Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Old-timers reminisce on their first Pendleton Christmas

On December 23, 1903, East Oregonian editor Bert Huffman interviewed three longtime Pendleton residents and asked them to relate memories from the first Christmas they spent in Pendleton. Their accounts span just 10 years, but Pendleton grew ten-fold in that short amount of time.

Lot Livermore, Pendleton’s postmaster in 1903, was the town’s oldest continuous resident, arriving in Pendleton in 1869. Livermore recalled that sometime before his arrival in Pendleton the old Goodwin hotel was built, and it was from this point that the city was laid out. The Hotel Pendleton was later built on the site of the Goodwin, and the post office was originally located next to the hotel. Livermore was paid $15 a year, and had to get up twice a night to deliver and receive the mail, which was delivered by stagecoaches.

Livermore said his first Christmas in Pendleton was nothing special. Each family (there were 50 people living in Pendleton in 1869) held their own private celebration, and, while their dinner was a little better than usual, the day “passed off with the sameness of the rest of the year” — no big rush at the store, and nothing to denote the arrival of the holidays.

Veteran miller W.S. Byers came to Pendleton in the fall of 1874 to make arrangements to put up a flour mill, though he didn’t arrive in Pendleton to start work until almost Christmas of that year. Byers said when he first arrived in Pendleton the road where Court street now runs was a ravine 16 feet deep, which had to be filled in before the lumber and other building materials for the mill could be delivered. He next visited his property on Christmas Eve 1874, and spent Christmas Day overseeing the progress of the mill’s construction. It snowed hard that day, and by the time he was ready to return to Walla Walla, where he owned another mill, the snow was two feet deep and Byers had to borrow a sleigh and team for the drive home.

Byers said on that day he stood at the mill property and counted just 50 roofs in the direction of what is now the business section of Pendleton (which included the barns).

Another old-timer, Jesse Failing, recounted his first Christmas memory, from 1879. Failing came to Pendleton from Umatilla, where he had owned a hotel. About 100 families lived in Pendleton at the time, and the entire business section of Pendleton was in the block occupied by the Hotel Pendleton and Lot Livermore’s post office.

On Christmas Eve of that year, Failing said the town of about 500 people gathered at the Sanford hotel for a dance and sheet-and-pillow case party. The house was so crowded there was no room to dance. Everyone at the party, young and old, wore a pillow case over their heads, with the corners stuffed out to make horns, and the party lasted until dawn. Christmas Day 1879, Failing recalled, was a rather quiet affair.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Homeless ‘grinches’ steal Christmas dinner

What says Christmas dinner better than a roasted turkey on the table? In a move that brings Dr. Seuss’ Grinch to mind, not a single gobbler could be found on Christmas Day 1910 in Hermiston when a band of tramps absconded with the town’s entire supply of the birds after being asked to skedaddle.

Hermiston resident E.P. Dodd brought the news Dec. 26, 1910, while visiting friends in Pendleton. It seems that a large group of hungry hobos had been hanging around Hermiston for days prior to the holiday, breaking into cellars and stealing whatever they could find. The morning of Christmas Eve the tramps were given the heave-ho by Marshal Phay, who ordered the men to move along.

Hermiston residents awoke Christmas morning to find that every live turkey in town was gone, with the homeless men the chief suspects. Before the advent of giant turkey farms and grocery stores, most families raised their own meat, including turkeys destined for holiday dinners. The residents were forced to scramble for substitutes for the birds they had carefully raised all year in anticipation of a festive meal.

The biggest loser in the turkey theft was the Chinese proprietor of the Hotel Oregon cafe, who lost four big turkeys to the thieves. Dodd related that the man, having exhausted his repertoire of English profanities, was said to have continued on swearing in his native language.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Superstitious train men banish number 13 after fatal accident

The number 13 has been considered unlucky for a long time. Rumor has it that the superstition has roots in early Christianity (the Last Supper had 13 guests) and also Norse mythology (a group of 12 Norse gods was attacked by Loki, the trickster god, resulting in the death of one of the group). A phobia of the number 13, triskadekaphobia, has led to (among other things) airlines omitting the 13th row on planes and high-rise buildings without a Floor 13.

Employees of the Mountain Division of the O.R. & N. Railroad in Eastern Oregon decided they, too, would be wise to eliminate the number from their repertoire after a tragic accident claimed the life of Conductor Charles F. Brown on Nov. 8, 1904.

The fatal order was received by Train No. 6 at Bingham Springs, northeast of Pendleton in the Blue Mountains, at 5:43 a.m. Conductor Brown initially refused to take the order, in his usual jovial manner, and asked the dispatcher in La Grande to change the number. After a few minutes of joking over the wires to dispatch, Conductor Brown signed the order and, in delivering a copy of it to Engineer Pete Theisen, said in fun, “That’s a bad one, Pete, look at the number and then look out.”

The train stopped at Kamela’s switching yard at 7:40 a.m. that morning to take on a dining car from a side track. Conductor Brown was run down by a helper engine on another side track while helping his engineer back up to pick up the car. Death was instantaneous. In his pocket was found the last train order he had received.

When the news of his death reached the dispatchers in La Grande, they decided then and there to never again issue Order No. 13 from their offices. Train orders issued from the dispatcher’s office began at No. 1 at midnight each day and ran consecutively until the next midnight, as many as 200 orders being issued in any 24-hour period. From then on, a blank space was left in the log book for Order No. 13, to the relief of many superstitious railroad men.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

WWII bomb balloon lands in Montana

The East Oregonian in December of 1944 was full of stories of the war raging in Europe and the Pacific. Local heroes, and Umatilla County residents lost to the fighting — either missing or dead — were memorialized almost every day. U.S. citizens in general were thankful that the war was not on our doorstep, but a few stories surfaced about attempted attacks on U.S. soil.

One such was the story of the incendiary balloon that landed 17 miles southwest of Kalispell, Montana. The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced a huge paper balloon, bearing Japanese ideographs and armed with an incendiary bomb capable of starting a major fire in Northwest forests, was found the week before by Owen Hill and his father, O.B. Hill, while on a wood-cutting trip. More than 500 residents of the Kalispell area saw the balloon, but were urged by the FBI to keep it quiet.

Ward Bannister, in charge of Montana-Idaho FBI offices, said the 33 1/2-foot-diameter balloon was constructed of high-quality paper treated with varnish, and was painted in blue and white camouflage. The Japanese ideograms stated date of manufacture and inspection, and the balloon was armed with a six-inch bomb containing “aluminum and some oxide.” A 70-foot fuse, designed to set off the bomb and then consume the balloon, had ignited but sputtered out without causing any damage.

Bannister listed the flying device as a “free balloon,” designed to make only one flight, and said it was not a weather balloon. Free balloons are known to travel as fast as 200 miles an hour in swift, high air currents. In December of 1944 the prevailing winds were from the west and northwest, but Bannister did not comment on the point of the balloon’s release nor its purpose.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Hermiston man reaps 5,000-year-old wheat crop

A Hermiston resident in November of 1954 reaped a harvest 5,000 years in the making. Wheat seeds found in a prehistoric homesite in Utah in were planted in the back yard of E.A. Oman, a Hermiston contractor, and produced a stand of wheat an ancient farmer would be proud of.

Oman received the seeds from a friend, Clarence Pillings of Price, Utah, in 1952. The original 173 kernels were found preserved in sand and in clay vases in the cave of an ancient cliff dweller in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains near 9-Mile, Utah, a few miles west of Green River. Oman in 1954 was harvesting his second crop from the ancient seed, a four-foot stand that ripened in about 90 days, he said. The kernels were about 3 times the size of ordinary irrigated wheat kernels, with heads measuring up to 9 inches in length.

Also found in the cave were 8 or 10 clay plaques or figurines representing humans, ranging in height from 6 inches to about one foot, laid shoulder to shoulder on a marble slab. Each figure wore a ritualistic green headdress and a set of delicate beads around its neck. Oman hoped to persuade Pillings to allow the figurines to be exhibited at the 1955 Umatilla County Fair.

An archaeologist from the University of Colorado at Boulder estimated the age of the contents of the cave at “several thousand years” before the time of Christ. A representative from a  Boston museum disagreed, saying he thought the seed had been placed in the vases about 500 B.C.

The 1954 crop, planted from the previous year’s seed, produced the equivalent yield of 80-90 bushels to the acre, Oman guessed. He recommended the ancient wheat to Pakistanis, who on a tour found U.S. wheat “too doughy” for their taste.

Oman planned to make bread from the year’s crop.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Rally stick retired after successful fall sports season

In the fall of 1991, the Pendleton High Rally Club retired the school’s spirit stick after the Buckaroos beat the Hermiston Bulldogs 39-8 at the Homecoming football game. Winston Hill, a PHS senior and member of the rally squad, said the stick was such good luck that the club had decided to retire it and make another for the winter and spring sports seasons.

The stick, an ax handle painted green and gold, first made its appearance during the 1991 volleyball season. Winston recalled that “about 20 guys” from Hermiston said they wanted the stick. Winston told them if the Bulldogs beat the Bucks at football they could have it — but what could they give in exchange? The Hermiston boosters made a rally stick of their own, painted — of course — purple and gold.

Following the close of the Homecoming game, Hermiston High’s student activities coordinator, Darin Creason, met Winston on the field. They shook hands and Darin gave up the Hermiston rally stick. The Bucks’ bounty was enshrined in the Pendleton High School trophy case.

Creason said the Hermiston supporters had plans to win their rally stick back during basketball, swimming or wrestling season. At a good match, he said, they might even capture both sticks. Creason said the new tradition would help maintain “good ties” between the two schools.

Winston agreed. “It sort of made a friendly competition out of the whole deal ... gave you something to look forward to.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Reformed parrot dies at 125

If you’ve ever considered getting a parrot as a pet, think about this: Parrots are a life-long commitment, sometimes outliving their owners, and keeping a parrot is a lot of work. They are also very social, and enjoy interacting with people. The combination can make for a long and interesting life.

Case in point: Polly, the resident parrot of the Caribou Hotel in Carcross, Yukon Territory, Canada. The Associated Press ran a story about the famous bird, who died at the estimated age of 125 in November of 1972. His age was estimated because no one alive at the time had been around when Polly was born; it was said he was already “a bit grey around the beak” during the Gold Rush of 1898.

