Opinion: Family name would befit Southwest park
Speaking from the perspective of 52 years as a park and rec committee director for the city of Hermiston, I compliment Portland Parks & Recreation on having policies for the naming of parks. Had these policies been in place in the past the city of Portland would not now be trying to find an appropriate name to replace Custer Park.
I became part of the Raz family through marriage to Lydia Fahner, grand daughter of Henry Raz, in 1957. I was aware that the family had a few years earlier donated land to Portland for a neighborhood park. The Henry and Mike Raz families donated the last remaining 6.3 acre portion of their original Raz families' 93-acre dairy established in 1885.
I know there was disappointment on the part of some family members when the park was named Custer Park. They thought it was going to be named Raz Park. Had your "Guiding Principles" for naming parks been in place at that time the name Raz Park would have qualified on many points.
Nanci Hamilton's book, "Portland's Multnomah Village (Images of America)" is replete with the history of the Raz family and other Swiss families and their influence in the Multnomah/Hillsdale area. The Raz family was especially influential in many arenas. Their successes ranged from dairy farming, land development, road and utility improvements, trail establishment, bank management, bus transportation and church leadership.
An article in the book on page 67 relates to the integrity of Henry Raz and other unnamed family and bank board members who took out loans, sold property and gave up salaries to insure that no depositor in the Multnomah Commercial and Savings Bank would lose their deposits when the government closed the bank. The "Morning Oregonian" on Friday December 28, 1934 found this worthy enough to publish on the front page of their paper. Some of these family members were still paying on these loans as late as the 1950's and early 1960's. I am sure these grateful depositors would have agreed that Raz Park would have been a worthy name.
The naming of the park may have followed too closely after the conclusion of World War II. There were intense feelings by many people against those who spoke with a German accent. These Swiss families all could speak English but retained their German accent. Most refrained from speaking German in public, but in private the older members would carry on a lively discussion in Schweizerdeutsch. At that point in time, I can see someone who would idolize Custer having a problem with someone who spoke with a German accent. If this did influence those naming the park, now is an opportunity to do the right thing.
On the basis of your "guiding principles" for the naming of parks, the Raz family would have every right to expect the park be named after their family. It is to their credit they would be satisfied if the park was named Swiss Heritage Park to recognize the contributions of all the Swiss families who historically settled and contributed to this area.
Harrison lives in Hermiston.
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