Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Torrential downpour drenches Pendleton

An electrical storm that hit Pendleton on October 11, 1951, dropped an inch of rain on the town and caused widespread flooding.

After a summer with very few thunderstorms, a storm reaching several miles in width and traveling northeast began about 3:20 in the afternoon and continued for an hour and 40 minutes. The fury of the storm was focused mainly within the city limits, with only a sprinkle occurring two to three miles both east and west of town.

A half inch of rain fell during the first ten minutes of the storm, drowning Southwest Emigrant Avenue at Tenth Street in several inches of water. Highway 30 in front of Eastern Oregon State Hospital was covered a foot deep, interrupting traffic, and after the storm the highway department had to use a blade to clear the road of silt.

Basements across town were flooded by water pouring off both the North and South Hills, including homes on the North Hill and along the Umatilla River levee, a garage in Sherwood Heights with “a river of water” running through it, Main Street businesses including Payless and the East Oregonian, and the Pendleton police station, which was located in the basement of City Hall.

Two to three inches of water poured into the basement of the First Christian Church, deflected from the South Main Street slope by cars parked nearby. On the Terall Ramage farm five miles from Pendleton at the foot of the Helix grade, the garage washed away and a tree blocked the front of it, the lawn was covered in silt and the family was trapped inside the home for a couple of hours. The gravel dike at the Harris Pine Mills log pond washed out when the Umatilla River rose suddenly.

But as fierce as the thunderstorm was, it was dwarfed by a storm on July 3, 1904, when two inches of rain fell on Pendleton in a 24-hour period.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Pendleton native among 9/11 victims

September 11, 2001: a day that shook the U.S. to its core.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, it was sometimes a long and difficult process to identify the victims. Almost a month later, after matching DNA from a sample of hair from a hairbrush, Pendleton native Mike Selves was verified as among the 188 people killed during the attack on the Pentagon.

Selves, a 53-year-old retired lieutenant colonel who had gone back to work for the Army as a civilian, was apparently in his office near the Pentagon’s helipad when the hijacked plane crashed into the building. His wife Gayle, who visited the scene, said it appeared that the impact of Flight 77 was right near her husband’s office.

A 1965 graduate of Pendleton High School, Selves joined the Army in 1969, serving in Korea and Italy. He worked for the Pentagon for 15 years before retiring in 1996, then returned to work as a civilian two weeks later, serving as the director of the Information Management Support Center for the Secretary of the Army. Selves was scheduled to retire for good in 2002, and he and wife Gayle had planned to move from Fairfax, Va., to Hilton Head, S.C., to enjoy golf at their timeshare house there.

During a memorial service in Pendleton, Selves’ friends spoke about a warm and generous man who was always ready with a smile. “He was good at jokes,” said good friend Mike Burns. “They weren’t very good jokes, but they made us laugh.”

Members of the PHS Class of 1965 presented Gayle with a Pendleton Woolen Mills “Freedom Blanket” in their friend’s memory.

Selves also left behind parents Jack and Florence Selves of Pendleton and sister Karen Hart of Umatilla.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Eerie car noises confound passers-by

Next time you take the farm rig into town, be sure you check it out underneath. You may have an unsuspecting passenger.

A woman living on a farm just outside Pendleton (who was unnamed in the Oct. 19, 1938 East Oregonian article) ran into town for supplies and parked her car on Main Street. As she got out of the vehicle, she and startled passers-by immediately notice some eerie sounds coming from the car.

“What is it?” someone asked. “A new kind of horn on your car?” The woman, equally puzzled, listened carefully. If she were at home, the woman said, she would guess the sound was a chicken in distress.

Someone thought to look under the car, and after a thorough search found a ruffled hen clinging to a fender support, probably with a very unusual feeling in its crop.

The woman placed the hen in the back seat, where it settled in comfortably and waited patiently for a ride home while her owner finished her errands.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Helix man plots murder of family

A Helix man with a history of violence when intoxicated attempted to kill his wife and son in October 1901, then committed suicide in the county jail.

Fred Albershardt, a 59-year-old immigrant from Germany, was well known to have a violent temper when drunk. The Albershardts lived at the home of John Timmerman about a half mile from Helix, where Mrs. Albershardt worked as a housekeeper after the death of Timmerman’s wife. On Saturday, Oct. 12, 1901, Albershardt was drunk and caused such a ruckus that Mrs. Albershardt and Timmerman had to leave the house until he quieted down.

