Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Pendleton teen nabs escaped convict

Mike Clemons, a 16-year-old Pendleton High School student, was watching a “Starsky and Hutch” car chase on TV at about 11:30 a.m. on July 28, 1983, when he heard real sirens not far from his home on Southwest 18th Street. Stepping outside to see what was going on, Clemons saw a man dash out from between two houses across the street with a Pendleton police officer in hot pursuit.

“Stop that man!” shouted officer Don Arbogast. So Clemons did.

He first stepped in front of the fleeing man, who pushed him aside. Clemons caught up with him again in a neighbor’s yard and tackled him to the ground. Arbogast held the man at gunpoint against a wall until help arrived to take the fugitive, James F. Chaney, into custody.

Chaney and another man, Harry D. Earle, had escaped from the Washington Penitentiary in Walla Walla after tying up a guard and the instructor of an occupational auto repair class. The men stole an MG Midget from the prison’s shop, dressed in the officers’ shirts and used the guard’s keys to unlock the prison gates.

The escaped cons were spotted in Pendleton about 11 a.m. by residents who had heard about the escape from a Walla Walla radio broadcast. A high speed chase through Pendleton ended in the Albertson’s parking lot across from the Pendleton Round-Up Grounds when the Midget crashed into at least two parked cars. Chaney, the driver, bailed out and ran, and Oregon State Police Lt. John Duggan stopped the Midget from rolling into traffic with his own patrol car. Earle cracked his head on the windshield and was detained in the car; he had two artificial legs and would not have been able to make a dash for freedom.

Clemons was sent a letter of commendation by the Pendleton Police Department for his assistance in catching Chaney. He had no plans to play football — “That’s what everyone’s been asking me” — saying he preferred theater, soccer and Dungeons and Dragons. And he didn’t consider himself a hero.

“I think most people would have done the same thing if they were in my shoes,” said Clemons. “I just happened to be the one there.”

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Kamela’s ghost bell finally silenced

For many years, the tinkling of a bell in the forests surrounding Kamela greeted hunters and loggers traveling through the Blue Mountains east of Pendleton. The ghostly sound, and reports of voices heard among the trees, gave rise to a legend that haunted the region for many years. Those who heard the bell often kept it to themselves so as not to be branded lunatics.

Time magazine on July 16, 1951, reported that lumberjacks clearing the right-of-way for a power line from Bonneville Dam brought down a towering Ponderosa pine near the former hamlet of Kamela and found a bell attached by a shriveled leather thong to a branch high in the top of the tree. Residents of Kamela suggested that the bell might have been hung by a Swiss pioneer when the tree was very small. The hand-hammered bronze cowbell, four inches high and three inches in diameter, was cast in 1848 in the northwest Swiss town of Saignelegier by bellmaker Chiantel. The bells were said to have graced the necks of Willamette Valley dairy cattle owned by early pioneers of Oregon country, according to the book “The Bell of Kamela” by Lillian Budd, published in 1960.

After the finding of the Kamela Bell, five Portland residents came forward claiming to own one of the bells. And a July 21, 1951 article in the East Oregonian brought local bell owners out of the woodwork as well.

Several bells were in the hands of Pendleton residents. Roger Kay owned one of the bells, found by his mother in 1915 at Mohler, near Tillamook. Roy Johnson found one about 10 miles west of Ukiah at the base of a tree while on a cattle drive. George Perry and his wife found one in what they called “old trash.” And Bruce Williams, an employee of Harris Pine Mills, found one while loading sheep near Denver, Colo. He owned a collection of bells and had originally planned to learn to play them, “but I got side-tracked with other things and never learned,” he said. The Blaine Noble family of Hermiston also kept track of a pet sheep with a Saignelegier bell.

A Portland historian had another theory as to how the Kamela bell may have ended up atop the tree. She said her father, a lighthouse keeper on Puget Sound, kept 36 cows and each of them had a Saignelegier bell. As a child one of her chores was to search for lost bells in the pasture. She frequently found them tangled in small trees; she said the leather straps, after rubbing on the sharp edge of the bell’s housing, often snapped and flung the bells among the branches while the cattle grazed.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

First baby born in flight claims promised gift

In 1952, while flying from Hong Kong to Seattle, Lilly Chin gave birth to a daughter, Sherry, on a DC4 over the Aleutian Islands. As the first baby in the history of flight born on an airplane, Sherry was promised a free flight to anywhere in the world when she reached adulthood.

