Thursday, December 26, 2013

A trio of Christmas shorts

It’s the holiday season, and for this week’s column I spelunked through the archives to find some light-hearted fare from Christmas past:

In the Dec. 24, 1932 edition of the East Oregonian, students of Hawthorne School in Pendleton were cheering a local man who had been playing Santa for three years to children in his neighborhood. Charles M. Wright left an order at West End Grocery that every child calling at the store that day was to be given a bag of candy on his dime. Mr. Wright’s Christmas spirit was a bright spot for EO readers of all ages.


In 1967, Bernice Riley was the EO’s women’s news reporter. Riley passed along this gem of a helpful hint for the ladies in a Dec. 22 column:

“You simply can’t make Christmas cookies and candy ahead of time,” said a young mother the other day. “How do you keep them until Christmas when you have a bunch of boys who know all your hiding places?”

One local homemaker has come up with a brilliant solution to the problem, my friend continued. “She bought a brand new garbage can and put it out in the garage. Knowing full well that nobody would go near the garbage can unless she told them to, she has been using it to store all her holiday goodies.”

[Considering I still can’t seem to get my son to volunteer to take out the garbage in 2013, maybe I’ll start hiding things that way. Of course, underneath the pile of dirty laundry in his room would be an equally effective hiding spot.]


Hal McCune reported on the EO’s annual Christmas survey in the Dec. 24, 1991 paper. In addition to the usual questions about what people liked most and least about the holiday, queries included best and worst gifts ever received (ranging from “My husband coming home from World War II in one piece” on the plus side to “Table and chair set when I was 6” on the minus side); favorite Christmas traditions; holiday tree-topper preference (one respondent’s family favored a Winchester 12-gauge shotgun shell); and whether they buy gifts for their pets (“If they ask for one” was one answer). But my favorite answer was a response to when people stopped believing in Santa Claus. The person in question was seven years old when he found out, and said, “I had to pummel a fifth grade boy on the bus for destroying my myth — justified assault!”

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Oregon State wins first East Coast-West Coast football tilt

Thanksgiving Day, 1928, Oregon State College became the first Pacific Coast team to play a football game on the East Coast, vying with New York University in an intersectional game at Yankee Stadium. The Beavers beat the Violets 25-13, and Pendleton was the first daylight stop for the team on the long train trip home to Corvallis.

Governor Patterson was among the welcoming committee Dec. 5 when the special train arrived in Pendleton. “I’m simply too happy for words,” he declared. “I first heard the news of your victory by radio; and those who listened in with us were so enthusiastic that for a time I feared for the furniture in our house.”

Mayor L.J. McAtee welcomed the team on behalf of Pendleton and, following a salute by the Pendleton High School student body and the American Legion drum corps, the players joined a parade through the streets of town led by Mrs. Berkeley Davis, OSC graduate and former Round-Up queen.

Each member of the Beaver squad was presented with a Hamley kit, wrapped in college colors, as a souvenir from the Pendleton Commercial Association and the Umatilla County alumni of the college.

The Pendleton stay was short (the railroad agreed to hold the train for only 30 minutes), and the team continued on to Portland with the governor and his wife in tow for a banquet hosted by city fathers. The OSC team finally arrived home at 10 p.m., where they were greeted by “a bedlam of whistles, bells and cheers as the cars rolled to a stop in a mass of yelling students,” the largest rally ever staged by the student body and townspeople of Corvallis.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Famous crooner swings through Pendleton

Bing Crosby fans in Pendleton got a thrill Dec. 10, 1952, when the crooner stopped for lunch at the Hotel Pendleton with his son Lindsay and his ranch manager, on his way to Pullman, Wash. Crosby was registered to attend a Washington State college (now university) short course for stockmen. He joined his twin 18-year-old sons, Dennis and Philip, who were attending WSC earning degrees in animal husbandry.

Fellow diners and the restaurant’s waitresses were reluctant to approach Crosby, who pretended to ignore the stares and whispered comments until it was time to pay the bill. Crosby then joked with staff and signed autographs, and eventually posed for an East Oregonian photographer who was lurking nearby. Comments were to the effect that “if someone didn’t lead the photographer astray, perhaps he had a chance to grab himself some publicity.”

East Oregonian file photo
Crosby, who was heading to Spokane after his visit to Pullman to look into his television interests there, said he had been through Pendleton several times but had not yet had the chance to see the Round-Up, though he had heard it was a “great show” and was looking forward to attending some day.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Winter raft racers vie for bragging rights

It’s the dead of winter, and it gets boring being cooped up inside. What’s a high-schooler to do? About two dozen young men cheerfully embarked on a raft race down the Umatilla River on February 16, 1964, with nothing on the line but pride. They emerged from the river wet and cold, but still cheerful, after their exhilarating ride.

More than a hundred people followed the progress of the racers, who put in at Mission Bridge outside Pendleton and crossed the finish line at the Main Street Bridge an hour and a half later. The race, which was arranged by the young men themselves, had only one rule: No one could go ashore until the race ended.

Taking the checkered flag were Bob Cook and Doug Wachsmuth, who had led most of the race. Just a few minutes behind was the three-man team of Wes Luster, Bill Brown and Allen Gill, who were in the lead early on but lost ground due to their unorthodox paddles — brooms. The team of Jack Owens, Dick Jones and Roesch Kishpaugh came in third.

One raft that started out with two racers finished the race carrying four. Jack Hodgen and Maury McCormmach had to hitch a ride after their craft sank.

Others listed in the Feb. 17, 1964 edition of the East Oregonian as competing in the race included Steve Carey, Jay Vaughn and Chris Pope; Leroy Nash and Dan Wicklander; Darrell Eng and Bob Rada; and Vern Hamil, Jack Bascomb, Scott Lerfald and Lamar James. Other racers competed but were not named in the story.

(EO file photo/Virgil Rupp)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Twenty-first birthday celebration held for unique resident

Kathryn Searcy of Pendleton held a special 21st birthday celebration in December of 1963 — so special, in fact, that the East Oregonian sent two reporters to cover the party for the Dec. 4 edition.

The twist? Blackie, the birthday boy (or girl), was a goldfish.

Searcy knew the fish was 21, she said, because “when my grandson Steven was a baby he used to watch the fish, and Steven will be graduating from college.” Blackie had outlived three bowl-mates in his long life.

For the celebration, Searcy placed a photo of Steven next to Blackie’s bowl, and one of the reporters brought a cupcake. Blackie, however, didn’t seem interested in the festivities.

The articles about Blackie’s birthday, especially the one written by Carolyn Frown, were quite tongue-in-cheek, but the reality of goldfish ownership is that these inexpensive beauties can become longtime companions. According to The Goldfish Tank (, goldfish can live an incredibly long time with proper care. WikiHow cites a Guinness Book of World Records fish that lived 43 years after being won at a fair in England in 1956. Most goldfish, however, live for just a few years (some much less than that) because they are not treated with the same care as other, more expensive pets.

