News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Growing up with conspiracy theories

In the late 1950’s after reading J. Edgar Hoover’s “Masters of Deceit,” my mom became convinced that our neighbors were communists. (One must understand that this was post-war America, my dad a World War II veteran, the slogans, “Loose lips sink ships” still ringing in

the air).

We had grown up in the military, lived outside the naval base in Cavite City across the bay from Manila in the Philippines for three years, traveled and lived many places. Mom was well read and as Dad used to say, “Your mother is often wrong but never uncertain.” When Dad retired, we returned to Oregon to our small hometown of Forest Grove, home of Pacific University. Mom’s obsession with communism led her to believe there was a “Commie” behind

every bush.

I vividly recall being warned not to associate with the daughter of the suspect neighbors; however, we were very good friends, shared many sleepovers, were in the same homeroom, and walked to school together most days. We continued to do so, since I was a rebellious teen and not about to let my parent dictate who my friends

should be.

Mom’s suspicions grew following an after-dark party at the neighbor’s home. She was convinced it was a communist meeting. She explained to me in detail how a communist meeting is conducted, word for J. Edgar Hoover word!

The next day, as we headed across town to the high school, kicking piles of autumn leaves along the way, I asked my friend what had been going on at her house the night before. She replied that her mom had hosted a Tupperware party, that she had had to serve refreshments and sit around and listen to old people burping their Tupperware all night. We giggled all the way to school.

I told my mom it had been an innocent Tupperware party. In a conspiratorial tone, Mom lowered her voice saying, “Yes, that’s what they WANT you to think.” Dad told me when Mom made up her mind about something if you question her beliefs she simply dug in deeper. As the years rolled by the countless conspiracy theories espoused by Mom continued to bloom.

In the 1980s, Mom moved into a seniors’ mobile home park. On a weekend visit, I noticed she had a notebook on her round maple table by the window, where she sat jotting down every license plate in and out of the park. She told me that the neighbors were dealing drugs and she was going to the police to report the plate numbers. I asked how she knew it wasn’t just a Tupperware


“Don’t be a smartass, Karen,” she scolded me! “I know because I can smell it all the way across the grass divide.”

She could smell it because my younger brother, Kevin, was growing it in his closet right down the hall. Of course, I couldn’t rat out my kid brother!

This story in no way disrespects my mom. She was hardworking — a good mom who raised four kids who all turned out normal, except for Kevin. Mom would love that we tell these stories and probably laugh at the memories.


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