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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


The railroad magnate and speculator Henry Villard, who wielded great influence in the early history of Oregon, recalled his first visit to Portland in 1874:

"I had heard much praise . . . of Portland, but its attractiveness went beyond my anticipations. [From Marquam Hill] The grand panorama I saw spread out before me from that height with the three snow-clad giants of Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Adams clearly visible in their mighty splendor, seemed to me one of the finest sights I had ever enjoyed." 

On a beautiful summer morning in August 1947, I sat on the stony steps next to a house on the same hill, looking at the shining glaciers of Mt. Hood some fifty miles away, framed by tall douglas firs. I thought I had never seen anything as beautiful. That same evening I bought that house. It has been our home ever since and I still congratulate myself for that decision. Our address is still, 45 years later: 3808 S.W. Mount Adams Drive.

As I review what I have thus far written in this report about my life, I was struck by the fact that most of it is devoted to my experiences in Europe and other parts of the world, rather than to my life in the United States, where I have spent far more than one half of my existence. The truth is that while I kept in touch with my original homeland of Czechoslovakia, both physically and psychologically, our true home is Portland and especially this house almost 1000 feet above the Willamette Valley and Portland.

One other thing that comes to mind is not only that I have lived here over fifty years, but that I was for many decades so well known and accepted as part of the community. For a great many years I could not be seen downtown without being recognized and without me recognizing many people. This was due to a large extent to the literally hundreds of lectures and speeches I had given and, later, to my television programs. I used to say I had to be very circumspect about my doings in Portland, since I could not move about incognito.

It has since impressed me rather forcefully, that one can achieve local fame rather quickly and that the fame starts fading almost immediately. It used to be that when I attended a public function a great many people would talk to me, some friends and some total strangers. I certainly was on familiar terms with the more active members of society and the opinion makers.

By contrast, when I now attend a function, which I do less frequently, I barely know anybody and few people know me. I am amazed at how completely generations change, how young people replace their elders, how the climate alters and how easily the old can be replaced--in fact how eagerly it is done. This is no complaint, just a fact which I now can vouchsafe from personal experience. I suppose that is one reason why we write Memoirs, when people do not listen to us any more.

As a sample of my previous popularity, I wish to quote from a book published to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the City Club of Portland. The City Club was considered then, as it is now, one of the major platforms for speakers of the most varied backgrounds. No aspiring or perspiring politician can do without being invited to speak before the City Club and no issue of importance without being discussed before its membership. The book describes the "continuing array of star-studded speakers . . . politicians, industrialists, business leaders, statesmen, authorities on state, local and world affairs." It singles out Senator Wayne L. Morse, pointing out that he first addressed the Club in 1932 when he was the youngest law school dean in the nation. It then lists me as the "well known foreign affairs expert, Dr. Frank Munk of Reed." On the next page are pictures of the most frequent speakers: Senator Morse, Dr. Richard Steiner, Pastor of the First Unitarian Church, C.C. Chapman, "fiery editor-publisher of the Oregon Voter," and myself. I like the picture, since it shows me still with a full head of hair.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Portland, and indeed to the entire West Coast, for having accepted my family and me as their own. I do not believe that is possible in any other country and I think it is more typical of the West. I may not be popular any more, but I feel at home.

[i]Quoted in E. Kimbark MacColl, The Shaping of a City, Portland, 1976.

[ii]Ellis Lucia, The Conscience of a City, Portland 1966.



The books listed below provide additional background on this period of history to help illustrate this portion of my grandfather's memoirs.

Merchants, Money, and Power: The Portland Establishment, 1843-1913; E. Kimbark. MacColl

The Growth of a City: Power and Politics in Portland, Oregon, 1915-1950; E. Kimbark MacColl



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