Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Running all in the family for Lexington athletes

Lee Padberg was proud of his son Bryan, whose high school running career took off his freshman year at Heppner High School with state Class A titles in the 1,500 and 3,000 meter runs in 1986. But Lee was prouder that Brian broke 20-year-old school records in the mile and 2-mile runs the same year — records Lee had set himself 20 years earlier.

Running titles were a family affair for the Padbergs, beginning with the family patriarch and continuing with daughter Jodi, a middle-distance standout during her high school career. Bryan’s freshman success, though, led to some attitude problems and he failed to repeat his win in the 1,500-meter race his sophomore year.

“I didn’t work as hard that year,” Bryan said during an April 26, 1989 interview with the East Oregonian.

But coach Dale Conklin agreed that Bryan learned his lesson and “worked his tail off” during his junior year, posting personal bests in the 1,500 with 4 minutes, 3 seconds, and the 3,000 meters at 8:54.7 at the Gladstone Meet of Champions. He capped his junior season by leading Heppner to the state Class A track championship, taking the titles for the 1,500 and 3,000 and anchoring the team’s fifth-place 1,600 meter relay team. He was named the Class A men’s athlete of the year in the 1989 issue of “Who’s Who in Oregon Track and Field.”

Along with the boys’ first-ever state track championship, Bryan’s junior year also included a spot on the roster of Heppner’s second-place football team during the fall state Class A championships. But it wasn’t all victories for Bryan and his teammates that year: the Mustangs failed to move past the district playoffs during basketball season, his favorite sport.

Bryan was considering nibbles from the University of Oregon and Pacific Lutheran University track coaches as his high school career was drawing to a close, his senior year focused on improving his GPA in hopes of scoring scholarship offers. “I’ve got to do well this year. I guess that’s one of my pressures,” Bryan said as his mother, Linda, watched him prepare for yet another race.

“Maybe he puts a little too much pressure on himself,” Linda said. “I think he’s nervous this year.”

Bryan promptly ran away from the field, breaking the tape in meet-record time for the 800 meter race.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Lover’s triangle leads to tragic deaths

A Heppner man, insanely jealous when the woman of his dreams chose a different companion, went on a shooting spree that left his heart’s desire and himself dead in May 1908.

Henry P. Morrison, a brakeman for the Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation Company in Heppner, had fixed his sights on the lovely Nora Wright. But Miss Wright spurned Morrison’s affections, instead choosing Barney Ahalt as her escort. On May 2, 1908, after several weeks of depression and working himself up into a jealous rage over Wright’s rejection, Morrison went looking for the pair with deadly intention.

Morrison borrowed a .41 caliber Colt revolver from Express Messenger Smith, telling him a dog down the track had been annoying him and he wanted to be prepared. Morrison took a “speeder,” a small two-man vehicle used for railroad track maintenance, and traveled along the tracks to Cecil, where Miss Wright lived with her parents. He stashed the speeder in a field and created a hiding spot under a warehouse that gave him a good view of the Wright house.

Morrison spent the night and half the next day waiting for Wright to emerge, finally spotting her and Ahalt climbing into a buggy around 2 p.m. on May 3 and heading south toward the tiny hamlet of Morgan. He caught up with the pair at a crossing two miles north of Morgan.

Morrison had waved to the pair cheerfully as he traveled along the track in the speeder, and was waiting for them on the bank next to the wagon road when they approached the crossing. Morrison stopped Ahalt’s team, brandished a revolver and said, “You had better say your prayers.” He then opened fire.

Miss Wright fell dead immediately with a bullet to the head. Ahalt was also shot, a flesh wound in the shoulder, but managed to whip the team into motion and fled, carrying Wright’s body with him.

Morrison followed the racing team to Morgan, where he was told Wright was dead. He turned the gun on himself, shooting himself in the forehead. He was carried to a warehouse, where he died about 9 p.m.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Robbery duo nabbed by local lawmen

Two men who disarmed a Seattle policeman and stole his car at gunpoint in April of 1950 were spotted in Pendleton and arrested by local police the next day.