The best start to owning a goldfish (or any pet, for that matter) is to buy from a quality store or private breeder. Goldfish also need a lot of room, so a big tank is essential. As with any fish, filtration, aeration and regular changing of the water will ensure the fish’s living environment is optimal. And proper nutrition will ensure your goldfish leads a long, healthy life. The Internet has lots of great information on getting a great start with goldfish, and your local pet store also is a good source of advice.

Fish also need mental stimulation. Add plants and other decorations to spruce up the tank. Goldfish also can be trained to eat from your hand and perform simple tricks.

It’s a shame that goldfish are often considered “throw-away” pets, since owning a fish tank can provide a relaxing atmosphere in any home, and goldfish are an inexpensive way to get started. So the next time you’re at the county fair and win yourself a goldfish in a plastic bag, consider that you might just be bringing home a longtime companion, and treat it as such.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

John Day tapped for bullfrog ranch

Eastern businessmen thought Grant County was the perfect place to start a new ranching enterprise in 1937, but they weren’t interested in the usual livestock. R.J. Paul returned to John Day in November of that year to check up on “plantings” of bullfrogs, Rama catesbeiana, that had been placed in ponds just outside of the city a few years prior, and “marveled at the size attained by the amphibians.”

A Nov. 27, 1937, story in the East Oregonian interviewed Paul, who said the bullfrogs would be shipped to several markets, including restaurants and private homes for French cuisine gourmands and laboratories for medical and drug research. Tentative plans had been made to place about 1,000 two-year-old bullfrogs in ponds outside John Day for breeding stock. Shallow ponds left by dredgers were perfectly suited to the breeding of bullfrogs, according to Paul. Bullfrogs can reach 8 inches long and weigh up to 1.5 pounds by the time they are fully mature, about five years old, and can live as long as 40 years — barring freezing, drying out or begin eaten by other wildlife.

A further benefit for area residents was touted by Paul — a reduction in the mosquito population. Mature frogs derive much of their food from mosquitoes and other insects, but also eat birds, snakes, mice and fish. Bullfrogs only eat moving prey, but they will eat almost anything that fits in their mouths.

Male bullfrogs are also very territorial and cannibalistic, eating smaller bullfrogs if they can, and tadpoles also prey on each other. A publication by the Missouri Department of Conservation says that a mature bullfrog will defend as much as 20 feet of shoreline as its “exclusive hunting preserve.” Which means that anyone wanting to raise bullfrogs commercially would need either a lot of shoreline or a way to keep them from eating each other.

Of course, when you introduce a non-native species to a new area, trouble often follows. A bullfrog’s native habitat is in the southern and eastern parts of the United States. These transplanted monsters have, understandably, taken over many of the habitable areas of the John Day River system, and often out-compete Pacific tree frogs, western and spade foot toads and other native amphibian species for food and breeding grounds. Bullfrogs are, however, classified as a game fish in Oregon, so if you have a hankering for frog’s legs, you’ll be doing the area a favor if you grab a bucket and catch yourself some dinner (just be sure to follow state fishing guidelines).

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sheep losers in battle over grazing land

The Oregon Woolgrowers’ Association came to Pendleton in September 1902 for its annual convention, with 50 members from all sections of the state attending the meeting. Among the attendees was E.F. Day, one of the largest sheep owners in Morrow county, whose story in the Sept. 16 edition of the East Oregonian highlighted the range wars between sheepmen and others needing grazing land for their animals.

Day reported that he had 2,400 yearling ewes on summer range on Greenhorn Mountain near Susanville in August of 1902. Early in the morning of the 27th, a dozen men with their faces blackened came into the camp just before breakfast. Some held the camp tender and shepherd at gunpoint while others started shooting into the herd, killing or wounding 30 ewes. The men then told Day’s employees to move the sheep off the range immediately before disappearing.

As soon as the men were gone, the camp tender rode into Susanville to report the attack to Day by telephone. He noticed several men in town who still had traces of lamp black on their faces.

Day rode to the camp four days later, and minutes after he arrived the herder ran into camp to say a large number of men had surrounded the sheep. Before Day could reach the herd the shooting began, and only when he told the vigilantes he was moving the sheep immediately did they cease firing. At least 300 sheep were killed during the second incident, and many more were wounded and had to be put down.

The sheep grower posited that the guilty parties were miners wanting the grazing land for their pack horses. He added, “As yet, the officers seem to have made little or no effort to apprehend the guilty parties.”

Throughout Eastern Oregon the story was the same for many years, and not just sheep paid with their lives. Shepherds and their dogs also were killed when owners dug in their heels and refused to give way to cattle and other livestock. And sheep required a lot of land — in 1901 nearly 4 million sheep covered the ranges, according to C.J. Millis, general livestock agent of the O.R. & N. Company, which transported local wool and meat to buyers across the U.S.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Britain's Prince Charles changes schools to 'toughen up'

The Nov. 15, 1963, East Oregonian ran a special story from London for Prince Charles’ 15th birthday. It seems that the powers that be in Great Britain were a little concerned about the future king’s interests at school and decided a little “manning up” was necessary.

The heir to the British throne has one of the longest official names and set of titles you’ve ever heard: His Royal Highness Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, knight of the Garter, Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Lord of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, the Great Steward of Scotland. Charles was described in the article as “shorter than the average boy of 15,” but was growing fast at Gordonstoun, a tough Scottish secondary school. Students there learned, among other things, to sail, navigate and rough it. The story claimed “It’s no institution for effete young men.”

Turns out young Charles had been showing more interest in the arts than in “manly” pursuits. At his previous school he excelled in painting, drawing and music, and took an interest in cooking, even baking several cakes. That was when his posh education at Eton was shelved and he was shipped off to the rough-and-tumble Gordonstoun, where he became a good horseman, an excellent sailor and a fine marksman.

Fifty years later, Prince Charles is a leading patron of the arts, children’s interests, education, business, leadership and global sustainability. The Prince’s Trust was established in the mid-1970s and now is the largest multi-case charitable enterprise in the UK. In a recent interview published on Canada’s National Post website (Oct. 27, 2013), Charles said “he feared becoming King would affect his role working with charities.”

“I feel more than anything else it’s my duty to worry about everybody and their lives in this country, to try to find a way of improving things if I possibly can,” he said.

Regardless of Gordonstoun’s role in Prince Charles’ development as a man, he has retained the humanity of his youth — and that can only be to the UK’s benefit.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Council chases off police chiefs

By November 15, 1976, six police chiefs in less than 12 months had said goodbye to the city of Echo, and trouble with the city council was the culprit most often named.