On Monday morning Albershardt rode the train to Pendleton, where he bought a revolver and cartridges, saying they were for his son. He visited local drinking establishments before heading home. When he arrived, he stopped near the windmill in the yard and called to his wife. She came out onto the front porch, but felt something was wrong and came no closer. He started to walk toward the house, but then turned toward the barn, where their son Gus was sleeping.

Realizing what he meant to do, Mrs. Albershardt asked her husband if he had a gun. When he didn’t answer, she ran to him and pulled his coat aside. He grabbed her by the arm and pulled the revolver, aiming two shots at her head, which missed. He fired a third time at her chest, hitting her in the right shoulder and knocking her to the ground.

Gus, hearing the racket, peeked through a crack in the barn siding and witnessed the shooting. Remembering a recent trip to the mountains with his father, who told him that something was going to happen within a week, Gus hid amongst the horses, and his father was unable to find him when he searched the barn. Albershardt soon gave up and took off on foot through the canyons and stubble fields. Mrs. Albershardt managed to get to the house and hide under the sofa.

The Helix marshal was called, and he notified Umatilla County Sheriff William Blakeley. A manhunt lasting most of the night finally turned up Albershardt about 16 miles north of Helix. He was brought to Pendleton and lodged at the county jail.

When interviewed, Mrs. Albershardt said that for the last 20 years her husband had been cruel and abusive. When they lived near Meacham, she said, he tried to kill her with an axe and she had to run for three miles through the snow to escape him. She had wanted to file for divorce for years but was afraid he would follow through on his threats to kill her and their son.

Sometime during the night of Oct. 17-18, Albershardt hung himself in the county jail. A coroner’s inquest ruled that the attack on his family had been premeditated, and that Albershardt had planned a murder-suicide. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the potter’s field.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Doolittle’s Raiders lose leader

The leader of a daring daylight bombing raid over Japan on April 18, 1942, that turned the tide of the war in the Pacific during World War II died Sept. 27, 1993, at age 96 at the home of his son in Pebble Beach, Calif.

Ret. Gen. James H. Doolittle is well known in Eastern Oregon as the leader of Doolittle’s Raiders, who trained with their B-25 bombers at Pendleton Field beginning in 1941 after the infamous bombing of Pearl Harbor. Born in Alameda, Calif., Doolittle spent part of his childhood near Nome, Alaska, where his father was a gold miner. He enlisted in the Army in 1917 during World War I, earning his wings in 1918. Following the war, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1922 by flying from Jacksonville, Fla., to Rockwell Field near San Diego in 22 hours and 30 minutes, the first coast-to-coast flight in less than 24 hours.

He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1989 by President Bush, who described him as “the master of the calculated risk.” He was also a recipient of the Medal of Honor and many other awards.

His bombing raid on Japan actually caused little major damage, and a later Naval War College study could find no serious strategic reason for it. But Doolittle’s raid stirred the morale of the American public, and gave notice that Japan was not safe from attacks on their home soil by U.S. air power. Spencer Tracy portrayed Doolittle in a 1944 film about the raid, “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.”

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Controversy rages over identity of first Round-Up queen

The world-famous Pendleton Round-Up began in 1910 and continues to be one of the most popular rodeos in the world. Each year a bevy of beauties reigns over the festivities, and the Round-Up queen and her court, along with a pair of Native women representing Happy Canyon, spend 12 months traveling across the country to represent Pendleton and its iconic rodeo.

For 68 years, Laura McKee Thompson was accepted as the first queen of the Pendleton Round-Up, reigning over the 1911 rodeo. But a Sept. 14,1979 East Oregonian article reignited controversy that began in 1978 when Mildred Searcey, an Athena historian, author and former Round-Up Association office manager, declared that Bertha Anger Estes was actually the first Round-Up queen, though she was not elected as such by the Round-Up Association board. And Patty Daly, office manager for the Round-Up Association, said that official Round-Up records list Bertha Estes as the first queen.

