Did you know? Public toilets have always been a hit in downtown. The city's recently been caught up in the heavily marketed "Portland Loos"—the downtown public bathroom brigade led by Commissioner Randy Leonard—but little has been leaked on the interesting history of the city's public restrooms. I like to call them the Shanghai Tunnels of toilets (and not because people tossed you into them when you were blitzed).
In 1913, the city opened a handful of public restrooms, or "comfort stations," located underground downtown. They were incredibly classy, with porcelain tiles, comfy seating areas and a lovely ventilation system. Of course, the ruffians of the 80s led these to closure. I'm curious if they were completely filled in or remain creepily in good shape under foot. Here are a few photos of the old poo dungeons (clarification: they were never called this).
You guys know Joe Streckert—he of Game of Thrones recaps and tellings of our state's history by way of explosions—but did you know that he also manifests his passion for local history as a guide for Portland Walking Tours? Unless you're a tourist or entertaining one, you've probably never experienced Joe in this mode. But this evening he's presenting a special lecture on the topic of pinball's origins and Portland's history of vice for the latest edition of Stumptown Stories—a setting far less embarrassing for those of us residing within city limits:
Learn all about the old forms of gambling like punch-cards, fan-tan, pinball, slots, and the attendant controversies and scandals that surrounded them. Hear sordid tales of Portland vice! Discover the history of pinball! Before the reforms of the 1960s and 1970s, Portland was a very different kind of town. It was more industrial, less progressive, and in the mid twentieth century, awash with gambling. Coin machines, punch cards, and games of various sorts operated all over town, and the racketeers who ran them worked hand-in-glove with a corrupt police force. In the late 1950s, though, the whole system came crashing down.
I stumbled across an Oregonian article on the fantastic Portland history Tumblr, PDX Tales, proving that May Day rallies (and shindigs at Chapman Square) have always been tumultuous in Portland. Titled "Socialists To Be Peaceful May Day" (library link), the article explains May Day ralliers' interest in occupying Chapman Square, much to the dislike of the police. Sound familiar?
But this time, the police's main beef was based on slightly different rules: At the time, Chapman Square was only accessible to women and children. Neighboring Lownsdale Square was the man park. Unlike the ongoing Occupy protests, these ralliers seemed to begrudgingly give in to the police force with little protest. Here's the article's opening paragraph:
"The crowds which will probably assemble at the Plaza blocks this afternoon to witness a battle royal between the police and the Socialists are in for a great disappointment. Instead of being “innocent bystanders” in the casualty list of a general riot, they will, if the plans of the revolutionists work out, be benevolently assimilated and towed in the rear of the procession to Seventh and Market streets, where Socialist oratory will be flung to the four winds throughout the afternoon. Thus all probability of serious disturbance in Portland on this international annual festival day of unrest is removed."
The brewing industry in this town has gotten to the point where truly new ideas are few and far between, and ironically the most original thing to pop up in a long time (at least design-wise) is a return to basics. I'm talkin' 'bout Churchkey, the newest old/oldest new way to drink beer as of its Portland release at Dig a Pony (736 SE Grand) this very evening from 7 to 10 pm. Cans will be handed out at lower prices and openers will be free for all attending.
Responsible for this boozy blast from the past are Justin Hawkins, brewers Lucas Jones and Sean Burke (Portland natives all), plus the dreamiest drinker of all, investor Adrien Grenier (yeah, that one). The cans have been pleasing most parties before they're even on sale—PDX Beer Geeks totally approve of the Pilsner that they found inside; environmentally-minded boozers will love how you can recycle the shit out of this can; and who doesn't want to look more like a badass breaking into their beer? Which you accomplish, by the way, with the beer's namesake opener: You crack two holes in the top of the can with that little tool (one for drinking, one for air flow). Naysayers ask why—why is nostalgia so trendy, why would we want to work for our beer, etc. But the general opinion of the beer itself seems to be favorable, so... why not?
I have yet to find a reason to hate on this idea—although I have an image in my head of drunk consumers losing the key and stabbing themselves trying to crack that last can with an ax.
Meanwhile, in rich-people world, a pair of Marie Antoinette's shoes, circa 1790, were auctioned off in Toulon, France recently. Guess how much they went for. No, guess.
The Alialujah Choir not only celebrated the release of their album at Friday night's show at the Doug Fir Lounge, they premiered their new video as well. Today that video went up on OPBmusic. Directed by Daniel Fickle, "A House A Home" has a fairly involved and complicated backstory—it's loosely based on some actual individuals from Portland's past—which is laid out in full detail over at OPBmusic. But I'd recommend watching the video and letting the story reveal itself without doing any research for your first viewing. (It seems that the song's original instrumental ending is stretched out and repeated, with strings added by the Portland Cello Project.) It's a vivid, pretty, almost heavingly romantic clip, starring Calvin Morie McCarthy and Meredith Adelaide; while it may initially seem cutesy in a very Portland-of-the-moment fashion (and very charmingly so, I should add), the story's darkness reveals itself by the end of this lovely, moving video.
