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This hunk of pallasite came from the same 1820 meteor strike in Chile that many scientists believe was the source of the 'sample' Dr. John Evans claims he chipped off the Port Orford Meteorite when he found it. Was the meteorite a fraud? Many think so; others think not.

port orford meteorite: a hoax? or is it still out there somewhere?

The man who found it was in financial trouble; did he really find an 11-ton, $300-million rock, or did he make it all up so he could stay employed? Here's the story.


This is not a picture of the Sunshine; it's a lumber schooner of a similar type, the Wawona. The Sunshine, on her way home from her maiden voyage to San Francisco, vanished and then reappeared, upside down, 200 miles off course.

Gold was gone when schooner washed ashore ... empty

The fate of the Sunshine's passengers and crew is unknown ... did somebody wreck the ship on purpose?. Here's the story.


One of Conde McCullough's bridges -- the steel one linking Oregon City with Gladstone. he's better known for the Oregon Coast bridges.

Sammy Davis Jr. used to regularly play portland clubs.

Many consider him the coolest member of the Rat Pack. Sammy caught his big break while he was in Portland. Here's the story.


One of Conde McCullough's bridges -- the steel one linking Oregon City with Gladstone. he's better known for the Oregon Coast bridges.

The man behind Oregon's most famous bridges.

Conde McCullough's genius was in getting the most gorgeous bridge to also be the cheapest, over the long term. Here's the story.


The steamer Telephone, fastest boat on the river in the 1880s and possibly the world -- until it burned to the waterline one day.


riverboat captain had to choose: save passengers, or save his boat?

The steamboat Telephone caught fire at the widest spot in the Columbia; the decision must not have been too tough, because Captain U.B. Scott didn't hesitate for a moment. Here's what happened.

A shallow-draft riverboat of the type pioneered by Uriah B. Scott, on the river at Albany around 1900 or so.

Turns out the 'ignoramus from back east' knew what he was doing.

The big steamboat outfits laughed at the crude, ugly riverboat Uriah B. Scott was building ... until he used it to eat their lunch. Here's how.


The gravestone of Ame, who despite having died 10 years after the Civil War, was still considered a slave.

sHE DIED AROUND 1874. SO WHY DOES THE GRAVESTONE SAY SHE WAS A SLAVE?

Ame came over the Oregon Trail from Missouri. But when the North won the Civil War, her status as a slave didn't change. Here's what happened.


Ray V.B. Jackson in a booking photo from the Oregon State Pen, in 1896. Four years after this photo was taken, he was teaching grade school in Silver Lake.

Is this the face of oregon's first serial killer?

Like an "angel of death," ex-con Ray V.B. Jackson just happened to be at the scene of at least five Central Oregon homicides. What are the odds? Here's the story (in two parts).


The four-masted schooner North Bend, stranded on a sandy spit, 'sailed' through two and a half miles of sand and relaunched itself on the other side.

The stranded sailing ship that salvaged and re-launched itself.

The North Bend was the last tall ship ever built on the West Coast. When it ran aground on Peacock Spit, it just kept on sailing through the sand, crossing two miles of sandy beach to reach Baker Bay. It took over a year. Here's the story.


The Sagebrush Symphony Orchestra on its 'giant violin' float, after riding it through the town of Burns in the Fourth of July Parade, 1915.

america's first youth orchestra came out of tiny sagebrush town.

The Portland Youth Philharmonic says it was founded in Portland in 1924. Actually, it's older than that -- and much more rural. Here's the story.


Vaudeville's famous Klondike Kate became a Central Oregon legend

central oregon's most fabulous homesteader ever.

Homesteader Kitty "Klondike Kate" Rockwell, retired from the bright lights of Vaudeville, often wore full costume just to weed the garden. Here's the story.


Goal of Oregon whale hunters: Grow fur coats, and put a man on the moon.

helping put a man on the moon, one dead whale at a time?

Whale oil is special stuff, and NASA needed it for the space program. So an Astoria group launched a whaling venture in the early 1960s. Here's the story.


