1940 - 1960

Things got more serious with the approach of World War II. Bill joined the Navy, the company battled the scarcity of wool and other materials, and William helped his Jewish friends get safely out of Germany.

Once the war was over, business surged, and new markets opened up for Dehen. They added car coats, motorcycle togs and other new styles to their repertoire, and expanded their school business into varsity jackets and cheerleading uniforms.  Bill returned from the war, rejoined the family company, and hired other veterans to sell on the road to small town men’s stores across the west.

Slowly but surely William handed the reins of Dehen over to Bill and his brother Henry, and the brothers carried on their father’s legacy of producing high quality woolens. Like their father, Bill and Henry did not subscribe to any notions that race, religion, or class affected a person’s worth. In the 1940's they hired Otto Rutherford, without giving much thought to the color of his skin.  While the hiring of a black man was newsworthy at the time, the fact that he was African American made no difference to them.

Otto’s determined spirit made him fit in well with the Dehens; he started as a machine mechanic and developed into a master knitter.  He was also instrumental in organizing a union at the company, ran the Portland chapter of the NAACP, and played a part in getting a key anti-discrimination bill passed by the Oregon legislature.