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.