You know, I think it's unfair that us devil worshippers have all the awesome celebrities on our side (Louis CK, Emma Stone, Ernest Borgnine) while Christians barely have anybody. But the "anybody" they DO have is pretty awesome, and that "anybody" is KIRK MOTHER-BONING CAMERON—best known as Mike Seaver from Growing Pains, and star of the hilariously amazing X-tian films Left Behind and Fireproof.
So what's Kirk up to now? He's taking a break from histrionic fiction to direct and star in a new documentary ("documentary" means it's REAL, yo) about how America is a land of shit, and what we can do to fix it. It's called Monumental, it's set to debut in late March, and according to Kirk, it will totally freaking blow... your... mind.
As he says in the trailer below, "Something is sick in the soul of our nation, and history tells me [and by "history" he means "Jesus Christ"] if we don't change our course now," adding that "History hasn't been just forgotten... it's been rewritten." WHAAAAT THAAAA FAAAAAAACK??? Watch this quick, because you don't want to spend another second blinded by false prophet history teachers, or missing Kirk's scenes where he soulfully and sadly stares at the sky. What are you seeing up there, Kirk? Jesus re-writing our fake history on a celestial blackboard? Ask him if I can go to the bathroom.
Limitless opportunities, professional success, material wealth. Lately, the key words epitomizing the idea of the "American Dream" are just that — a dream. But, while it's definition may have morphed over the years, the idea of a tangible, liberty-fueled future is far from dead. Just...different. So what's the current status of the "American Dream" for us recession kids?
Thanks to the infographic-happy folks at GOOD we have a visual answer.
Apparently, more Gen Y-ers are interested in having family and friends nearby than having a roof over their head. And 75 percent of those surveyed said that being wealthy is not necessary in obtaining the quintessential American Dream.
I now deem thee Generation Can't Buy Me Love.
Here's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on a 1968 broadcast of either Mike Douglas' show or The Tonight Show (there's some disagreement). Either way, delightful and fascinating to see.
There are very few opportunities in your life (aside from elementary school) when you will be praised and rewarded for your awesome diorama skills. Those tiny little shoebox scenarios were the stuff of many agonized late nights with rubber cement and construction paper, badgering your parents to help you with popsicle sticks and intricate scissor-work. If you were really lucky you wowed your classmates with an end product that looked like Lisa Simpson's rival's Tell-Tale Heart diorama. Most times it just looked like a wad of soggy cotton balls. But without the hindrance of rounded scissors maybe it's time to dust off the shoebox-decorating skills with the Kick Ass Oregon History Diorama Contest from the great local podcast Kick Ass Oregon History! Take it away press release:
It goes like this: Make a diorama depicting a Kick Ass Oregon Historical event. Take some pictures. Email them to us by Saturday, January 15. We will announce the winner at our January 17 Stumptown Stories show at the Jack London Bar (529 SW 4th). Bask in fame and glory and gain a whole gang of 26-year-old stripper girlfriends as a result ('cause strippers dig dioramas!).
Dioramas will be judged on:
1) Kick Ass-ness
2) Oregon Historical Significance
4) Ass Kicken-ness!
The prize? A Kick Ass Oregon History T-shirt, an awesome "It's your funeral" Diorama Kit prize donated by www.Criminalcrafts.com, internet fame, AND the panache to tell Suzie Snotgrass at the 15th reunion, "Oh shut your trap, bitch!"
The big news yesterday: New Seasons is opening shop on North Williams! Woohoo! Cue excitement over a grocery store opening in the North Portland food desert and 150 new jobs right in inner Portland!
The New Seasons seems to me like a pinnacle of change in the neighborhood—over the past 15 years or so, many long-time residents of the neighborhood have moved to the outskirts of Portland, crime has decreased in the area, property values have increased, and tons of new businesses have opened. In some ways, the history of the site New Seasons will take over on North Williams and Fremont tells the story of change in the neighborhood.
For most of its lifetime, the lot was an industrial center. According to articles in the Oregonian archives, a bakery set up shop at 103 North Ivy Street in 1915. It became a Wonder Bread factory, employing 75 people in the middle of what became—during the first half of the 20th century—a busy street lined with black-owned businesses. Here's a photo of the factory in 1936:
The Wonder Bread factory remained standing while the construction of I-5, Memorial Coliseum, and the failed Emanuel Hospital expansion tore down a total 1,550 homes and businesses in the Albina and Boise-Eliot neighborhoods. The factory that once baked bread the middle of a bustling neighborhood was now surrounded by an unfortunate number of vacant lots.
