Archive for September, 2011

A FRESH APPROACH

September 20, 2011

A different kind of research last week, having an unexpected conversation with an involved person, or even a group of people.  I do enjoy the reading about the way a place grows and developes, but it’s more fun when I’m talking to someone about the place where they live. 

I made the trip to southern Oregon again but this time I visited the Phoenix museum and talked with the three volunteers sho were there.  I came away with pictures and stories.  I especially liked one of a man who shared special memories of his grandfather.   Then there was a story of a couple who left the east coast, visited the major cities and historic sites as  they crossed the country to Oregon with a wagon and oxen more than twenty years after the automobile was invented.  I admit, I wonder how the people caught in the traffic of New York City reacted to that scene.  Or maybe the early trucks coming over the Siskiyou. 

The next day I visited with a long time resident of Talent and added more stories from there.    From the beginning, Talent was a town focused on agriculture rather than business.  Interesting to see pictures and samples of early inventions designed to make farming easier and more profitable.     And to develop better crops. 

A short visit to Ashland to add some details about an old race track, a stop in Medford for suggestions of more contacts and I headed back to Eugene and home with a head full of information and pages of notes to work with. 

I know I’ll find gaps in the stories, things I misunderstood and questions I didn’t ask but this is still the most enjoyable way to do research.  Hearing the stories from the people involved helps me see the picture I’ll try to paint with my words.

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MORE OF THE STORY

September 2, 2011

Not long after I began work on the Stories of Highway 99, I visited Ashland, my home town, again– putting my memories in order to tell my part of the story.  I did some local research and came back convinced I was ready- at least for my own part of the story.

When I began to write, I discovered I had gaps-often big gaps.  I made another trip to visit places I remembered and then added a little more.  Two more rips and I felt like I had a basic picture.  After all, I’m not trying to cover the history of Ashland, just the stories of the highway through it–a span of forty years or so, from 1926 when Highway 99 officially came into being until 1966 when ir was replaced by the freeway.

About the time I finished my research and formed it into a picture of the time, I received a surprise.  Another “Ashlander” had begun a Facebook page–Ashland Then and Now.  He was posting wonderful old pictures and, even better, people were adding comments–their own memories.

Reading the comments swallowed up a fair amount of time and kept my interest but, for the most part didn’t add to my knowledge.  Still, there are tidbits I haven’t found anywhere else.  I knew Ashland was a sundown city, as were most Oregon cities, anyone of color had to be out-of-town by sundown, when I was in high school but I didn’t really think about what that meant.  We had moved from a suburb of Pasadena and I had attended school with people of color although I can’t remember that there were any in our immediate neighborhood.  It wasn’t talked about in my family or even when we moved to Ashland. 

It was when I was doing the research on the Ashland part of the story, I had a question begin to bother me.  Many of the pictures showing the passenger train service in Ashland showed people of color working as porters and even in the early large dining room where the passengers were served.  I wondered where they lived.  It was as comment on the historic face book page that referred to a train car parked on a siding just out of the city limits that gave me the answer.  It also posed another question I haven’t had to deal with yet.  I have seen photos of the KKK marching in Ashland but so far, none have been offered so won’t be included.