This oral history interview with Ida Mae Shepherd was conducted by Greta Smith Wisnewski from August 14 to October 26, 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the interview was conducted using Zoom, a video conferencing software. Shepherd was nominated by Oregonians to be interviewed as part of a program by the Oregon Historical Society Research Library to enhance and expand the range of voices in the library's collections. Interviewees are selected from the pool of nominees by a staff committee appointed by the historical society's executive director. The interview was conducted in five sessions.
In the first interview session, conducted on August 14, 2020, Shepherd speaks at length about her family background, particularly focusing on the life of her maternal grandmother, Edith Goodell Lee. She discusses her early life in the Eliot neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, and talks about businesses in the area. She then briefly talks about living in Vanport during World War II. She discusses her research into her family history.
In the second interview session, conducted on September 11, 2020, Shepherd speaks further about her family background, focusing on her paternal family. She revisits the topic of her early life in the Eliot neighborhood, and talks about her Catholic upbringing and involvement with the Immaculate Heart Catholic Church. She discusses how the Black community changed after World War II, as well as changes in the way white people treated them. She then continues to discuss living in Vanport as a teenager during World War II, including her social life, recreational activities, and segregation. She also talks about her early education and about jobs she worked after dropping out. She shares her experiences during the 1948 flood, including living in Guild's Lake for a short time afterward.
In the third interview session, conducted on September 25, 2020, Shepherd discusses her marriage to Theodore Cassidy Powell. She then talks about living in the Albina neighborhood in the early 1950s. She also revisits the topic of how the Black community changed after World War II, as well as how the way white people treated them changed. She talks about working as a janitor at KGW, and about her brief marriage to Curley Massey. She speaks about her marriage to Emmett Edwin Shepherd, about buying a house in the Eliot neighborhood, and about the changes in the neighborhood since the 1960s. She talks about raising a family, about her career in housekeeping and janitorial services, and about her experiences during the civil rights movement, including meeting Coretta Scott King. She shares her thoughts about police treatment of Black residents, talks about the mass displacement of Black residents during the construction of I-5 in the 1960s, and discusses the Black community in the Albina area of Portland.
In the fourth interview session, conducted on October 9, 2020, Shepherd discusses her experiences picking hops in the 1930s. She shares a childhood drawing she created of a tavern on Union Avenue, as well as a photograph. She talks about the people who lived in the Eliot neighborhood, and discusses her children, their families, and their careers. She revisits the topic of her experiences during the civil rights movement, and the topic of the mass displacement of Black people during the construction of I-5 in the 1960s, as well as during the expansion of Emanuel Hospital in the 1970s. She speaks at length about her involvement with Albina Fair Share and about working to reduce the amount of abandoned houses in the neighborhood. She talks about her involvement with Immaculate Heart Catholic Church.
In the fifth and final interview session, conducted on October 26, 2020, Shepherd speaks at length about how the Albina area of Portland, particularly the Eliot neighborhood, changed over her life. She also shares her reasons for living nearly her entire life in the area. She discusses how the ways that white and Black Portlanders interact have changed over her life. She talks about the death of her husband, Emmett E. Shepherd, about her volunteer work since her retirement in the late 1980s, and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected her activities. She discusses the political situation at the time of the interview in 2020, including protests in Portland and the presidential election. She closes the interview by talking about her recent stroke and recovery.