[Updated December 14, 2020]
A reader response to the news that Custer Park will be renamed:
"For years after learning some local history and hearing Mary Lyman Becker (1920 - 2004) from the Multnomah Historical Association reference the Raz family and their history, I felt that Custer Park should be renamed the Raz Pasture Park."
In a column on May 29, opinion writer Rick Seifert announced that he and others had convinced TriMet to drop the name "Custer" from a future Max station and proposed a new name for Bertha Blvd. Readers responded with their reactions and suggestions for renaming our public spaces.
"Thank you for getting Tri-Met to ditch the Custer name. If we could rename something, my vote would be to rename Custer Park! I've had a similar thought about Pendleton Park in my neighborhood (Hayhurst), which was named after an Ohio congressman who ran for vice president on the ticket against Abraham Lincoln and voted against the Civil Rights Act. * Apparently, it used to be common practice for public buildings and parks to be named after politicians and military leaders.
We old-timers have a fondness for the "Bertha" name, in remembrance of the Red Electric railroad. At the Tillamook Forest Center on the way to the coast, one of the displays has an old Red Electric train schedule showing the stops along what is now Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy. (which used to be called Bertha-Beaverton Hwy., by the way.) Portlanders used to be able to take the train to the beach! Maybe we should let Bertha live on.
*The most well-known of the Civil Rights acts was passed in 1964. It was preceded by several other proposed or accepted acts with the same name, going as far back as 1866. —Ed.
I think the road ripe for renaming is Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy., a mouthful of place names that replaced the old Bertha-Beaverton, which, if obscure, at least was euphonious and snappy.
I think it should be renamed for one of the Japanese farmers in Washington County whose lives were destroyed by internment in World War II. There weren’t many, most of the Japanese farmers were in East County, and Clackamas. But there were a few in the Tigard area. It would be a nice research project for the Wilson history students.
Then we could be “Hillsdale, Gateway to Reconciliation.” Hillsdale, Tolerance Starts Here. Hillsdale, We Right Wrongs. Hillsdale, The Highway is Long and It Curves Toward Justice.
Your new article on Custer Station reminded me of the open sore of the Custer name around SW Portland. The Harney name is almost as pervasive as Custer in Oregon and the western US. His history is also quite dark although he had many accomplishments as well.
I have a strong opinion about what should replace the Custer name at SW Portland locations. In my mind, Captain Jack (Kintpuash) has just as inspiring a story** as Chief Joseph and is mostly unknown in Portland.
**Kintpuash, also known as Captain Jack, was a Native American leader of the 1872-73 Modoc War. The US Government, to accommodate European settlers, had earlier forced the Modoc from their ancestral lands in Southern Oregon and Northern California to the Klamath Reservation in Oregon. The war ended after a six-month battle during which 50-60 Modocs held off 1,000 US troops. Kintpuash was executed and the Modoc were divided, some remaining on the reservation while the government sent others to Oklahoma where a second Modoc reservation was instituted. Source: https://www.nps.gov/labe/planyourvisit/upload/Modoc-War-FINAL.pdf. —Ed.
I think that you have a GREAT idea, rename "Bertha Boulevard" to "Hillsdale Boulevard" (the way to Hillsdale).
Opinion Writer Rick Seifert’s response:
It’s great that four readers engaged with the “naming” story in the last issue. Thank you!
The dropping of George Armstrong Custer’s name for the proposed MAX stop is, of course, part of a much larger awakening to our nation’s history.
Then there’s the matter of replacing that prominent half-mile-long gateway stretch of Bertha Boulevard with the name “HIllsdale Boulevard.” I suggest those with a fondness for the name Bertha follow the boulevard as it continues to the west There the name will remain the same. Or the nostalgic could visit Bertha Court or Bertha Avenue. Or imbibe the water stored in the Bertha Water Tanks on Healy Heights.
I confess that, like Patricia Peters, I am fonder of “HIllsdale" than I am of “Bertha" whose identity, unlike Custer’s, is a mystery to nearly everyone.
I welcome anyone who would like to join me in lobbying City Hall for the Hillsdale Boulevard name change. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your thoughts? Let us know.