Portland

Whale killersBy Finn J.D. John
In August 1949, some residents in the small town of St. Helens started noticing a very unpleasant smell coming from a neighbor’s orchard.
Upon investigation, police easily found the source: a large, oddly-shaped, obviously home-built galvanized steel tank, about 13 feet long and six feet wide, with great marks of rust and corrosion all over it.
Inside it, they found a dead whale.

 

 

Burkhart airplaneBy Finn J.D. John
In January of 1910, deep in the bowels of an old, obscure building at 10th and Everett in Portland, Albany natives Johnny Burkhart and “General Willie” Crawford were hard at work on a secret project when they heard a knock on the door.
They waited for the knocker to go away. He did not. The knocking grew more insistent. Finally, unable to ignore it any longer, Johnny and Willie opened the door.
Their visitor was a newspaper reporter. Apparently their secret project wasn’t as secret as they’d thought. Somebody had told somebody, and this newsman had come to see for himself.

Miller on a unicycleBy Finn J.D. John

Many people today still think of bicycles as toys for children or for highly specialized hobbyists and exercise buffs — like fencing foils. Others think of them as indispensable but unexciting tools for modern life. But for most of us, it’s hard to imagine the bicycle as a cutting-edge modern wonder.
But in the early 1870s, that’s just what bicycles were: fast, exciting, dangerous things that could make an ordinary human fly like the wind.

AeroplaneBy Finn J.D. John
On June 8, 1912, the streets and parapets of downtown Portland were thronged with about 50,000 people, craning their necks at the roof of the Multnomah Hotel. Atop the roof of the 10-story building, arranged at the end of a tiny 150-foot-long strip of overlapping 20-foot planks, stood one of the spindly box-kite-like contraptions that were still the state of the art in aircraft design.
They were there to watch something that had never been done before, anywhere, and it was about to happen right before their eyes

S.S. Great RepublicBy Finn J.D. John
If you had been an expatriated American in the South American nation of Costa Rica in the early 1880s, you might have run across a fellow American named Thomas Doig. Perhaps you might have met him at a saloon, or maybe at a dinner party someplace.
You’d soon learn your new friend was a bit of a V.I.P. In fact, he was the top admiral of the Costa Rican navy ... but he’d probably hasten to add that that was not as big a deal as it sounded. In fact, the Costa Rican navy had just one ship, a converted commercial vessel formerly known as the Pelican.

"Bunco" KelleyBy Finn J.D. John
In the shadowy world of late-1800s Portland waterfront folklore, there’s nobody who quite cuts the figure of a man named Joseph Kelley — better known by the nickname he carefully cultivated: Bunco Kelley.
Kelley was a crimp — that is, one of those tough waterfront characters involved in the trade of furnishing sailors, willing or not, to ship captains in need of a crew.
Kelley was also an easy and chronic liar with a real flair for a dramatic story — which means it’s often difficult to tell his fact from fiction.
In today’s article, we’ll explore the facts of Bunco Kelley’s life as best we are able to know them. Next week, we’ll turn to the spectacular legends that grew up around this unusually colorful bad guy.

Vortex stageBy Finn J.D. John
As the last weekend of August 1970 approached, many Oregonians were sort of holding their breath.
The American Legion was coming to town for its annual convention. The theme was “Victory in Vietnam.” President Richard Nixon would be there. And so would a group of particularly belligerent anti-war activists who had pointedly declined to renounce violence as a tool of protest.
Everyone seemed to be spoiling for a fight: the Legion, the activists, the Portland city police and even President Nixon.

Hitler saluteBy Finn J.D. John
(Editor’s note: This is one of three articles about this event.)
Around midsummer in 1970, Ed Westerdahl finally agreed to talk to the two scruffy hippies who’d been politely pestering him for the previous week.
The hippies — Robert Wehe and Glen Swift — 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.

Pioneer SquareBy Finn J.D. John
In January of 1969, the owners of Meier and Frank Department Stores in Portland had a problem.

Opium denBy Finn J.D. John

Most people think of opium today with a certain kind of mild romantic  nostalgia. We know it was bad, and people got hurt, but opium and the  demi-monde that developed around it had a certain dark allure with its  fragrant, smoky fumes and its elegant, exotic smoking rituals.

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McKenzie River Reflections is the weekly newspaper serving Oregon's McKenzie River Valley. Available by mail for $23/yr in Lane County, $29/yr outside Lane. Digital subscriptions are $23/yr. Subscribe at: http://mckenzieriverreflectionsnewspaper.com/catalog/subscriptions-0. Purchase copies online at: http://mckenzieriverreflectionsnewspaper.com/catalog/back-issues-0. Read about area communities including Cedar Flat, Walterville, Camp Creek, Leaburg, Vida, Nimrod, Finn Rock, Blue River, Rainbow and McKenzie Bridge.