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.