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My Century And My Many Lives, by Frank Munk
Memoirs, 1993
Postscript, 1994

Frank Munk, my grandfather, wrote this autobiography to record his memories from 1901 onwards. This history and its postscript are available on our family website in his memory as they tell a complete story of the 20th century. These memoirs may be referenced as long as proper attribution is made; our family retains ownership and copyright. We have one request: if you reference this material in any way, please send us email at and a copy of the paper, if possible, as we would like to know when this material is of interest and we are curious as to how it is being used. We'd like to hear from you.
Copyright 1993, 1994, The Munk/Ragen Families


I arrived in Portland on July 15, 1939, following my meeting with President Benes in Chicago. The only thing I knew about Portland was that it was the home of Jantzen swimwear, with the logo of the diving girl. As to Oregon, the only thing I could recall was "the folly of Smoot and Hawley," the high protective tariff voted by Congress in 1930. Smoot was the first Mormon elected to Congress and Hawley was a Congressman from Oregon.

The previous night I interrupted my train trip in Spokane to meet an advance scout from Reed College at the old Davenport Hotel. Bob Terrill had been deputized to look me over and to find out if I was qualified to teach at Reed. That was in keeping with the indefinite and qualified invitation to join its faculty that I had received in Prague.

So, while I found the first glimpses of the Columbia Gorge from the train window entrancing, the future seemed anything but certain. I found my family already settled at the home of Arthur and Vera Scott. We would not have escaped from Prague without their help, but I was on my own now. Evidently, Bob Terrill had given a satisfactory report about me, or so I gathered when I met the President of Reed, Dexter Keezer, who later became a good friend of ours.

We found Oregon to be truly beautiful and also extremely welcoming to new arrivals. Everybody was helpful and friendly. Nevertheless, we really were quite shaken, except Suzanne (until then known as Zuzanka) who was only 2 years old and born with a sunny disposition. The sudden disappearance of everything familiar was a traumatic experience for Michael, then 5 years old. Nadia, too, went through a period of depression. As for myself, I suppose I was too busy to be depressed. Nevertheless, I could not but be aware of the sudden decline in our fortunes. Most immigrants to this country come to improve their fortunes. Ours had moved in the opposite direction: we were well settled in Prague, secure socially, economically, and professionally, with a vast array of friends and, in my case, I was regarded as a promising young social scientist.

My main worry was the fact that I had no assured future. Reed did hire me, but only for a year, and only after the Rockefeller Foundation agreed to pay half of my salary. My title was Lecturer in Economics. The courses I was to teach presented no problem, except one: I also had to teach a course in Statistics. I had, of course, studied statistics, but had no math since my high school days. While mathematics is international, and I could easily write the formulas on the blackboard, I did not know how to pronounce them in English, so during the first few classes I had to learn from the students. Even so, this happened to be one of my most successful courses. A surprising number of the students became professional statisticians.

To tell the truth, I not only survived the first year, but, in effect, I soon became a part of the community. This was due to the fact that I was meeting almost daily many Oregonians and, before long, people up and down the entire West Coast. As soon as the press discovered our arrival and my association with Reed, I was deluged with requests for speaking engagements. This had nothing to do with my speaking ability, but with circumstances: Czechoslovakia had been in the headlines well over a year, especially at the time of Munich, of the ensuing dismemberment of the country, and of its final absorption by Nazi Germany in March of 1939. It was a hot subject in the papers and in international politics and the logical choice of anybody programming public events. To top it off, the second World War started, within weeks of my arrival, on September 1, 1939.

Within weeks, I was traveling almost daily to remote parts of the state, and beyond. Even before the start of the academic year I already knew more people than most college teachers meet in a lifetime. What follows is a partial list of my speaking engagements, illustrative of the variety of my appearances: City Club of Portland, American Institute of Public Relations, Seattle, Sierra Club, Multnomah College, American Legion Department of Oregon, American Pulp and Paper Mills Superintendents Association, Rose City Park Methodist Church, Oregon Bar Association, Optimist International, Vancouver Institute (University of British Columbia), YMCA (San Francisco), Oregon College of Education, Women's Club (Walla Walla), Oregon Feed Dealers Convention, Roosevelt High School (Eugene), Republican Business Women, Grants Pass and Josephine County Chamber of Commerce, California League of Women Voters (San Francisco), Commonwealth Club of California (San Francisco), Oregon State College (Corvallis), Southern Oregon College of Education (Ashland), Rotary Club (Grants Pass), High School Principals Conference (Salem), University of Oregon, and so it went on and on.

What I did not know was that I would be following that kind of schedule not just for months after my arrival, but for years and years. It is still a matter of some amazement to me how I could at the same time prepare and teach my classes at Reed, but evidently I did. One such engagement pinpointed my interests for a long time: Professor G. Bernard Noble, who taught international politics at Reed and served as Dean and founder of the Northwest Institute of International Relations, invited me to be a member of its faculty less than a month after my arrival. The Institute was a respected feature on the Reed campus summer after summer. When he left for wartime service in 1941, he proposed me as his successor. The Institute happened to be the precursor of the World Affairs Council of Oregon, which we founded in 1950.

This activity helped me to overcome any problems connected with uprooting and rerooting and made me feel at home surprisingly soon. Another element in our rapid acculturation was the presence of the Scotts. They had many good friends and these in turn became our friends. We were invited to many parties. I also am sure that we were greatly helped by the fact of this being our second coming to the U.S.A., since I had spent two years (1931 to 1933) as a Rockefeller Foundation fellow at Harvard and Columbia.



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