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.



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. 



August 26, 2011

A week working close to home–Eugene and Junction City.  One day on Highway 99 research in the Knight Library on the University of Oregon campus.  Another doing an interview  with a former trailer park owner from Junction City.  Still another collecting a story from a local musician with a long history at The Embers, a nightclub and restaurant on Highway 99. 

Even close to home, I find I’m taken in directions I didn’t expect.  Out on Highway 99, between Eugene and Junction City, almost on the railroad tracks at the corner of Hwy. 99 and Meadowview, there is a disintegrating old railroad building.  For all the years I’ve driven by it, I assumed it was one of those where equipment was stored.  Now, with a couple of research books in front of me, I am almost convinced it was the Meadow View Depot for the passengers and freight of the Oregon Electric Railway.  The almost is because the building is missing some of the decorative attributes in the picture which would have been taken before 1933.      

I didn’t expect to be writing about the electric trains in Oregon, the precursors to both the Pacific Highway and Highway 99 but the electric cars are so interwoven with the growth of the city, they cannot b e ignored. 

Although I’ve had several good meals at the Eugene Electric Station, I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to the history of the building.  Since I’ve begun reading about the Oregon Electric Railway during its peak years from 1905 to 1925,  it’s obvious I do need to revisit that time and place in my writing about the history of  Eugene. 

The depot itself was designed by A.E. Doyle of Portland, Oregon’s best known architect at the time and is a National Historic Site.  The trains were plush and impressive.    At this point in my research, it’s already very clear, I have an obligation to make a return visit to the Station for an in person study, and maybe another meal.


August 12, 2011

Once in awhile the most interesting adventures happen close to home.  This week included one of those.   

It began because I had a gap of several years in the Highway 99 story.  I knew when the road was built over the Siskiyou Pass, 1915, and I had the story of the maintenance foreman moving into the state owned house in 1939 but nothing between.  No clues showed up in reference books or shared stories. 

I  began my quest seriously, knowing two things: the Transportation Commission was required to make a biennial report and that some of those reports are archived at The University of Oregon in the Knight Library.  There must be a money trail.

Not having been a student at the University of Oregon, I wasn’t familiar with the very large campus but knowing it’s the week when students are gone or in the process of leaving, I decided it was my chance.  My parking space, when I finally found one, was only a mile or so from campus.  Map in hand, I started through the maze of student apartments surrounding the campus buildings.  Amazing what departing students leave on curbs or by overflowing dumpsters.  So much to see and absorb along the way.  I guess I just didn’t have so much stuff when I finished.

Surprising one of the few students still walking through the grounds, I got directions to the entrance of the massive Knight Library building, then from the information desk to the Special Collections Room. 

Very impressive with tall ceilings, walls lined with bookshelves, ornate wall carvings, big tables with a few serious people quietly sorting and reading a variety of materials.    I could have been in Europe, or maybe an old church. 

The businesslike and knowledable woman who helped me said she would be back and left the room for some unknown destination.  I thought about a basement with numbered rooms–a cave wouldn’t have seemed inappropriate.  Eventually a student assistant I’d noticed coming and going returned with a large cart–seven books of biennial reports and four large cardboard boxes.  I didn’t get to the boxes.   I’ll go back next week.

I did find a clue.  In 1926, The Engineer’s report says there are six maintenance patrols in the state and housing for the foreman and helper is provided in isolated areas.  Surely that would include the Siskiyou Mountain.  (At that time the engineer was including only The Pacific Highway, (Highway 99)

I still don’t know where the housing came from.  Did the State Transportation Commission build it?  Move it?  The secret must be in those four cardboard boxes–Next weeks excursion–or one of the excursions.


August 7, 2011

U.S. Highway 99, which began its life as the Pacific Highway, was built to connect the three most western states to each other, California, Oregon and Washington.  It did more than that, it connected the settlements and little towns to each other.  Not near as efficient as the current Freeway but it gave us a way to travel between towns and areas and it allowed products to come into the towns from all over the country.

Businesses to meet the needs and desires of the local residents as well as passing travelers, were established and did well if the effort was expended. 