Shipwreck ended Astoria's 1840s bid to become the Nantucket of the West Coast

astoria could have become a mecca of whale hunting ...

... had it not been for the Columbia River Bar, which wrecked the only whaling ship that ever dared try to cross it with a full cargo hold. It was a total loss. Here's the story.


Early Oregon 'holy roller' cult ended in murder, suicide, insanity

THE holy-roller "NAKED LADIES' CULT" IN CORVALLIS and waldport.

It started out as a church seeking perfect holiness and Godliness. It ended in murder, insanity and chaos — and, yes, rumors of naked ladies. Check out the full story (in two parts).


The Glenesslin, under almost full sail, grinds against the rocks at the base of Neahkahnie Mountain.

mariner's spooky nightmare came true the next day

In his dream, the first mate of the German barque Mimi saw seaweed covering all but three shipmates. The next day, all but three drowned in one of Oregon's worst-ever salvage disasters. Here's the story.


Florence's famous exploding whale: A highway engineer didn't know how much dynamite to use, so he guessed ... and guessed wrong.

Whale explodes: Details at 11.

The highway department guy didn't know how much dynamite to use, and said so on camera. But he still thinks the operation was a success. Check out the story of Florence's famous exploding whale ...


The Glenesslin, under almost full sail, grinds against the rocks at the base of Neahkahnie Mountain.

was this shipwreck insurance fraud or just drunken incompetence?

On a beautiful clear October day, astonished beach-goers watched a big windjammer simply turn and sail straight into the side of a mountain. Why would her crew do such a thing? Here's the story.


.44-caliber Colt Dragoon revolver, designed in 1848.

gold-rush bandits hunted down and killed ... but where was their loot?

No one has ever found it — or if they have, they've been awfully discreet. The Triskett Gang had stolen it hours earlier from the assaying depot in the town of Sailors' Diggins. Here's the story.


US Coast Guard 47-foot motor lifeboat takes on a heavy sea off Cape Disappointment.

tired of seeing mariners die, lighthouse keeper took action.

In 1865, Joel Munson watched 17 sailors drown on the Columbia Bar. But when their lifeboat washed up near his lighthouse, it gave him an idea — an idea that lives on today in the U.S. Coast Guard. Here's the story.


Delake Rod and Gun Club as it appeared in 1960.

mysterious mansion was haunted only by olympic medalist's dream.

OSU Wrestling legend Robin Reed, an Olympic gold medalist, was never pinned once in his entire career. But his plan for the Delake Rod and Gun Club ended in defeat. Here's the story.


U.S. Coast Guard cutter Algonquin.

bootleggers save sailors' lives, but get thrown in jail anyway.

In the early years of Prohibition, a Canadian rumrunner entered U.S. territorial waters to save the lives of nine castaways — and got caught and sent to jail anyway. Here's the story.


Bobbie the Wonder Dog

Bobbie the wonder dog's 2,400-mile odyssey.

Left behind in Illinois, the big collie dog walked home to Silverton, Oregon. It took him six months. Here's Bobbie's story.


A modern reproduction of a classic Concord Stagecoach.

a few legends of buried gold and treasure ...

Some of them might even be true. Here's a selection of them — as far as we know, the loot from any of them has never been found.


This crater marks ground zero in the Roseburg Blast. It's about 60 feet across.

a nuclear strike
in downtown roseburg?

No; it was "just" an exploding dynamite truck. But the mushroom cloud was big enough to fool a passing airline pilot. Here's the full story of the legendary "Roseburg Blast."


Part of the historic entry to Portland's Chinatown.

he dressed in rags like a beggar, so no one would know ...

To avoid getting robbed and murdered, Chinese couriers dressed as beggars while carrying thousands of dollars in gold from the fields. This is the story of one of these men, and the woman whose life he saved.


Steamer Admiral Evans, f.k.a. Buckman, which the two would-be pirates tried to hijack

THE dumbest would-be pirates in the history of the universe.