Originally owned by a barber from Vancouver, according to one story, Polly came with his owner to the Yukon during the gold rush years. He was next under the care of Captain James Alexander, who ran the Engineer Mine on the shore of Tagish Lake in British Columbia, in the early 1900s. But in 1918, the bird was orphaned when Alexander and his wife died in the shipwreck of the Princess Sophia while navigating the Lynn Canal. Polly was taken in at the Caribou Hotel and quickly became its most distinctive resident.

Polly was unfortunately influenced by the wrong crowd at his new home. He had a reputation for being the hardest-drinking, most profusely profane parrot north of the 60th parallel, though hotel owner Dorothy Hopcott said he always knew when to just glide off his perch and pass out in the bottom of his cage. More than 60 years of hanging around with bar patrons left him with other bad habits, including biting and spitting. And he never developed a taste for crackers, his favorite response to the question being “Go to Hell.”

Later in life, Hopcott said Polly chucked the bottle for religion, guided by a hotel patron who taught him several verses of “Onward Christian Soldiers.” His bluer streaks of profanity ceased and he also stopped singing salty sea chanties. He snubbed the adults who reminded him of his past but loved to talk to children, usually in an incomprehensible, but apparently well-mannered, mumbo jumbo.

Polly was buried on the outskirts of the Pioneer Carcross Cemetery, complete with bronze grave marker, and a wake held in the Caribou was attended by people from across the Yukon Territory. The hotel’s owners received condolences (and offers of replacement parrots) from around the world.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Rooftop puddle becomes fish pond

A prank to kick off Homecoming week and Halloween festivities at Pendleton High School in November 1981 was decidedly fishy. A puddle of water on a cover over the sidewalk stretching from the high school’s main building to the auditorium was turned into a fish pond by a group of PHS students, complete with a school of 50 goldfish. The walkway cover featured a flat roof with a turned-up edge that held a couple of inches of water after a good rain.

Four senior girls were rumored to be behind the escapade, though none of them would confess. A practical joke the year before, in which several students dismantled a sports car in the school’s library, netted the pranksters two weeks of floor-mopping duty, so the perpetrators were pleading the Fifth Amendment.

School publicist Michelle Frodenberg and friends Vita Merrick and Melissa Hoeft painted a “No Fishing” sign that was hung in the window overlooking the pond. The goldfish were surviving quite nicely on handouts of bread from passing students and dodging several red and white fishing bobbers floating near the edge of the pond. Senior Gary Green remarked, “They’ll be OK ‘til summer” as long as the pond didn’t dry up or freeze solid.

Principal Joe Canon said no calls to the Oregon Fish & Wildlife Department were planned.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween games in early Pendleton

Halloween is one of those holidays just about everyone loves. Mobs of kids in imaginative and/or scary costumes roam the streets in search of candy, usually with parents in tow. Nowadays kids are more likely to attend a community Halloween party such as the ones sponsored by the cities of Hermiston and Pendleton in Umatilla County, complete with bounce houses, face painting, carnival-style games and (of course) lots of candy and treats. It’s a safer (and warmer) way for kids to celebrate the holiday, and much less worrisome for their parents.

In searching for how Halloween used to be celebrated in Pendleton’s early history, I came across a story from the Oct. 30, 1905 East Oregonian. It seems there were still superstitions about being out and about on the “picnic night” of All Hallow’s Eve, or Hallowe’en, when all the ghosts were said to roam free, and people stayed indoors and played party games instead. The article said nothing about trick-or-treating, and the party games described were for young adults, not little children.

The first Halloween tradition sounds a bit like a fraternity hazing ritual: The loving bowl consisted of a large punch bowl full of milk into which was put baked apples, boiled potatoes, peeled oranges and other fruits. Each party-goer was required to dip into the milk and bring out a “prize,” with the winner being the person who found the biggest apple or orange. The article didn’t say whether the players were required to eat their prizes.

In the second game, a candle was lit and placed on a table. A person was blindfolded and turned around three times, then instructed to walk three steps and blow out the candle. If he or she was successful, it was a sign that the player would be fortunate in matters of romance in the coming year, and in addition would be rewarded with a loving spouse before another Halloween rolled around.

A third game was called cross meetings. Three young men and three young women, all single, were blindfolded and then led to separate places in the house. At a given signal, the six players tried to find each other, stumbling and groping their way through the house. When two of them met, they embraced and were considered paired for the rest of the evening. “Of course,” the article said, “a master of ceremonies or a mistress of ceremonies accompanies each one of the blindfolded victims, to be sure that no accidents happen, and also to prevent fate from causing two men to fall into each other’s arms, or two young women to embrace each other when they should be, as are all well regulated young women, on the lookout for a man rather than a woman.” This was, after all, 1905.

The last game in the article is the fagot party (a fagot being a stick of firewood). As the party was winding down and everyone was settled in comfortably to chat, the master or mistress of ceremonies would suddenly throw a fagot on the fire and then call out the name of one of the party-goers. That person had to tell a story as long as that stick of wood was burning.  When it fell to ashes, another stick was thrown on the fire and another party-goer had to tell a story, and so on. I would imagine a lot of ghost stories were told at Hallowe’en fagot parties.

Most of these games have morphed into something similar in modern times — bobbing for apples, blind man’s bluff and others — and have been adapted for young children’s parties.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

'Laughing situation' turns into fight for life

What started out as a lark at Cold Springs Reservoir near Hermiston on October 21, 1972, turned into a desperate two-hour struggle for life when a 13-year-old Hermiston boy became trapped in quicksand.

David McCune and two friends, Junior Demery, 14, and Duck Stubbs, 12, were camping at the reservoir and playing at being stuck in the mud. McCune said the day went instantly from a laughing situation to panic and tears when he discovered he was stuck and sinking in quicksand, and there was no apparent means of escape. Demery and Stubbs returned to their campsite for a rope, which they put around McCune’s chest and started pulling. But the rope broke, and by that time McCune had sunk to his chest in mud and a foot of icy water. He figured he “might be a goner.”

One of the boys went for help. Al Hartley, an Oregon City truck driver, was camping at the reservoir with his family. Hartley found Arnold Weber and H.T. Burns, both Hermiston farmers, and loaded his pickup with material to rescue McCune. Two Hermiston pheasant hunters, Steve Broyles and Eugene Hale, of the Navy Bombing Range at Boardman, also joined the rescue effort.

Hartley dug down around McCune’s legs, desperately trying to free the boy from the mud. Using belts around McCune’s legs and chest, the men pulled and tugged and finally yanked him free.

After two hours stuck in the quicksand, McCune was so cold, exhausted and frightened he couldn’t walk. He was taken to Arnold Weber’s home, where he soaked in a warm bath. McCune returned to school Tuesday with no ill effects.

McCune’s pals returned to Cold Springs Sunday night for another campout and invited him along. His reply: "No, thanks."

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fire tanker shot after rollover wreck

A water tanker owned by the Echo Fire Department responding to a series of fires along the railroad tracks west of Pendleton rolled down an embankment and was shot before being towed away by employees of Woodpecker Truck in October of 2001.

The tanker rolled off Yoakum Road near Rieth Road when a volunteer driver apparently turned too hard on a gentle uphill curve and hit the shoulder, which gave way. The truck was totaled but the driver, who was using safety restraints, was uninjured.

A crew from Woodpecker Truck arrived to tow the rig back up the hill, but the tanker, which held 5,000 gallons of water, was too heavy even for two heavy-duty tow trucks, and the vehicle also came to rest on its side, burying the valves used to empty the tank. So the Woodpecker crew improvised — with a handgun. After the tanker was emptied, it took two hours to pull the truck off the hill.

Fire district officials said the tanker, an early ’80s model, would likely have its initial purchase cost covered by insurance, but were unsure how long it would take to replace. Echo Rural Fire Protection District Chief Merle Gehrke said the fire district purchased the truck from a Portland truck company for $10,500, but spent thousands of dollars converting the former gasoline tanker for its new role as a water tanker. It had been in service less than a year when the accident happened. “Whether we can find a replacement for that amount, I don’t know,” said fire district treasurer Kaye McAtee. “We were lucky on that one.” Winter weather and fewer fires would give the fire department time to look for a new tanker.

It was a interesting situation for Woodpecker Truck, too. Supervisor John Rehberg said, “Once in a while fire departments might have a tanker break down and we have to tow it in, but nothing like this.”

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Hunting dog excels despite tragic injury

In the summer of 1985, 15-year-old Greg McCallum of Pendleton was training his new yellow Labrador retriever for bird hunting. Then tragedy struck.

“Molly” was hit by a car in Pendleton, and Greg was sure the dog would have to be put to sleep. But the veterinarian looking after Molly was sure the dog would pull through, impressed with her will to live after her left front leg was amputated.

“I didn’t think she’d ever be able to hunt but she was doing so well I decided to keep her,” Greg said in October of 1985, as Molly was running through her paces at the Southeast Washington Retriever Club field trial at the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge near Irrigon. After the accident Molly was unsure of herself and had very little stamina, but bounced back quickly and the casual observer could hardly tell the rambunctious pup had only three legs.

During the field trial Molly had a little trouble with the first test involving pigeons, but caught on fast. Greg beamed after his dog paddled right to a downed duck, marked and retrieved it from a pond. The Pendleton sophomore knew he had a great hunting dog in the making.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Interrupted study thwarts jailbreak

A county clerk trying to find some peace and quiet in order to do a little studying thwarted a jailbreak on October 4, 1922, in Pendleton. The attempted escape made a strong case for the construction of a new jail building in Umatilla County.

C.C. Proebstel, deputy county clerk, returned to his office after working hours that evening in order to do a little reading in the peace and quiet of the empty courthouse. An unusual noise disturbed his study, but he paid little attention to it at first. After the noise had gone on for a while, Proebstel came to the conclusion that someone must be using a saw in the jail. He went to the sheriff’s office to report his suspicion, but no one at the office was able to go to the jail to investigate.

Proebstel returned to his studies, but the suspicious noise weighed on his mind and he returned to the sheriff’s office several times until he was able to find a deputy that could look into the matter. When Deputy Sheriff Dave Lavender arrived to inspect the jail, he found Fred Blake coming down a ladder on which he had been standing to saw through boards in the ceiling of the jail (which was the floor of the courtroom above). Blake was using a case knife that had been notched for use as a saw.

