a new segment of our program format today, Yesterday's Voices. In these episodes, we will talk with folks who have lived in the Salem/Willamette Valley area for more years than either of your hosts. Their remembrances will add texture, color, and real-life experience to our sharing of local history. Our first honored guest is David A. Rhoten, who at 82 is still practicing law and regaling us with wonderful stories of his years in Salem.
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David enjoyed entertaining others from an early age. His first job, picking prunes on his grandparents' farm, afforded his purchase of a portable, lighted marionette theater that he and several of his young friends (including Wally Carson, who went on to become the longest serving justice of the Oregon Supreme Court), known as the Three Puppeteers, employed to entertain area children in the basement of the Carnegie Library. He would continue his theatrical endeavors through high school where he and Wally produced musical reviews and half-time band presentations. In these years, he met his future wife, Coralie Doughton, another long-time Salem family, who was often the lead singer in the productions.
David talked of the community distress at the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, as the Willamette University football team accompanied by many supporters was stranded in Pearl Harbor where they had gone to play the University of Hawaii. Eventually, all were safely returned to Oregon via ocean-going freighters, as all passenger ships had been commandeered for military use. He also shared memories of rationing and the family's concern about the forced internment of local Japanese families from the Lake Labish area.