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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A bad batch of 'Dehorn' alcohol killed 28 hobos

Skid Road alcoholics knew denatured alcohol might make you sick, but it wouldn't kill you. Until one day, it did.

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Iconic movies shot in Oregon

A three-part series covering 16 of the most influential Oregon films, from 1908 to 1989.

An illustration of a group of smugglers bringing opium and illegal Chinese immigrants into Oregon, from a 1889 issue of Portland-based magazine The West Shore. (Image: UO Libraries)

The forgotten world of urban opium dens

A century ago, the drug's mysterious, smoky allure held society spellbound. And Portland was the West Coast's main supply point.

The fully restored PT-658 as seen from the sidewalk on the Hawthorne Bridge during the 2011 Rose Festival. On this occasion, the PT-658 inadvertently intruded into the dragonboat races, which were then in progress, and quickly retreated back downriver – but not before giving the dragonboat-racing spectators on the bridge a spectacular view of its deck armaments. (Image: F.J.D. John)

The world's only working PT boat is docked in Portland

The PT-658 is among the last of its kind, and it's the only one that still goes out on the water.

The second pressing of The Kingsmen's "Louie Louie" record, on the Wand label. This bodgey, lo-fi monophonic recording, with its inscrutable lyrics and driving yet languid style, got thousands of parents worried about possible obscene lyrics, and was even banned in Illinois.

Bad recording job led to an F.B.I. investigation for Portland band

No one could understand the lyrics in The Kingsmen's recording of 'Louie Louie," but many tried ... and some of them had rather dirty minds.

Actor Justus Barnes takes a shot straight into the camera at the end of a 10-minute silent Edison Films production called 'The Great Train Robbery,' the filming of which started in November 1903 – two months after Bill Miner’s gang tried to rob the train just outside Portland. It’s hard to miss the similarity between Barnes’ character and Bill Miner.

How Bill Miner learned to rob trains ... he learned the hard way.

But his botched Portland job appears to have inspired an iconic 1903 movie called 'The Great Train Robbery' a month or two later. Maybe he even watched it later ... in prison.

A scene from the Disney movie "Saludos Amigos" (1943), a sort of cartoon-character tour of South America. This scene is from the Argentina part, with Goofy dressed as a gaucho. In this cartoon and most others, Goofy was voiced by Pinto Colvig.

Goofy was from Oregon. Also Bluto, Grumpy, Sleepy, Bozo, dozens more.

Vance "Pinto" Colvig, from Jacksonville, was a pioneer in animated cartoons and a gifted show-biz man.

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When the 'Dark Strangler' preyed on Portland landladies

His M.O. was simple: While a woman was showing him a room or house for rent, he'd strangle her, take her jewelry and flee.

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The tawdriest love triangle in the history of the universe.

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.

An artist's sketch of what D.B. Cooper may have looked like, from an FBI bulletin sent out shortly after the skyjacking.

The legend of cool-cat skyjacker
D.B. Cooper:
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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.

The front cover art of "For Men Only" Magazine showed a scene that bore some resemblance to the scene on the day Dave Tucker robbed the bank of which  he would, 32 years later, be named Vice-President.

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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The Rise and Fall of the House of Klux in Oregon

A slick marketing campaign and a taste for political power marked the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, which spread through Oregon like a racist virus — and then collapsed.

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.

When prineville was ruled by masked vigilante riders

In Crook County, the early 1880s were like a Louis L'Amour novel. And it all started with the lynching of an innocent man.

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

He abandoned his family, changed his name, moved to Oregon, bilked widows and orphans in two big real-estate swindles ... and was promptly elected to Congress.

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

A long-dead dry-land homesteader ... a medical specimen in an Odd Fellows lodge ... what are their stories? We'll never know.

Oregon inventor Victor Strode’s revolutionary boat, the 'aerohydrocraft,' made the front cover of the March 1931 issue of Popular Science. The design didn't prove a useful one for the City of Portland, though, and the larger model the city commissioned to function as a harbor police boat didn't work out.

