The Scribe – Portland’s 70s Underground Newspaper

Every once in a while I come across an image, factoid, booklet or yeah, postcard, that reminds me why I produce Lost Oregon [other than the gazillions of adoring fans or occasional crackpot emailer]. Last week I nabbed a stack of old issues of the Portland Scribe, Portland’s own early 1970s underground/counterculture newspaper from 1972 – 1975.

The late 60s and early 70s were ripe for newspapers such as the Scribe – most of the daily biggies didn’t cover much of the news that these smaller circulation papers carried – the Vietnam war, impeaching Nixon, music and underground film, labor issues, the draft, and most importantly, local issues.

Sure, some of the content is unintentionally funny [“The EYES, an all-woman, all-rock from Oakland, California, played in Portland at Beaver Hall”] or hilariously dated [“EYES zapped right into what is considered by some to be within the capabilities of men only; they even did a ‘macho medley-for all closet Rolling Stones fans,’ a total triumph over male chauvinist pigs and m.c.p. dupes.”].

There are Wounded Knee references galore. Obscenity is used freely. There’s a review of Deep Throat – it screened at the Aladdin Theater – the reviewer didn’t care for it. Laurelhurst Park had jazz concerts in 1975 that were eventually shut down by the city. Jerry Lee Lewis played Crystal Palace in 1972. There are all kinds of minute pieces of local history that have slipped through the cracks. It’s a real-time glimpse into our city that I’ve never seen.

The paper holds up well. The layout and design got increasingly sophisticated each year. Each issue has a classified section that offers help to homeless teens, draft dodgers and cheap housing for hippes. I was also impressed with the DIY aesthetic represented with regards to growing your own food; organic gardening and living healthier.

My take is that The Scribe set the groundwork for what we now know as Portland. Growing your own food and self-reliance? Check. Fighting big business and agribusiness? Check. Protesting ugly buildings being built while razing historical ones? Check. [“High rising with the rich folks,” reported that “an 18-story luxury apartment building is being planned by Harold and Arleen Schnitzer. This building exemplifies all of the short-comings of high-rise construction.”]

My favorite score though is the collection of great advertising and imagery from local businesses including record stores, clubs, head shops, book stores, boutiques, and other shops that were frequented by the hippies, freaks, anti-war folks, and I’m sure, narcs.

I’ll be scanning and posting some of the best of the adverts soon and will be using many of the food-related ads for my in-progress post on the history of Portland dining, 1955-1980.

The masthead:

masthead
The Hockshop on Grand:

hockshop

Summerfest, 1973.  All-day? Portland International Raceway? This has “bad acid” written all over it:

summerfest
The Yellow Submarine Shop:

yellowsub

About these ads

28 comments

  1. Groovy post. I like your dedication to all things Portland! Though I’ve only read ‘History of St. John’s’ and this post, I’m compelled.

  2. The Scribe was preceded by another alternative paper, Willamette Bridge (1968-71), but I don’t know of any connection between them.

  3. There were several people, and certainly the spirit of the time, in common between the Willamette Bridge and the Scribe. The Bridge was far more disorganized and unprofitable.

    The Scribe lived for years in a house on about 28th and Belmont – I think still there. Michael Wells was the man.

    Portland was a podunk town then. Having sideburns and drinking tea downtown was walking on the wild side.

  4. Great post. And, where are those Portland Scribers? Those folks still have to be in town, right?

    The reason why I ask is my group, The Community Exchange Network of Portland (CEN|PDX), Showcase PDX, and Portland Bright Neighbor are aligning to build a coalition – leaders of the “The Chlorophyll Movement!” Green just isn’t enough, you know?

    One of our objectives is to align with a local newspaper to begin reporting the hyper local sustainable news. We’re interested in talking to the Portland Alliance, Portland Upside, Street Roots, etc. But, I think we would also love to talk to the founders of the Portland Scribe, and even the Willamette Bridge if they can be found. If anyone has any information, please send me an email asap!

  5. Portland, 1973. I remember it quite well. I was 21, a vagabond sailor stationed aboard a Navy ship being refit in a shipyard on the Columbia. Being from St. Louis, I was quite taken with the Pacific climate and the mountains. The people, friendly and welcoming, made my eight months there more than pleasant.

    The area downtown by the University was alive with young, intelligent kids and I hung out in that area a lot. It was there that I read the Scribe for the first time. While I was in the military, I was intrigued and enamored with the politics of the times — and the Scribe provided fuel for an eager and hungry mind.

    Hunter S. Thompson’s F&L in Las Vegas was ricocheting in my cerebellum that summer; Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre made October particularly electric. I never met the writers and editors of the Scribe, but their words made my stay in Portland much more vibrant.