William Archie Miller, 28, and John Boggs, 30, were wanted for armed robbery in Seattle after the holdup of a policeman early in the morning hours of April 13, 1950. The duo held the officer at gunpoint and relieved him of his vehicle, then fled the city. An all-points bulletin was sent out to law enforcement across the Pacific Northwest, and two hours later Pendleton night watchman Tom Fitzgerald recognized the fugitives’ license plate number on a car that entered town from the east.

Fitzgerald followed the car and notified local police officers just as they were changing shifts. Sgt. Arch Campbell and officers Irwin Hood, Cliff Smick and John Powell raced to the Fraternity Club entrance on Main Street. Boggs was still in the car, while Miller was walking a Samoyed dog on the sidewalk.

Rookie cop Smick grabbed Miller around the arms just as the man was reaching for a .45 automatic stuffed into his belt. The gun was loaded and cocked, with a bullet in the chamber and the safety off. Both men were arrested and taken to the city jail, while the dog was taken to a local veterinary clinic for safekeeping.

When their vehicle was searched, police found a veritable arsenal of weapons, ammunition and safecracking equipment — drill, punches, crowbar, sledge hammer, dynamite and caps, battery, wire and ... a banana. According to Police Chief Charles Lemons, bananas are used to seal dynamite powder in the cracks of a safe door before the charge is set off.

The men opposed their extradition to Seattle to face charges, and made a useless attempt at escaping from the jail hours after their arrest by breaking off part of a steam pipe to use as a weapon. During a search before their move to the county jail, a small amount of wire was found on one of the men and confiscated.

Miller’s wife called Pendleton police to claim her car, the expensive new vehicle the men were driving when arrested, and the dog.

Seattle law enforcement were required to take extradition papers to the Washington governor’s office for a signature, then to Salem for Oregon Gov. McKay’s signature, before traveling to Pendleton to claim the prisoners.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Seniors successfully defend class title

A common sight in some rural communities is a huge letter and sometimes a set of large numbers gracing a hill overlooking town, decked out with white rocks, depicting the graduation year of the current senior class of the local high school. But in the early 1900s the Pendleton High School class with the most moxie was the one displaying their graduation year, painted on the roof of the old fire hall south of the school.

On April 11, 1918, the reigning class of seniors was issued a challenge by the junior class. The seniors had led the school for two years, since their previous defeat of the senior class of 1916 as sophomores. The junior class decided it was time to unseat the champs, because if “1918” remained on the fire house roof after graduation day, it would stay permanently.

The combatants collided on the evening of April 12, and though the seniors were outnumbered two to one, they had the size advantage over the junior team. The goal was to climb onto the fire house roof and maintain control long enough to paint the class’ graduation year over the top of the previous victors’ numbers. The juniors, thinking to get an early advantage, made a dash for the fire house at 8:45 p.m., hoping to take their opponents by surprise. But the upperclassmen were expecting the ploy and were ready for them.

A great many onlookers from all the classes watched the battle shift many times, as boys from both classes wrestled each other to the ground and then tied the hands and feet of those bested. Boys standing by for either side would then drag the losers off into the weeds where they couldn’t cause any more trouble. Some of the senior girls assisted their classmates, wielding barber’s shears on the unlucky captives and “disfigurating their heads for weeks to come.” Most of the fighting, however, was entirely good-natured and no one was seriously injured.

About 10 p.m. the class of 1919 decided they were beaten and gave up one by one. The seniors, with a cheer, clambered onto the roof of the fire house and repainted their numbers in triumph.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Black bear stars in fast-moving nature drama

A duo of forest rangers wanting to film the awakening of a hibernating bear in April 1937 got more drama than they were expecting when the star of their amateur documentary awoke in a rather grouchy mood.

The saga began in November 1936, when state game supervisor Frank T. Wire and Umatilla National Forest supervisor Clark Martin were hunting near Bear Wallow in the Blue Mountains. They found a hole dug near an uprooted pine tree, neatly lined with grass, and a clump of debris set aside to cover up the entrance to the den come hibernation time for black bears. Wire and Martin marked the spot, determining to return in the spring to film the bear coming out of hibernation.

