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Daughter tells her story behind G.I. Joe's

SUBMITTED PHOTO  - Former Lake Oswego resident Janna Orkney has written Growing Up with G.I. Joes, a history about her fathers experiences building the multi-million dollar retail chain.

Wanting to ensure history is not forgotten, former Lake Oswego resident Janna Orkney has published “Growing Up with G. I. Joe’s,” the story of how her father, Ed Orkney, built G.I. Joe’s from a war surplus store housed in a tent into a multi-million dollar retail chain.

“My impetus for writing the book came from the concern that history was being forgotten,” Orkney said. “Surplus stores played an interesting role in the development of general retail and my dad played an important role in that development.”

Orkney was born in Aberdeen, Wash., in 1944, while her father was serving as a bomber pilot in New Guinea in World War II. When he returned to civilian life in 1946, be began selling army surplus in Portland street corners, and soon after, was able to start a small war surplus store in Salem. That was the beginning of the involvement of the Orkney family with retail in the Pacific Northwest that lasted for more than 60 years.

“Life was exciting after WW II,” said Orkney. “People were building new lives.”

She said success looked different in that era. Success was having enough to lead a secure life.

“My dad had been a pilot, and a squadron leader during the war, and felt a responsibility to his crew. He brought that sense of responsibility to his business. Building the business was a team effort and all shared in the success,” she said.

She shares that her father did not experience success immediately or continually, but made a practice of selling what he knew people would buy. She shares how he looked for “the holes in what other retailers were selling” to find his niche in selling sports, outdoor and automotive supplies.

When he died in 1976, Ed Orkney had built G.I. Joe’s into a chain of seven stores in five cities.

“I tell the inside story of G.I. Joe’s and also look at local historical events, including the Portland area Vanport Flood in 1948 and the inundation of Celilo Falls by The Dalles Dam in 1957,” Orkney said. “‘Growing Up with G. I. Joe’s’ is a personal history, but with research about these events and about the early days of selling sporting goods in the Pacific Northwest.”

The book is available as a paperback and e-book from Columbia Press at columbiapress.net or from growingupwithgijoes.com.