Archive for July, 2011

The Drive In Movie EVENT

July 27, 2011

Passing through Newport last week, I remembered reading that there is still an open Drive-In Movie there.  I didn’t go looking for it but the thought certainly brought back memories for me.  There was a time when there was a Drive-In Movie on Highway 99 near every town.  Larger towns might have one at each end and towns that weren’t on the highway still had a Drive in Movie nearby.  They were part of an era, a time when more of us had automobiles than ever, when we considered them a second home and could hardly leave them behind.  Drive in Restaurants, ice cream or root beer stands,  and Drive In Movie theaters for entertainment flourished for two decades, sometimes longer.   A few of the Drive In fast food eateries still do well.  

When I was in college we occasionally went as a couple,  on the weekend if there wasn’t a game, dance or something we wanted to see at the regular theater.  Not often, my guy was a working musician most weekends. 

It was later, when we had children that the Starlite Drive In Movie on Highway 99 turned into a BIG EVENT.  It was one place where we could take a baby and know any fussing wouldn’t disturb others.  Each car had  its own speaker with volume controls. 

As our family grew, the Drive -In- Theater turned into more.  It was a way to have a family evening with entertainment.  Central Point was usually  hot  during the summer so we could load snacks and sometimes sandwiches, drinks, probably Kool Aid and fruit into bags to take with use, drive to the theater as the sun was going down and picnic there.  Between the snack stand and the front row of cars, there was a grassy area which almost always had young children playing tag, or statue.  As our babies grew, one or two of the children were ours  so we supervised from the car or standing on the side.  Often they had school friends there to play with but they enjoyed the park-like area even when there weren’t children they knew.  Or maybe it was the being up past bed time they enjoyed.   The preparations for going always included pillows, lightweight bedding, and comfortable clothes that could be slept in.

There were evenings when that play time was more important to the children than the movie.  I think we always went on evenings whan stories like Old Yeller, or another animal show, maybe a Disney feature, was playing first and  left before the later movie, more likely to be adult.   Almost always one or two of the youngest fell asleep before the end of the first movie.




July 21, 2011

Writing about Highway 99 should be easy for me.  After all, I’ve spent most of my life walking on it, driving on it, shopping or living on it.  It is so familiar to me, I can describe the buildings along it all the way through the state– or at least I thought I could.  

This weekend, returning from Corvallis to Eugene, we drove 99 W as we’ve done many times.   This was different, this time I paid attention: to the airport so close to the highway, to the train tracks often only feet away, to the fields with a parcel or two taken off the front, and to the close-in fields that  are now industrial sites. 

I looked for older houses and barns.   For businesses along the road that  are closed or boarded up, and for those that have flourished over time. 

As I’ve been working with others who have ties to the highway, I realize I’ve been deluding myself.  I have missed a lot and misinterpreted more.  Particularly when I’m driving between the  cities.  Now I don’t take for granted the row of houses along the road with fields behind.  With a different viewpoint,  I can spot which early settlers or their family members sold off parcels of the donation land claim, or maybe subdivided the whole parcel.   An occasional store, tavern, or gas station along the current highway could be the original owners business venture, maybe that of an heir, or even the way the settler raised the cash to pay for farm equipment. 

The 640 acres of a married couples’ land claim would have been hard to work without heavy machinery.  The part next to the wagon trail,  later the road, might have been desirable for other settlers who came after.   Many of the  divisions must have happened a long time ago.   Current zoning restrictions would make them more difficult during recent years. 

There are places close to communities where you can spot a church or school built on donated land.  Sometimes a cemetery with very old grave sites  or a park  carved out of a farm.  

There are stories here, all the way along this road, stories I can guess at after reading the history of the area but I need to do more.  It’s time to stir the pot, to put some people in the picture, and maybe a  stage, railroad depot, or an automobile.  I’ll be looking for people with a stories to share to start me on the road north.


July 11, 2011

Ready for another photo shoot journey, we headed north this time.  Our goal was to take a good look and pictures on 99 E. from Junction City through Jefferson. 

The road from Eugene to the intersection of Hwy 99 and Hwy 34 to Corvallis is familiar to us from many trips to visit grandchildren in Corvallis.  Still there were surprises, even the spotting of a Greyhound Bus, updated in two tones of blue, no longer frequently seen on Highway 99 where it passes through small towns.  There were pictures we hadn’t taken earlier: different crops ripening, wheat where I didn’t expect to see it, New Century Farm signs are up and I notice some old signs are now missing.  The Jenks egg farm buildings are still there but the sign is gone.  Maybe the family retired.