The revolving door began in February, when Bonnie Rogers, who had served for more than a year, left for a better job offer. Her replacement, Frank Batrell, stayed for several months but quit because he had “too many bosses.” His replacement, Alan Berg, quit soon after he was hired. In a Nov. 5 article in the East Oregonian, chief number 6, Antone Wasilk, said he was resigning for medical reasons; he had been on the job less than three months. He was hired to replace John Swartrauber, who resigned after only a week on the job. In the article, Echo Mayor Irvine Howard said the troubles had been exaggerated and that most of the chiefs left because “their wives didn’t like it here.”

A follow-up article on Nov. 15 interviewed Wasilk, who pointed the finger squarely at the Echo City Council, saying their “interference” was aggravating his blood pressure. Council members constantly called him, he said, asked him where he was going when he left town and questioned his decisions. He said Mayor Howard was “the only one who seemed to think I was doing a good job.”

David Milliken, a former Echo resident who also served as a reserve police officer there, supported Wasilk’s claims, saying he thought the resignations of Wasilk and some of his predecessors were precipitated by something other than “their wives not liking the city.” Milliken, a former Air Force security policeman, served as a reserve officer in Echo for two weeks before being removed following an alleged incident involving a councilman and Wasilk.

When John Rosenan was named Echo’s seventh police chief at a Nov. 17 city council meeting, the council also decided that Mayor Howard would be solely responsible for the police department. “If the chief is responsible to one person, it might work out better,” councilman Earl Green said. The expectations of the job, however, included that the chief must be able to take constructive criticism from the council and be on call 24 hours a day.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Controversial painting causes no outrage in Pendleton

In October 1913 a downtown Pendleton store displayed a painting in one of its front windows that was embroiled in a nationwide controversy. The painting, entitled “September Morn,” showed a young woman demurely bathing nude by the edge of Lake Annecy in Haute-Savoie, France.

The East Oregonian’s coverage was brief, but pointed. “Chicago, with her puritan instincts, may judge that September Morn is not a proper sight for her morally sensitive populace and the United States navy may take an equally stern attitude toward the much criticized picture, but Pendleton is no prude. With true western breadth of mind she refuses to pattern her ideas of propriety after the fashion of some of the straight-laced eastern cities. All of which is preliminary to saying that pictures of the ‘gude little, nude little maid,’ shivering as she stands in a pool of water, are on exhibition today in a local store window and so far no disciple of Anthony Comstock has appeared — even to suggest that the pictures should be relegated to the back rooms or at least draped.”

“Matinée de Septembre” (September Morn) was painted by French artist Paul Émile Chabas over three summers ending in 1912. The painting was first exhibited in the Paris Salon in 1912, where it won a medal but didn’t cause a stir. In 1913 it was displayed in the window of Fred Jackson’s art gallery in Chicago, and when the painting was brought to the attention of Mayor Carter Harrison Jr., he charged Jackson with indecency, citing a violation of the municipal code that banned the exhibit of “any lewd picture or other thing whatever of an immoral or scandalous nature.”

The resulting court case was heard on March 20, 1913. Even with testimony from a local pastor and a schoolteacher, who worried about the painting’s effect on children, the jury acquitted Jackson after deliberating only thirty minutes. Chicago’s city council responded with an ordinance the next month banning “nude pictures in any window, except at art or educational exhibitions.”

Two months after the Jackson trial a self-appointed vice crusader, Anthony Comstock, tried to strongarm a New York City art dealer into removing the painting from the front window of his gallery. Store manager Philippe Ortiz stubbornly kept “September Morn” displayed until crowds wanting a peek began preventing his regular customers from entering the gallery. Comstock never followed up his threat with legal action, and Ortiz later claimed in the New York Times that Comstock had used the controversy to gain notoriety for himself.

Thanks to the controversy, the painting became one of the most famous images of the 20th century. Though it was originally lauded by the art world, critics would eventually label the painting as kitsch (a low-brow style of mass-produced art or design using popular or cultural icons). It is still a popular image, however, and reproductions continue to be sold on postcards and other collectible merchandise. The original painting hangs in New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Heroism earns Pendleton man Carnegie medal

A Pendleton man who saved the life of his employer was recognized as a hero in October of 1934 by the Carnegie Foundation.

Alfred J. Beard, 22, was working on the Wallula cutoff job site March 31, 1933, about eight miles east of Umatilla with the Newport Company, which had contracted to do surfacing work at the site. Beard was off-shift but had stayed to watch the blast of a quarry tunnel and heard that two men had been overcome by carbon monoxide following the blast. Marshall Newport, son of the company’s owner, had helped to retrieve the men but was then overcome himself. An article in the Oct. 27, 1934, East Oregonian said “young Newport, contracting superintendent, went into the tunnel to investigate. He had gone 70 feet and Beard, who was watching him, saw him sink down, overcome by the gas. In falling Newport struck his head on an iron rail.”

Beard leapt into action and entered the tunnel to pull Newport out. The superintendent outweighed him by 75 pounds, and Beard had to come out of the tunnel once for air before the rescue was complete. Beard also collapsed after bringing Newport out, and both men were taken to the hospital in Hermiston. Beard remained in the hospital for a month, and was then treated for a week by a Portland heart specialist.

He was awarded a bronze medal for his act of heroism, and the inspector for the Carnegie Foundation also said a cash award ranging from $50 to $1,000 was a possibility.

The son of Mr. and Mrs. J.S. Beard of Milton and son-in-law of County Judge C.S. Cheshire, Alfred Beard had attended McLoughlin High School and graduated from Enterprise in 1930.

The Carnegie Hero Fund was established in 1904 to recognize persons who perform extraordinary acts of heroism in civilian life in the United States and Canada. Established by Andrew Carnegie with a trust fund of $5 million, the fund has awarded 9,611 medals as of June 2013, including 148 to Oregonians. Other local awardees are Laurence S. Case, 16, of Heppner who attempted to save a drowning girl in the Columbia River near Brewster, Wash., in 1929 (both were drowned in the attempt); Leonard E. Swanson, 22, of Umatilla who helped save a 44-year-old man from drowning near Oxnard, Calif., in 1954 (both survived); Carlton Green, 40, of Milton-Freewater, who in 2007 saved a one-year-old boy from a burning building in Walla Walla (both survived); and Trevor Jordan Tally, 21, of La Grande who drowned in 2009 trying to save a 6-year-old boy and his 64-year-old grandmother who had fallen off a dock into Hells Canyon Reservoir in Idaho (the boy and his grandmother survived).

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Last Pendleton hotel closes its doors

The Bowman Hotel, located at the corner of South Main Street and Southwest Frazer Avenue in Pendleton, officially closed its doors to overnight guests Oct. 1, 1980. In operation continuously since 1906, it was the last of Pendleton’s iconic downtown hotels to cease operations; the Temple Hotel, owned by Jim Whitney, Fancho Stubblefield and Gerald Whitney, also had closed earlier that year.