Lilly said that during the flight she and her 22-month-old daughter Pearl were so sick they couldn’t eat or drink, and that “Sherry wanted out because she was hungry and thirsty.” Sherry was born a month premature, and when mother and daughters were taken to a Seattle hospital on landing, Lilly was woefully unprepared to care for a new infant. The doctors and nurses were more than happy to supply everything she needed.

Lilly Chin in 1975 owned the Hong Kong Cafe in Hermiston. Sherry graduated that year from the University of Oregon, where she majored in languages. And in May of 1975, she appeared before a CP Air ticket agent in Vancouver, B.C., with a 22-year-old newspaper article to claim her promised gift. Lilly said they were “wined and dined and treated like celebrities” by airline officials.

Fluent in Japanese, several dialects of Chinese and Spanish, Sherry chose to fly to Hong Kong. She planned to scope out job prospects with a goal of interpreting or teaching English in Taiwan.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Confederate veterans settle early Pendleton

There has been a lot of talk recently about the Confederate flag, and whether it represents the proud history of the South or an expression of free speech for self-described rebels. But did you know that early settlers of Pendleton were veterans of the Confederate Army?

The first settlers of what is now Pendleton made their homes where Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution now stands, a place called Swift’s Crossing, when the flat where Pendleton is located was just knee-high bunchgrass, cottonwoods and a thorn thicket along the Umatilla River. The first farming attempted in the area, by William Switzler at the head of Despain Gulch, was a dismal failure.

In the fall of 1861-62 a band of miners and prospectors passing through on their way to the newly discovered gold fields in Idaho were forced to winter at the mouth of Wild Horse Creek, on the present Umatilla Indian Reservation, when they found the Blue Mountains impassable. They stayed until spring, and some, including Moses Goodwin and his wife, decided they liked the area so much they stayed put. Goodwin bought the land where Pendleton began from Abe Miller, paying a team of horses and a cow, and built the first bridge over the Umatilla (where the Main Street Bridge stands) as a toll crossing for emigrants heading west to “Oregon.”

According to a paper presented in March 1914 to the Umatilla County Historical Society by Mrs. R.N. Stanfield, a larger immigration from Missouri and Illinois settled in Umatilla County after the close of the Civil War in 1865. They were nearly all Democrats, having served in the Confederate Army. Some of the streets of Pendleton were originally named after prominent Confederate leaders: Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee.

Goodwin Farm was selected as the county seat, being surrounded by a populous community, though not without some agitation from Umatilla Landing on the Columbia River. Goodwin deeded his farm to the city, which was laid out in 1869, but rejected having the town named after him. It was christened Pendleton after a prominent Ohio statesman, George Hunt Pendleton, who was the democratic candidate for vice president in 1865 and much admired by the town fathers. Pendleton probably never knew of the honor bestowed on him by his fellow Democrats, and most likely never set foot in Oregon.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Man 'lynched' into bathing by mob

It didn’t pay to go without bathing in Pendleton 100 years ago.

A mob of several hundred men formed on Pendleton’s Main Street July 14, 1915, with a slouching man in the center. The man had a rope around his body, and strangers and locals alike were sure there was a lynching going on.

The victim was a well-known character about town, and dirty to the point of obnoxiousness. A group of young men finally became so outraged by his filthy appearance and horrible smell that they determined to do something about it.

The man eluded capture for about an hour by loitering inside one of the downtown eateries, but he was nabbed as soon as he walked outside. A crowd of men secured him with a rope around his middle and hustled him down Main Street to Court Avenue, where they began the trek to Round-Up (now Roy Raley) Park.

At this point, Officer Scheer of the Pendleton Police Department intervened and came to the man’s rescue. About 15 minutes later, however, the mob again captured the man and hurried him into a car they had waiting on Webb Street (Emigrant Avenue). Followed by a couple of hundred gawkers on foot, the car made its way to Round-up Park.

The swimming pool was empty but a concrete basin that held water entering the park from the river was overflowing. Taking off the man’s garments, the leaders of the mob threw him into the pool, passed him a bar of soap and demanded he begin bathing. Relieved that he wasn’t being lynched, the man gave himself a thorough scrubbing until the ringleaders decided he was clean enough to emerge.

The clean patrol declared that the incident should be taken as a warning by all slovenly persons in the city.