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

A local inventor developed the "aerohydrocraft" design in the early 1930s. But when the city built one as an ambulance boat, it flopped.

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

An Oregon City man claimed he'd inherited the rights from his father, and demanded to be allowed to cut it up and haul it away. He almost got away with this little swindle.

Commander Dave Scott salutes the U.S. flag, which has just been planted on the surface of the moon. A small piece of Oregon lava rock, carried to the moon by Scott's fellow astronaut Jim Irwin, lies within this photo, next to one of the many bootprints. (Image: NASA)

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.

The Motel 6 on Mission Street in Salem as it appeared in the mid-1970s, when Carl Cletus Bowles made his run from its back door. Don't laugh, at least not too loudly ... two innocent people would die before Bowles was back in prison.

During a conjugal visit at a cheap motel, the prisoner escaped

It had to be the most awkward prison-break scenario in the history of the universe. But it really did happen. Here's the story.

James Lappeus, former Portland Chief of Police. He eventually was fired over allegations that he'd offered to 'accidentally' leave the jailhouse door open for a convicted murderer if his wife paid a $1,000 bribe.

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James Lappeus came to Portland to open a saloon and "theater." Despite his checkered past — or maybe because of it — he was named city marshal and, later, Chief of Police. Here's the story.

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A prominent Portland socialite led a sect called "Truth," with the motto "Pray and Be Cured," that required 40-day fasts. It vanished after its leader starved herself to death during a 110-day fast. Here's the story.

The archway monument leading up to the Wallowa County Courthouse,  built in 1936. The bronze plaque on the inside left of the arch includes  the name of murderer and horse thief Bruce “Blue” Evans.

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Offbeat Oregon History: Album cover art

Riot at PSU set the stage for “Governor’s Pot Party”

To Governor Tom McCall, it looked like Portland was about to explode, and there was nothing he could do to prevent it ... until two long-haired young people came to his chief of staff with a very unusual plan.

Protesters at the Park Blocks face the oncoming riot police, mocking
them with Hitler salutes, during the riot. (Image: 1970 PSU Yearbook)

Around midsummer in 1970, Ed Westerdahl finally agreed to talk to the two hippies who’d been politely pestering him for the previous week.

These young people had come to Salem from Portland in an old Opel Kadett. They wanted to talk to the governor, Tom McCall, and Westerdahl was McCall’s chief of staff. Westerdahl had initially blown them off, hoping they’d give up and go away, but they’d shown no sign of doing so. And so, no doubt with a heavy sigh, Westerdahl had them come in to talk to him.

The proposal the two visitors laid on Westerdahl that day was straight-cut dynamite. It was, to put it mildly, phenomenally controversial. It would lead directly to the first and only dope-smokey music festival ever sponsored and financed by a state government — under a Republican governor, no less. It would foil the plans of several schemers — including, quite possibly, the President of the United States — each of whom thought an outbreak of bloody violence in Portland would work to his advantage. And it would get the governor re-elected in a landslide several months later.

To understand the particular brilliance of the hippies’ crazy scheme, it’s necessary to spend some time on backstory:

The summer of 1970 was a wild time in America, particularly in college towns. That whole late-1960s cornucopia of social and political upheavals had been raging for three years. It had just started showing a few signs of simmering down when, in April, President Nixon decided to invade Cambodia.

This decision was not popular on American college campuses, which were full of people of military age, many of whom had come to college hoping by the time they graduated the war would be over. Now it looked like Nixon was just deploying Phase 2. All across the country, campuses exploded, and at one of them — Kent State University in Ohio — soldiers actually killed four students. This was on May 4, 1970.

Images from the 1970 student strike at Portland State University, including
the police action to end their occupation of the park blocks. (Images: 1970
PSU Yearbook)

After Kent State, there was a nationwide coordinated call for students to go on strike. Across the country, 21 campuses in 16 states closed down.

In Oregon, there were violent protests at the University of Oregon in Eugene, and a thousand students howled in fury and hurled rocks and bricks at the ROTC building. At Oregon State University in Corvallis, the ROTC building was bombed. Both these universities stayed open during the strike.