One of those, with it roots on Highway 99 was celebrated in our local newspaper this morning.  Jerry’s, our local Do-It-Yourself and home town lumber and hardware store is celebrating its fiftieth birthday.  Not only has it been in business 50 years, it has been 50 years on Hwy 99.     

Highway 99 through Eugene was moved from River Road and its flood problems in 1936.  The new route was north on 6th St. through the city to the west side where it rejoined southbound 7th St. to become just Hwy 99 again as it headed north to Junction City.

It was on this north end of town, past many businesses and developments that Jerry and Merle Orem founded Jerry’s Ace Hardware Store on Hwy 99. 

Ace Hardware was not a franchise but a centralized purchasing organization to supply members’ stores.   It was founded in 1924, in Chicago, Illinois and named for the Ace fighter pilots of World War I.  By 1949, the retail network had expanded to hundreds of dealers.  In fact, in a drive along Hwy 99 there was hardly a  town without an Ace Hardware  and they weren’t limited to just the towns on the Highway.   Now they are international although the structure of the company has changed.

During the 1980′ Jerry’s was facing major market changes.  With big box stores and national chains crowding out many family owned businesses, the Orem family  took the gamble, moved a few blocks down the road and built a new store that offers lower prices, more selection and a focus on do-it-yourselfers.  We have been shopping at Jerry’s since we moved to the Eugene area in the sixties and gladly followed them when they moved into the new store.  50 years in a family owned business is rare and worthy of a celebration.  ( They have also opened a second store-this one in neighboring Springfield.  Although I hope it is successful, it is not of the same interest for me because it’s not on Hwy 99, not as accessible to the people from south, north, and west who come to shop, almost in their own expanded neighborhood.)

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


June 25, 2011

With a temporary limit on travel, this month seemed a perfect time to work on research close to home– Highway 99 through Eugene.  Easy enough, come in from the south on Franklin Blvd. which briefly becomes Broadway then Sixth St all the way trough the city until it rejoins the traffic heading south on Seventh St. and again becomes Highway 99 connecting Eugene to Junction City.

Looking through the history of Eugene, my attention was caught by the “Club Cigar” established as a men’s resort in the 1800s.  No women patrons allowed.  In 1911, Ted Luckey Sr. purchased the business and renamed it “Luckey’s Club Cigar Store.”  A man could  go there to shop for a cigar, shoot pool, get a haircut and shave,  order a sandwich at the cafe in back, even play cards.  At one time the back room held two tables of poker and two of rummy players which were full from open to close. 

After Prohibition ended in 1933, Luckey’s became the first business in Lane County licensed by the newly formed Oregon Liquor Control Commision. 

In the 1930s, when downtown went neon, Ted Luckey splurged on a horseshoe-shaped neon sign.   When codes changed in the 1970s and the sign was too big for outdoor display, it was moved inside, one of the few neon signs that survived.

When Tad Luckey Sr. and co-owner Louis De Berg passed away in the 1940s, the business passed to their widows.  Ironic that the two women, Maude Luckey and Lucinda (Luckey) De Berg owned and operated a “man’s resort” that did not serve women or have a women’s restroom until the 1950s.

In 1973, when the old historic buildings of down town were being demolished in the “urban renewal” movement, BenRayovich, owner of Luckey’s at that time, purchased a dirt parking lot at 933 Olive St. and built an exact replica of the old Luckey’s.  He moved all the furnishings and fixtures, even the fir wainscoting, into the new building.  He added a few modern amenities:sprinklers, heating and air conditioning, and by OLCC insistence, a women’s restroom. 

Now owned by Jo Dee Moine, Luckey’s offers music in addition to the best of the features that have kept it in Business for a century and it serves women.

I found the Luckey’s story fascinating, with many of the elements I’m looking for– however, it had nothing to do with Highway 99.  It really doesn’t fit into my current writing project even though it has an impressive list of firsts in Eugene and even in Lane County.  I’m headed back to the books to find more about the Oregon Electric Railway.

Material excerpted from http:luckeysclub.com/hist5.php