In a Sept. 1, 1980, article in the East Oregonian, Bowman owner Bert Arndt cited major improvements to plumbing, wiring, heating and cooling, insulation and windows costing as much as $1 million as the reason to shut down the hotel. He said the building’s 17 permanent residents, and two businesses fronting on Southwest First Street on the first floor of the building (The Happy Apple and VerBaere Studios), would be allowed to stay while a taxi cab business, Western Union and others would be asked to relocate.
Plans for the second and third floors of the 74-year-old facility, Arndt said, were still up in the air but possibly included “other forms of residential alternatives as well as commercial uses.” Arndt had already applied to the federal government to list the Bowman Hotel on the Federal Register of Historic Places.

EO staff writer Julie Ahrens spent the night at the Bowman on its final night, and described the room in less-than-glowing terms: “Seventy years worth of paint peel from the walls, a musty odor lingers in the air and bedding, and a bare, very bright light bulb hangs from the high ceiling. ... A bathroom and shower are down the hall. For these accommodations, I pay $6.50.” She noted, though, that while the hotel had seen better days, the extensive woodwork, ornate hardware and balconies helped the building retain some of its historic charm.

Built in the days when most travelers arrived in Pendleton by train, Pendleton’s hotels also included the Oak, Oregon, Packard, Pendleton Spokane and St. Elmo, and allowed visitors in town for business or pleasure easy access to Pendleton’s downtown business core. Recent renovations of the Temple Hotel, now St. George Plaza, and the Bowman Building to house upscale apartments, businesses and more are giving these historic buildings new life.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Contest aims at boosting Stanfield population

Stanfield, in 1909, was still a new, unincorporated town in the irrigated area of north Umatilla County and was looking for more residents. In October of 1909 the town leaders came up with a series of incentives to entice people to move to Stanfield or the nearby Furnish-Coe irrigation project. The “10,000 club for 1910” was organized in an attempt to boost the town’s population above 10,000 before the 1910 census. One of the incentives offered was free residence lots for the first couple married in Stanfield and for babies born in the town: one for the first baby girl, the first baby boy, and for the first baby born after July 15, 1910. Judges for the contest were Congressman W.R. Ellis of Pendleton, Addison Bennett of the Irrigon Irrigator and E.B. Aldrich of the East Oregonian.

In an attempt to ensure fairness in the contest, those competing to be the first wedded couple had to have lived in Stanfield or owned property in the town or its environs for at least two months prior to the wedding. The first snag in the contest was reported in the Oct. 18, 1909, EO when a Stanfield couple attempted to claim the prize. Roy S. Neal and his bride, the former Della Bott, had attempted to tie the knot in Stanfield only to discover that, as much as the town was growing, there was no one in Stanfield qualified to perform a marriage ceremony. The couple had the choice of waiting an indefinite amount of time to get married or going to Pendleton for the ceremony, which they ultimately decided to do. The matter was left in the hands of the judges.

In the baby contest, the issue promised to become quite complicated. Further inducements in the were offered for the birth of twins: twin boys, twin girls, a boy and a girl, a girl and a boy, and so forth. When the matter of triplets arose, with all the inherent combinations, the judges acknowledged the complexities of the potential tangle and vowed to tackle the entries “as in the doctrine of prior appropriation and of riparian rights.”

As popular as the contest was, Stanfield’s population fell far short of its lofty ideals; less than 1,000 people called Stanfield home at the time of the 1910 census.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pari-mutuel racing debuts at 1950 Round-Up

The 1950 Pendleton Round-Up kicked off August 23 with evening pari-mutuel racing at Round-Up Arena, one of many events that is no longer a regular part of Round-Up week. The week’s races were the inaugural meet of Round-Up night racing held in Pendleton and, unfortunately, did not go off without at least one hitch.

One of the jockeys in Wednesday’s second race, being “underfed” at 90 pounds, had a lead pack placed under his saddle to bring his weight up to the minimum 115-pound requirement. Unfortunately, the pack obscured part of the number on the horse’s saddle cloth, and when the race was over the judges awarded the race to the wrong horse, having mistaken the partially obscured number 5 for a 3. According to the story in the Aug. 24 East Oregonian, “Everybody knew — the crowd knew, the jockeys knew, probably even the horses knew — that No. 3, Lieuallen Brown Bob, had run fourth, and No. 5, Vivian M., had won. But the judges had seen a ‘3’ so they authorized pari-mutuel to begin paying bets.” By the time someone pointed out the error and the judges reversed their decision, $198 had already been paid out to those who had bet on the No. 3 horse to win. And none of the payees were willing to give the money back when the mistake was discovered. Round-Up directors got together, talked over the situation, and ponied up the money out of their own pockets to make up the difference so the correct winnings could be paid out.

On Friday, one of the horses overcame some serious odds to win the third race of the evening. Helen Hart, a five-year-old chestnut mare owned by the Golden Horse ranch, was run in the afternoon races and then mistakenly bedded down for the day with a meal of oats and plenty of water, even though she was scheduled for the evening races as well. Despite her heavy, unaccustomed load she managed to pull ahead of the favorite to win in the final stretch.

State-sanctioned pari-mutuel racing at the 1950 Round-Up consisted of three different types of races: open races, mostly run by thoroughbreds; quarter horse races, which were harder to bet on because often the fastest horses — unused to a curved track — could be beat by a slower horse that was accustomed to hugging the rail; and the Indian races, featuring reservation-bred Indian-owned ponies that were completely unknown, leaving bettors to make their selections based almost as much on the professional rider as the horse.

Perhaps the Round-Up Association could consider returning pari-mutuel racing to Pendleton as one way to increase the usage of the Round-Up Grounds — and add another reason for tourists to come to Pendleton.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Moth invasion devastates local forests

The East Oregonian ran a brief on Saturday, Sept. 1, 1973, about a petition drive in northeast Oregon to request the use of DDT in the Wallowa-Whitman and Umatilla national forests to curb an infestation of tussock moths that was devastating hundreds of thousands of acres of Douglas fir. Petitioners claimed that DDT, banned in 1972 for agricultural use, was the only effective insecticide against the moths and that waiting for researchers to find an alternative to the chemical was not a viable option. The Associated Press picked up the story and interviewed La Grande-area residents, who were concerned that the timber industry they relied on for their living would disappear unless the moth infestation could be halted.

EO reporter Marvin Rogers, who was flown over affected regions northeast of Ukiah by the U.S. Forest Service’s Summit Helitack crew, had this reaction: “Brown as far as could be seen, even from the helicopter. The drought had taken care of the undergrowth and the tussock moth had killed every tree in sight. ... It was suddenly plain to see why the Umatilla and Wallow-Whitman national forests and all State Department of Forestry land in northeast Oregon were closed, except to people getting permits.”

