Background photo: A hand-tinted linen postcard view of Three Sisters from Scott Lake, circa 1920.
Audio version: Download MP3 or use controls below:
Reading between the lines, it’s clear Lane was feeling discouraged. The forces of graft and vice were already celebrating his departure as mayor, and rolling back some of his reforms; and his scrupulous honesty had lost him a lot of friends among the powerful. Surrounded all the time by the state’s V.I.P.s, with whom he was unpopular, he hadn’t quite realized how popular he was among the voters at large.
West gave his best shot at convincing Lane to go for it. He told Lane to take an hour to think about it and call him at his hotel room; the party would have to have a candidate the next day.
So West traipsed through the woods and fields back to the outskirts of Portland, along the way picking up three bananas (probably from a saloon; although West didn’t drink, that was likely the only kind of business that would be open at 11:30 p.m.) to serve as a midnight snack.
“As I walked up Washington Street to my hotel, I met the adjourned Republican convention,” West wrote. “My old friend Jay Bowerman had been nominated for governor. I leaned up against a telephone pole to watch the happy, singing delegates march by.”
Finally, around midnight, West arrived at his hotel. He wolfed down one of his bananas, crawled into bed, and lay awake there, staring at the ceiling and waiting and hoping for the phone to ring, with Dr. Harry Lane on the other end of the line.
But the telephone sat there like a sphinx on the table, all night long.
Best of all, he wouldn’t have to be pleaded with. All West had to do was make up his mind — and throw in his hat.
At around 2 a.m., West came to a decision. He jumped out of bed and looked around for writing supplies with which to draft a platform — he’d need a platform to present himself to the party with. But there was nothing in the room, and for some reason he wasn’t packing anything with him.
“So, I arose, dumped the remaining bananas out of the bag,” West recalled; “split it down the sides; flattened it out and wrote a gubernatorial platform; crawled back into bed; cried and fell asleep.”
So in 1912, when the moment was ripe to save the beaches of the state from private development, a man was in the governor’s office who would take the necessary action — famously, declaring the beaches to be state highways and putting them under the jurisdiction of the highway department.
And in 1917, when President Woodrow Wilson went before Congress to demand that it agree to make what would arguably be the worst and most destructive mistake in the history of American government — entry into the First World War — a man was in the Senate who would, on Oregon’s behalf, vote “no.”
And it all had its roots in a flattened banana peel plastered on the table of a small Portland hotel.