Blake had been arrested as one of four men that held up and robbed men in the Huron road camp the previous spring. The sheriff’s office theorized that someone outside the jail had supplied Blake with his improvised saw and that it had been notched before it was given to him. Blake had made considerable headway, sawing through three boards before his efforts were discovered. If Proebstel had not been irritated by the sound of the saw, Blake may very well have won his way to freedom.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wily carp turn tables on young fisherman

You just can’t trust those Umatilla County carp.

A young fisherman plying the waters of McKay Reservoir outside of Pendleton was robbed, not once but twice, when he left his gear on the bank during a fishing trip in July 1938.

Craig Orange of Pilot Rock was fishing during an Izaak Walton excursion just before the 4th of July and left his pole on the bank with a baited hook in the water. A large carp grabbed the hook and dragged the boy’s entire setup into the water. Swimming furiously, the carp dragged the pole in a huge circuit around the reservoir, and when the fish dived the pole momentarily stood on end “in amusing periscope fashion.”

When the fish finished its circuit around the lake and swam past where the boy and his father, M.D. Orange, were standing Craig stripped off his clothes, dived in and dragged pole and fish out of the water.

But that wasn’t the end of the fishy tale. Another fish grabbed Craig’s pole when he again left it untended on the bank and dragged it even more vigorously out into the middle of the reservoir. This time, however, the pole disappeared for good.

Craig’s parting comment: “Heck, he was so big I probably couldn’t have held him anyway.”

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Grave-robbing leads to fears of satanic cult

Workers in a wheat field on Sept. 22, 1992, found a recently disturbed grave at the edge of the abandoned Bowlus Cemetery, less than three miles from Milton-Freewater. Police investigating the report discovered that the shallow grave of Robert Z. Williams, who died in 1929, had been disturbed and Mr. Williams’ skull removed from the grave. Officers believed it was the work of a satanic cult.

According to Capt. John Trumbo, who was Umatilla County undersheriff at the time, evidence of satanic activity had been found in several areas of northern Umatilla County in recent years, and Umatilla County Cpl. Keith Garoutte had identified cult drawings and artifacts and confiscated county property from a site used in satanic ceremonies. Garoutte knew of an active group of Satan worshippers in the Walla Walla area and had heard reports of another in the Weston area. He said rumors of cult activity in the Milton-Freewater area were common, and he knew of activity in both Hermiston and Umatilla.

Anyone can check a book out of the library, Garoutte said, and use what they wish in their own religious ceremony. And self-styled satanists can make it tough to identify a crime as part of satanic religion. Reports of mutilated animals in the 1980s led some to fear a satanic cult was at work in the area; however, since animals that die of natural causes are often mutilated by predators, it is impossible to determine whether the animals were, in fact, part of a ritualistic sacrifice.

Whether the stolen skull was the work of a satanic cult or just some kids messing around in a gruesome fashion was anyone’s guess.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Before it was a pageant, Happy Canyon was a place

The Happy Canyon Indian Pageant and Wild West Show is an integral part of the Pendleton Round-Up. Thousands attend the nightly shows during Round-Up week at the Happy Canyon Arena, tucked behind the Pendleton Convention Center and the Round-Up Grounds. Hundreds of volunteers make it happen, and the roles are frequently handed down through generations of families.

The first iteration of the pageant was written and directed in 1913 by Roy Raley, a local lawyer and cattleman who thought rodeo fans might want something fun to do after the day’s rodeo was done. It was originally a vaudeville-type show, and was held in a temporary pavilion made to look like a frontier town near Main Street; it featured what is now the second act of the famous pageant. The show moved to its first permanent building in 1916, the year Raley and Anna Minthorn Wannassay wrote the pageant as it is now known. It has remained generally the same for the last 98 years.

But before Happy Canyon was a pageant, or even a vaudeville production, it was a well-loved place on the Umatilla River between Echo and Pendleton. According to an article in the Sept. 14, 1914 East Oregonian: “The real ‘Happy Canyon’ is that part of the Umatilla river lying between Barnhart and the old Jack Morton place a mile below Nolin. For a matter of 44 years it has borne that name, which is a monument to the happy times which a settler of that community had in the days when civilization was young here. A. W. Nye, one of the oldest pioneers of this city, is one of the two or three living persons who can tell the story of those happy times and of the christening of the community. The name was attached to the valley in the winter of 1868, according to his story. The settlers up and down the river between the points before mentioned had a dancing club which met each week at one of the houses. One evening at the conclusion of a dance which had been particularly enjoyed, Mr. Nye’s brother-in-law, Mr. Angel, moved that the valley be christened Happy Canyon and the motion carried with a whoop. Ever since then it has borne the name.”

Another article, in the Sept. 24, 1914 edition, has a slightly different story. Nolin was a social center as well as halfway point for freighters traveling from Umatilla Landing and either Pendleton or Pilot Rock. A race track several hundred yards long paralleled the road, separated by a rail fence that terminated near the base of the cliff that faces the river near Nolin. Settlers and freighters alike vied for cash and bragging rights. One particular day the stakes between two prominent stock raisers were quite high (between $40 and $60) and the excitement had been heightened by the addition of a keg of free liquor near the track. Two men began to argue, and the disagreement was punctuated with gunfire. Quite a crowd had gathered when the argument began, but scattered when the guns were displayed. Some people took cover behind the rail fence but a larger group made “an undignified effort to circle the fence in order to get to the bluff.” According to the article, “When pandemonium reigned supreme some individual who had been enjoying the day from the secure cliff top yelled, ‘Hurrah for Happy Canyon!’ From that time on Happy Canyon was the name it was known by.”

Whichever story holds the true origin of the name, Happy Canyon was indeed a memorable place for early settlers. Raley banked on the good memories to support the early show, and Happy Canyon has been as much a part of Round-Up as the famous rodeo ever since.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Cavemen invade Pendleton for bull-riding showdown

Pendleton’s Main Street Cowboys put on a week-long show on four blocks of Main Street during the Pendleton Round-Up each year. Music, comedy and magic fill stages on every block, with something different happening every hour from 2 p.m. through midnight Wednesday through Saturday. These days the Main Street show during Round-Up is a little tamer than it used to be; some residents can remember when the Cowboys staged a mock gunfight on Main Street as part of the show, complete with men falling out of windows and such. The Cowboys also used to greet celebrities and other important visitors throughout the year — sometimes on horseback with guns (loaded with blanks) blazing — as official representatives of the Round-Up City.

As part of the 1957 Round-Up celebration, Pendleton was invaded by a group of cavemen from Grants Pass intent on a bull-riding showdown with the Cowboys. Bill Foster, president of the Main Street Cowboys, received a telegram from the Oregon Cavemen challenging the Cowboys to a bull-riding duel during Round-Up. “Cavemen very disturbed at Main Street Cowboys’ boasting. We riders of the dinosaurs challenge you to a bull ride, bulls being small compared to dinosaurs, thus making this a very safe bet.” The Cavemen wagered a priceless “sabre-tooth tiger skin” against Pendleton’s best spotted calf hide, claiming five to one odds in their favor.

Once the challenge was accepted, the posturing began. Rushing to the aid of the Cowboys were the La Grande Blue Mountain Boys, who offered their squirrel rifles to back up the Cowboys “if the cave critters git out of hand.” When the Cavemen cried foul, the Cowboys countered that they had heard the Cavemen had enlisted the help of the Lone Ranger and a secret weapon (a trained skunk). An attempt by the Cavemen to enlist the help of the Sixth Army Bagpipers was unsuccessful.

The Cavemen’s dinosaur riding champion, Princess Lulu Smith, was kidnapped by the Cowboys prior to the bull-riding battle, allegedly for her own protection. “Any Westerner ought to know a dinosaur is a lazy, half-dead beast and a bull is a high-spirited animal,” said Foster. Cavewomen captured a Cowboy in retaliation, but he was liberated the following night after a rooftop gun battle. The Cavemen were still searching for Princess Lulu as they participated in the Westward Ho! Parade at the wrap-up of the festivities, bashing heads along the way (presumably with foam clubs).

Without their champion, the bull-riding contest was a bust; the Cavemen did, however, take time from their search to visit local service clubs to exchange greetings and mementos between the two cities.

As for the Lone Ranger? Clayton Moore, the man who played the original Lone Ranger on the TV series, was scheduled to appear during the 1957 Round-Up, including an appearance on Main Street. Thousands of youngsters showed up, only to be disappointed when he slipped out the side door of the Temple Hotel in street clothes. When Moore appeared during the televised portion of the finals on Saturday, he was greeted with more boos than cheers, and later apologized for what he called “a horrible misunderstanding.”

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Morrow County honors returned POW

Morrow County gathered in April 1973 to welcome home one of its own. Michael “Butch” Benge, a graduate of Ione High School, was taken prisoner during the Tet offensive in 1968 in Vietnam. Following five years as a civilian POW, Benge was freed by his captors and flew home for a brief visit with his family.

Benge joined the International Volunteer Services in Vietnam in 1962 and then the Agency for International Development in 1965 as an area development advisor. He was adopted as a blood brother by the Montnegards, with whom he was working in the central highlands in Vietnam. Captured by the Viet Cong on Jan. 31, 1968, Benge was held in various places in South Vietnam for two years before being taken to North Vietnam.

“Welcome Home” signs on the walls of the Morrow County fair pavilion greeted Benge as he and his family joined 450 Morrow County residents at a potluck welcome reception April 16, 1973, in Heppner. Mayors Robert Drake of Ione, Gene Orwick of Lexington and Jerry Sweeney of Heppner presented Benge with keys to their respective cities, and other gifts included a tape recorder and typewriter, as Benge planned to write a book about his five-year captivity. He also was invited to attend the Oregon Legislature as an honored guest of State Rep. Jack Sumner of Heppner. Glenn Ward, chairman of the “Michael Benge Day” committee, said the outpouring of support was so great there weren’t enough jobs to give all the volunteers.

When Ward, a friend of the Benge family for 20 years, asked Benge how he was able to keep up with all the activities since his return, Benge replied, “Well, for five years I’ve been doing nothing.”

Benge returned to Washington, D.C., the following Monday, where he was being treated as an outpatient at Bethesda Naval Hospital. Following his release from the hospital, Benge planned to campaign around the U.S. to push for an accounting of other prisoners of war and those missing in action.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Quick action by teens saves diabetic girl

Glenn Hamby is well known in Pendleton as an advocate for kids. The Pendleton police officer has been part of the DARE program in Pendleton schools for many years, and recently grew out his curly locks with other members of the Pendleton police force to donate to kids battling cancer. But Hamby began his advocacy for local kids as a teenager when he and two friends saved the life of a girl on the edge of a diabetic coma in August of 1970.