The Oregon Board of Forestry, Gov. Tom McCall and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz joined the call for the EPA to grant the emergency use of DDT over the affected areas. And senators from Oregon and Idaho brought the issue before the Senate Interior Committee. The EPA had rejected three similar requests earlier in the year because a natural virus normally wipes out the infestation during its three-year cycle; however, virus levels were much lower than normal during the current cycle and the infestation had spread from 172,000 acres in 1972 to more than 600,000 acres by the end of July 1973.

After meeting with state and forestry authorities, the EPA decided it would hold off granting an emergency-use permit until surveys of moth egg masses, a measurement of parasites and growth of moth-killing viruses had been assessed in the spring of 1974. When approval was given Feb. 26, however, it came with a promise by forestry officials that DDT would only be used if absolutely necessary, and only in “high priority target areas” to protect wildlife and sport fisheries.

A group of young entrepreneurs found a way to capitalize on the invasive pests, however. Sixth grade students from West Hills and Hawthorne schools in Pendleton were selling souvenir tussock moth key chains, with actual (dead) moths encased in plastic. By mid-September 1973 they had earned more than $200.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Joint WWII enlistment an Oregon first

The front page of the East Oregonian on July 17, 1944, was all about World War II. American and British troops were besieging the French village of St. Lo in Normandy against five divisions of German soldiers led by Field Marshal Rommel, and Allied troops were crossing the Arno River in an attempt to liberate the west coast of Italy. Back home in Pendleton, Mr. and Mrs. Verlin J. Grover were also front-page news as the first married couple in Oregon to join the same service since joint enlistments were made possible by the Navy.

Mr. Grover, known as Bud, came to Oregon in 1938 from Milligan, Neb. He had resigned his position as district manager for the Woodmen of the World life insurance company of Denver at the beginning of the war, taking a job as a brakeman and switchman for Union Pacific Railroad for the duration of the conflict. He volunteered to be inducted into the Navy.
Mrs. Grover was a Weston-Union High School graduate and earned a teaching degree from Eastern Oregon College of Education in La Grande. She and Bud were married in 1940, and made their home in Pendleton. She taught in Umatilla County for 10 years, and in 1944 was a primary school teacher at Riverside school. She had been offered a position as principal for the coming school year, which she didn’t accept.

Mrs. Grover enlisted in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), the U.S. Naval Women’s Reserve established July 30, 1942. According to a Wikipedia article, “The word ‘emergency’ implied that the acceptance of women was due to the unusual circumstances of World War II, and at the end of the war the women would not be allowed to continue in Navy careers, but it or its successors continued for decades afterwards.” The passage of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act in June of 1948 gave women permanent status in the armed forces. Even though the Navy reserve (volunteer) program officially ceased to exist in 1948, the WAVES acronym still was commonly used into the 1970s.

Women like Mrs. Grover paved the way for women like my mother. Mom was born in 1944, the week this article appeared in the EO. When she graduated from high school in the 1960s, her best option for further education and a good job was to join the Navy. Mom has some great memories, and tells great stories, about her time in the Navy as a member of the WAVES. I know she was thankful to have the option of a Navy career.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Train-hopper takes wild ride

A one-mile ride on a freight train in western Kentucky turned into a week-long trip across the country for a teenage boy — and almost cost him his life. Mike Wright, 17, planned to ride the short distance from his home to nearby Crofton, Ky., for soda and candy when he hopped a train Aug. 14, 1995. When the train didn’t stop in Crofton and Wright ended up over the county line in Indiana, he switched trains and decided to take a short nap on the supposed return trip. That was the beginning of a six-day ride across the U.S. that ended at Hinkle train yard outside of Hermiston.

Sometime during the teen’s nap, someone closed and locked the door of the insulated boxcar Wright was riding in, and the train car was sent to Nebraska. On Aug. 21 the train arrived at Hinkle and Wright managed to catch the attention of yard switchman Les Stuplich and crew hauler Jackie Dunlap around 1 a.m. “I don’t think that car was scheduled to be cleaned for a couple more days,” Stuplich said in an article in the Aug. 22, 1995, East Oregonian. “I don’t think he would’ve lasted that long.”

Had Stuplich and Dunlap not parked their truck beside the insulated car Wright was trapped in, they would not have heard his pounding and cries for help. Wright was dirty, dehydrated and hungry, but after an overnight stop at Good Shepherd Medical Center in Hermiston he was taken home by his family none the worse for wear. Wright’s reaction to his accidental trip? “I’ve run away from home a couple times, but I didn’t mean to this time.”

Phil Houk, who works in risk management for Union Pacific, said in the article Wright was lucky he was discovered when he was. “We do find dead bodies once in a while,” Houk said.

The moral of the story, of course, is that train-hopping is illegal for a reason: It’s dangerous, and possibly deadly. Union Pacific Railroad is vigilant about patrolling its property, and prosecutes violators on criminal trespassing charges when they are caught. Mike Wright’s story had a happy ending, but he was still in the wrong to use a passing freight train as public transportation — and he almost paid the ultimate price for his ride.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Family makes all the difference after tragedy strikes

In July 1955, a tragic car accident took the lives of four people when the vehicle they were in smashed into a concrete pillar just outside Pendleton. Ruby Lois Woods was one of the passengers that died instantly. Her husband, Jesse Boone Woods, died eight days later of injuries sustained in the crash. The Woods were from Yakima, Wash. Jesse’s sister and brother-in-law, the other couple in the car, were Pendleton residents (for the sake of family of the Pendleton couple possibly still living in the area, I won’t name them here).
As tragic as the accident was, each couple also left behind three children. I came across this story when one of the Woods children, April, who was two years old at the time of the accident, and her husband contacted me about finding newspaper stories about her parents’ deaths.

When I read this story, my first reaction (being a mother myself) was, “What happened to the children?” None of them were in the car when the accident happened. April was kind enough to share the rest of the story with me in an email after she had visited with her brother and sister.

April said the Woods children were raised by their aunt and uncle, Nellie and George McCandless, and their maternal grandmother Cora Henderson, who lived with them. Nellie and Ruby were sisters, and Cora was their mother. The McCandlesses had two children when they took in April and her siblings, and two more were born soon after, in 1955 and 1956. April said, “In every way, except for the first 2 years of my life, I consider Nellie and George my parents and their 4 children my siblings. I have 2 sets of parents and feel lucky to have been so privileged.” She added, “We 3 children were indeed fortunate not to have ended up in the foster care system.”

So what are the Woods children doing now? April followed her husband’s retail management career and they have lived in Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Indiana and Mississippi. April had a successful career as an accountant. When they retired in 2006, they moved to Colorado and started a second career in real estate. They moved to Boise in 2013 to be closer to her aging parents and continue their real estate business. They have no children.

