Heroes and rascals, shipwrecks and lost gold: Strange but true stories and secrets of Oregon's wild past | Offbeat Oregon History The Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (now known as Osho -- yes, THAT Osho) as he appeared when he lived in Wasco County with his followers. That's also him in the white Rolls-Royce surrounded by followers, in a scene from Rajneeshpuram. (Four-part story starts with Column No. 73, May 9, 2010 While doing some cleaning-up around the Odd Fellows Hall in Scio, a local girl found a tiny coffin with this partial skeleton inside. Whose? We'll probably never know ... (Story No. 204, Oct. 14, 2012) The ever-elusive D.B. Cooper peeks into the page from behind his signature shades. The story of his skyjacking exploit starts with episode 237, from June 2, 2013. Meet Kitty Kat, the wealthiest feline in the state of Oregon and landlord to the City of Tangent. Kitty Kat, until he died at a ripe old age in 1995, owned City Hall. (Story No. 163, Jan. 8, 2012) This crazy-looking speedboat was the invention of Portland wizard Victor Strode. The city commissioned a harbor patrol boat based on his design, but it didn't work out. (Story No. 201, Sept. 23, 2012) The Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (now known as Osho -- yes, THAT Osho) as he appeared when he lived in Wasco County with his followers. That's also him in the white Rolls-Royce surrounded by followers, in a scene from Rajneeshpuram. (Four-part story starts with Column No. 73, May 9, 2010 This is the roof of the Franz Bread Rest Hut at Pixieland, the Oregon Coast's ill-starred answer to Disneyland, which opened in 1969 and went out of biz in 1974. The Rest Hut consisted of a giant fiberglass loaf of bread sticking out of the top of this giant fiberglass hollow log, the whole thing towering over a log-flume roller coaster ride. It's probably the most campily awesome example of the proud display of crass commercialism that was Pixieland. (Column No. 52 - Dec. 6, 2009)
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Lulu Reynolds was having a torrid affair with her music teacher. Her husband carried a .38 in his jacket pocket. It wasn't the kind of thing that ends well. It didn't.

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Graft, corruption, racketeering, and ... uh, pinball?

Until just a few dozen years ago, pinball was illegal, and the mobbed-up characters who supplied the games played for keeps.

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The Roseburg "newspaper war" that was settled with a gunfight

The owners of rival papers escalated their war of words when they went for pistols on a downtown street one morning in 1871.

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The man calling himself Dan Cooper parachuted into legend, and 40 years later the case remains unsolved ... but there are plenty of theories.

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The bank robber who became vice-president of the bank he robbed

After he got out of prison, Dave Tucker spent 30 years rebuilding his reputation in his hometown of Joseph, and it seems he succeeded.

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This cover illustration from "Masked Rider Western," published in 1950, bears an uncanny resemblance to the events that kicked off Vigilante rule in Crook County.

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Senator John H. Mitchell: Oregon's own real-life Snidely Whiplash

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Mysterious skeletons of Oregon: If these bones could talk ...

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Buck Rogers-style police boat didn't work out for city of Portland

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How the Oregon Coast almost lost the Peter Iredale to a scrap-metal shark

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There's a piece of lava from central oregon in this photo, on the moon.

It was left there by astronaut Jim Irwin at the request of a friend from Bend — who gave him a sliver of Oregon lava to leave on the moon's surface. And so he did.

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Offbeat Oregon History: Album cover art

Voice of Goofy was Oregon's incomparable “Pinto” Colvig

One of the 20th Century's most influential show-biz men, the Jacksonville native was a Beaver who made it big; he worked on Disney projects and Popeye cartoons and delighted kids as the first Bozo the Clown.

Vance “Pinto” Colvig lays down some sound effects for the
microphone at Disney Studios, probably sometime in the 1930s.
(Image: Southern Oregon Historical Society)

On any list of nationally famous Oregonians, there are a few names you probably won’t see.

For example: Bozo the Clown ... Goofy, the original hayseed hick from early Disney cartoons ... Bluto, Popeye’s nemesis ... Grumpy the Dwarf, on "Snow White" ... comedian Jack Benny’s imaginary Maxwell motorcar ... and the list goes on.

These legendary characters are all the creations of the same gifted Oregon show-business pioneer: Vance “Pinto” Colvig.

Vance Colvig was born in 1892 in Jacksonville, the youngest son of William and Adelaide Colvig; William was a prominent Jackson County attorney. He acquired the nickname “Pinto,” a reference to the plethora of freckles his face was painted with when he was young.

Very early in life, the young Vance showed remarkable comic instincts, along with musical and artistic talents. Efforts to teach the young lad to play the clarinet were crowned with great success — but more importantly, they succeeded in giving him a much-loved and very squeaky prop to clown around with.

When his father took him to the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland in 1905, the 12-year-old Pinto brought his clarinet and used it to get himself hired in the “House of Mirth.” While his father browsed the exhibits and admired the proud presentations of the young state, Pinto spent the entire time clowning with his clarinet, his eyes crossed and his face painted white.

Pinto created this illustration for the Oregon Agricultural College baseball
coverage in The Orange, the college yearbook, in 1913. (Image: Oregon
State University archives)

Despite a somewhat checkered academic career in Jacksonville and later Medford, Pinto moved to Corvallis to attend Oregon Agricultural College, as Oregon State University was then called. But by this time his self-taught drawing skills had advanced to the point of being really quite good. His cartoons became a popular item in the OAC Barometer newspaper and in the yearbook.