In 2000, Wonder Bread closed up shop, too, consolidating its operations and shutting down the whole factory. In 2007, according to the Oregonian, developer Ben Kaiser purchased the site at a bankruptcy auction and planned to turn the "bakery blocks" into BackBridge Station, a mixed-use development with 41 residential and commercial units. At the time, Boise neighborhood land use chair Chris Sahli told the O that the neighborhood could really use a market. "One thing we could all really agree on is a grocery to talk to," said Sahli.
The developers demolished the Wonder Bread factory but the big development plans fell through. Since then, the site has been sitting empty—a giant eyesore on the street. But while it's lain fallow, the neighborhood around it has continued to change. The market value for the site was $2.85 million, including the land and factory. In 2011, it's worth $5.52 million—nearly double.
Most likely, you are familiar with Portland's Dill Pickle Club, which is dedicated to "broadening knowledge of Portland’s past, present and future." If you've always wanted to get involved, now may be your chance: Through this Friday (Dec 10) they're soliciting ideas for their winter series of thematic tours, titled "Peripheries." If enjoy vague, open-ended challenges as a starting point for your creative projects, this could be for you: "DPC currently seeks proposals for tours exploring our “PERIPHERIES” theme, with the overall goal of broadening our collective understanding about aspects of the city that may otherwise go unrecognized. While we do not have a definitive definition of “PERIPHERIES,” one can interpret it in multiple ways: physical places located on the outskirts of the city or metaphorically as in people, places and ideas on the margins."
This could be the perfect opportunity to guide your fellow townspeople through the hidden gems of outer East Portland, our city's social services programs, non-English speaking citizens, right wingers in liberal Portland—the possibilities are endless, really. Go here to submit your idea.
OoooOOOooo! Check out this fancy history nerd feature from the local Architecture Heritage Center.
Last night documentary filmmaker Ken Burns' (probably most famous for The Civil War) three-part Prohibition kicked off at 9 pm, a thorough, journalistic look at the story of America's "noble experiment" with alcohol. If you missed the first installment, "A Nation of Drunkards," all is not lost: OPB is airing it again at 2 am! (Convenient, guys. Alternatively, you can just buy a copy of the whole thing—it releases tomorrow. You're probably going to be doing that for holiday gifts anyhow.)
Tonight's installment will get into some of the more thrilling chapters of the era (speakeasies!), but "Drunkards" should not be skipped, especially if your impression of the political movement leading up to the ban of alcohol is little more than a sketchy idea that people back then were puritanical prudes. Burns unpacks a vision of early 19th Century America in which it was ordinary to the point of compulsory that men literally drank morning, noon, and night. Further exacerbated by the introduction of whiskey, constant drunkenness led to huge societal problems, the most heartbreaking of which included the widespread abuse, rape, an abandonment of women and children. I like my wine and vodka sodas, but I'm not sure anymore which team I would be on were I alive at the time.
Burns is upfront in interviews about his films not being political, and I don't expect Prohibition to go into any discussion of the contemporary parallels, but it's impossible not to infer the relevance of this history lesson to the current war on drugs. Especially when Burns rolls out the numbers regarding the proportion of the federal budget that once was funded by alcohol. Gee, I wonder what would happen to the economy if there was a prohibition on marijuana? Etc.
Point being, this should be required viewing for feminists and proponents of legalizing weed as well as history buffs. Don't sleep.
Today is Labor Day, the day the federal government and all 50 states reserve to ostensibly celebrate the contribution of workers. Although we don't call it Worker Day or Employee Day, or even Manager-Worker Mutual Appreciation Day, but rather Labor Day, as a deliberate recognition of the contribution of organized labor. You know... unions.
So if the union-busting Scott Walker wing of the Republican Party were honest about their politics they wouldn't celebrate the day, or at the very least, would call to change the name to Business Day or Capital Day or Plutonomist Day or White Male Christian Labor Day or something else that better reflected their beliefs about who truly contributes to our economy.
Bonus Labor Day Trivia: Oregon was the first state to officially celebrate Labor Day, on the first Saturday in June of 1887; several other states followed later that year, choosing the first Monday in September. The immediate impetus was the infamous Haymarket Riot and Massacre of 1886. President Grover Cleveland declared Labor Day a national holiday in 1894 in an effort to appease organized labor after the brutal suppression of the Pullman Strike.
Which just goes to show you: The rights and privileges so many working Americans take for granted (the weekend, the 40 hour work week, basic workplace safety, etc.) were not a gift of benevolent capitalists, but were rather won through the spilling of workers' blood, and the threat/fear of even greater economic and social disruption.