Her sister Kathleen is married and lives with her husband in Alberta, Canada. They have four children and eight grandchildren. She has worked the last 10 years as a teacher’s aide for the local school district, and is looking forward to retirement. Brother Jesse worked as a draftsman for an engineering firm in Boise, Idaho. He passed away three years ago from cancer. He never married and had no children.

And the three children of their aunt and uncle? They were adopted by a couple seemingly not related to the family. The Woods children and their family was not allowed contact with them, and April’s knowledge of their lives after the crash is minimal.

April and her siblings were indeed fortunate to have found such a loving home. Their lives, shaken by this horrible tragedy, could have taken a much sadder turn. But instead the Woods children were surrounded by family that took them in, answered all their questions to the best of their abilities and gave them a strong foundation to build their lives on.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Crash blamed on insanity could have been triggered by drug withdrawal

A Pendleton photographer suffering from mental illness caused one of the most spectacular wrecks the town had ever seen, yet walked away relatively unscathed, according to a story in the Aug. 22, 1913, East Oregonian.

O.G. Allen, 34, one of the proprietors of the Electric Studio on Court and for two years the official Round-Up photographer, was known to have periodic episodes of what was termed “insanity” at the time. He had been taken to St. Anthony Hospital early in the week and given sedatives to help with his insomnia. Allen became irrational the day of the accident and, at about 8:30 p.m., escaped from his attendants at the hospital and jumped into his car, which was parked outside the hospital. He drove the car standing up, sometimes waving both hands in the air, and yelling “O.G. Allen, Let ‘er Buck!” at about 50-60 mph down Southeast Court for 13 blocks. When he reached Main Street, Allen drove the car straight for the front of the Pendleton Drug Store. According to the story, “... the auto tore its way through the door and window, smashing showcases and scattering medicines, cigars, kodaks and stationary in every direction, finally turning sideways and coming to a stop near the rear of the room.”

No customers were in the store at the time of the crash, and George Hill, one of the proprietors, and a prescription clerk were in the office at the rear of the store when the car skidded through the store and came to rest against the rear counter. “Old Allen did it and all he lost was his cigar,” he said to the astonished men, after which he stepped out of the remnants of the car and picked up a fresh cigar from the hundreds scattered on the floor. His only injury was a small scratch on his forehead.

As Allen made to leave the store, he was met by Officer John Russell, who arrested him and locked him in a padded cell at the city jail. At the jail Allen became more rational, and broke down in tears when the officer told him what had happened. He said he had not slept for six days and he had been taking opiates “to quiet his nerves.” The nurses had refused to give him any of the drugs that day, he said, “and that’s what was the matter with me.”
Allen was committed to the Eastern Oregon State Hospital the next morning after being pronounced insane by Dr. R.E. Ringo in a court proceeding. The commitment papers stated Allen had spent some time about 10 years prior at the Salem asylum, and his partner at the studio said Allen’s health had been poor for several weeks. The episode, the article said, was apparently brought on by overwork and nervous strain.

Did the sudden withdrawal of the opiates he was being treated with, in addition to his fragile mental state, trigger the episode? We know now that withdrawal from narcotics can cause symptoms ranging from hallucinations to violence. Perhaps that was not as well understood in 1913.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The mystery of the frenzied fish

On Aug. 11, 1913, shortly before 10 a.m., several people passing on the Main Street bridge in Pendleton noticed hundreds of dead fish floating down the Umatilla River. When they looked closer, they could see a large number of live fish as well, congregating at the dam just below the bridge. According to the story in the East Oregonian, “Every few minutes, one would expire and before dying would seem to be affected with a frenzy. With head above the surface, it would dash through the water at a great speed sometimes leaping clear out of the water on to the gravel bars. The sight attracted a large crowd and there was much speculation as to the cause of the mortality.”

Prominent members of the local fish and game association, including G.I. LaDow, C.K. Cranston and W.W. Hoch, were convinced there was some kind of poison in the water. Fingers pointed first at the Byers mill, suspecting it was being treated with cyanide, but employees there said that was not the case. It was pointed out that there were no dead fish between the mill and the penstock (where the water was diverted from the river by a gate to drive the mill’s wheel), and above the foot of the millrace there was no water in the river to speak of, so the poison had to have entered the water after it left the penstock of the mill and before it rejoined the river.

The strange situation apparently resolved itself within an hour, and the remaining fish recovered and swam away. It was mentioned in the article that a similar incident had occurred in the same place two years prior.

Most of the dead fish were suckers and pike, but a fair number of redside trout also were killed. Mr. Cranston inspected the insides of one of the fish but didn’t find anything out of the ordinary. The fish and game men did prevent people from picking up the fish for eating, however.

My first thought, as well, was some kind of poison. I read forward a couple of weeks and didn’t find a follow-up story, but forensic techniques were crude or non-existent in those days, so the chances of detecting poison in the water were pretty slim. My second thought was either a sudden increase in the temperature of the water (the article didn’t mention whether the day was particularly hot) or some other reason for a temporary decrease in the amount of oxygen available to the fish. That might explain the frenzied racing around exhibited by the fish. A third scenario might include some kind of predator trapped behind the dam harassing the fish, which might explain their leaping out of the water. I’m open to explanations from anyone out there more knowledgeable about the subject.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A look back at firefighting in the 1890s

Looking back at local history has been a feature of the East Oregonian almost as long as there have been newspapers to look back to. One such story, in the July 17, 1913 edition of the EO, revisited the destruction of the Villard House on that date 20 years prior, in 1893.
The Villard House, built in 1880 by David Horn at a cost of $10,000, was for many years Pendleton’s chief hostelry. The two-story frame structure was located on the corner of Main and Court streets where the Judd Building now stands (which now houses Maverick Spa & Boutique, Pendleton Book Company, Miss Joni’s Florals and others).

At about 1 p.m. a fire broke out near the flue at the north end of the building and the entire structure went up in a very short time. The EO reported that Fire Chief Ell and H.J. Stillman fought the flames alone with Babcock fire extinguishers until the fire engine and hose companies arrived. The two hose companies had “but 1500 feet of good hose and 350 feet of poor hose” but managed to have six streams on the fire in short order. Keep in mind at the time Pendleton had only 4-inch water mains, so the firemen mainly were battling to save adjacent buildings from catching fire. One company fought the fire at close range from the top of the Despain Building. The fire engine used so much water from the nearest cistern at the corner of Court and Garden (S.W. First) streets that by the time the fire was out an hour and a half later only 16 inches of water remained. The article concluded with the report that the two hose companies engaged in a water fight after the fire was out, something that happened quite frequently in the early days of Pendleton.