Bruce Evans, a 10-year-old Pendleton boy, was wrapping up a day at the pool when he realized he couldn’t find his 9-year-old sister Sandra. The girl was diabetic and Bruce knew she could be in trouble if he couldn’t find her. He ran home and told his mother, Mrs. Dan Evans, who immediately called her husband and the police to search the North Hill area for the girl.

In the meantime, Glenn Hamby, 14, and friends Andy Palmer, 14, and Bryan Rainwater, 12, were also walking home from the pool when they saw a girl acting strangely in an empty lot, weaving and staggering. Glenn noticed a bracelet on her arm and recognized it as a medical alert bracelet from his Boy Scout training in first aid. Andy ran to find a phone to call police and Glenn found another phone to call an ambulance while Bryan remained with Sandy. The boys were waiting with her when both Gallaher and Dan Evans drove up at the same time.

Chief Gallaher and Evans put Sandy in the police car and took her to the hospital. She had passed through the diabetic convulsion stage and was sinking into a coma. After a night in the hospital, Sandy returned home and was completely recovered from her reaction.

In all the excitement, the Evanses didn’t get the names of the boys who saved Sandy’s life. Chief Gallaher had recognized Glenn, so the East Oregonian tracked down the other boys by calling his mother, Mrs. Robert Hamby. The boys were reunited with a grateful Evans family to receive their thanks.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pony Express rides again

An invitation for Idaho Governor Charles (C.A.) Robins to attend the Oregon City Centennial celebration passed through Pendleton July 28, 1948, on its way to Boise. But the invitation wasn’t traveling by U.S. Post Office mail, it was carried in a saddlebag on the back of a horse. As part of the 100th anniversary of the founding of Oregon City, invitations were sent to the governors of adjoining states via the Pony Express — or, at least, a recreation of the mail system that ran from Missouri to California between April 3, 1860 and October 1861 prior to the invention of the telegraph. Washington Governor Monrad Wallgren also had an invitation delivered by horse.

Janice Daugherty, queen of the 1948 Umatilla County Fair and a member of the Hermiston Trail Dusters, rode into Pendleton and handed off the saddlebag containing Idaho’s invitation to Patti Folsom, queen of the 1947 Pendleton Round-Up, at exactly 8 a.m. Folsom took off so fast that a message from the city of Hermiston to the city of Pendleton was forgotten in the packet and had to make the trip to Idaho.

Folsom and other members of the Mustangers riding club in Pendleton ran their leg of the journey through Tutuilla and the Umatilla Indian Reservation on the way to Kamela, where they were to meet the La Grande Riders later that day. The journey was scheduled to cover 36 miles, with the packet changing hands every four miles. The Pendleton contingent arrived in Kamela so far ahead of schedule they traveled another six miles, meeting the La Grande group on the way. And they covered the distance in a record 3 hours, 11 minutes, according to old-timers who said “When you make 14 miles an hour, mostly uphill, you’re a-travelin’.”

Kathryn Lazinka, who rode three sections of the route, made the final handoff. Lazinka was one of the most famous Mustangers of the time and was leading for both the men’s and women’s senior championships for the 1948 Mustangers season. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Round-Up serves as backdrop for 1924 movie shoot

A rowdy group of Pendleton people was out in force in August 1924 when Hoot Gibson, star of Universal Pictures and the first all-around champion of the 1912 Pendleton Round-Up, arrived with a crew from the California studio to shoot the outdoor scenes for two movies. One, “The Ridin’ Kid from Powder River,” was staged on Emigrant Hill near Meacham, in the Blue Mountains east of Pendleton. The second movie, “Let ’er Buck,” would use the 15th annual Round-Up as its backdrop.

Accompanying Gibson were the movie’s director, Edward Sedgwick, female lead Marion Nixon, and Josie Sedgwick, who had the “sympathetic lead” role. The company also included Tommy Grimes, who won the steer roping contest in the 1923 Round-Up; Tommy Sutton, winner of the 1923 Northwest bucking contest; and many other notable cowboys and cowgirls. Pendleton locals Herbert Thompson and Mrs. James Sturgis also were chosen by Sedgwick to play small parts in “Ridin’ Kid.” Round-Up president Henry Collins and James Sturgis earned bit parts in “Let ’er Buck,” and many of the scenes for the second film were shot not only at the Round-Up Grounds but in Pendleton’s streets, with locals as extras.

Action scenes for “Let’er Buck” were shot during the rodeo’s daily performances, but the film crew had to follow strict rules. Nothing is allowed to interfere or slow up the competition during Round-Up competition. Nothing but the actual competitions are allowed in the arena, which is kept clear of everything but the competitors. Gibson and his company, in order to film the action of his story, had to take the action of the Round-Up as it really happened, with no specially arranged stunts. Where the story called for footage of Hoot or any of his company in the Round-Up events, they had to participate as actual competitors, and his cameramen had to take the results as they actually happened. But the “gang” was eminently qualified, as all were past rodeo champions.

As an added bonus for the troupe, Josie Sedgwick was chosen to serve as queen of the Round-Up during the 1924 celebration. Edward Sedgwick was made an honorary “Pendletonian” during the crew’s time in the Round-Up City. And Gibson was presented with Mrs. Wiggs, a bucking horse that tossed him in 1913, who was retired after 12 years as part of the Round-Up’s famous bucking string.

In 1912, Gibson drifted into Pendleton with not much more than the clothes on his back, and walked away with the rodeo’s highest honor. When he returned in 1924, he gave back something to the town that helped him get his start, spending a reported $80,000 in cash during the movie shoot. “Pendleton treated me right when I was flat,” said Gibson. “It never forgets the cowboys that helped put the Round-Up over when it was young, and I just wanted to show that the boys never forget Pendleton either.”

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Kid-powered carnival raises money for library

And in the heartwarming, feel-good category, this story of children making the most of summer break for themselves, their friends and a worthy cause:

A group of children in the Sherwood Heights neighborhood in Pendleton proved in August 1964 that not all their leisure time during the summer is spent in idleness and looking for trouble. The children set up a three-day carnival on Southwest Nye Avenue, complete with games, pony rides and prizes, with all proceeds benefiting the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library and CARE.

The idea was the brainchild of Robby Collins and Sally Cook, both 13. They started several days ahead of the carnival canvassing the neighborhood for castoff toys and playthings to use as prizes, repairing them as needed. Once the prizes were in order, they selected the Cook home at 3110 S.W. Nye Ave. as the site for their carnival. It was an ideal location, with a large empty lot for the pony rides and next door to Sherwood Heights School, where many of the neighborhood children played.

The group, which included Sally Hobbs, 13; Sandy Cook, 11; Kim Collins, 8; Sharon Cook, 9; Carol Crump, 11; Michelle Magnuson, 7; Mike Collins, 10; and a pony named Sam, used old packing crates for booths and a blanket tent for the fortune teller.

The popularity of the event was obvious, as Roy Cook’s lawn was covered in bicycles for three days. The promoters took in $5 each of the first two days, and were going to continue on the third until the prizes ran out. Most youngsters came away from the carnival smiling and clutching prizes, a testament to the ingenuity and generosity of their peers.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mammoth find not the first for Eastern Oregon

Ken Smouse of Ione was just hunting for rocks in a creek bed in the spring of 2001 when he came across what looked like a big piece of wood. When he looked closer, he realized he’d found something much more exciting: a fossilized woolly mammoth tusk. A state archaeologist, after looking at the soil strata surrounding the find, estimated the age at between 500,000 and 1 million years old. But the tusk was not the first found in the area. Woolly mammoth remains also have been excavated from sites near Lexington, Heppner, Prineville and on the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

Heppner’s Bob Jepsen found a large molar in a canyon on the ranch of Noel Dobyn in 1976. “I can pretty near always find teeth, bones or other small pieces in pretty near any canyon,” Jepsen said in a July 1, 2001, article in the East Oregonian. “I’m a great one to keep my eyes open.”

Stan Prowant was the geology instructor at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton when Smouse’s find was made. He already had a three-foot tusk portion in his lab from an earlier excavation in Lexington in the winter of 2000. The tusk was awaiting a resin-type plastic coating that would allow Prowant and his students to study the fossil without it falling apart. Smouse’s tusk was encased in cement where it was found until Prowant could remove it without damage.

Woolly mammoths roamed Eastern Oregon during the Pleistocene Epoch, one of the Ice Ages, when the climate here was much colder. One of four types of mammoth (which also included ancestral, Columbian and mastodont), the woolly mammoth was the smallest and fed on low tundra vegetation, up to 200 pounds a day. There are several theories as to why the mammoths died out, but one reason may have been climate change — as the Earth warmed up and the ice melted, the mammoths could no longer find their preferred food.

A fossilized palm leaf sits on the front porch of the Heppner Ranger District office, a 50-million-year-old fossil of a time when Eastern Oregon had a climate more like Hawaii. The fossil was found on Coal Mine Hill, just outside of Cutsforth Park, in the Blue Mountains near Heppner. Steve Carlson, a geology instructor at Portland State University at the time, said it’s only a matter of time before a dinosaur is found in the area, “because there are rocks that go back to the Jurassic age. With erosion, we’ll eventually find one.”

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mountain getaway burns to the ground

Lehman Springs Hotel, a popular getaway in the Blue Mountains near Ukiah, Ore., since 1873, burned to the ground Aug. 8, 1957, along with 13 resort cabins built nearby. Charlie Nagele, general manager of Harris Pine Mills, was flying near the resort about 9:25 a.m. and saw the flames “shooting way up in the air — about 100 feet.” Nagele said the fire couldn’t have started more than 15 or 20 minutes prior to his arrival. There were no reported injuries, and the cause of the fire was unknown.

Approximately 20 firefighters from the Ukiah national forest station, Ukiah ranger station and Harris Pine Mills’ crews were rushed to the scene and were able to contain the fire by 11 a.m., saving the surrounding valuable timber from the flames. But the lodge and cabins were a total loss. Also lost in the fire were numerous early-day photos that showed the resort in its heyday. The photos had lined the walls of the lodge, recalling memories of another era.

