Is it true that the Multnomah Athletic Club did not allow Jews to become members until the 1970s? —Jim W.
Ah, the good old days! I'm not naming names, Jim, but when certain white (and/or orange) people talk about how great America used to be (and could be again!), the casually racist nation you're describing is at least part of what they're talking about.
There's no reason to heap any particular discredit on the MAC, however—up until the 1960s or so, membership in exclusive social or athletic clubs was routinely closed to Jews, African-Americans and women.
If anything, the MAC deserves some props—it opened its doors to Jews in 1958. That's a full 11 years before Portland's Arlington Club and University Club—no doubt moved to regretful tears by the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love"—suspended their gentiles-only policies, in 1969. Waverley Country Club, with its even higher concentration of Blue Meanies, took all the way until 1972 to follow suit.
Incidentally, each of these latter clubs—the Arlington, the University, and the Waverley—had its l'chaimen broken by the same guy: lawyer Moe Tonkon, founding partner of white-shoe Portland law firm Tonkon Torp LLP. Tonkon was the first Jewish member of all three groups, making him pretty much the Jackie Robinson of the Portland anti-Semitic social-club scene.
One might assume this kind of discrimination is ancient history, but there are country clubs that exclude Jews to this day. (Try—surprise!—Florida.) If a club is small enough, is private enough, and has few dealings with the general public, the courts have held that it has the right to "freedom of association."
Ironically, the more snobbish the club, the easier it is to get away with bigotry. Clubs that accept pretty much everyone except minorities are likely to be judged illegally discriminatory. Those who turn down plenty of WASPs as well, though, are merely discriminating. Either way, it's a shame Moe Tonkon, who died in 1984, isn't around to punch the lot of them in the mouth.
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