Their plan: Hijack a passenger steamer (that's it, in the thumbnail above), run it aground and sneak off into the bushes with 3 tons of gold. Do I need to mention that it didn't work out? Here's what happened.


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THE SHIPWRECK VICTIMS WHO THOUGHT THEY WERE GONERS ... UNTIL A TRAIN SHOWED UP.

Usually when something steams out to sea to rescue shipwrecked sailors, it's not a railroad train. Here's the story of the one (and probably only) time it was.


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Far-out guru "enlightens" Central Oregon.

What happens when a colony of acolytes of an East Indian guru move in, then try to take over Wasco County? Check out the four-part story of the rise and fall of Rajneeshpuram ...


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this oregon youth went on to save half a billion lives...guess who?

A local Willamette Valley teen-ager named Bert Hoover, an orphan sent from Iowa to live with his uncle, went on to save millions of lives and become a singularly ill-starred U.S. president.


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oregon's most spectacular shipwreck ever.

The steam schooner J. Marhoffer was almost brand-new when, burning fiercely from stem to stern, it piled onto the rocks near Depoe Bay. It's the remains of this fiery shipwreck that gave Boiler Bay its name ...


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the gallant rescue of portland's floating brothel.

Maritime madam Nancy Boggs kept her bordello on a barge floating in the river, until a police raid cut it loose. But the captain and crew of a sternwheeler came to save the day. Here's the story.


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take off to the province of oregon, eh?

Few people know how close Oregon came to officially becoming a British possession under the treaty that ended the War of 1812. Only the presence of a handful of scattered, starving survivors from Astor's fur enterprise prevented it. Here's how.


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timberline lodge could have been a glass skyscraper

Calling the plan a "profit-making eyesore," a Forest Service manager nixed 1920s plan for a modern steel-and-glass structure with an aerial tramway. You can read about it right here.


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pixieland: an edgy, vanished amusement park

Built in the late 1960s as a "fairy-tale history of Oregon," the amusement park lasted just a few years before slipping into receivership. Today, all that's left of this odd and uniquely Oregonian story is a dilapidated guardshack.


Offbeat Oregon History: Album cover art

“Voice of Looney Toons” was the terror of his Portland high school

His teachers may not have appreciated Mel Blanc's humor and talents, but Portland radio listeners sure did — and later, so did generations of Bugs Bunny fans.

Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam, Daffy Duck, Sylvester and Tweety.
Legendary voice man Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny and dozens
of other cartoon characters, in 1976. Blanc grew up in 1920s Portland.
(Photo: Alan Light) [Larger image: 800 x 1156 px]

The hallway at Lincoln High School in Portland was empty except for a fourteen-year-old student named Melvin Blank, who was walking along listening to the echo his footsteps made.

Melvin was probably there to serve a term of detention. He was a classic classroom clown, the kind of kid that makes teachers remove their hair by the fistful. Melvin was by no means a bad kid. But he had a round, cherubic face that seemed permanently set in a slightly-mischievous smile, a zany sense of humor, and a seeming inability to sit still and keep his mouth shut during classroom time. He also had a freakish ability to imitate voices — including, of course, those of his teachers.

On this particular day, Melvin had worked out a wonderfully wild, slightly sinister, cackling laugh that he no doubt hoped to use one day in a classroom when a teacher wasn’t looking. The hallway’s acoustics were so perfect, he just had to try it out. Melvin ran down the hall, shrieking out his laugh and enjoying the echoes as the empty high-school hall reverberated with the racket.

At the end of the hall, he discovered that he wasn’t quite alone in the school. There with him, looking utterly unimpressed with his voice talents, stood the principal of Lincoln High — a fellow who knew Melvin well after numerous referrals to his office for classroom disruptions.

“My nervous explanation about utilizing the hallway’s natural echo did not evoke a shred of compassion, the principal’s frown deepening by the second,” Melvin recounted later, in his memoirs. “The second I finished, he exploded, ‘I should kick you out of this school!’ but he never did.”