The sulphur-rich hot springs that give the resort its name were discovered by Dr. John Teel, a pioneer doctor, in the early 1870s and named for John Lehman, a pioneer settler of the area. In pioneer times Lehman Springs and nearby Hidaway Springs served summer campers and vacationers from Umatilla County, and hundreds of people annually made the long trip from Pendleton by horse and wagon or stage line. Lehman Springs also served as headquarters for local hunters for more than 70 years.

Lehman Springs has led a troubled life since its heyday, however. The lodge, with 15 rooms, a large lobby, kitchen and dining room, and property were purchased in 1925 by Fancho Stubblefield; his family sold the resort in 1943, then repurchased it again a few years later. Lehman Springs was purchased in May 1956 by Mr. and Mrs. Bill Phillips from Jack Vanderlaar, who had taken over from Stubblefield and made many improvements to the property. The Stubblefield family regained it again in the 1970s, then offered it for sale in 1975 due to lack of funds. A restoration effort was launched in 1982. The resort was bought in 1988 by John Patrick Lucas and subsequently closed in mid-2009 for wastewater violations and sanitation issues. Fancho Stubblefield’s grandson, Fancho “Fee” Stubblefield, regained the deed to the property in 2012 and has since been trying to correct the problems. The resort still sits empty.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Thousands pay homage to Liberty Bell during pilgrimage

In 1915, the Liberty Bell was making a pilgrimage across the United States, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to San Francisco, California, by train. It stopped in Pendleton on July 12 as part of the tour.

The special train arrived in Pendleton at 6:30 p.m., and by then between 6,000 and 8,000 people had converged on the O.-W.R. & N. railroad yard along what is now Frazer Avenue in Pendleton. Bells rang all over the city and a band played patriotic tunes when the train finally arrived, an hour later than promised. Members of the common and select councils of Philadelphia who were shepherding their charge across the U.S. were on hand to give out cards, booklets, badges and other souvenirs to the crowd, and four large policemen stood guard on the bell itself.

Forty-three Pendleton men were deputized to serve as special police during the stop, to ensure the crowd kept moving “in orderly procession.” Hundreds scaled to the top of box cars parked in the rail yard for an unobstructed view of the relic of Revolutionary times. While the special train was scheduled for only a 15-minute stop in Pendleton, it stayed for almost an hour and a half, and everyone who gathered was able to see the bell up close — some from both sides, and those who lingered until the end were able to inspect it from underneath. The bell’s inscription, “Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the LAND unto all the Inhabitants thereof,” was clearly readable and the famous crack was visible even from a distance.

The delay of the bell’s arrival in Pendleton was partly due to a stop on the Umatilla Indian Reservation. The train stopped at Cayuse, where a celebration was going on, and the Philadelphia contingent filmed a war dance put on in their honor. The train also stopped in Mission so children at the agency school could view the bell.

Officials accompanying the bell said declared the Pendleton crowd one of the largest to greet them from a small city. Residents from all corners of the county, and almost the entire population of Pendleton, turned out for the historic event.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

War sets Umatilla County residents on edge

Tensions were running high in the summer of 1917. World War One was raging and suspicions were running rampant that the United States was in danger of sabotage from Germany and its allies. The U.S. government encouraged every citizen to support the war effort by buying Liberty bonds, to the tune of $2 billion, or $7 for each man, woman and child; if the money couldn’t be raised, the threat was that the war would cross the Atlantic and we would be fighting on our home turf. Shirkers were jailed in some towns. Men were joining the armed forces in droves and everything from food to coal was rationed.

Umatilla County was not exempt from the paranoia. Several story lines in June 1917 underlined the fear that the U.S. was in danger from enemy agents:

•National Guardsmen from Company M were stationed at railroad tunnels and bridges in case enemy agents tried to blow them up. In early June guardsmen at the O.W.R. & N.’s tunnel at Campbell Station were shot at by unknown assailants. The shooter jumped on a passing train and escaped. Other shooting incidents within the same week had the guardsmen on high alert. A special agent for the railroad investigating the situation said the same man had been spotted trying to cause trouble in other areas.

•A former Pendleton resident who returned for a visit brought the story of a mine fire at Butte, Montana, where more than 200 men lost their lives after a high-voltage line ignited tar 2,400 feet underground. Subsequent news coverage fingered a German and an Austrian, both workers in the mine, as suspects in the blaze.

•Fearing the loss of its extensive grain fields, many farmers in the Inland Northwest were taking a closer look at their hired help as stories began to circulate about agents from the Industrial Workers of the World infiltrating farm crews with an eye to burning the fields just as harvest was about to start. Fifty special secret deputies were stationed in the area to guard against potential sabotage.

The I.W.W., an industrial socialist group, was accused of conspiring to hinder and discourage enlistment in the U.S. armed forces during WWI and generally to obstruct the progress of the war with Germany. Its leaders were convicted in Chicago in 1919 of more than 17,000 crimes.

•An irrigation dam in the mountains 22 miles west of Baker burst the morning of June 28, and a raging torrent inundated the town of Rock Creek, just west of Haines, wiping out the entire town. While the townspeople were able to escape the flood, fields and animals were destroyed and the remaining crops were destined for drought conditions. Early speculation was that someone had blown up the dam.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

HHS alumni recall nutty tradition

In the early 1920s, Hermiston students attended an old sandstone schoolhouse located next to the current Armand Larive Middle School, with all grades in the same building. Four members of the Hermiston High School Class of 1926 gathered in May of 1976 to reminisce about their high school days. Jim Reid of Seattle, whose engineering firm designed the original “Watch Hermiston Grow” water tower, returned to his old stomping grounds and met with Hermiston residents Orrel Lewis, Edith Cable and Robert Woodward for their first-ever reunion. 

Reid’s favorite memory was of a tradition usually held during the spring when children would bring unshelled peanuts to school and hide them in their desks. At a signal from one of the students, the class would begin pelting the teacher with the nuts. Each class had its own shelling, and everyone, including the teachers, considered the surprise attacks “quite normal.”

“I think it dissipated a lot of the resentment kids built up for the teachers during a year,” Reid said with a laugh.

But the shellings came to an abrupt end when a new athletic coach and science teacher came to the school — a former Army sergeant. The man antagonized a number of the boys when he replaced recess with regimented calisthenics. So in place of the usual peanuts, his students that year loaded up with unshelled black walnuts. Instead of a harmless prank, the yearly tradition became a painful assault. Several boys were suspended and the great tradition came to a halt.

A personal note: I attended Linfield College, which had its own annual spring tradition in the campus’ main dining hall until the mid-1980s. It usually started with the fraternities, whose members congregated at table at the back of the hall. Once a year, what started out as a few tossed items escalated into a carefully planned full-scale food fight, complete with upended tables and trays used as shields. In minutes the entire dining hall would be involved, and the mess, I’ve heard, was astonishing. Unfortunately, those involved usually made themselves scarce when it came time to clean up.

The year I started at Linfield, a new food service company had taken over the dining hall and laid down the law in no uncertain terms: Anyone involved in a food fight would be banned from the dining hall for the remainder of their stay at the college. Another time-honored tradition nipped in the bud.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Masked robbers hit passenger train in Blue Mountains

Eastern Oregon was all a-twitter in July of 1914 when a gang of thieves held up the passengers and crew of the No. 5 passenger train between Kamela and Meacham. One of the robbers was killed and a deputy sheriff was wounded during the holdup, but no other injuries were reported and the loot was returned to the penny.

Three men boarded the train at Kamela around 1 a.m. July 2 and first rounded up the train crew, leaving them under guard by one of their number before the remaining robbers looted the express car. The men then proceeded to wake up the slumbering passengers, demanding money and valuables. Deputy Sheriff George McDuffee of Heppner was on the train, returning from testifying in a case in Canyon City. When he realized that a robbery was taking place, he waited until the two masked men passed him by and then leapt up and started shooting, hitting the leader and killing him. Another of the robbers returned fire, and McDuffee would have been killed had not a brass pencil case in his chest pocket deflected the bullet. As it was, the bullet grazed him and he ended up in the hospital for a week.

The second robber jumped out of the train and summoned his remaining accomplice, and the two took off for the timber. No. 5 continued on to Pendleton, where a pair of deputy sheriffs and Chief of Police John Kearney returned to the scene of the crime to begin a manhunt that eventually involved bloodhounds from the Walla Walla Penitentiary, special agents from the railroad and law enforcement officers from Pendleton to La Grande. A $1,000 reward was posted for each of the escaped fugitives.

The identity of the dead bandit was much in contention for days after the robbery. Originally he was identified as Hugh Whitney, a notorious bandit who had plagued Idaho, Montana and Wyoming for years with his brother. A Wyoming man eventually identified the dead man as Charley Manning, his brother-in-law and a friend of Whitney.

The two escaped robbers were caught at Hilgard three days later and brought to Pendleton, where they were lodged in the jail. Clarence Stoner and Albert Meadors willingly confessed to the entire robbery, and led law enforcement to several caches in the Blue Mountains where the loot from the robbery was stashed. Every item that was stolen during the hold-up was returned to its owner. During questioning Stoner claimed that they only joined with Manning for the robbery on the condition that no one would get shot.

It turns out the bandits thought they were holding up the fast mail train and not the passenger train; they were unaware that the westbound fast mail was only known as No. 5 until it reached Huntington, where it changed to the No. 9 train. The total take during the robbery was only about $1,500, and most of that was in vouchers and drafts that the robbers could not have redeemed themselves. The rest was jewelry and around $50 cash.

Passengers from the train inundated the sheriff’s office with claims for money they were relieved of during the robbery, but the claims far exceeded the actual cash recovered. There was also a squabble among the La Grande trackers who brought in the surviving bandits for the reward money.

Manning’s body was returned to his family in Wyoming; he left behind a wife and four children. Stoner and Meadors were held at the county jail until the grand jury convened in September, when they were sentenced to 13 years in the state penitentiary in Salem. “We have been treated mighty square ever since we were arrested both by the officers and newspapers and I want to say we appreciate it,” said Stoner as they departed on the No. 17 train in the custody of Sheriff Til Taylor.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pennsylvania man claims world's longest surname

A June 24, 1964 Associated Press story introduced a man who claimed to have the longest last name in the United States — 666 letters, plus 26 given names. Hubert B. Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff, 47, a Philadelphia resident of German descent, used only the first 35 letters of his last name in signing documents. The computer of the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co., which handled Hubert’s life insurance policy, could only handle up to 35 letters. And his Social Security card carried the “shortened” version of his surname as well.