I like this story for a couple of reasons. The contrast between firefighting equipment and techniques then and now is stark, and the fact that originally most of Pendleton’s downtown buildings were made of wood and situated cheek-by-jowl along the main thoroughfares meant a fire in one building could easily take down an entire block if firefighters were delayed or the fire was very large. There is a good reason that all the buildings in downtown Pendleton are now constructed of brick or other fire-resistant materials.

I also like the idea of the firefighters capping off a hot, dirty, stressful day’s work by letting off some steam, having a little fun and cleaning up at the same time.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Fish story or true tale?

I’m not sure whether this fish story is true, or a real whopper of a tale.
In the July 17, 1913, edition of the East Oregonian I found a story about two men who braved the elements to engage in some trout fishing. Their destination was Green Lake, which I found buried smack in the middle of the Eagle Cap Wilderness at about 6,700 feet elevation, about 15 miles west of Wallowa Lake as the crow flies. These days the lake can be accessed by a trail, but even in July the trail hasn’t been cleared by the U.S. Forest Service this year. In 1913 the trip was compared Frederick Cook’s 1908 attempt to reach the North Pole, with the pole trek judged the easier one.

U.S. Commissioner Woodson L. “Pat” Patterson and Dr. H.J. “Doc” Horton of Baker embarked on several-day sojourn to the remote lake anticipating a few days of fishing. When they arrived, in sub-zero temperatures, they found the lake frozen over and snow several feet deep on all sides.

The story gave excerpts from Doc Horton’s journal, and I’ll quote them here:

“Midnight, Saturday Night — Pat thinks we have lost our way; not a fish in sight.

“1 a.m. Sunday — Enabled to build a fire and eat a few pieces of frozen bacon; gaining strength to press on for another half mile.

“3 a.m. — About all in; snow getting deeper and mercury dropped out the bottom of the thermometer. Finally made camp with great difficulty. Pat built fire and put his boots over to make soup. Cold was intense; so were we.

“Early Morning — Arrived at lake with feet and ears frostbitten, and all dogs frozen to death but one. Slight rise in temperature enabled us to get our tackle out, and Pat, after several hours, found a hole in the ice. Tried to fish, and lines froze stiff the minute they were pulled from water after the first cast. Four trout about three feet in length leaped from water to the ice, and were frozen stiff instantly.

“Noon, Sunday — Decided to make a dash for home. I here had a grand hunch that saved our lives. Taking the four frozen trout and banding them with straps from our hunting outfit, they made excellent skis, and after four hours hard climbing we made the summit and coasted down hill to North Powder, arriving in a blinding snow storm. Thawed out here and reached home in safety.”

The story said the four trout were brought home to prove their story; the intrepid fishermen planned to have them mounted for exhibition at the Geiser Grand Hotel in Baker.

Now, I’ve heard some good fish stories in my time (and told a few), but I can’t decide whether this is a true tale or a tall one. If true (and the remoteness of their destination certainly supports the story), I’m torn between awe at the conditions they faced and disbelief that they would endure such hardship for a few fish (even three-footers, though those are some mighty nice trout). If it’s a tall tale, I find Doc Horton’s account dripping with dry humor (which I appreciate). Whatever the truth is, I’ve found that true sportsmen will go to great lengths to catch “the big one,” whatever their target might be, and Pat and Doc certainly seem to fall into that category.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

How well do you know your neighbors?

Facial hair fashions for men have come and gone many times throughout history. In 1899 in Pendleton, full beards and mustaches were very common amongst the important men of the town and, in fact, some had never been seen without their facial adornments.

A story published in the Sept. 27, 1899 edition of the East Oregonian showed how much our appearance affects how we are perceived by even our closest friends.

In the story, several public figures shaved off their accustomed facial hair within days of each other and were rendered completely unrecognizable to people who interacted with them every day. One of these men, Deputy Recorder Bob Maloney, shaved off a long, flowing mustache and passed along Main Street without a single nod of recognition. Even his family did not recognize him, and a neighbor treated him “like he was from Kalamazoo.”
Maloney decided to take the experiment one step further, donning an old hat and ragged clothes before setting out in his neighborhood to see if anyone would see through the disguise. He visited eight neighbors, asking for bread, and in every instance was turned down without the slightest amount of pity for his plight. Finally he approached the Rev. G.W. Rigby, who listened to his story of woe: The recent rains had ruined his chances of finding work in his chosen profession — keeping the sun off the sidewalk. Rigby produced a half dollar and said to the disguised man, “Well, you may be fooling me, but I won’t see any man go hungry.” Not only did Maloney manage to fool everyone, he discovered that charity toward the downtrodden was sorely lacking in Pendleton.

The story doesn’t say whether his scheme was simply a joke played on his neighbors and friends, or whether Maloney decided to embark on a social experiment, but it does say a lot about how people treated the less fortunate in Maloney’s day. Since Pendleton was a stop along the railroad, the town naturally dealt with a lot of “riff-raff” that rode the rails looking for a handout, so it’s understandable that a beggar with a flimsy story would be regarded with contempt, at best.

Are things any different in 2013? Pendleton has more than its share of panhandlers, drifters and con artists looking for easy money or a free meal. Would Mayor Houk be willing to doff his famous mustache and go undercover to see if the clothes do, indeed, make the man? And would we recognize him if he did?

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Case of the Disappearing Ancestor

I spend quite a bit of time poring over the archives of the East Oregonian each week, partly for the “Days Gone By” feature but also to help genealogists with their family research. Last year I got a call from a man in California who, he said, was a descendant of William F. Matlock, mayor of Pendleton at the turn of the century. He said Matlock’s daughter Nellie was his ancestor, and the family had plenty of documentation to that effect. But information about Nellie’s husband, from whom this gentleman also descended, was relatively unknown and the family didn’t even know the man’s first name. Now I love a good mystery, so armed with a few dates, names and places I dove into what turned out to be one of the biggest news stories of 1899 in Pendleton.

I started with a vague family rumor that this Mr. Mims had left town in some fashion after shooting a man. The date of this shooting was pretty nebulous as well, so I first turned to to get some background on my mystery man. I discovered that Nellie Mims and two children lived with her parents in Pendleton during the 1900 census, but her husband was not listed. I worked backward from there, paging laboriously through the old newspapers, until I caught a break: a story from 1900 that talked about the original shooting, and a date of August 1899.

In turn-of-the-century Pendleton, local news generally was not printed on the front page of the East Oregonian. But the shooting of J.H. Miller, the proprietor of the State saloon, was such a big deal that it was front and center of the Aug. 24, 1899, paper. As the story goes, Miller was shot after an argument with Edwin Mims in the saloon at closing time. It seems that Miller told Mims that some of the other customers were objecting to his playing cards with them. Tom Means, the bartender who witnessed the argument, said “Miller had intimated that some of his customers objected to having Mims come there to play, as they worked for their money, and Mims was not in their class as a player.” Mims was offended, and the two men each laid down bets of $20 in gold over whether one of two card players would object to Mims’ presence at the games if asked.