He also played in the OAC band — clarinet, of course. All kidding aside, anyone who’s ever picked up a clarinet knows that you cannot use one to make funny noises (as opposed to horrible ones) unless you know how to actually play it.

Pinto soon became famous on campus for two things: His remarkable skills as an artist, and his lack of attention to his studies.

“A cartoonist is just a clown with a pencil,” he once famously said. And so for the entire school year, he would clown with a pen (when his professors would have preferred that he use it to write papers) and when summer came, he would skip town to clown in person, with a circus or a Vaudeville show. In Vaudeville, his schtick was a “chalk-talk” in which he’d perform an improv monologue while rapidly sketching illustrations to go with it — a kind of an on-the-fly D.I.Y. Powerpoint show.

Finally, in 1913, he left OAC and signed with the Pantages Vaudeville circuit — the chain of theaters started by the ex-fiance of another legendary Oregonian, “Klondike Kate” Rockwell — to try to turn his “chalk talks” into a career.

The first Pinto Colvig cartoon to run in the Oregonian was this one,
created to announce that he had been hired at the Nevada Rockroller,
published in 1914. The article was run as a “local-boy-makes-good”
piece. (Image: Oregon State University libraries)

It must not have gone particularly well, because the next year he was back in Oregon, and he soon landed his first job as a newspaper cartoonist — at the Nevada Rockroller. Now, finally, financial stability slowly started to coalesce around him, and his life started to develop a pattern: He’d join a circus, travel and act as a clarinet-squeaking clown until his money ran out, and then he’d find a job at some newspaper drawing cartoons for a while, get back on his feet and then do it again. Pinto loved circus work.

But in 1916 he got married, and soon was in San Francisco with a family to support. While working at the Chronicle there, he started dabbling in a brand-new field of show business, one uniquely suited to a fast-sketching “chalk-talker” like Pinto: Animation.

Pinto Colvig and his colleagues hard at work at the Animated Film Corp.,
San Francisco, circa 1917. Pictured: Angel Espoy, Tack Knight, Pinto Colvig
(standing), Byington Ford. The device Ford is seated at is the animation
camera stand, and the scraps of paper littering the floor are trimmings from
the paper cut-outs used for the animation process in those pre-celluloid
days. (Image: Southern Oregon Historical Society)

In those days, animation was not done with clear celluloid or acetate “cels” — it was done with paper cut-outs simply laid down on the background. Each had to be sketched and cut out, 12 of them per second of film.

Pinto spent years in the broiling heat of the massive floodlights, sketching and cutting and positioning and shooting animations frame by frame, in his own studio — Pinto Cartoon Comedies Company — and others. He produced what he claimed was the world’s first feature-length animated cartoon, a work called “Creation” — and, in fact, it probably was, but so little of that early animation and movie work survives that we can’t be sure. In fact, all that’s left of “Creation” is a frame from the title card.

Pinto voiced the part of Goofy as a cool cigarette-smoking Argentine gaucho in the
1942 cartoon "El Gaucho Goofy," part of a four-part set titled "Saludos Amigos,"
a sort of Disney goodwill tour of South America commissioned by the U.S. State
Department during World War II . (Animated GIF created by
mothgirlwings.tumblr.com from Disney cartoon)

By the mid-1920s, Pinto was in Hollywood and making a name there. At the time, comedy movies were being made using very dangerous stunts, and a skilled animator could actually save lives by providing the 1920s equivalent of green-screen work. Some of his animated interventions can be seen on old Buster Brown comedies, among others.

In 1930, Pinto joined forces with Walt Disney, and his most enduring character — Goofy — got his start.

Over the following dozen years or so, Pinto worked with Disney and other Hollywood producers on some of his most memorable projects. He was the voice of Grumpy and Sleepy in “Snow White”; some of the Munchkins on “The Wizard of Oz”; Gabby in “Gulliver’s Travels”; Bluto in the “Popeye the Sailor” cartoons; and even (with the help of his battered old trombone) Jack Benny’s legendary Maxwell motorcar.

Pinto in clownface late in his life, in 1960, when he was nearly
70 years old. He’s playing “The Village Clown” here; by this time,
he had passed the Bozo torch to the next generation of actors.
Eventually, Pinto’s son Vance Jr. would play Bozo. (Image:
Oregon State University Archives)

After the war, Pinto landed his other major role. He was cast as the voice of Bozo the Clown in the original Capitol Records series, and actually played the clown personally in a television series starting in 1949.

Pinto died in 1967 at the age of 75. He’d been a heavy smoker all his life, like so many others in his creative set, and the cause of death — as with his colleague and former boss, Walt Disney, three years before — was lung cancer. In his later years, Pinto campaigned to force tobacco companies to put warning labels on cigarettes, but he himself was never able to break the addiction, and eventually it took him down.

Pinto was one of the earliest pioneers of animated cartoons. Although virtually nothing remains of his work from before he signed with Disney, techniques that he developed are still in use today. And although his name isn’t as well known with the general public as Disney’s, among professional animators, cartoonists, clowns and Foley sound technicians, he’s a legend.

(Sources: Historian Ben Truwe’s Southern Oregon history page, http://id.mind.net/~truwe/tina/pinto%20notes.html; Pinto Colvig bio at imdb.com; Southern Oregon Historical Society; Portland chapter of ASIFA)

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