    Yes, I remember the Scribe, 1973 and Portland. Fondly and with some reverence. In 37 years, that time still dances within the little stage of my mind.

  6. I read the Scribe during those important, formative years of 12-14. I have no doubt it shaped who I am.

    I remember one column called Touch and Go that had a surreal and random tidbits. Ads for record stores, heads shops like the Ides of March, and the bar Darcelle XV.

    Yeah, just looking at those examples I listed I see how it really DID influence me, along with Alan Watts lectures on the radio on Sunday mornings.

    It would be cool if entire issues were viewable online somewhere. Lots of work, though.

  7. We lived way out beyond Oregon City, but my Dad worked in Portland. Occasionally, I would talk him into letting me ride in to work with him and spend the day at Lloyd Center, which was a wonderful treat for a 13 year old country girl. Things I would always pick up during the day would be a little decorated petit four from the Rotary Bakery at Lloyd Center, some candy from the Nut Hut (I think it was called that) across from Meier & Frank and a copy of the Willamette Bridge paper. The paper was my first realization that ideas and life in general coexisted among people, but sometimes on entirely different levels. It made me think of things that I knew previously knew nothing about and certainly expanded my horizons. I wish I would have kept those issues!

    1. That place across from M & F was Morrow’s Nut House! I went there @ 5 days a week as my mom was the personal secreatary to Gordon of Gordon’s Fireplace Shoppe (and the mall was a great way to occupy a kid-Toyland!!!)-one of the earlier tenants of the Mall…I miss the old Lloyd Center and all the Rose Festival and Christmas activities that were headquartered there…Mannings, the original Joe Brown’s Caramel Corn, Sandy’s Camera’s and the Van Duyn shop…as well as the first Made in Oregon, Marios and the Pancake Corner…too generic now.

      1. Yum Manning’s. The granddaughter Heidi Manning has all the original recipes, but no plans for revival.

      2. M memories of Lloyd Center are on the bitter side. That was a neighborhood almost exclusively occupied by people of Japanese descent. Most of them owned their homes. When they were firced to sell and leave in WWII, the property became available for devlopers and I’ve always been suspicious about this happy cirucmstance tha permitted developers to build our first shopping mall. Sort of a phoenix rising from someone else’s ashes.
        I do remember Manning, the Nut House, and how about Mr. C’s Hippopotomas?

  8. I worked on the Scribe briefly in 1977-78 as a typesetter and music reviewer. It was a crazy, dying organization trying to sustain itself through benefit concerts. Lots of strange characters were attracted to the paper. Some of the covers were insane – there was one of Nixon holding a machine gun, implying that he had something to do with JFK’s assassination. Good times!

  9. I worked at the Scribe around 1974,,,,honestly, all I remember is that our meetings were very long because it was a collective and we all had to agree. About everything. That usually took a very long time.
    Really….I can’t remember anything else.

  10. Wow… So nice to find your site. Thank you!

    I actually was Googling (unsuccessfully, alas) the old Center Family Restaurant… it was on Morrison, I think, up around 12th, and roughly across the street from the Contact Center (dulcimer festivals on the 2nd floor of Arbuckle Flat!).

    Tonight, I made my famous hot avocado sandwiches for dinner, and – yes – I trace them back to the Center Family Restaurant. Lovely people (a commune up in La Center, I believe), astounding bread, and a printed cookbook that I clung to for years & that I’d love to be able to find again.

    Any thoughts of scanning & posting some of those Scribes?

    1. There was a kind of hippie bar on the corner of 10th and Morrison,I think, that me and my friends use to go to. It had live music,mostly acoustic. No one can remember the name and it’s driving me crazy. We use to go there around 1973-74. It is an Indian restaurant now and was Mexican before that. Does anyone remember the name. Thanks for digging back into the cobwebs. I was hoping the Scribe or Willamette Bridge would have an ad.

  11. If you want more background you should interview Lee Perlman, who wrote for those papers and is still writing about Portland week in and week out.