In an interview, Hubert said the Army used a clipped and Anglicized version of his name when he was drafted in 1942, because they wouldn’t go for his full name.

Ready for it?

Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Zeus Wolfe­schlegelsteinhausenberger­dorffvoraltern­waren­gewissenhaft­schaferswessen-schafewaren­wohlgepflege­und­sorgfaltigkeit­beschutzen­von­angreifen­durch­ihrraubgierigfeinde­welyche­voraltern­zwolftausend­jahres­vorandieerscheinen­wander­ersteer­dem­enschderrassumschiff­gebrauchlicht­als­sein­ursprung­von­kraftgestart­sein­lange­fahrt­hinzwischen­sternartigraum­auf­der­suchenach­diestern­welche­gehabt­bewohnbar­planeten­kreise­drehen­sich­und­wohin­der­neurasse­von­verstandigmen­schlichkeit­konnte­fortplanzen­und­sicher­freuen­anlebens­langlich­freude­und­ruhe­mit­nicht­ein­furcht­vor­angreifen­von­anderer­intelligent­geschopfs­von­hinzwischensternartigraum, Senior. Eventually he shortened his name to Hubert Blaine Wolf+585, Sr. He was married with two sons, Hubert etc. etc. Junior and Timothy Wayne etc. etc.

So what does it mean? Hubert gave the following loose translation:

“It tells a story of a wolf-killer, a resident of a stonehouse in a village, whose ancestors were conscientious shepherds whose sheep were well fed and carefully guarded against attack by ferocious enemies and whose ancestors 1,200,000 years before the first earth man, in a space ship made with tungsten and seven iridium motors and using light as a source of power, started a long journey across interstellar space, searching for a star around which was an inhabitable planet where they could establish a new race of intelligent mankind and where they would live long, happy lives and be free from attack by other intelligentsia from the outer space from whence they came.”

Hubert was listed in the “Guinness Book of World Records” from 1975 to 1985 as having the longest personal name; the category disappeared in the late 1980s. Hubert died in 1985.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Animals can be alcoholics, too

Think we humans have cornered the market on addictive behaviors? A story from the Chicago Chronicle, reprinted in the Sept. 3, 1902, East Oregonian, shows that animals that have a chance to imbibe can develop drinking problems, too.

The first story was about a St. Bernard from Chicago that had developed a taste for beer, so much so that he shamelessly begged and bullied visitors to his master’s stable for nickels when he thought it had been too long between drinks. In securing his money, the dog would take it to his favorite drinking establishment, put his paws and payment on the bar and receive a small tub of beer. If the client he decided would provide the money for his next drink refused to cough up, the dog proceeded from begging to barking, growling and head-butting the unfortunate person until he got his nickel. And he was smart enough to know the difference between a penny and a nickel, though he didn’t apparently make the connection between a dime and two tubs of brew. But with a large number of patrons from whom to secure his fix, he didn’t really need higher math skills.

The second animal drunk was a horse in the suburbs of New York that  was owned by a contractor. When the horse was temporarily lamed it was allowed to wander around the stable yard while it healed. Next door to the stable was a drinking establishment, and one day the horse stuck its head in the window to see what was happening. The barkeeper at that moment had a tub of drippings from a keg that he was about to throw away, but instead shoved it under the horse’s nose and watched the beer disappear. From that day on, the horse would present itself three times a day at the window for his allotment, and the horse’s master settled the bill once a week.

The last animal with a taste for beer was a white and gray rabbit living in an “otherwise respectable” home. The matron of the family, who had complained of weakness, was instructed by her doctor to drink a bottle of beer each night before going to bed. One evening the rabbit jumped into her lap while she was taking her tonic and was allowed to try a few drops. When the rabbit showed an unquestionable liking for the beer, it was given more and soon was entertaining the family by running around the house in a “most eccentric and ludicrous manner clearly and hilariously intoxicated.” The rabbit continued to get its share every night, and thrived on the addition to its regular meals. When the woman regained her strength and suspended the nightly practice, the rabbit also gave up its nightly drink, though apparently quite reluctantly.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Women repair road, heckle men who won’t

In an April 21, 1967, Associated Press story, a group of angry women took the old adage “If you want something done right, do it yourself” to heart when a road through rural Digness, West Virginia, fell into sad disrepair and none of the “menfolk” seemed interested in fixing it.

The road winding along Twelve Pole Creek serviced 400-500 families, and had not been touched since it was paved in 1963. A team of women ranging in age from teens to sixties took up sledgehammers, shovels and wheelbarrows to fill potholes along the road, in some places so tattered that cars could move no faster than 10 miles an hour. In a week the women had repaired almost a mile of the asphalt roadway, but were looking at dozens of miles of back-breaking labor before they were finished.

But they were not only working to repair the road. They were also protesting the men who, the women said, were too lazy to do the work. At issue was the state welfare program offering $1 per hour to unemployed fathers to work on public projects, with some 700 local men receiving aid. “You can see them sitting up there on their porches, not doing anything and drawing that welfare pay. It’s getting to their morality,” one lady worker declared.

The women, who worked four hours a day in a team of 20, heckled men walking and driving along the road while they shoveled dirt, filled holes and wielded 12-pound sledgehammers to crush rock into gravel. But their attempts at shaming didn’t seem to make much difference. Some of the men interviewed contended they were working on other projects. And many of them also said the women should stay home and “mind the kitchen.”

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Coffee cup collection gives nostalgic twist to reopened cafe

What’s one thing truckers are known for? Drinking coffee. Gallons and gallons of coffee. They’re also quite loyal to the truck stops and cafes they patronize along their routes. One such cafe in Umatilla boasted what they thought was the largest collection of personalized coffee cups in the area, all displayed on shelves throughout the dining room.

The Coffee Cup Cafe was located on Highway 730, just west of Umatilla, at the time the May 6, 1981 story appeared in the East Oregonian. It had recently been reopened by Ellen Smith after sitting shuttered for three years when the old Husky truck stop cafe closed its doors. The coffee cups — more than 2,000 of them — had been boxed up and stored, but were slowly regaining their place of distinction.

“Miss Ellie” Armour, who worked as a cook at the old truck stop before it closed, said she had been visiting the cafe off and on for about 30 years and remembered truckers paying a dollar to have their names and the outfit they drove for put on a cup, which was shelved in a numbered spot. When the trucker would return to the cafe, he would give his number and a waitress would retrieve his cup. Some cups were stored upside down, in respect for a trucker “who will jam gears no more.”

Smith, former assistant manager of the King City Truck Stop outside of Pasco, Wash., said she thought opening her own truck stop would be “exciting and a challenge.” She hoped to bring the cafe back to its original truck stop glory, featuring home-cooked food and a place where truckers could stop in for a personalized cup of joe and old-fashioned hospitality.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Magazine solicitors too clever for own good

Magazine subscription salesmen are everywhere. Every summer, it seems, they’re knocking at our doors with tales of trips to be financed and school to be paid for. And if you think these gangs of 20-somethings canvassing our neighborhoods are a new thing, you’d be wrong. The May 9, 1930, East Oregonian carried a cautionary tale about reading everything carefully before you sign on the dotted line.

Nineteen men and women hit Pendleton to sell magazine subscriptions that week, with the usual sales pitches touting “working my way through school” and “earning money to pay for a trip to Europe.” The solicitation crew ran afoul of the law when the team tried to scam an Echo rancher, F.O. Wilson, who was accosted while trying to sell his cream at the Golden West Creamery.

Wilson declined to subscribe to any magazines, saying he only had time to read the daily paper. Then Dorothy Gordon and Pearl Miller asked him for his vote in a contest amongst the crew, and he agreed to sign two pieces of folded yellow paper with his name, mentioning he was from Echo.

The folded papers turned out to be blank check forms from a Walla Walla bank. The girls first attempted to pass the checks at a local bank after they had written in amounts and the name First National Bank of Echo, which they later learned did not exist. The girls then appeared at the Van Fleet Durkee Station with First National Bank of Pendleton check forms which had been crossed out and the Echo State bank written in, with Mr. Wilson’s signature reproduced at the bottom. The attendant of the filling station became suspicious and called the sheriff’s office, who arrested Dorothy Gordon later that day at the Pendleton Woolen Mills.

By that time Pearl Miller and others of the crew, including the manager, had made it to La Grande, where one of the fraudulent checks was cashed. The crew manager was returned to Pendleton after his arrest and returned the money from one of the forged checks. The case was handed to Deputy District Attorney Fred Schmidt for prosecution.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Corrective surgery gives teen new outlook

A La Grande girl who was born with rare facial birth defects got a new lease on life after corrective surgery in 1964, according to an Associated Press story that was printed in the July 21 East Oregonian. Fifteen-year-old Ida Hayes was born with her eyes twice as far apart as normal, a protruding jaw and a malformed nose. For years her parents were told there was no hope for corrective surgery, and Ida learned to live with her deformities, and become accepted and a leader in school and church activities.

But doctors didn’t give up on giving Ida a chance for a normal life. Eventually New York University Hospital agreed to do the surgery and a team of surgeons led by Dr. John Converse, the director of the Institute for Reconstructive Plastic Surgery, provided their expertise for no charge. The citizens of La Grande also emptied their pockets and poured out their support, raising more than $10,000 toward expenses for Ida and her family.

Dr. Converse said it was one of the most extensive cases of eye correction his team had ever undertaken. The procedure involved, among other things, lifting up and repositioning her brain, cutting out part of the center of her face and moving the orbits (the space in the skull where the eyes are positioned) closer together. Bone grafts from her hip were used to fill the spaces.

The surgical team’s biggest fear was the possibility that Ida’s optic nerves would be damaged, but doctors at the University of Oregon Health Sciences Center reported she had 20-30 vision in one eye and 20-40 vision in the other following the surgery — good enough to read and even drive a car.

Ida would have to undergo more surgery in the following years, but doctors reported she was able to use both eyes at the same time, and have depth perception, for the first time in her life.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Restroom rescue no laughing matter

The Camp Fire manual may teach young ladies a lot of things, but escaping from a locked service station restroom is not one of them, as a pair of Camp Fire Girls attending a troop meeting May 11, 1964, in Pilot Rock found out. The girls belonged to the “E-ha-wee” Camp Fire group, which translates to “Laughing Maiden” in an unspecified Native language, but no one was laughing when the girls became trapped in the restroom.