Me? I'm not a big Doctor Who fan. However, I know many of you are... which means you've all got a lot of 'splainin' to do! WHAT'S UP WITH DOCTOR WHO REFUSING TO KILL HITLER?? In the trailer for the upcoming episode entitled, "Let's Kill Hitler," it appears as if the Who team is doing the absolute OPPOSITE of killing Hitler... and actually SAVING Hitler! WTFISUWT?!?? (What the fuck is up with that?) Check it out.
But let's be certain:
I stopped into the Star Theater last night for a quick glimpse of the new venue. It is indeed across the street from Roseland, in a building that you've probably overlooked but are no doubt familiar with. The Star is an appealing venue with some quirks, with a good stage and fine sight-lines from everywhere in the building. The sound was plenty loud, and clarity-wise it was probably not better than okay; the room is long and thin, and it's always a challenge to send a warm, full sound to an entire room of that shape. There's a large balcony, which is where you'll be going to schmooze and ignore the show. If that doesn't suffice, there's a large patio through an unmarked door—you probably won't notice it at first. But on the other side is a generous patio with a bar, lots of seating, and a glimpse of NW 6th's streetlife through the fence.
Back inside, there's lots of room up front to get close to the band, but in order to get there you have to navigate some narrow stairs and ramps and railings—kind of like that ramp that runs down one side of the Doug Fir. I bet the back of the room gets clogged during big shows. There's also a terrifying row of tiny closets in the basement that house the venue's toilets, which seem leftover from the venue's previous incarnation as a porn theater. The room has charm to spare and loads of potential. Right now the Star's schedule is pretty minimal; there's nothing scheduled there until June 17. If they're able to continually book solid shows, there's no reason for the venue to be anything other than a raging success.
White people invented the telephone, as well as "telephone manners." This truth we hold to be self-evident. However, white people ruined rap. Here is a video that depicts all of these things.
Thank you, Everything is Terrible.
It's our first day in the new office, guys! For some reason, the Oregonian wrote about it.
Our office is now in the New Market Theater Building, which has an exciting past. The building was originally the home of Captain Ankeny, a shipping magnate who won the title "Captain" during the Indian Wars. The old timey, native-routing capitalist settled in Portland and built his home here on SW 2nd and Ash in 1857. He built the New Market Theater building, which takes up almost the whole block and was designed by architect William W. Piper, in 1872. I believe the section of the building our office is actually in Built in 1889 as a warehouse, forge, and annex to theater. This is back when theaters needed forges, I guess.
The property had a well which, 150 years later, inspired the name of a bar up the street. The bar is actually a rather apt memorial because when the property was renovated in 1983 (based on a design from SERA architects), they found a bunch of
Thanks to the tasteful renovation and no one tearing it down to build a parking lot, the building remains a prime example of a cast iron architecture in the city. The vaulted fifth-floor windows also offer a prime example of a place to watch the firemen across the street hose off their trucks. Just sayin'.
... whatever a "hipster" is.
Always excellent local history blogger Dan Haneckow just put up a post about a small guide, circa the 1890s, of Portland's brothels.
The funny little handbook seems to have been mostly written, of course, in bawdy poems. It details various addresses of whorehouses around downtown and Old Town Portland. On what is now one block of the transit mall, for instance, there used to be a whopping four brothels.
Here's the section on Miss Minnie Reynolds of 89 Fifth Street:
In handsome parlors, skilled to please,
Fair Minnie waits in silken ease,
And at each guest's desire supplies
Dear pleasures, hid from prying eyes.
With such a haven ever nigh
Who could pass her parlors by?
The earthquake hit in the early afternoon off the coast of Honshu, Japan’s most populous island, triggering unprecedented destruction. Ninety percent of the houses in a score of seaside towns collapsed in seconds. Passenger trains fell off railway bridges and plunged into the sea. A few minutes later, a 35-foot-high tsunami rolled in, sweeping away cars, houses and thousands of people, and burying entire towns in mud. Then came fires, fanned by winds and fueled by flimsy wooden houses, reducing much of what remained to ashes.
The date was Sept. 1, 1923.
The rest—including 145,000 deaths, the burning of more than half of Tokyo, and a "dragon twist (that is, "a freak tornado of fire")—right here.
Earlier this month, we got some color snaps of Shackleton's 1915 Antarctic trip. Pretty nifty. But they're not quite as captivating as what the Smithsonian put out this week: Full color photos of a San Francisco freshly wrecked by the 1906 earthquake.
Click here to see more. Is it me, or is it a little jarring to see that a city, 100 years ago, really did have bright colors and sunshine, and not just the sad, Dickensian, child-labor-filled grays that fill black-and-white photos? Take away the old-timey billboard, and my brain has no trouble thinking these images are from no older than a smoggy, barren 1965.
"What's more loathsome than being Hitler's girlfriend?" asks James St. James at the Wow Report. "Answer: Being Hitler's girlfriend in blackface and drag!"
From LIFE magazine's newly published collection of Eva Braun's Private Photos:
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