On April 6, 1937, Wire and Martin made the seven-hour snowshoe trek back to the bear’s den, accompanied by forest ranger Clarence Huston and Martin’s terrier, through several feet of snow. After considerable ax work, Martin announced to the others, “Betcha he’s right under here,” and proved his point by promptly sinking deep into the snow, right into the bear’s bedroom.

“I never saw a man in such a hurry,” Wire said later. “Clark must have jumped ten feet and he was no sooner out of the way when the nose and ears of Mr. Bear appeared.”
With the terrier barking at the hole, the rangers grabbed ropes and waited for the bear to reappear. As soon as he came out of the den far enough, Martin and Huston got one rope around his hindquarters and another around his neck. Then the rodeo began.

The bear woke up mad, and fought and bucked like a bronco. Martin managed to cut the rear rope, Huston slackened the neck rope, and the bear leapt for safety, climbing a nearby 10-foot tree with the terrier in hot pursuit. From there it jumped to the roof of a nearby ski shed, then jumped to the ground and dashed back to his hole.

The rangers carefully cut the neck rope and leapt back. The bear charged back out of the hole and made for the hills. The trio later found the bear’s footprints, crossing and re-crossing in the snow in his haste to escape.

Wire got 300 feet of film during the escapade, and promised to show his nature documentary to Pendleton folks in May.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Bank heist foiled by night policeman

A bank robber made a monumental effort to rob a Milton, Ore., bank vault in April of 1929, but a vigilant policeman on the night beat prevented the heist and hauled the battered thief to jail.

A veteran bank robber calling himself S.L. Fisher cased the First National Bank in Milton, Ore., on April 7, 1929, and about 9 o’clock that evening broke into the Knights of Pythias hall above the bank. Using tools appropriated from blacksmith shops in Milton and Freewater, he began cutting a hole through the floor of the hall into the bank vault directly below.

Police officer Walter Woodward, walking the night beat that evening, realized something fishy was going on at the bank building when he noticed the door to the lodge hall had been jimmied. By the time Woodward entered the building to investigate, Fisher had already removed three layers of heavy brickwork over the bank vault and had started sawing and drilling through a layer of railroad iron.

Woodward exited the building and called several people to help, then laid in wait for the thief. Fisher, eventually realizing he had been discovered, tried to escape through a second-story window, swinging out on a rope. The rope broke in mid-swing, and Fisher crashed to the ground, breaking several ribs on landing.

Fisher was arrested and taken to the Pendleton jail by Umatilla County Sheriff Tom Gurdane, where he admitted he had previously served time at Folsom Prison in California.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Heppner ‘gold strike’ creates havoc for landowners

Heppner ranch owners who discovered a cache of gold coins on their property in March 1968 quickly discovered the “strike” was almost more trouble than it was worth.

Mary Colleen Greenup, her sister Ilene Wyman and brother Bob Kilkenny owned a ranch purchased by heir father, John Kilkenny, in 1914 from Preston Thomson. Rumors abounded for years that Thomson had buried money on the place, and a 1968 article in True West magazine brought fortune hunters to the property in droves. Greenup said that many people, from all over the country, phoned for permission to search the ranch and others simply showed up at the door.

Two men from Minnesota who read the article teamed up with Greenup in the first week of March 1968 to search for the buried treasure, first with metal detectors and finally with a bulldozer. A cache of 28 coins was found buried under the ranch’s fish pond, with dates ranging from 1870 to 1896. Fourteen of the coins were $20 gold pieces, nine were $5 coins and five were $10 coins, for a total face value of $375. One of the pieces, with an 1891 mint date, was valued at $500.

And it wasn’t the first find on the ranch. Ten years previously, two grade school boys fishing at the pond found four gold pieces. They kept them, and Greenup at the time didn’t try to recover them.

Greenup split 14 of the new stash between the two men (whose names were not available when the March 9 article was published). An advisor later said the government would require the money to be turned in, the finders receiving only 15 percent. Another said that each member of the family could keep one piece. With three owners and 12 children between them, there weren’t enough coins left to go around.

Considering the two finds, it is reasonable to assume that the hunt for treasure continued.