The argument grew more heated, and Mims threatened to have all the card players arrested. Miller claimed he could run his own business without outside help. Soon the altercation turned physical. As Means came around the bar to break up the fight, he heard a pistol shot and saw Miller slump to the floor. Mims had a .38 caliber pistol in his hand, which Means took from him. Mims denied accusations of murder, saying that Miller had attacked him verbally and physically and he was just defending himself when he shot Miller.

The grand jury took up the case Oct. 10 and Mims was indicted on first-degree murder charges the next day. The trial commenced on Aug. 20 and lasted eight days. Witnesses supported the defense’s claim that Miller had been the aggressor in the argument, and also had been threatening for weeks prior to the altercation to bar Mims from the saloon, something that witnesses also said Mims claimed he would never stand for. The jury returned a verdict of manslaughter, with a recommendation of extreme mercy; Mims was sentenced to five years in the penitentiary and a fine of $1,000. By the time Mims finished his sentence, Nellie had divorced him and moved to Portland, where she eventually remarried. And Edwin Mims disappeared from the family story for more than 100 years.

Considering Mims was the son-in-law of a very influential man in Pendleton, one can assume the scandal was a huge embarrassment to the Matlock family. Did his personal and political connections also contribute to his downfall? The bartender’s statement that J.H. Miller didn’t want Mims in his bar and the other card players didn’t want him in the game because, unlike Mims, they worked for their money leads me to think that Mims was probably used to a privileged lifestyle and wasn’t accustomed to being told “no.” It came out at the trial that Miller had “staked” money to Mims to play poker, splitting the winnings with him if he won, but Mims’ luck at the table was bad and Miller no longer wanted to prop him up. Mims’ threat to have the card players arrested, and his assertion that he would not stand to be barred from Miller’s saloon, smacks of the arrogance of a hot-headed young man who thought he could get away with ... well, not murder, but certainly throwing his weight around. Instead, he became a sad footnote to a well-respected family’s story.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Prostitution “almost a necessity” in early Pendleton?

A couple of news articles caught my eye for “Days Gone By” last week about an attempt by agents of Gov. Oswald West to shut down bordellos in 1913. West dispatched a “moral squad” headed by Jack Key to clear out houses of ill repute and send the ladies and their keepers packing from Oregon. In the 1913 stories, it was said that the bordellos had been consolidated in 1902 by then-Mayor Thomas G. Hailey on the west side of Cottonwood street (present-day Southeast First Street between the Umatilla River and the railroad yard). Prior to that these houses had been scattered around the city.

In an article in the Jan. 20, 1902, East Oregonian, Mayor Hailey was interviewed about what he intended to do about prostitution in Pendleton. He answered: “They run places that I do not approve of, but are almost a necessity in a town. I cite as an example the case of Irons and Boyd, who were in court today, for seducing the Wilson girl in Milton. I shall not bother these women, unless complaint is made to me, but I will see that they do not flaunt their vices boldly, and that all drinking and carousing is stopped in their houses. I have tried to overlook these things in the past, but I will not do it any longer.”

In 1902 it was understood amongst the city fathers that suppressing vice in Pendleton, including prostitution and gambling, was a losing proposition in more ways than one. The men of the town would not easily give up their recreations and the activities would just be driven underground (as illustrated by Prohibition). Also, the city of Pendleton received quite a bit of income from license fees and fines stemming from these activities. An editorial in the Jan. 18, 1902, EO stated, “... it is believed by any rational men that an attempt to root out the games and bawdy houses would utterly fail for want of support from the people of the community. This is deplorable, but true. Many persons who inveigh against the allowing of such things would not themselves have the ‘nerve’ to publicly back a movement for suppression, pleading that they could not afford to antagonize the elements that would be so antagonized. It was in the knowledge that such was the case that the mayor and council determined to form some plan whereby the city would reap financial benefit from the situation.”

Mayor Hailey’s compromise with the bordellos was confining the houses to Cottonwood Street and keeping the women off the street. In fact, a city ordinance prohibited the women from coming out to the sidewalk or becoming an annoyance to passersby, and the doors to the establishments were required to be kept shut. The mayor himself made an unofficial visit to the area in October of 1903, and eight women were arrested and fined $5 each for sitting in the open doors of the houses and talking to people on the street.

Thomas Hailey was intent on ridding Pendleton of vice during his tenure as mayor, and he staged many raids on gambling establishments and bordellos to enforce the city ordinances. However, he was forced to work within the framework of the times, which meant compromising his principles to a certain extent to keep the peace between city government, those who wanted to keep their recreations and the citizens who were appalled by them. Unfortunately (for some, I guess), gambling and prostitution are almost impossible to eradicate, and bordellos continued in one form or another in Pendleton until the 1950s before the doors were shut for good.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Boy genius or meddling father?

This week’s look at the past is an Associated Press story from June 13, 1988, that caught my eye and piqued my interest. Adragon Eastwood De Mello, an 11-year-old boy who had graduated from college in three years with a degree in mathematics, was in a conundrum: If he was not admitted to a graduate program he would be required by California state law to attend junior high school in the fall. His father, Augustin De Mello, was prepared to send him abroad to escape that fate. Mr. De Mello was a single father that started his son on a special learning program almost from birth.

Adragon knew the alphabet by age 2, could read and write by 3, and received an associate’s degree with highest honors by age 10. He spent just one year at Colwell College at the University of California-Santa Cruz to earn his bachelor’s degree. “I want to start learning scientific programming next year,” he said. “I want to go into astrophysics or particle physics, which hopefully will lead to the discovery of the creation of the universe, which is what I’m interested in.” He said he wouldn’t mind picking up a Nobel Prize along the way.

I read this story and thought, “I wonder what happened to this kid?” So I took to the Internet and did a little research.

According to an article in the June 3, 2003, Santa Cruz Sentinel, Adragon’s mother gained custody of him not long after his story appeared in news media across the country in 1988. The boy admitted his father “pushed him and pushed him hard to succeed,” the article said. After Adragon went to live with his mother, his father began exhibiting bizarre behavior and eventually died of cancer.

A Wikipedia article said Adragon opted to enroll in Sunnyvale Junior High School under an assumed name and eventually graduated from Homestead High School in 1994. In 2003, De Mello was working for Home Depot after training to be an estimator for a commercial painting company.

Follow-up articles from 2003 portrayed the father as a obsessive man who used his son to manipulate schools, universities and the national media to feed his own need for recognition and attention. Adragon survived and reclaimed the life his father had denied him — interaction with kids his own age and the chance to decide for himself who he wanted to be. A cautionary tale, perhaps, for parents who are so intent on their child attaining an idealized construct of success that they ignore the child’s own dreams and potential.