A roadside pause to wait for traffic to pass gave our camera man a chance to get a good picture of an old house on the other side of the road.  I spent the few minutes watching a finch feed her demanding young.  It made me smile inside.  Yesterday a mother crow out my big window was refusing to feed her almost grown but demanding youngster.  The more he fussed the more she turned her back to go on getting her own meal.  Evidently even birds have a little trouble giving the young all the tools they need to be independent. 

As we passed through Harrisburg, Halsey, Shedd and Tangent, we found remnants of life along Highway 99, some from earlier to marvel over and photograph.  Old gas stations, false front businesses, and houses both tiny and plain to decorative and large.   Every so often we came across an auto repair or mechanics shop where a hanger type roof had been added-maybe in honor of the increasing influence of airplanes.  Certainly true in Tangent where one building with a metal roof had the name of the town on the south side roof of the building and an arrow with flying directions to the airfield on the north side roof.

Our lunch break was in Albany, Waverly Lake Park, bordered on the north by the Old Salem Rd.  In addition to the pretty lake, great walking paths and picnic tables under a grove of old oak trees, Waverly had another point of interest.   It is nestled next to  a pioneer cemetery with grave sites dating to the 1850s.  Across the Old Salem Rd. is another cemetery with a sign indicating it is the Jewish cemetary but I didn’t investigate–maybe another day.

Between Albany and Jefferson, we drove through an industrial area: Wah Chang, Willamette Industries, Palm Harbor Manufactured Homes and many others.  Past that stretch we turned under the freeway to Jefferson.  The 1933 concrete bridge over the Santiam River is one of the prettiest of inland Oregon. 

This month is the Jefferson Mint Festival celebration, obviously a big event.  Since Jefferson is also the Frog Jumping Capital of Oregon, we walked on green painted frog footprints as we discovered this fascinating piece of Oregon History.  We took pictures here: of a building faced with old boards that has an incredible mural of the cars that would have been on Highway 99 all the time it was a U.S. Highway,  a historic home being used as a public library, old business buildings, and a tiny smoke shop in a very old building.  Even the fire hydrants were freshly painted.  It was the perfect place to end our tour so we got ice cream cones and drove on through a rural area until we came to the next place to turn south for home again.


July 2, 2011

One problem I’m having with writing the stories of Highway 99 is connected to the research.  This week I’ve been working on the background of a story set in Canyonville-a place with a long record of travel disasters.  The earliest emigrants over the Oregon Trail had a whole wagon train, or what was left of it get stuck there, unable to go on, exhausted and without food.  Rescuers did come to help but not soon enough to save everyone. 

The story that caught my attention this time was more current than that.  This one was about an airplane crash in the mountainous terrain near Canyonville on Oct.2, 1928.  It was a Boeing 40 plane, designed in 1925 as a mail plane.  This airplane was particularly attractive because a passenger could sit in an enclosed compartment although the pilot still sat in an open cockpit.  The Boeing 40 belonged to Pacific Air Transport .  (early airline)  The route of the ill-fated plane was from Portland, OR to San Francisco.

The pilot was Grant Donaldson.  He was following the road, Highway 99 and the South Umpqua River.  He  could not see over the front of the plane so he was looking over the side.  The airplane clipped some trees, went for about a quarter of a mile, crashed into a hillside and burned.

The passenger was D.P.Donovan of Las Angeles.  He owned a string of drug stores along the west coast.  He was killed on impact.  The pilot, badly injured, made it down the hill to a road where a motorist picked him up.  A preacher and his family took him into town in their Model A.  The injured pilot muttered there had been a crash so the airline was notified.  That is when the townspeople were discovered there had been a passenger.  A search party was organized but it was two days before the plane was located on the forested hillside. 

An airline official came to take over the recovery effort.  They found the engine, the remains of the passenger and all the diamonds they could.  “For the next four years or so, people would visit the crash site and sift through the dirt looking for diamonds.”  Local lore has tales of someone who knows someone who found a diamond and had it set as a family heirloom.  However, the crash site itself remained hidden for more than seventy years. 

Finally located in 1992, the remaining parts of the airplane were in recovered in 1994.  In March of 2007  the restoration of the airplane was nearly completed, the only flying model of the Boeing 40 left.   Pemberton and Sons of Spokane, Washington have a website where that restored plane, and others, can be viewed. 

As an author, I can feel a story here.  A wealthy businessman traveling with a stash of diamonds?  Where did he get them?  Were they legal?  Or were they in the mail?    This could be a good place to play around for awhile. 

This story referenced  in an article by Meg Godlewski, writing for General  Aviation News, March 23, 2007