Portland Oregon history.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Two Short Features and a Sequel

A few projects are taking longer to come around than I had hoped. In the mean time, some odds & ends, and a few more movies…



The Big Guy Stays


As the 1950s blended into the early 1960s, both Portland and Seattle invited the world in for a look.

The Oregon Centennial Exposition and International Trade Fair was held in Portland in 1959, the Seattle’s Worlds Fair in 1962.





It has been said that, for better or worse, the two surviving icons of the fairs; Portland’s Paul Bunyon stature and Seattle’s Space Needle tell much about their host cities that true hold even to this day.



Seattle, sleek, flashy, brash, called for the world and reached for the stars.

Portland was more grounded, modest, its international pitch seemingly an afterthought. A city comfortable with itself and frankly, a little weird.







The Oregon Centennial Exposition and International Trade Fair was an odd combination of Tomorrowland and Frontierland, where the future and the past mixed with incongruous results.




Recently it was widely reported that the owner of a national chain of pre-fabricated log cabin homes, infamous for plundering Bunyons for his collection, wanted to acquire Portland’s Paul Bunyon from the corner of Interstate Avenue and Denver in the Kenton neighborhood, where he has dwelled since the fair ended in 1959, “No matter how much money it took.” Assurances were offered that Paul Bunyon would remain at a log cabin outlet storen “somewhere in the state of Oregon.”

The Kenton Neighborhood informed the interested party that Mr. Bunyon was not for sale. There the story happily ends. For if Paul Bunyon for quick cash, it would have said something else about Portland altogether.






The Treasure of Yaquina Bay



If history had turned out differently:
If there had been a few less financial panics, a few more miles of railroad built, a few less steamships vanished beneath the waves; Portland would have had a major rival in Yaquina City.

As the western terminus of the Oregon Pacific Railroad, Yaquina City (five miles east of Newport) was positioned as an alternative shipping point for farmers in the southern half of the WillametteValley, lumber from the Cascade Range and a transcontinental connection with the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad which was building west from Wyoming.

The late 1880s were a time of grand dreams. The Oregon Pacific was one of them. What is amazing is how close it came to being reality. The Coast Range was crossed, a route over the Cascades was well under construction. Oregon Pacific steamships ran from Yaquina Bay to San Francisco and riverboats connected it to Portland at Corvallis. In far eastern Oregon grading was taking place.

But the ships had a tendency to sink. Then the money ran out. Eventually the railroad was sold. Today, what survives is a workday branch line to a paper mill at Toledo.

Yaquina City is forgotten. And Portland never had to contend with the greater Yaquina Metropolitan area.


An Oregon Pacific trestle on the way to Yaquina City, west of Toledo Oregon.


Near the former site of Yaquina City are the Oregon Oyster Farms. Since 1907 it has been the primary source of Oysters for Portland’s iconic seafood restaurant, Dan and Louie’s Oyster bar.


Dan and Louie’s Oyster bar.


For the past fifty years though, Yaquina Bay has been home to a Portland treasure of a very different sort...


In 1956, after numerous disputes with the city, the Portland Traction Company lost its franchise to operate Portland’s transit system. The company’s San Francisco based ownership re-constituted its operating division as the Rose City Transit Company, albeit with much the same leadership, and eventually re-negotiated a new franchise to provide Portland's public transportation.


Rose City Transit held the franchise to operate Portland’s transit system until the formation of Tri-Met in 1969.


But what was to be done with all those obsolete Portland Traction tokens, some dating as far back as 1942?


A Portland Traction token to the left, right, a Rose City Transit token..

There were two and a half tons of them. One million two hundred and fifty thousand tokens with a street value of $208,000 as they were still acceptable tender on Rose City Transit buses.

Unsuccessful attempts were made to melt them for the German silver they contained. Perhaps they could be embedded in a Portland bridge pier? The answer was no.

Then, with the know-how and gumption that can dynamite a whale carcass on the Oregon Coast; in November 1958 someone had an idea...

Four officials of the transit company with two trucks full of tokens were dispatched to Newport. There, they met by Stan Allyn, skipper of the Kingfisher, a charter out of Depot Bay. Sixty seven bags of tokens were loaded onto the boat and taken out into Newport Harbor. The officials dropped them, one by one, over the side of the boat.

In an article in the November 13, 1958 Oregonian, Stan Allyn was quoted as saying “Two tides later and they were buried in silt. Recovering them would be impractical.”

Word to the wise.



Three More Portland Traffic Engineering films from 1939…




A snippet of East Burnside at 10th taken from the roof of today’s Hippo Hardware (one of the “Burnside Arcades”) is followed by chaos on SE 6th and Yamhill, today a transit mall street. Order is brought to the scene by a traffic cop.





A view of SW Sixth and Morrison, unique not so much for what it shows but for its setting, a view from; an upper floor on the north east wing of the legendary Portland Hotel, was torn down in 1951, It is the present location of Pioneer Courthouse Square. Below, the Portland Hotel.



And finally…

A cavalcade of 1930s Portlanders take a try at crossing Burnside at East 32nd in 1939. The film was taken from the corner where Music Millennium is now. The Laurelhurst gate seems strangely absent, but with close observation it can be seen, obscured by ivy.









Portland's Commissioner Clyde and his pal remind you that Tuesday is Election Day!