  12. I’m a 60 yr. old bohemian who’s moving to your area soon.Been there before,stayed in a hostel in U district,really liked the area.
    I’m looking for a studio apt. or share in one of the old houses around there.I got injured,and on pension so can’t afford “high rent,utilities,etc.”
    Anybody have any suggestions that can help me out,or know of a place contact me @ = thewalrusclub@gmail.com

    Thanks

  13. The Portland Scribe was a great little underground rag and it lasted longer than 1975–in fact, until 1977 for sure and a little in ’78. I was a Scribe contributor and the production offices were in the Centenary Willbur Church, which later became the Pine Street Theater, and in those days houses many “Movement” offices, environmental groups, a cafe and a theater group. Every Thursday night a raggedy group of writers, artists, typesetters and other ne’er do wells got together for an all-nighter Production Night–working with waxers and X-acto knifes and type until the paper was “put to bed” in the morning and ready for the printer. The paper had a decidedly counter-cultural, sub-cultural angle on the news, non-mainstream but not necessarily “hippie” since it also reflected a punk ethos in 1977. It had underground comics (comix?), politics, and a great bar & tavern guide. I wrote for the paper and did cartoons, and can still remember the smell of hot wax and burning leaves that surrounded the workspace. The Willamette Week presented itself upon arrival as an alternative weekly, and I guess it was alternative to the Oregonian, but we thought of it at the time as hottub journalism for West Hills yuppies. Funny how time flies when you’re having fun. — Bob Rini

    1. Bob, me and a friend of mine from Hillsboro, Greg Oslund, once found ourselves helping a hep-cat sell copies of a paper called the Williamette Bridge. I know it didn’t last long, till 1971 I think, but what I saw of it- it lived up to the term “radical press.”

  14. The Portland Scribe was started by Michael and Mary Wells: Michael, IIRC, went on to become the manager at KBOO radio. The paper had close ties to KBOO, which was across the street at the time. I did radio shows at KBOO and also wrote (not much) and did pasteup at the Scribe – for a while, a lot of the calendars were my layouts. I remember David Calhoun (now in Seattle and the person who got KBOO started) taped my radio show (Sunday nights, about 9-11) one night. Then instead of shutting the station down, he put the tape on broadcast, and we went across the street to paste up The Scribe while listening to the show. We finished at about the same time as the show, which ran 3 hours that night. Good old fashioned pasteup, with a paintbrush in melted wax in an electric frying pan. Everything got typed on an IBM typewriter with proportional spacing so that it would look like typeset. David and I rented rooms in Michael and Mary’s house for a while. It was a pretty tight alternative community. Good times.

  15. I lived in Portland in the 70′s and loved the Scribe! I remeber it as the first place I read “For Better or Worse”. But I was looking it up just now because it was also where I read a column…and poetry…by Ralph Friedman. Wishing some of that material was available. Is it out there anywhere?

  16. I worked on both the Willamette Bridge, in its last year 1970-71, and the Scribe, in its first two years 1972-1974. Michael Wells was the founder of the Bridge, although temporarily living away from Portland in the year I joined the paper’s staff. And he was founder and moving spirit of the Scribe from 1972-74, when he joined (temporarily) the Willamette Week. He and his wife Mary, then in their later 20′s, were the “elders” in the operation — most of the rest of us were in our late teens or early 20′s. The Bridge was truly a hippie/anarchist effort, an ethos which unfortunately did not pay enough attention to the bottom line, which did not help pay the rent, the printer, or the contributors (staff made some money by selling copies of the paper in warmer, drier months on street corners, but that was the sum total of our pay.) We survived as long as we did because the photo-offset technology was a remarkably cheap way of printing a paper.

    The Scribe had a slightly more professional ethos, with a designated editor/s (at first Michael Wells, and later a triumvirate of Michael, myself, and Doreen Labby), and salaries for editors, reporters, and typists (I think I got $5 a week, when it was available — while making my real income as a proofreader for the Oregonian).

    The important thing about both papers is that, in the aftermath of the collapse of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in 1969, these “underground newspapers” (as they were called at the time) were the closest thing to a New Left movement organization that Portland had in the late 1960s/early 1970s — at once intensely local, but also national in their concerns, in contact (via Liberation News Service and the Underground Press Syndicate) with other underground newspapers and radical groups across the country, a source of information about goings-on elsewhere, and the place to turn to spread the word about protests, organizing projects, and radical perspectives on the news. A lot of very interesting people wrote for the papers — among them local college students and professors, college drop-outs, hippies, Vietnam vets — folks who went on to a variety of careers as political organizers, professional photographers, union officials, academics, clergy, and lots of other useful vocations.

    The writing was better in the Scribe (there was actually some attempt at editing articles), but of the two papers, I think back more fondly on the Bridge, which had a wild, naive, idealistic ethos, very much in the spirit of the times.

  17. Hi Everyone,
    I’m writing an Encyclopedia Of Jerry Garcia Music Venues.
    I’m looking for a photo of Beaver Hall. It was located at 425 NW Glisan Street at NW 5th Avenue, Portland, OR. Does anyone have one?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s