The title screen from a 1948 Warner Bros. cartoon.
A panel from the intro credits of a classic 1948 Looney Toons cartoon.
Bugs Bunny was Mel Blanc's most popular character. [Larger image:
1200 x 900 px
]

Twenty years later, that principal — and the rest of the country — was undoubtedly very familiar with that laugh. It belonged to a cartoon character named Woody Woodpecker.

Melvin Blank, the boisterous and clownish Lincoln High School student, is better known today as Mel Blanc — the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, Pepe le Pew, Barney Rubble and about five dozen other cartoon characters from the “golden age of cartoons” around World War II.

Mel’s story is fantastic and complicated, and generally far too good for a short newspaper column to do justice to.  If you have even the slightest interest, you ought to check out his 1988 memoir. But here are a few of the high points of his Oregon story:

Blanc’s Oregon boyhood

Mel was born in San Francisco in 1908, but moved with his parents to Portland soon after and grew up in the Rose City. And in fact, if Portland’s radio-station owners had not been so stingy, he might well have remained in Oregon, pouring his talents out on the local market here. Which, you have to admit, would have been a rotten shame.

The funny lad first got on the radio when he was 19. Someone from local radio station KGW got hold of him and asked if he might like to perform on an evening radio program called “The Hoot Owls.”

The pay was negligible. But for young Mel, the experience was solid gold. From singing funny songs, he moved into a comedy routine and developed formidable ad-libbing skills. Meanwhile, to keep enough money coming in to eat, he started playing tuba for a couple nine-man big-band ensembles.

Mel continued this way for several years, supporting his Hoot Owl habit as an increasingly successful tuba player and orchestra conductor. But in 1932, he decided he just had to go to Hollywood and try to make it big as a voice artist.

So he loaded up his old Ford Model A and headed south.

Of course, 1932 was probably the worst year you could possibly choose to try something like that.

California, here he comes …

In Hollywood, Mel worked sporadically on one-shot appearances on radio comedies and spent most of his time working a circuit of employment offices at studios and radio stations. His ability to take a “no” from a rude front-office flunky and bounce back smiling and confident five minutes later, walking through the door of his next prospect, became legendary … but not legendary enough to land him steady work. After all, there was a Depression on.

All told, Mel’s trip to Hollywood was a bust. Except for one thing: He met his wife there — a fellow radio person named Estelle Rosenbaum.

Finally one day Mel got a “big break” in Hollywood ... well, sort of. It came in the mail, postmarked from Portland. Radio Station KEX was offering him his own radio show if he would come on home. And would he? You bet.

California, there he goes

Estelle, a native Californian, was a bit apprehensive. “Is it really as rainy as people say?” she asked him.

“Naw, it’s not too bad,” Mel replied. He should have known better than to tempt the weather gods like that. When they arrived, of course, it was pouring.

Their show was called “Cobwebs and Nuts.” Although only Mel was paid for it, Mel and Estelle both worked in the studios at 1190 KEX for 16 hours a day, furiously writing, prepping and broadcasting the show, which got very popular. Mel and Estelle became local celebrities, and the show was moved to the more prestigious 620 KGW station. But the couple, although famous, was still getting by on just $60 a month. Mel recounts a time when the two of them drove to Vancouver for a five-cent bag of caramel corn and discovered, on arrival, that they were one cent short.

Of course, it was the Great Depression, so the impoverished couple had plenty of company. But still, it was a lot of work and they were getting nowhere, and “Cobwebs and Nuts” had stopped being fun to do.

Back to Hollywood, this time to stay

Finally one day, Estelle looked at Mel and said, “Do you want to have a nervous breakdown, or do you want to go back to Los Angeles? … Mel, if we’re going to be broke, at least let’s be broke someplace where it’s warm.”

That was all Mel needed to hear. This time, when Mel left Portland, he didn’t come back.

But his voice sure did.

(Sources: Blanc, Mel. That’s Not All, Folks. Los Angeles: Warner, 1988; Rayburn, John. Cat whiskers and talking furniture. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1998; Oregon Cartoon Institute’s Mel Blanc Project, http://melblancproject.wordpress.com/)