Friday, April 09, 2010

Stories from the Clippings

A 40 year Stint at a Temporary Position
The Long and Good Career of Wren E. Gaines

During my years as archivist in the Historical Collections & Archives, I have come to admire the late Wren E. Gaines, former superintendent of the school's physical plant. There are others that I have come to know through their photographs, records and personal papers, and though they have long passed on, I have developed special feelings for them, as well. Maybe it was Wren's kind face...
The camaraderie he nurtured with the labor force, and with the officials and faculty of the school, is an example to us all. It is evident from the many photographs of him in the Historical Image Collection and within other collections, that he was a good man to have around as a friend and as a professional.

Wren joked in an interview with the newspaper, when he retired at age 65, that if he "had known that the job was permanent, he never would have taken it." He began working as a lab technician in the school's department of physiology in 1914, when the school was still located on NW 23rd Avenue and Lovejoy Street, until he retired in 1954.

Gaines reminisced about his first year at the school (1914):
"…stories still were flying about the "great snowball fight" between medical students of Willamette University and those of the University of Oregon Medical School (1913). At that time, the two medical institutions were located several blocks apart. One cold winter afternoon, Willamette students challenged the Oregon boys to a snowball fight. The battle raged back and forth until the Willamette medics gradually forced the Oregon students up the street to the University of Oregon Medical School. The victorious forces then proceeded to break every window in the building with the well-placed snowballs.

Gaines said that later on, Willamette students took up a collection to pay for the damage. That same year, the medical school department of Willamette University [Medical Department] was merged with the University of Oregon Medical School."

Wren continued to work as a lab technician until the school moved into the new Medical Science Building on the Marquam Hill (now named Mackenzie Hall), completed in 1919. Gaines and some of the medical students cut down the trees and heavy tangle of brush on the construction site on the hill, alongside William (Pop) F. Allen, emeritus professor of anatomy.

He was then appointed superintendent of buildings and grounds and continued in that position until his retirement in 1954.

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