The Vanport Flood of May 30, 1948, was the most grave natural disaster that Portland has ever faced. The Columbia River broke through a railroad embankment and inundated Vanport, which was the second largest city in Oregon at the time.
The flood left approximately 18,000 people homeless. The community was not rebuilt Instead, the area became Delta Park where the Portland International Raceway (PIR) and a golf course were located.
The early G.I. Joe’s of which my dad was a part owner (before he bought the business in 1952), was situated on N. Vancouver Avenue in the flooded area, but on higher ground. The store supplied sleeping bags and other useful merchandise to the Red Cross to aid the flood victims.
There is a chapter in Growing Up With G.I. Joe’s that focuses on the 1948 Flood with photos of Vanport apartment buildings floating in disarray. It is with a sad heart that I think back on that day.
The photo above is of that first G.I. Joe’s in tents that opened in 1948.