The troop’s leader, Mrs. Jess Carey, was holding the meeting at the service station owned by herself and her husband after being called to fill in at the station at the last minute. The two 9-year-old girls locked the restroom door from the inside but then could not draw the bolt back when they were finished. The enterprising girls wrote a note on a paper towel and slid it under the door, where it was found by another of their troop. It read, “The door is stuck, we can’t get out.”

Mrs. Carey and her son, Darryl, tried a number of different ways to free the girls. First they tried to tell the girls how to move the bolt, but it was stuck fast. They then tried to jar the bolt loose by hitting the door near the bolt. A small hole where another type of lock had once been installed was reopened and lubricant sent through to loosen the bolt, without effect. A small window was tried but it was sealed tight from a number of paintings. A screwdriver was passed through for the pair to try to pry the bolt loose. Nothing worked.
There were thoughts of breaking down the door as a last resort, but finally Mrs. Carey hit upon the idea of breaking the lower window glass and reaching through to slide the bolt herself.

The girls were freed, and joined the meeting only 45 minutes late.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hearse ride sparks shock, horror

In the early 1900s, cars were still relatively new and sometimes troublesome to operate, especially on long trips. They often broke down at the most inopportune of moments. So in May of 1914, when a group of travelers became stranded near Cheney, Wash., on their way home to Spokane, the women and children of the group had to take what transportation was available.

While the group, the William Pitmans and the Frank Chapmans and a daughter apiece, stood looking forlornly at their vehicle, a Spokane undertaker happened by in his automobile hearse. He offered a ride to the women and girls, who gladly hopped aboard, leaving their husbands to tinker with the machine and get it back on the road.

As the hearse rolled along through the countryside and villages, the riders raised the curtains to peek out, much to the chagrin of spectators along the way. When the hearse reached the suburbs of Spokane, bystanders were horror-stricken when the party of four emerged cheerfully from the vehicle and climbed aboard a streetcar to finish their journey home.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Scorned suitor shoots up dance party

True to the "dime store novel" idea of the Wild West, the combination of a woman's rejection and the effects of John Barleycorn resulted in a fracas at a dance that left no injuries except, of course, to the pride of the men involved.

Ernest Ghormley hosted a dance party on February 10, 1914, at his home in Juniper, about 20 miles north of Pendleton. One of the guests was Lou Caper, a farm laborer, who requested a dance from the pretty school teacher. She had danced with him earlier in the evening but, because he had been drinking heavily, she politely declined a second turn on the dance floor.

Infuriated, Caper pulled out a revolver and fired four shots — two hit the wall at about the level of a man's head, a third went through the floor and the fourth went wild. Ghormley immediately took charge of the situation, managed to persuade Caper to give up the gun without further shots fired and encouraged him to leave the house.

Caper left Ghormley's property but was still fuming. Bolstering his courage with more whiskey, Caper joined forces with fellow farm hand Jack Murdock and they procured a rifle and a shotgun from the home of William Doring, for whom Murdock was working. Returning to the Ghormley residence, where the party was still recovering from the earlier excitement, Caper and Murdock brandished their weapons, terrifying the women and intimidating the men, and threatened to "shoot the whole bunch." They then left the house, appropriated horses that were not theirs and rode off at full gallop, periodically turning around to send a shot back at the house to discourage pursuit.

The entire community was thrown into an uproar over the incident, and a warrant for their arrest was sworn out immediately. Caper gave himself up to police Feb. 26 and was fined $50 and costs in justice court after pleading guilty. Murdock did not return to Pendleton and rumor was he had fled to Seattle, where he joined the Marine Corps.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Open-air concert features legendary blues guitarist

Numbers-wise, it was a failure. But Pendleton businessman and concert promoter Joe Taylor considered pulling off an outdoor concert with no hitches a success when he brought the Open Air Music Derby to the Pendleton Round-Up Grounds May 16, 1978.

About 3,000 people enjoyed the nine-hour music festival, a fraction of the 15,000 Taylor was hoping for. Stormy weather put a damper on the day, but the concert-goers that did show up didn’t seem to mind. Those getting up close and personal with the musicians paid $12 a ticket, but the concert was free for those in Roy Raley Park next door to the famed rodeo arena — and not being able to see the bands didn’t seem to affect their enjoyment. School attendance was sketchy, with a drop of up to 50 percent during afternoon classes as far away as Milton-Freewater and Washington state.

Six groups shared the stage that day including Wilbur Pig, whose real name, though no one would believe him, was James Taylor (but not THE James Taylor). Big-name acts appearing were bluesman Elvin Bishop (whose song “Fooled Around and Fell In Love” made it to #3 in 1976), Country Joe & the Fish (made famous by their anti-Vietnam tune “Fixin’ to Die Rag”) and country rockers Amazing Rhythm Aces, who found fame in 1975 with “Third Rate Romance” and “Amazing Grace (Used to Be Her Favorite Song).”

But the big draw, even for the other acts, was legendary bluesman Muddy “Mississippi” Waters, whose “Hootchie-Kootchie Man” was a crowd favorite. Wilbur Pig was awestruck: “To play before Muddy Waters — I’ve never had that kind of exposure before. I’d even play for free.” About 60 people braved wind and rain to meet Waters on his arrival at the Pendleton Airport, and many of the concert’s musicians hung around backstage during the event for a chance to shake the legend’s hand.

So while the concert wasn’t a financial success, the intangibles, for Joe Taylor, more than made up for the low numbers.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Man wins acclaim with musical eccentricity

An Associated Press story in April of 1989 introduced Nick Sinnott, a 40-year-old personnel recruiter at North Pacific Lumber Co. in Portland, Ore., who was able to play “The Star-Spangled Banner” on his teeth — specifically, the No. 8 upper anterior tooth.

Sinnott attended St. Charles Grade School in northeast Portland and, like most boys his age, was interested in sports. But one of his fondest memories was of nights in the kitchen while the family did the dishes. His father, Roger, would sing folk tunes and sometimes play his teeth. He tapped them with a finger while changing the shape of his mouth. And one evening, young Nick found himself playing along, and it became a family pastime. The story said “his second teeth came in with very good tone and pitch.”

In college Sinnott perfected a routine that served him fairly well. He would stand up, sometimes at a microphone, and announce he would play his teeth. He would introduce an element of danger by stating that if his tongue was to get in the way of his eyetooth, he would be unable to see what he was playing. He would then proceed to announce that he would play “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and the “Lone Ranger” theme song (the “William Tell Overture”) in the key of T Flat (T, of course, standing for tooth). He said the routine stood him well during his years as a teacher and football coach at Central Catholic High School.

He drew a standing ovation for a performance dressed as “Rodney Roca” for a candy sale at the school, but Sinnott said the peak of his career occurred the night he gave an impromptu performance for about 200 people at Bunratty Castle in Limerick, Ireland, where he was vacationing. By then, he said, he had developed a technique of somehow flicking his No. 8 Anterior with all five fingers. The crowd, apparently, went insane.

“That’s the one where I thought I really made the big time,” Sinnott recalled. “’Now I’m  European hit,’ I told myself.”

Considering this story was published in the April 1st edition of the East Oregonian, I did a little research on the Internet to see if Mr. Sinnott was the real deal. I did find a Nicholas John Sinnott of the correct age currently living in Tualatin, so we can assume the story is a true one, and congratulate Mr. Sinnott on his 15 minutes of fame.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Heppner's 'little flood' leaves a lasting impact

The devastating Heppner flood of 1903 is a well-known story in Eastern Oregon. The flash flood that struck at 7 p.m. on June 14 wiped out most of the town and killed hundreds of people.

Heppner, sitting in the confluence of several canyons, has been a prime spot for flash floods throughout its history. These days the Willow Creek Dam has alleviated a large portion of the residents’ concerns, but in 1971 Heppner was still struggling to get funding to build it. On May 25 of that year, Mother Nature stepped in and gave things a little boost.

According to the East Oregonian story, the town had about 30 minutes warning before the flood hit, and people and cars were evacuated to higher ground. On Cannon Street, where the flood hit hardest, water poured through homes, and a garage at the end of the street near Willow Creek washed away. Three large bridges crossing Shobe Creek on Cannon Street were washed out. The water continued down Main Street and Chase Street, carrying dead animals and debris, at a depth of two and a half feet. One car was washed about a quarter of a mile from South Main Street, across the swimming pool (where it knocked out a wall), then a block east on Cannon and finally north on Chase Street for about another block, where it wrapped around a fire hydrant. The swimming pool was reckoned a total loss.

Roads around the area were either blocked by silt and debris or washed out completely. The worst damage on Butter Creek Road was a few miles east of the Vey ranch. Chunks of paving from a 150-foot stretch of road “were stacked like a deck of cards,” said Umatilla County Roadmaster Gene Palmer.

City residents expressed frustration; Heppner had just finished cleaning up from the last flood 23 months earlier. Some vowed to move, saying, “We just can’t take it.” Others were able to find a little humor; a woman quipped, “Well, now I don’t feel so bad about not cleaning this room Monday.”

U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield said the flood offered graphic evidence of the need to move ahead with the Willow Creek flood control project, and offered help with federal relief agencies on Heppner’s behalf. Hatfield had asked the Senate Appropriations Committee only a week before to provide $300,000 for the pre-construction phase of the project. (The dam wasn’t completed until the 1980s.)

On July 1, 1971, work on the first of 34 miles of diversion ditches was begun on land owned by Roice Fulleton at the head of Shobe Canyon, partly financed by contributions of citizens who lived in the path of the floods, but mostly funded by a $20,000 grant under Rural Environmental Assistance program, part of the Soil and Water Conservation Service. When completed, 54 sediment retention dams with 200 acres of grass-seeded waterways and filter strips, in addition to the ditches, would slow runoff by as much as 50-80 percent and keep silt and debris from being washed down Shobe and neighboring McDonald canyons.

