Offbeat Oregon History

Hitler saluteBy Finn J.D. John
(Editor’s note: This is one of three articles about this event.)
Around midsummer in 1970, Ed Westerdahl finally agreed to talk to the two scruffy hippies who’d been politely pestering him for the previous week.
The hippies — Robert Wehe and Glen Swift — had come to Salem from Portland in an old Opel Kadett. They wanted to talk to the governor, Tom McCall, and Westerdahl was McCall’s chief of staff. Westerdahl had initially blown them off, hoping they’d give up and go away, but they’d shown no sign of doing so. And so, no doubt with a heavy sigh, Westerdahl had them come in to talk to him.

Oyster dredgingBy Finn J.D. John
Like most tourist-friendly destinations on the Oregon Coast, the town of Newport is well stocked with kitschy pirate gear.
Unlike most other spots, though, Newport has a real history involving pirates — specifically, oyster pirates. Most people who have heard of oyster piracy think of the stories of Jack London’s youth, when he borrowed money to buy a small sloop and went into the “business” down in San Francisco Bay. Or they may think of the long and occasionally bloody struggles between oystermen and oyster pirates in Chesapeake Bay, on the East Coast, which were still straggling on as late as the 1950s.

Pioneer SquareBy Finn J.D. John
In January of 1969, the owners of Meier and Frank Department Stores in Portland had a problem.

NASA astronautBy Finn J.D. John
Sometime in the late 1990s, Scott Leavengood of Oregon State University’s Forestry Extension Service got a strange phone call from Michael Simons of Phoenix, Arizona.
“I heard there was a moon tree planted at the College of Forestry,” Simons said.
“Is it still there? Can I get cuttings from it?”
Leavengood had no idea what he was talking about. Moon tree? What was that?

Japanese shipBy Finn J.D. John

On November 3, 1832, the 50-foot Japanese cargo vessel Hojun Maru left Ise Bay bound for Edo — the city now known as Tokyo. Its hold was full of rice and porcelain dishes from the south end of the Japanese archipelago, to be traded for salt fish from the north.
One of the youngest members of the Hojun Maru’s 14-man crew was a 14-year-old boy named Otokichi, a cook’s apprentice Otokichi and his shipmates couldn’t know it, but when they stepped aboard at Ise Bay, they were leaving their homeland forever.

SchoonerBy Finn J.D. John
It was early afternoon on a sunny October day in 1883, and a group of Astorians were standing on the shore watching a small, trim schooner sailing toward them.
They’d been watching it all day, and by now they were a little worried.

 

Burnside drugstoreBy Finn J.D. John

On December 7, 1934, Ben Votruba left his room at the Bridge Hotel, a run-down flophouse on the corner of Union and Burnside, and made his way across the Burnside Bridge to the Pioneer Drugstore on the other side of the river.
Ben was, essentially, a washed-up alcoholic.

Cayuse horsemenBy Finn J.D. John
Joe Crabb was a gambling man - that much, at least, we know. And in 1871, he’d put his money down on an absolute ironclad sure thing.
It was a horse race, and Crabb was a horseman. He was matching his own best animal, a magnificent thoroughbred, against a smallish spotted pony belonging to Howlish Wampoo, the chief of the Cayuse Indian tribe.

BPA towersBy Finn J.D. John

On a sunny late afternoon, in a remote woodsy area near the base of Mount Hood, five fiery explosions rattled windowpanes in a few farmhouses along Highway 26 near the community of Brightwood.
It was immediately clear what the coordinated blasts had been: an attempt to take down the power grid.

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McKenzie River Reflections is the weekly newspaper serving Oregon's McKenzie River Valley. Available by mail for $23/yr in Lane County, $29/yr outside Lane. Digital subscriptions are $23/yr. Subscribe at: http://mckenzieriverreflectionsnewspaper.com/catalog/subscriptions-0. Purchase copies online at: http://mckenzieriverreflectionsnewspaper.com/catalog/back-issues-0. Read about area communities including Cedar Flat, Walterville, Camp Creek, Leaburg, Vida, Nimrod, Finn Rock, Blue River, Rainbow and McKenzie Bridge.