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As It Was: Grants Pass Women Battle Billboards

The Ladies Auxiliary of Grants Pass once went to war against billboards – and won.

In late 1915, the Auxiliary persuaded the City Council to raise the fee to $200 for a permit to place a billboard in the city. Then a few months and a few new council members later, the Pacific Coast Advertising Association proposed lowering the fee to $20.

The Ladies Auxiliary implored council members not to make it easier to impose such a nuisance on a protesting public. The women said low fees would result in many more billboards in the city and counteract the efforts of their Civic Improvement Committee to make Grants Pass an attractive place to live. When asked if they would accept confining billboards to a special district in town, auxiliary members said an offensive object in one location could hardly prove beneficial in another. They told the City Council anyone wishing to advertise should use a more legitimate means, such as the newspaper.

The women didn’t let up, even when the matter was held over to the next meeting. The advertisers’ billboard proposal died when the City Council realized it didn’t have the votes to approve it.

Sources: "Bathhouse Lease Up In Council." Rogue River Courier, 18 Feb. 1916 [Grants Pass OR], p. 1. Historical Oregon Newspapers, oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn96088180/1916-02-18/ed-1/seq-1/#words=bathhouse. Accessed 21 Apr. 2020: "Billboards Defeated in Council." Ibid, 3 Mar. 1916 [Grants Pass OR], p. 1. Historical Oregon Newspapers, oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn96088180/1916-03-03/ed-1/seq-1/. Accessed 22 Apr. 2020.

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Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.