But it was at the state’s newest university, which just one year before had been known as Portland State College, that things got really intense.

At PSU, a large cohort of students responded immediately to the strike, and 135 professors canceled their classes in solidarity. University President Gregory Wolfe initially kept PSU open, but he did try to head off conflict by taking out permits for the park blocks where the protesters had positioned themselves — hoping to avoid confrontations between protesters and police.

As the week ground on, things got more and more out of control. The students blocked off streets around the park blocks and occupied the student center, which some of their number joyfully trashed in full view of everyone. On May 7, Wolfe closed campus down for a cooling-off period.

It didn’t work. If anything, things heated up. For the next four days, other students and local rowdies attracted to the action swelled the ranks of protesters.

By Monday, May 11, when PSU’s permits expired, Portland Mayor Terry Schrunk and Parks Commissioner Frank Ivancie were fed up with the scene, and itching to meet the disorderly students with a firm show of force.

So bright and early the next morning, cops and sanitation workers moved in and dismantled the barricades. The students promptly rebuilt them, so the cops came back around noon — wearing riot gear. Their orders this time: Clear out the park.

“The leader ordered us to disband or be arrested,” PSU professor David Horowitz recalled in an interview with historian Doug Kenck-Crispin. “And I think we booed or something like that ... and then they methodically moved in, and they just basically started clubbing people, very methodically.”

In the end, about 31 protesters needed medical care, and the most militant among the anti-war people — a group calling itself the “People’s Army Jamboree” — had a new rallying cry. They also had more members, because resentment of the cops’ brutality had radicalized some of the more peaceful ones — many of the people the cops had clubbed had been waiting passively to be arrested, so the force seemed gratuitous to most onlookers.

As the Jamboree moved quickly to take advantage of the opportunity, it got help from an unexpected quarter: The American Legion, the socially conservative organization of American veterans. On May 25, the Jamboree members learned that the Legion was holding its annual national convention in Portland in late August, and that Richard Nixon — their bête noir — would be there.

What an opportunity, right?

Breathless newspaper stories started appearing as May ripened into June and the Jamboree’s leaders talked blithely of a “confrontation” with 50,000 angry rock-throwing radicals squaring off with 25,000 crew-cutted Legionnaires in the streets of Portland as Dick Nixon himself looked on in.

Word started getting around that Portland was to be the scene, the place where the revolution would start. Local Legion members rose to the occasion, boasting on TV about their eagerness to thrash those dirty long-haired pinkos. And as for Commissioner Ivancie, Mayor Shrunk and the other Portland police leaders — well, everybody pretty much knew what kind of role they were looking forward to playing.

Meanwhile, Governor McCall, after contacting all the parties to the brewing war, started to realize that none of them really wanted to avoid it. The Nixon administration, it seemed to him, welcomed the prospect of big, scary riots in a faraway city in a fourth-tier state; they’d be just the ticket to drive home the president’s re-election message that law and order were at risk of a full-on breakdown. The People’s Army Jamboree was hoping the prospect of conflict would shore up its support among the less pugnacious of the anti-war activists, whose ardor was fading noticeably as time passed. And the Legion just wanted to put those hippies in their place and show them it would not be pushed around by any crowd of "longhairs."
As time marched on, the governor realized he was in a trap. There was nothing he could do, it seemed, but activate the National Guard and wait and hope Portland would somehow fail to explode.

Nothing, that is, until those two hippies in the Opel Kadett wore down Westerdahl’s defenses and got their proposal in front of him.

We’ll talk about the hippies’ proposal, the governor’s reaction, and the resulting Vortex I music festival in next week’s column.

(Sources: Walth, Brent. Fire at Eden’s Gate. Portland: OHS Press, 1994; Staley, Brandon. “The Park Blocks Riot,” PSU Vanguard, 31 Mar 2014; Lindberg, Andrew and Kenck-Crispin, Doug. “Park Blocks Riot,” Kick Ass Oregon History, 3 May 2012)