Personal note: I was four years old in 1971, and my family lived three houses south of the old swimming pool in Heppner on South Main Street, just below Highway 207. My mom sent me running up the terraces in our back yard the day of the flood, following my older brother, while she brought up the rear with my 2-year-old sister and 1-year-old brother in her arms. I turned around as I got to the top of the terraces and saw the water coming around the back of the house just as Mom made it to the stairs. We stayed with friends who lived on South Chase Street, at the top of the hill, until my parents could get our house back in order. When they went to investigate, they found the mud had only made it about two feet inside the front and back doors. But my brother and I had left the cellar door open earlier that day, and all my mom’s home-canned goods were ruined when the cellar filled to the top with mud.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Rescue mission aims to save goose eggs from drowning

In April 1968 the Army Corps of Engineers was preparing to shut the spillway gates of the John Day Dam, forming 79-mile-long Lake Umatilla on the Columbia River, in part to take advantage of the permanent fish-passage facilities of the new dam for the spring chinook salmon run. The only problem was that several hundred Canada goose nests and their eggs were going to be submerged when the water level rose 100 feet in four days.

Biologists with the Oregon and Washington game departments and the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife sprang into action with Operation Mother Goose. Crews of men in helicopters and boats lifted between 1,000 and 1,200 Canada goose eggs from their nests in a four-day rescue mission beginning April 11, 1968. Pickup operations collected eggs from approximately 200 nests on 25 islands that were in danger of being inundated with water by the forming of Lake Umatilla. The eggs were transferred to the Washington State Game Department’s Kennewick Game Farm for artificial incubation. Game officials said the hatched birds would be raised at the game farm until they were old enough to be released in Canada goose nesting areas along the Columbia River.

Biologists expected that by the time the operation got underway, between 25 and 30 percent of the eggs would have already hatched. John D. Findlay, regional director of the sport fisheries bureau, said he hoped the goslings wouldn’t be adversely affected by the rising water and would be left with their parents to occupy the new habitat formed as Lake Umatilla filled.

Findlay also said that strong parental instincts of Canada geese meant that the artificially raised young birds would likely be adopted by mature geese after their release into the wild.

Other denizens of the Columbia River also were expected to be on the move when the waters began to rise. The Corps of Engineers warned sightseers along the Columbia to beware of families of rattlesnakes that would be moving to higher ground as the lake began to fill.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Train travel treacherous in the 1880s

In the 1800s train travel was the main means of accomplishing long-distance trips, but traveling by rail was by no means without its dangers. Many of the train safety measures that we take for granted today were still in their infancy, or non-existent.

On May 5, 1888, a Pendleton woman and her daughter embarked on a trip to Washington, D.C., that was anything but routine. Mrs. Major Brockenbrough and daughter left on a Northern Pacific train for points east, and a few days later the Major received a letter from his wife saying their trip was delayed. A freight train’s smash-up had left their train detained at Heron (Mont.) Siding, and they were possibly stuck for 24 hours while the wreckage was removed from the tracks.

The next day the Major received a second letter. Mrs. Brockenbrough wrote that their train had succeeded in getting around the wreck within twelve hours, but just west of Bozeman, Montana, another train had smashed head-on into theirs. The accident happened early in the morning, throwing the passengers from their sleeping berths and seriously injuring many people. His wife had received a painful and severe cut on her forehead, about an inch and a half long and clear down to the bone, though she claimed it was not serious. Their daughter had escaped injury. A third letter received by the Major told of a landslide that had blocked the train, frustrating their trip yet again.

The East Oregonian reporter who interviewed the Major ended his piece with the hope that the rest of Mrs. Brockenbrough’s trip would be “serene.”

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Chicken-themed event lightens war worries

In June of 1940, Hitler’s Nazi regime was rolling across Europe at a seemingly unstoppable pace. Every day, the East Oregonian’s front page was full of war bulletins and stories of the latest bloody battles in the European Theater. In an attempt to lighten the mood a little, Pendleton merchants planned a city-wide sale promotion called Old-Fashioned Bargain Days.

A full spread of ads in the June 13 newspaper featured chicken-themed savings, with slogans such as “We’re crowing about good old-fashioned bargain days” and “We haven’t been ‘chicken-hearted’ about these mark-downs.”

Planned to coincide with the Elks State Convention, the Friday-Saturday extravaganza included live music with the Elks State Convention Band, Flag Day exercises at the Round-Up Grounds, a big parade through downtown Pendleton and a friendly softball game between two lodge teams.

The biggest promotion was a giveaway set for Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. Two trucks were driven down Main Street and Court Avenue, and as the trucks slowly passed by the people lining the streets, live chickens were thrown to the crowd. Each chicken had a cardboard ticket tied around its neck with the name of the merchant that had donated the bird. The lucky person catching a chicken could take it home, and when they filled out the merchant card and returned it to the donor’s store, they could also win other prizes and discounts. In case of a tie (two people catching the same chicken), the winner was determined by a coin toss.

The promotion provided a little levity during some truly troubling times, and (I’m sure) a much-needed boost to local merchants.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Parents hit the desks in school switch day

EO file photo
Jill and Allen Stiffler attempt to solve an algebra problem sitting at the desk of their daughter Kim Carter at Weston-McEwen High School Feb. 23, 1994. Parents filled in for many students at the invitation of the school.

Parents of Weston-McEwen high school students entered the wayback machine in February of 1994 when they switched places with their kids and went back to school for a day. It was a chance to see what their kids were learning and doing, and most parents were pleasantly surprised.

Librarian Ruth Kostur and teacher Jennifer Riley were the brains behind the switch, which proved to be both instructive and frustrating for adults who scrambled to make it to class on time and stared blankly at math problems scribbled on a white board. The idea, said principal Wayne Kostur, was to get parents more involved in their students’ academic lives.

It wasn’t exactly a fair trade, though — while parents were dealing with sticky lockers and hypotenuse triangles, their teenagers were sleeping in and watching TV.

“It’s great,” said Tim Pupo, who switched with daughter Tammy for the day. “They ought to make it mandatory.” Pupo said his daughter had planned to make the trade mutual, and cover his job at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution in Pendleton, but a basketball injury put a kibosh on those plans.

For most of the 40-something students-for-a-day, school had changed considerably in the ensuing decades. Computers were now a mainstay in the classroom, and science classes were much more challenging. Some things, though, remain the same — math is still hard, and impromptu speeches still aren’t any fun.

The point wasn’t correct answers or perfect attendance, however. “If you had to struggle a little bit,” said teacher Elvin Taylor after his sixth period math class, “then it will help you understand the struggles your kids go through sometimes.” He was talking about trigonometry, but he might as well have been talking about the whole exercise.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tiny heroine saves parents from fire

Former Pendleton residents George Waterman and his wife Ina were living in Spokane, Wash., in 1955 where George owned and operated a tavern. In Pendleton George had worked as the manager of a paint store, while Ina was an assistant in the Pendleton Chamber of Commerce office. Their pride and joy was daughter Shelley, born in Pendleton three years earlier.

The precocious toddler repaid their gift of life that year when she saved her parents from a house fire in mid-April.

Early that morning (the East Oregonian did not have an exact date for the incident) a short circuit in the family’s living room caused a desk lamp to catch fire. The fire began eating away at the wall and burned a large part of the living room floor. At about 6 a.m., Shelley got up to get herself a snack in the kitchen, as was her regular routine. She smelled smoke and went to the living room to see the flames gaining headway. Because the window in her parents’ bedroom was open, they did not smell the smoke.

Did three-year-old Shelley panic and run screaming from the house? On the contrary, she walked into the bedroom and announced calmly, “Mommy, the house is on fire.”

The Watermans fled the burning house and called the fire department from a neighbor’s home. Firemen were able to save the rest of the home, and though most of their belongings were damaged by smoke and water, the loss was covered by insurance.

Had Shelley not been in the habit of getting up early and taking care of herself while her parents slept, which undoubtedly gave the little girl self-confidence and resilience beyond her years, she might have been an orphan that day.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Teens and dynamite a volatile combination

Missing dynamite is a worrisome problem, especially when it starts showing up attached to the underside of bridges inside city limits. So Heppner police and Morrow County officials were breathing a little easier in February of 1964 after three 15-year-old boys admitted they were the culprits in the theft and subsequent explosive mischief that had been plaguing Heppner and its environs for some time.

According to a Feb. 24, 1964 story in the East Oregonian, after finding several city bridges wired with dynamite, officials checked the powder building (apparently located near the new high school in Heppner), and found 150 pounds of dynamite and a spool of primer cord missing. Some of the explosive devices they found were rigged with gun shells, from which the bullet had been removed, inserted in the end. Police were alarmed because it looked as though the shells had been pounded with rocks or hammers; anyone succeeding in setting off a blast in that manner would have been killed or seriously injured.

The boys also took their lives in their hands when they used primer cord as a fuse for some of their homemade bombs — primer cord also contains explosives. The boys admitted they used a .22 to set off some of the blasts. And they also confessed to blowing up a cattle guard on Black Horse Road.

The case was referred to juvenile court by District Attorney Herman Winter. At sentencing, Morrow County Judge Oscar Peterson ordered the boys to clean the county road from the city limits to the city dump once a month until the end of the school year, and serve as laborers for road work during the upcoming spring break. They also were ordered to make restitution for damage to the locks on the powder house and the cattle guard.

Most of the stolen dynamite and primer cord was recovered; the boys had used only 10 sticks of dynamite in their attempts to “make a big noise.”

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Frigid climate sparks Senate campaign, contest

Considering the recent polar weather systems ravaging the Midwest, I thought this Associated Press story from the Feb. 20, 1989 East Oregonian was appropriate (and amusing):

Byron Chamberlain, a high school assistant football coach from Sheridan, Wyo., was declared the winner of a tongue-in-cheek contest sponsored by the Billings (Mont.) Gazette to rename the state of North Dakota.

The contest was a response to North Dakota state Sen. Tim Mathern’s campaign to rename his state “Dakota.” Mathern said he wanted to dispel the notion that North Dakota was “some sort of arctic wasteland,” and blamed the word “North” in the name for the misconception. The 159 Gazette readers who entered the contest, however, for the most part made suggestions based on North Dakota’s famously frigid winters.

Among the entries were “Darn Dacolda,” “Zipdacoatup,” “Weardakotandhat,” “Saskatchacolda,” “Subtopia” and, bluntly, “Land of the Frozen Dead.”

Chamberlain’s winning entry? “Manitscolda.”

Chamberlain won a one-way bus ticket from Billings to Bismarck, N.D., or the cash equivalent of $45. He took the cash. Considering the high temperature in Bismarck of 5 degrees that weekend, it was a smart move.