With Camp White’s population about to reach 40,000 soldiers in 1942, the Oregon Highway Commission agreed to build the Army a wider access road from Medford to the camp, left, replacing the old Crater Lake Highway, right.

A World War II boomtown

When the Army makes a peaceful invasion, things are bound to change.

Back in 1942, Camp White had been built on the Agate Desert and was quickly overflowing with soldiers. Rogue Valley towns, especially Medford, were just getting accustomed to their new neighbor to the north.

The military city was eating up nearly 80 square miles of Jackson County land and soon would swell to more than 40,000 inhabitants, three times Medford's population in 1941.

Earlier in the year, the State Highway Commission, today's ODOT, decided that traffic problems in Medford during construction of the camp would "be rather complex." Their solution was the introduction of one-way streets in Medford. Riverside Avenue would flow north and Central Avenue would travel south.

To be sure that construction supplies could be quickly carried from Medford to Camp White, the narrow Crater Lake Highway was temporarily converted into a one-way, northbound thoroughfare. At the same time, just to the west, a new and wider 9.75-mile, two-way highway was under construction.

The Liberty, Agate and Antioch schools, situated on what was now a military training facility, were closed and their students bused to other facilities.

No Rogue Valley town saw bigger changes than Medford. Her streets were filled with uniformed strangers, mostly young bachelors, who, with a little bit of leave on their hands at the end of a hard training week, hurried for town, looking for some fun and perhaps a lucky date with an Oregon beauty.

For many unmarried women, Medford had become a companionship paradise.

"I like the soldiers all right," a young woman told a reporter, "most of them anyway. But you know there's bound to be a few fresh guys when you get so many of them piled up together."

Not far away, over at the lunch counter in one of the town's busy restaurants, a waitress who was wildly racing from one customer to another had a very different opinion.

"I'd like to never, ever see another soldier again," she said. "They're in here so thick I never get a second's peace."

Medford's rather tall police chief, Clatous McCredie, said he was happy that things were relatively calm and trouble free.

"I won't say everything's been lily white and pure," he said. "You're bound to have a few cases. There's been a slight pickup of crime, of course, but not by much in proportion to the great increase in population we've had."

He said no property had been damaged, and "the smart guys who are always attracted by easy money have pretty much left us alone, and the military hasn't shut down any place in Medford."

Civilian employees, their families and the wives of Army officers were all giving the local economy a big boost, and merchants welcomed the mounting profits.

It had gotten to the point where a stranger might ask someone they met on the street where the post office was and, in a puzzled tone, were likely to hear what one Mail Tribune reporter overheard.

"I'm new here myself, but I'm curious, too. Wait right here on the corner. As soon as I find out, I'll be sure to let you know."

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at

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