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.

Some!

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 and Mr. Stew Dodge, too!

More reading:

http://www.oregonlive.com/history/2016/06/seasides_wave_of_riots_in_the.html

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

http://www.stumptownblogger.com/2011/05/the-seaside-riots.html

Next week: Portland has a bell?

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2 thoughts on “The Louie Files: ’62 Seaside Riot

  1. Sam Rascoe says:

    I’m publishing a personal account of the 1962 Seaside Riots by one of the firemen who was there. I’d like your permission to reprint your post from May 5, 2017 entitled “The Louie Files: ’62 Seaside Riots” with Stew Dodge’s account.

    Like

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