In the run-up to the first Round-Up in 1910, local merchants sponsored young ladies who would sell tickets to the rodeo and ride on the business’ float during the Westward Ho! parade. Bertha Anger was sponsored by the People’s Warehouse and rode at the head of the float. After the rodeo was finished and the ticket sales were tabulated, she was declared the winner of the contest. But a search of the East Oregonian archives for 1910 and 1911 uncovered no mention of Miss Anger being the official queen. The only mention of her name was as one of 50 young ladies who were to dress in costume and ride floats in the parade.

Genevieve Clark Tromblay, a member of the 1910 and 1911 courts, said it wasn’t until after the parade that it was suggested they were the first Round-Up court. “They never really got that settled,” she said. “It’s all mixed up and nobody’s left anymore that’s connected with the People’s Warehouse to say.”

Mary Johnson of Hermiston, a family friend and surrogate niece of Laura Thompson, formally challenged the designation of Bertha Anger as the first Round-Up queen. She said it wasn’t until seven years later, in a Sept. 20, 1917 article, that any mention was made of the 1910 court. When Thompson herself was interviewed in 1978, she said she had no doubt that she was the first Round-Up queen, and had been considered so for years. The 1911 East Oregonian made special mention of “Round-Up Queen Laura McKee (later Thompson) surrounded by her maids, Misses Genevieve Clark, Iva Hill, Norma Alloway and Muriel Saling.”

“Aunt Laura has always been accepted as the first queen,” Mary Johnson said. “It was very embarrassing and humiliating for her when they said last year it was Bert Anger. It hurt her.”

So who really deserves the title of first Round-Up queen? The question may never be answered.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Famous sculptor re-emerges from obscurity

After Umatilla County Sheriff Tilman Taylor was killed during a jailbreak in 1920 in Pendleton, the much-loved lawman was immortalized with a statue by renowned sculptor Alexander Phimister Proctor, a resident of Pendleton from 1914-1916 whose love for the American West was legendary. More than 50 years later, Proctor’s daughters returned to Pendleton during the 1973 Pendleton Round-Up and talked to the East Oregonian about their famous father, whose name had since faded from the public eye despite a vast body of work in public spaces across the United States.

A. Phimister Proctor works on details of the Til Taylor statue in his studio in Belgium in 1927 (EO file photo).
Hester Proctor and Nona Church were in Pendleton to see the Round-Up and visit with Hester’s 1915 classmate, Mrs. H.S. McKenzie. Miss Proctor remembered her father’s fascination with horses and his love for the Round-Up, where he met characters such as Jackson Sundown, whose 1916 championship saddle bronc ride was funded by her father when Proctor put up Sundown’s entry fee. Proctor also spent a summer with Sundown and his family in Cul de Sac, Idaho, taking photos that would serve as models for another of his famous sculptures, “The Warrior.”

Some of Proctor’s other work can also be seen in Oregon. “Pioneer Mother,” whose model was Pendleton’s Elvira Brown Matheny, and “Pioneer Father” are both at the University of Oregon in Eugene, and the UO Art Museum contains “Indian Maid and Fawn,” a copy of which is in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens in New York City. A statue of Proctor’s favorite hunting buddy, Teddy Roosevelt, stands in Portland.

Other famous statues include plunging mustangs in front of the University of Texas Memorial Museum in Austin; Gen Robert E. Lee in Dallas; “Pioneer Mother Group” in Kansas City, Mo.; and “On the War Trail” and “Bronco Busters” in Denver. Two of his works grace the nation’s capitol: four 9-foot-high by 18-foot bronze bison, the famed Q Street Buffalo, and two buffalo heads in bas-relief on a fireplace mantle in the White House.

Proctor lived to be 89 years old, and passed away in 1950. As famous as he was during his lifetime, his name slipped into obscurity after his death. A second interview in September 1973 with Kalispell, Mont., art dealer Bernie Kushner and his wife Palma included a handful of the hundreds of photographs taken and collected by Proctor during his time as an artist. The Kushners were traveling through the United States, visiting the sites of Proctor’s most famous sculptures to refresh memories of the sculptor. Kushner had also helped the Proctor family gather many of his original working models from across the country, from which bronze castings were made and sold.

“We want his reputation revived. He was great,” said Bernie Kushner. “There’s nothing obscure about his work.”

Today, the Alexander Phimister Proctor Museum is located in Hansville, Wash., near Seattle, and in 2005 donated approximately 100 original Proctor artworks to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyo.