Left Behind: The Sign Edition

It’s understandable. Signs can be difficult to take down when businesses move on. So signs from former tenants remain. I was struck by how much I liked some of the signs that are still lingering despite possible confusion.

The first abandoned sign I noticed, was for a nail salon. Not having been a customer, I’m was unsure when it was operational in the last nine years. It may have shared the building with the High Water Mark bar briefly. I have seen tenants come and got to this building at the corner of NE MLK Blvd and Dekum St. At some point I realized the bar had taken over the whole space. The sign is colorful, typical in nail salon style and design, but it’s cool in a kitschy way and the L.A. connection amuses me. On a subconscious level nail salons need to encompass all the glitz and glamor L.A. has to offer so why not be overt about it. The sign is nondescript in a way to be almost unnoticeable. Any one happening by, wanting to get their nails done will be sadly left with ragged nails and a continued search for another salon.

Given the size of some of the signs it’s easy to see why they haven’t been removed. It makes sense to cover up the name of a previous business with brown paint. The real solution may be to hook up a sign for the current business to the old sign.

The Boom Boom Room on Barbur Blvd had an attractive sign to go along with their amusing name. Who could resist saying that a dozen or so times? It feels pointless now with the place being closed. The internet will tell you otherwise but it also links to the Boom Boom Room’s MySpace site. I have a sense that this sign’s days are numbered. Odds are it will be removed. The new tenant seems to be making extensive renovations to the building and has already added their own spiffy sign to the front of the building.

The renovation to the building’s exterior revealed a previous tenant.

Mackin’s Auto body still has a presence in the Kenton neighborhood. This faded painted sign is either an advertisement or it marks a previous location. I like this relic of bygone days but it’s hard to watch it fade away.

The last sign that caught my attention was spotted on NE MLK Blvd. It’s not evident what this sign may have advertised. An added dash of a graffiti does not cover up what looks like a car tire, while a human figure can be seen below with a bit of imagination. The old sign seems related to the nearby auto business. It retains a certain character with it’s oddball geometric shapes while offering itself as a canvas for additional graffiti artists.

Post script:

On the second, third and fourth day of my summer vacation I can feel a creep of dog days engulfing me. It could be the warmth or the sunshine or that plain old summer feeling. If you notice topics getting less and less challenging to the brain, well, that might be due to the neurological melt (not an actual medical condition) experienced on my part.

Colonial Statue

Tanned and ready.

When I first saw the statue it was highly recognizable. From my studies of Revolutionary War history, I knew it to be a Colonial soldier. The hat, clothes and gun all fit those times. I was born in the Boston, Massachusetts area, so I grew up surrounded by Colonial history. There’s also a hazy flashback to my father’s National Guard trophy with the Minuteman soldier standing on top. The statue seems out-of-place here in the west, so far away from that old history. It now has the feel of a monument to someone who got lost a long time ago as he wandered and stumbled about in search of cheap real estate and a decent cup of coffee.

On campus.

I noticed the soldier statue from the other side of Barbur Blvd. It’s a busy road with four lanes so it’s likely that I initially overlooked the Colonial Office Campus. It may have taken a second look  for the colonial reference to make sense. The Colonial Office Campus is exactly what it says it is, office space for professional services used by lawyers and counselors. The statue can be found past the intersection of Capitol Hwy and Barbur Blvd heading towards Tigard.

Half a dance away

In front of the main office park building there’s another statue. My imagination had me thinking that this one was a child of the solider. The kid, dressed in what appear to be rags, gets to stay home and frolic while his father fights the war. Online I noticed a couple of the tenants mention the statues as landmarks to help clients find their offices. So eventually it made sense: Colonial soldier, Colonial Office Campus, Colonial columns on the main building; there’s a flurry of Colonial activity in a small section of SW off of Barbur Blvd. that’s subtle and unexpected.

Locked and loading.

The detailing on the sculptures drew me in. The soldier, with his sleeves rolled up, his burly arms fiddling with his gun as he stands as well as anyone could stand with knees stuck in a block.  His permanent stance graces a plinth decorated with 13 stars in tribute to the original 13 colonies. The child had been holding a light on a chain which, I was told, will be repaired.

Wired and ready.

The young frolicker was created in 1974. The Colonial soldier followed in 1976 which had me wondering if Oregon had been caught in the throes of bicentennial fever like the rest of the nation. The artist’s name, Carlton Bell, is inscribed on the base of each work. The soldier’s base also had three other names listed. It’s safe to assume they assisted on the project. Carlton Bell proved to be a mysterious figure. I found little information about him online.

My research did lead to a blog post about Portland Public Art. I would suggest anyone reading this take a look at that post too if only to see an excellent close up photograph of the soldier’s face. There was some speculation on the part of the writer of the public art blog. I know my writing for the Portland Orbit often leads me to speculate but from what I was able to gather, especially after talking to the friendly office park manager, the statues were made for the campus and not for previous businesses. The comment section offers details and stories about the life of Carlton Bell that I plan to explore in a future post. One commentator made an effort to identify the gender of the kid sculpture as male because his brother had been the artist’s model.

Ready for my close up.

I like the folk art feel to these statues. They have a charm that livens up a drab section of Barbur Blvd. while adding a dash of intrigue. The soldier appears to be guarding a curve in the road or protecting against an invasion from the motel across the street. There’s a randomness that’s refreshing in the placement. A Colonial soldier, far from the pages of history, silently stands guard. My first reaction was to wonder why there were roadside statues hanging around on Barbur Blvd. The Colonial theme helped me make sense of it, and the question should really be: Why not?

Guard duty.



Quite the crossing guard.








Happy Birthday!

Don’t touch my tower.

The Portland Orbit office is closing early this afternoon in order to celebrate the birthday of our founder, contributing writer and photographer, Mr. David Craig. We’ll be back tomorrow with a post about a Colonial statue in SW Portland.

The Purple Post

Listening to KBOO last week I learned about a pedalpalooza event, a bike ride and dance party led by Diablo honoring the musical legacy of Prince. The event was held on what would have been the 59th birthday of Prince. Pedalpalooza rides lean toward the amazing side of bicycle celebrations. Anytime somebody straps a boom box to a bike while everyone rides and listens to music, things get spectacular. This ride promised periodic dance stops. I didn’t seem myself participating in the non bike riding aspects of this ride, but then again the spirit would surely have carried me away. I wasn’t feeling the confidence it would take to jump off a bike and into a dance party, especially with my inability to approximate any 80’s Minneapolis funk dance moves.

The Prince ride gave me an angle to present thoughts on the uses of purple around town. Now I have the opportunity to celebrate two synonymous life forces. Prince and Purple. In most cases you won’t find extreme shades of purple in Portland. Although they would be applauded, repeated exposure to richer tones might prove overbearing. For my purple inspirations, I’m keeping it in the family. Anything close to purple is more exciting than most of the run of the mill colors I encounter. Purple might be a bold decorating or wardrobe choice but Prince had the charisma to pull it off.  He turned purple into his visual calling card going so far to make it feel like purple rain could fall from the sky. For that reason it feels necessary to honor him with an exploration of a few things purple.

Bikini Barista

How did I not know this place was purple? I never saw colors when I passed this building that sits in front of Roake’s, a retro burger joint on Columbia Blvd. I’ve always thought too many other thoughts about the goings on in a Bikini Barista Hut. Is it cold working in a bikini? Is the coffee any good or do people go for the view? I appreciate the two-tone purple effect. The building’s purple shades seems pretty enough to upstage the semi-clad baristas.

Purple Church

The purple in the Purple Church on Lombard St. looks great against the white background. I realize purple has deep significance as a religious color. Purple is used sparingly on doors and trim. Any color would pop against the white background but this shade seems so right.

Purple Anarchist Community Space

This is another who knew and right down the street from the Purple Church? This isn’t a blaring purple so much as a shade that’s easy on the eyes. The trim utilizes another kind of purple while the striking red under the roof eaves brings attention to the sign. Who says Anarchists can’t be welcomed with jubilant colors?

Lavender Barn Door

In the Kenton neighborhood I’ve developed an appreciation for what I’m calling a barn with a subtle paint job that almost doesn’t qualify in my purple tour.  I had to wonder if my photo wasn’t a bit washed out but this is the perfect shade for this structure. Anything darker would detract from the  barn’s rustic nature.

Purple Brick Facade

This building on N. Denver Ave always had a commercial facade. I spotted an upgrade with a more outlandish color especially since it’s a faux brick. It certainly brightens up a drab section of N Denver Ave.

Purple Wall

The Metro PCS phone store on Lombard St., near the Aaron’s rental store, painted their side of the building a deep purple. If you need some eye-catching beauty in gorgeous living color to reset your brain stare at the wall for a few hours. Most people will think you walked out of the smoke shop next door.

Purple Highlights

A building on N. Kilpatrick St. in the Kenton neighborhood has been decorated with random graffiti but it still retains a shred of dignity due to the sweet and subtle purple border that offers up a tiny dash of salvation amidst the blight.

One of my favorite Prince performances: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6SFNW5F8K9Y





Motel Sign Perks

For anyone passing through Portland, it must be nearly impossible to decide where to stay. If you want the motel experience, not only do you have to determine whether the name on the sign, as well as the sign itself suits your taste, you have to consider additional information that may be provided. How many TV channels are you going to get? What if you want a jacuzzi in the room? You always assume you’ll have wi-fi access but do you know? Direct dial phones? Air conditioning? TV? Sometimes it’s the bonus features that make or break the deal. The extras might make the price right. If you’re looking for more than a bed and a pillow you have to consider the features you can or maybe can’t live without for a night or two. Some motels list room features directly on the sign while others have added a marquee for that purpose.

SW Barbur Blvd

Lately, I’ve spent time driving up Interstate and walking and driving in SW where I began to look past the coolness factor of the  signs and discover aspects of them that began to appear absurd.  There were outdated listings of luxuries we now take for granted like phone service, TV and air conditioning. I appreciate the older signs. They look even better in the evening when their neon lights cut through the dark. It’s likely people don’t really consider the quality of the motel signs or mull over specific offerings when choosing a place to stay but for the purpose of writing about motel signs I decided I needed a gimmick.

N Interstate Ave

Fans of the Vikings television show probably won’t find any real Vikings staying at this motel. TV is listed at the top of the sign so it’s a given you’ll have something to watch and hopefully you won’t miss an episode. Otherwise this motel is keeping its offerings on the down low.

N Interstate Ave

This is one of my favorite motel signs in town. I’m not sure why. It could be the cowboy hat. It’s obvious the sign is old. It seems like direct dial phones were possibly a key selling point a long time ago. At least the TV you watch will be in color and the room temperature should be cool.

SW Barbur Blvd

Another old sign that has seen some wear and tear. If you’re looking for phones and kitchens you’ll find them at the Ranch Inn but free cable TV with 32 channels and Showtime movies is the real bargain.

N Interstate Ave

This is another of Portland’s finest neon signs. At night the monkey is more animated moving up and down the  tree. The addition of a marquee allows for increased sales tactics. Free TV seems to have been as much a part of the original sign as the neon monkey.

Palms sign, detail

Showtime shows up again along with commercial rates and internet. Free stuff shouldn’t make the room cost anymore.

N Interstate Ave

When the S in the sign is shaped like a dollar sign that has to imply you’ll be getting a good price. Throw in free high speed internet and you’ve got yourself a deal.  You’re not staying at a motel either. It’s an Inn.


How are you going to settle for anything less than an in room jacuzzi at any price? I loved the old sign before it was replaced. I’m sad to say I never took a photo. The new design did not include additional room perks but if you have an in room jacuzzi what else would you need?

N Interstate Ave

The Monticello makes excellent use of the marquee below the picture of Thomas Jefferson’s old home with an arrow going through it. All your questions should be answered. The motel has some tempting incentives, DSL and HBO too, although in my personal experience I can only think of one hotel experience where HBO actually had something on their schedule that I wanted to watch.

SW Capitol Hwy

I’m getting excited about this sign. I like the lettering font and the simplistic logo. Below the word Inn is an animated sign board offering a welcoming message. Spa, pillow tops, and hot breakfast feels like a little bit of heaven and certainly hospitable.

N Interstate Ave

This sign does not make good use of it’s letter board, but it does have the phrase “Affordable Rates” at the top. This is a rallying cry to cheapskates like me. Has this Inn economized on room perks? Can I at least get some ice in my bucket? There is only one way to find out.

Budget Motel Back view

N Interstate

This sign seems to be in the process of refurbishment. The lettering on the marquee is one of the only instances I’ve seen of a motel offering a special deal which makes for an extra special use of their lettering board.

Budget Motel

A better view. 

Here’s a better look at the Budget Motel sign before the special offer had  been placed on the marquee.

SW 6th Ave

This is a beaut of a sign that snuck up on me on one of those traffic-is-always-bad-on-Thursday afternoons when I took a detour to get home. Back in the day AC, phones and TV seems to be what everyone was looking for. The WI-FI looks like a late addition. I’m going to go out on a limb and praise this as an incredible example of mid-century modern design. I may even be wrong about that, but what do I care.

SW Barbur Blvd

The sign alone makes me want to spend time at this motel. I’d gladly walk up and down the sidewalk out front admiring the sign’s dome and swirling arrow anxiously waiting night fall when the sign would be illuminated. In the background a smaller sign advertises high speed wireless internet. There is no need to offer much else when the main sign looks this good.

SW Barbur Blvd

Kitchenettes and suites are the main draw for the Aladdin Motel. It’s not often that I think of baking anything when I stay in a motel. The sign does have the bonus feature of being part of the Barbur Plaza sign plan. These aren’t exactly in-room perks but you do have the option of getting your nails done, grabbing a gyro, pizza, a gun or some vaping gear while enjoying your stay at the Aladdin.

Editor’s Note: Many of the photos in this piece were taken while driving. This is not something the Portland Orbit advocates or recommends. It is now being insisted upon that all photographers stop and exit their vehicles before taking pictures.

Next Week: The Purple Post

Creepy Stairs, Not Stares

In the beginning.

On a sunny afternoon the opening to a long winding staircase peeks out onto SW Barbur Blvd. The stairs begin dark and gloomy. Surrounding trees and brush block out the sun. The steps appear in an uninviting section of this busy four lane road offering an escape from a dirt and gravel shoulder. I had no idea where they led but anywhere, even a route that required taking sinister steps had to be better than the starting location. It has the feel of a live action Candy Land game. If you land on the space you go up the stairs.

Paint job needed.

I have read a few blogs posts in the Pittsburgh Orbit about that city’s stairs. The weekend before I checked out these mystery stairs, a friend had mentioned The Portland Stairs book. I know Portland has a network of stairs too but I’m not familiar with them. Pittsburgh stairs were constructed for workers to be able to get down the hills to the factories below. With Portland it’s a given that if you live on a hill you would also need steps.

It’s not the tree that’s crooked.

The more I drove past these stairs the more curious I was about where they led. They seemed strange to me. I wondered where someone would go if they took the stairs down the hill to Barbur Blvd. The closest location of significance is the Fulton Park and Community Center or the Portland French school up the road. The stairs have a middle of nowhere feel. It makes more sense to use the stairs to get away from that section of road. I spent the first five months of the school year commuting by bus and train but since I’ve become a regular driver I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a public transportation user or a pedestrian. The stairs provide an easier way to get up the hill. The other option would huffing it up and around a steep street. There has to be a few people who benefit from the stair’s location.

The 201st step.

I ascended the stairs after parking the car on a steep incline on SW Parkhill Dr and walking over. There was never a more aptly named street. It’s hard to tell how much the stairs get used. Graffiti on one of the stair walls had been painted over but the railings suffered from peeling paint and lichen growth. Closer to the top, a pair of pants had been draped over a railing. The stairs proved to be winding but not unyielding. The steps did a nice of job of cutting through the forest and brush. It wasn’t a bad walk as I strode up the stairs with plenty of landings along the way. I spotted daylight and the landings stopped. I was stepping through tall bushes towards sunlight. I popped up in a sedate neighborhood between two nice homes on another section of SW Parkhill Dr. I was able to look back and see a terrific view across the Willamette River. After I headed down the stairs and got back to the car I lamented not counting the stairs. A stair count would offer a sense of how far up the hill the stairs go. A specific number would be impressive. I chose not to return to the stairs to count but my estimate would be at least 300 steps.

Outdoor pants drying rack?

I know there are plenty of stairs in the West Hills and other parts of Portland. Something tells me that they must be impressive if a 147 page book has been written about the subject. I haven’t had the opportunity to explore them. At this point I’m just trying to keep up with the Pittsburgh Orbit. If they’re writing about stairs, I write about Portland’s version. I found my transplant self emerging reflected by my ignorance of stair history, but it felt good to take a few minutes to check them out instead of continuing to drive past them everyday giving them little thought. On the stairs I didn’t run into trolls, sketchy or pantsless people and I didn’t end up reenacting a Portland version of that scene out of the Exorcist. There are more steps out there with there own stories or at the very least some better views.

Post Script: As I was posting this I discovered on the community walk website that the Barbur Blvd stairs are known as the Nebraska Stairway and have a total of 147 steps. My estimate of 300 steps was way off but a good guess considering I had walked up and then back down the steps. That math has me off by only 6 steps. I checked a copy of the Portland Stairs Book from the library which is the first step in my becoming a stairs expert.

Tire Art Roundup Part 1

It’s a safe bet that nobody from Goodyear, Firestone, Les Schawb or other tire sellers and manufacturers could imagine that one day tires would form the basis of incredible art. There is a glut of tires in the world. They wear out but exist in a useless, worn out form. We pay disposal fees and forget about them. Old tires become the stuff of billowing, smoky tire fires. They are made into sandals and welcome mats. Used tires have multiple uses but that’s what I thought up off the top of my head. So why not art? Their material usefulness and ability to be repurposed is proof of this possibility.

I became conscious of Tire Art last year. As I was riding my bike to work through the St. Johns area each day I would vary my route either to find a quicker way or as a means to break up the monotony. One route delivered me to a dead end. In front of a house sat two tires one of which was painted. The combination of paint and tire is sometimes, but not always, a sign of Tire Art. It made me consider the tires way up on Columbia Blvd., planted in the dirt and painted. I think there were flowers inside. I’m still searching for the best moment to capture the essence of this display with flowers in full bloom and the tires painted and shining in all their sunlit glory. There will be a second post. There’s only so much tire art any one can digest at one time so I’m keeping the portions small.

In the Swing of Things

To offer greater perspective on Tire Art, allow me to present the classic tire swing.

The classic!

It seems timeless and true, harkening back to a bygone era, mind you as you are all probably well aware, it has nothing to do with actual Tire Art.

But when a tire is chopped up and restyled, this reimagination is a transformative art form.


At this point the tire serves double duty but mostly remains Tire Art until it finds itself in use as a tire swing .

Make a Wish

Wishing you well.

Off North Williams I found a painted tire being used to form the basis of a combination wishing well and mail box. This piece is hitting on many cylinders with that winning and functional combination. It helps that the tire incorporates a faux brick finish and a flower arrangement.

Desperate Times

Tire Art 5

I’ll have the five stack.

A desperate attempt to glean some semblance of Tire Art can be found in this photo of a stack of tires. There’s paint but the haphazard application is more slap dash than abstract. The only way you’ll get Tire Art from this piece is through a hefty dose of imagination. I tend to take pictures and analyze later as I’m excited to see tire arrangements whenever I can. This is a nice stack with color flourishes, but no amount of photographic trickery could up the art quotient.

Tire Art King

Stack attack.

The business on Lombard Street is known as The Tire King for a reason. If nothing else, they’re the king of Tire Art. They’ve displayed tires in many different ways but this set up caught my eye with it’s use of lighting and multicolored garland. It’s festive, cake shaped and an artistic way of creating a sculptural tire advertisement.

Treading lightly.

Color Me Impressed

All in a row.

This display created excitement by simply being at the top of my street in the Kenton neighborhood. It’s Tire Art close to home offering rainbow bright colors, though not quite in ROYGBIV order. These tires brighten up landscaping and are now doing double duty as planters. This display truly hits on many of the tenants of high Tire Art involving paint and imaginative arrangement.

Remove hubcaps, add plants.

Part two of our Tire Art series will run next week as we wait for the photos to get back from the developer.

Next week: Creepy Stairs, Not Stares

Portland Has A Liberty Bell Replica

No sooner had I stepped out of the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building, in downtown Portland (after photographing the Louie Louie sculpture) than I ran into a large bell behind City Hall. It looked familiar. Something told me if I got closer, I would see a crack, and . . . sure enough. It hit me: replica crack equals Liberty Bell Replica!

Single word questions like “What?” and “Why?” jumped into my head. Since I was writing posts related to “Louie Louie,” I decided to run the imitation bell up the proverbial flag pole by posting a picture of it on the “Hidden Portland For the Curious” Facebook page as a kind of subliminal, secretive blog post preview. Responses included information from a Wikipedia entry, ah, the speculative journalist’s favorite source, and a link for a site explaining an effort to get a replica placed in each of the 50 states. Most liberty bell replicas were placed in state capitals including Salem. This left me wondering why Portland has a bell.

My best guess is Portland’s bell has nothing to do with the Liberty Bell Replica program that started in 1950. Salem got a bell, and Portland likely developed bell envy. Personally, I like Liberty Bells and had an opportunity to visit the mother of all Liberty Bells in Philadelphia years ago with Pittsburgh Orbit founder Will Simmons. It was great to discover this replica after living in Portland for almost ten years. I never had a reason to hang out behind City Hall until now. My online research proved treacherous, fraught with temptation to purchase my own personal Liberty Bell Replica. I’m surprised the market for them isn’t growing. Portland’s first bell only cost $8,000 in 1962 according to Wikipedia. That was a bargain. Every town and city in America should have its own  Liberty Bell Replica and let freedom ring!

Liberty Bell 2

Will Simmons and some posers.

Liberty Bell 1

You can look and touch.

The Wikipedia entry made fascinating reference to the explosion of the first replica.  After a time in the City Hall Rotunda, it was blown up with dynamite in 1970. An article in the Portland Mercury included details of the bell explosion in a cover story featuring famous explosions in Oregon history. Other articles drew my attention as well. I appreciated a quote from a City Hall custodian, in The Chicago Tribune. “It scared the _______ out of me!” he said. The Tribune published the blank in place of what must have been a vulgar word.

After exploring every source I could find in a fit of harried research, I felt I was reading the same story over and over. The bell was blown up. It was replaced. Not one mention of the reason it showed up in the first place. On Waymarking.com I saw a posting by HappyFrog that tells an interesting tale.

“500,000 schoolchildren signed a petition in 1915 asking Philadelphians to send the Liberty Bell to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of San Francisco. The Liberty Bell was now to travel cross-country by train, stopping frequently as it made its way to San Francisco. One of the stops was in Portland, Oregon.”

It’s possible this bell commemorates the real Liberty Bell’s 1915 visit, but I didn’t find evidence of that. HappyFrog was told, on a visit to City Hall in the ’60’s, that major cities were given replicas of the Liberty Bell. So they were just handing out bells back then?

I only wish I could reveal the identity of those involved in blowing up the original replica. That would be a scoop. Portland Mercury contributing writer Joe Streckert asked if such a thing as an “original replica” could actually exist. It is pretty oxymoronic as the description of Portland’s first bell. It seems further proof of how much the city wanted a bell when they replaced the first one. It was in too many bits and pieces to put back together. In my research I also learned that the Oregonian uses Wikipedia as a source which puts me in good company.

The Tacoma Weekly reported in 2010 that,

“Fifty-five exact replicas of the Liberty Bell were forged in France in 1950 and were distributed to each state and Untied States territory as part of a savings bond drive undertaken by the U.S. Treasury.”

And yes, the Washington state bell can be found in Tacoma which makes the workings of this giveaway questionable. I’m left, sadly, with more questions than answers. I can’t tell you why Washington State’s bell is located in Tacoma and not Olympia. It is located next to a state building. And no, I never did find the reason Portland has a bell. I hope to have an answer in a future blog post. I can only appreciate the serendipitous joy of happening on the bell. It’s a bonus that its history includes a strange tale. Even the Portland Liberty Bell Replica is trying to keep it weird.

This one stumped me enough that I wanted to share everything I’ve found out about this bell. I received another great link from a Facebook commenter that ties up a few of my loose ends. This may save me from writing more about this unless I can solve the crime of who blew up the first one.


There’s a Liberty Bell museum, not in Philadelphia, but Allentown, Pa!


Some guy has gone nuts and is trying to visit all 50 of the Liberty Bell Replicas:


Next week the first part of an exploration of Tire Art.

The Louie Files: ’62 Seaside Riot

When I started running blog posts about “Louie Louie,” I discovered some history along the way. In the case of finding the location of the Pypo Club, I’ll admit I was befuddled. The origins of the Kingsmen’s recording could be found at the Seaside, Oregon club. While the Pypo Club was not central to the ’62 riots, when discussing this history with my friend Jeff Dodge he told me his father Stew Dodge had been a witness to the event.  I knew there was more to this era to cover. Stew Dodge has been a longtime Portland musician and behind the music scene too through the sound company he owns. I’ve never been to a riot so I had to hear a first hand account.

July 1962

In the summer of ‘62, I was headed for my senior year of high school at North Catholic which is right down the street. Now it’s an Arby’s on Lombard Street. Our family hung out at the beach. We had friends that had a cabin at Tolovana Park. It was a beater, neat, great, beat up five bedroom beach cabin and we’d rent it before school started for a few years. We hung out at Cannon Beach a lot, went up to Seaside hung out there a lot. In the summer of ‘62 I was down there with, I can’t remember probably staying at the cabin in Tolovana Park. I think it was probably a Saturday night and we went in to Seaside. We had a great beach party going. It was Pete Dressler and Al Kemmer. There was maybe four guys and three of the foxiest chicks that ever went to North Catholic High School and I actually struck up a conversation with Fran Yohn who was absolutely fantastic and I had high hopes until the Seaside lifeguards came walking down the beach. Pete Dressler got beat up. They threw the guitar in the fire, drank all our beer and then split. Nobody got really hurt. It was a power move. It was the lifeguards. There was a guy, his nickname was, Hodun, a big guy and there was another guy I’m not going to mention his name because he was kind of the head lifeguard and the next day I went down to the Turnaround I think with Al Kemmer and these guys were hanging around the lifeguard tower, strutting around and they made some crack “hey you have a good party last night.” And I said, “No, we didn’t have a good party at all.” I said, “But you’re gonna wish you never did that because Labor Day weekend I’m going to bring all my friends down here and we’re going to get even with you.” So file that away.

Stew Dodge, far left from US Cadenza band lineup, 1966

Saturday, Labor Day weekend ‘62

So we found ourselves down at the coast, oh there was half a dozen guys I was down there with. Things started getting really crowded and really crazy. It was just huge, packed, you had to walk in the streets because the sidewalk’s too full. This is one thing the good residents of Seaside probably don’t want to admit but I was 17 and I looked like I was 12 and I could walk into any one of three or four taverns buy a case of beer as long as I took it down on the beach on the sand, as long as I went down to the Turnaround and then went on down to the beach. Well let me think. Is that a good idea? Maybe not. So Saturday was pretty crazy, there wasn’t any aberrant behavior I don’t think, it was just packed and a huge party.

The day of the riot, Sunday, Sept. 2nd

The Times Theater is on Main Street and it’s like a long block away from the Turnaround, I think it’s a four way stop now with the light and we were just walking up and down the sidewalk and hanging out and a fight started. As I recall it was a guy who went to University of Oregon and somebody else said the other guy was a javelin thrower from USC or something and it was like a John Wayne movie. These guys were slugging it out. It was a fair fight but it was a real fight. Everybody backed up so there was like a 20 foot diameter ring right in the middle of the intersection where these guys were fighting. Everybody’s cheering them on and finally they said, “Do you want to quit?” “Yeah I’ll quit.” And they shook hands and walked down the street to get a beer and then the cops showed up. I can’t remember why, one guy got arrested and they cuffed him, threw him in the backseat of the squad car and they were already headed up Broadway towards the Turnaround so they drove up to Turnaround and the crowd followed them. They tried to take a right hand turn at the Turnaround and they couldn’t move it was too many kids. It was really packed and people were yelling, screaming and cheering and stuff and drunk, everybody’s drunk. You know the average age seemed to me to be 21 or 22 older and younger, but college. I was kind of in the minority. I was a junior in high school. Somebody, and I was right there I was watching it, somebody ran up and opened the passenger side, back door on the cop car and they grabbed the guy that was in the cop car and spirited him away. All the sudden they didn’t have their prisoner anymore. So one of the cops slammed the door and they both hopped in and they went up to the corner took a right headed back into town and then when they got down in front of the Catholic Church a block down the street they couldn’t move again.

A bottle like this?

It was too crowded. I was standing there with hundreds of people, the cops were, “Okay, break this up, let us through here,” and from kind of up the street towards the beach came a Blitz Weinhard stubby bottle through the air and punched out the rear window of the cop car. And that was it. Everybody kind of went, “uh oh,” that’s all changed and the cops were able to get into their car and take off and we didn’t see another cop, I’m thinking this was five o’clock in the afternoon, six, somewhere in there, we didn’t see another cop for two or three hours, nobody, no authority at all. They all just gave up which is probably a good idea. By this time they started calling in county, state cops, cops from Astoria, cops from all the agencies up and down the North Coast. So it was just anarchy, you know. It was thousands of kids, nobody in charge, everybody is drunk, everybodies’ having a great time. So we’re all back up at the Turnaround and Al Kemmer says let’s get some guys let’s get three or four guys and let’s start chanting, “Let’s get the tower.” Statue of limitations, okay, I’m not afraid now you know I’ve lived my life. And they did. The thousand people streamed down into the sand and pushed over the lifeguard tower. It was like two and a half stories tall and it was right next to the Turnaround so a long way from the water and we thought well that was interesting.

Then about fifty people picked it up, carried it up the steps and stood it up in the middle of the Turnaround and I’m thinking this is interesting you know this is getting out of control and then they started rolling it end over end down Broadway. It took like fifty guys to do that. It was spectacular and I’m think it pretty much disintegrated from falling over a bunch of times in the cement and then the cops started coming up the street and a fire engine. A fire engine came up about a block away from the actual Turnaround, maybe, and they hooked it up to the fireplug, fired that thing up and got their high pressured hose, I think they only had one, they might’ve had two hoses. They had at least one hose and started hosing down the crowd, which was great fun, you know, and again it didn’t start getting crazy until firemen and cops and other people with some sort of authority in Seaside started using ax handles and they started beating on the kids and then arresting a lot of kids. My good friend, he grew up two houses away from Pat Daily, he went to jail that night. They got him for inciting a riot, hauled him off and put him in jail. We bailed him out the next day.

There’s a picture of a guy, with a newspaper holder, I was right there, I watched that. He tried hitting somebody with that. And then the water stopped the hose quit and a guy, a kid, came running up the street with the keys to the fire engine in his hand, a huge cheer, right. It got tough after that. It got really rough. There was lots of cops. I don’t think the National Guard made it there that day. I think they were there the first thing in the morning. They called up the Guard and that was pretty much it for the anarchy, the thousands of kids from up and down the coast. Three or four of us walked out of town to Gearhart, which is the next town north and we all slept in a barn. I don’t know whose barn it was. It was Labor Day, it got pretty chilly that night but I can remember all of us slept in the hay in the corner of this barn because all of the highways were closed so we couldn’t get anywhere. That’s the chronology from my memory.

With Dr. Corn’s Bluegrass Remedy, 1976

PO: But the cops left and you guys kind of were set off what kind of rioting was going on right as the cops left? Was it fighting?

No, it was a party. It wasn’t even edgy, you know, it was a party. I think the seamier element, I think that’s when stuff started getting broken, and I wasn’t up on Broadway when they were breaking windows and stuff and I think that was, I can’t really remember if that was before the reinforced Police got back up the street. It may have been. With the fire engine, that was great fun getting hosed down with water but they were gone a long time. My feeling was that it was still a giant drunken party

Fritz Richmond’s Barbecue Orchestra, 2003

PO: Combined with maybe some underage drinking.


PO: But you mentioned the older crowd too, 21 to 22 mixed in with high school kids.

There was wholesale drinking. They were lined up in the bars buying cases of beer and then going down to the beach.

PO: As far as those lifeguards, did you ever catch up with them?

Yeah, the next day. We walked down there, me and half a dozen of my buddies walked down the steps and there were four stakes in the ground and they had it roped off where it used to be. I thought that was a wonderful memorial. It was suggested that it would be a really good idea if we got the hell out of Seaside right then and we did. That was Labor Day, that was Monday. I didn’t press it. I didn’t want to get something going all over again but I was able to look at the stakes in the ground and smile at them.

US Cadenza reunion, 2013

PO: You pretty much got the last laugh because their stand had been destroyed.

And then twenty-five years later or thirty years later, I was hanging out with this girl who lived in Cannon Beach and her landlord was the guy. I think his name is Dick Donica or something, he was the head, he wasn’t the big tough guy but—these guys, they’re all king of the Pypo Club and stuff. They’re real celebrities in Seaside and insufferable jerks. And he was Maggie’s landlord at the house she was living in, in Cannon Beach and this was in ’90, ‘91 maybe, and I knew who he was and I ran into him a couple times and he kept going, “Do I know you?” This was 30 years later and I was like, “No I don’t think so.” He looked at me funny and said that two or three times over that summer.

PO: What are your thoughts as far as Seaside not wanting to talk about it?

It’s funny because in the mid-70’s I worked at a place and one of the guys I worked with, the guy worked out in the warehouse, Sonny was the guy’s name, he was from Seaside and he was there during the riot. It came up once and they’re all pissed off that it gave Seaside a bad name, yeah, sleepy little beach town.

A sound idea, indeed.

PO: I mean part of my thought is it was right before I was born but I think about back then you think, early 60s everybody’s respectful, for this or that you can think about the Marlon Brando types the Wild Ones or something it’s not a biker gang thing but,

No, and that wasn’t, if you look at the pictures, I’ve been looking at the pictures and actually I’ve been seeing guys and I’m going okay I remember that guy. I don’t know who was at fault to do things over again that kid shouldn’t have thrown that beer bottle. Maybe they shouldn’t have arrested that kid. They’re trying to do a big power play in front of a thousand drunk college students, maybe that wasn’t smart. Nobody down there, none of the cops, sleepy little Seaside town, the worst they’d ever done was roust a drunk or a bounced check. This was totally new ground for them so it was a comedy of errors I think and there wasn’t, except for the tower, there wasn’t any sort of pre-planned thing so it was not a conspiracy it was something that got out of hand.

Performance photos courtesy of Trench Digger Productions. Many thanks to Jeff S. Dodge!

More reading:


My favorite part of the link below is how the photo is debunked by the commentators:


Next week: Portland has a bell?

Sign Additions

Municipal signs lack something. The design aims to present information and educate the public so it needs to be eye catching but not fancy. These signs have no fear of boring anyone. I’ve mentioned in this blog that I read everything, except the fine print and the manual. I’ve been rewarded with discovering signs sporting interjections of added art by unknown artists and unsung heroes giving a bit of personality to these morbidly mundane municipal messages.

Fat Cat Walking

Some signs not only spell out their message but illustrate it as well. That’s where the fun of this downtown Portland sign begins. This is not a stretch of sidewalk for loitering. Don’t stand around or you’re liable to get trampled by a diverse horde. You might be strolled, rolled, tripped over, poked by a cane or suffer a giant cigar poke to the eye. Wait a minute, that cigar wasn’t part of the original design. How fantastic is it that someone decided this sign needed improvement? Not only did the culprit risk getting walked over when decorating the sign, they actually nailed it. If you can imagine the figure minus the cigar and top hat, the man is joining this procession in full Fat Cat stride. Admire the coolness, the back lean, hand in pocket bravado adjusting his pace as not to crowd the cane bearing slow walker in front of him. What Fat Cat should be without a giant cigar and top hat? Keep puffing along Fat Cat, if you weren’t so relaxed and cool, I’d expect to see you in the front of the line.

Walking the Dog

While the Stick Figure Guy has been the butt of many jokes in his time I’ve never had a problem with him. This floating head, handless, footless, jumper wearing dude has always represented a person doing what the sign communicates his figurative needs to be. In this case the man is trying to cross the street. The sign includes a shout out to dog walkers on SW Capitol Hwy. As a dog walker myself, I welcomed the acknowledgement of the dog walking chore. Of course dogs need to cross streets too. Why were they forgotten in the first place? Our unknown artist missed an opportunity to draw the dog in stick style although why would anyone, there’s no stick breed. Dog walking in this case is challenging when you consider that Stick Guy has nary a hand and not much of a wrist to hang a leash on.

Danger Boy

This sign on Interstate Ave. reveals another dramatic development in the life of a Stick Figure Guy. A bolt of electricity strikes deep into his inky insides from a broken wire as Danger Boy looks on. The additional drawing offers an example to Stick Man on how it’s really done. To avoid danger simple choose to sit far away from wires. With his big eyes, Danger Boy remains wide eyed, mouthlessly silent and alert in the face of all treacherous situations. He’s doing double duty filling up a serious hole of white space in a sign that suffers from a poor design.

Where the Streets Have No Name

Outside a bus stop on Barbur Blvd in SW you’ll find a street sign addition that seems to call out mournfully the absence of something, well, absence. It’s true, as the sign feels the need to say, after those gaudy iron pipes there’s no more sidewalk. How would that not be obvious to anyone who might encounter it? After a few steps and a look around someone might try consider where the sidewalk went but the sign has additional information that’s let them know the exact point where the sidewalk ends. Equally important as questions go, who felt the need to add letters as if the original message on the sign wasn’t interesting enough? Someone out there was inspired to add the necessary flare supplement the sign’s plain design. It now takes on a kind of existential quality. Thankfully the effort was made so a few bored commuters, some daring pedestrians and an urban explorer or two might have an opportunity to be shaken out of their doldrums.

6/7/17 Weeks later I was embarrassed to find out via the Hidden Portland for the Curious Facebook group that this is a reference to a Shel Silverstein book. I work in an elementary school so I know I’ve seen those books around but I was more of a Tom Lehrer fan.

I got a synchronous tip from Cupcake Macfarlane about the work of the Billboard Liberation Front.  Check it out!