The Lost Oregon Oral History Project


This has been brewing for quite some time.

Sure, I love our architecture, buildings, streetscapes, wacky hotels and roadside oddities that all make Oregon a wonderful place we call home.

But, something strange happened along the way.

People started commenting [as I would hope, this being a blog, ya know?] about their experiences with the buildings or the postcards I was scanning and posting.

Here are some comments from the many that I wanted to use to illustrate the illuminating [and to them maybe even mundane but to me, fascinating memories]:

  • I have two souvenirs from the Oregon Centennial. A cup and saucer printed with the official logo and scenes. But I also  have a printout from our first “computer” experience. Pacific Power and Light Company had a  Burroughs 205 “Computer” set up. If you typed in your name and the year you were born, it  printed out the events going on in Oregon that year.
  • My father was the structural engineer who designed the Civil Defense Operations Center at Kelly Butte. Before it opened he took us to see it. I remember seeing the Diesel generators, the vaulted control room with the big map on the wall, the bunk rooms, the kitchen, the decontamination area. To a little kid, nuclear war looked like an exciting adventure.
  • The Music and Art Fair ( 1971?) at the stadium featured a ton of great rock bands, but no money to pay them. Highlight was Bo Diddley punching out the promoter, then Bo’s girlfriend punching out the promoters wife.
  • The Carriage Room Burlesque ( strip) joint on Broadway, that up through the 70’s still featured a comic with every performance. Roberts Rod & Reel downtown, Mort Sahl, Sammy Davis, Jr. and many others played there.
  • Frank Zappa told me once backstage at the Paramount that Portland was the weirdest place on earth. I think Frank may have been right! In a good way.
  • My mother worked as the hostess at Amato’s around 1957-1961. I was only at Amato’s once, as I recall. Had an Elvis Presley (green colored drink for kids) and my sisters had a (pink) Shirley Temple. My mother used to bring home photos of the people who performed at Amato’s (Sammy Davis Jr., likely the only non-white person in the club, among them). She met my stepfather at Amatos. He managed the Owens-Illinois glass plant out near the airport (still there) and took us to dinner at the Aero Club from time to time. Finger bowls were a new one for me.

Their memories were filling in the gaps for me – from earlier decades I was too young to remember to later decades I was not living in Oregon yet. It made the history snap alive. And I thought, if they weren’t commenting on my blog, we’re their memories and recollections lost for all time?

Oregon is well documented up to about WWII. We’re set with the Oregon Trail, the depression and Lewis and Clark information. After that it becomes a bit fuzzy. Sure, OHS has their well-researched  journal and exhibits and there are educated and professional historians doing lots of leg work. But it’s all way too big-picture for me. I want to hear the daily experiences from Oregonians. I’m keen on the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s [especially the Nixon years and then 1977 – the punk years]. Call it guerilla history. Or storytelling.

There are a couple of ways I want to approach this. I invite you to share with me via email your memories in the comment sections or by emailing me.

I also have a tape recorder, video recorder and plan on interviewing and posting audio and video files and transcripts from my interviews, of which I have a couple in the works [one with a gentleman born in Portland in 1931]. Whether this stays as Lost Oregon or morphs into a different blog remains to be seen.

Thanks Oregon!


6 thoughts on “The Lost Oregon Oral History Project

  1. noë June 25, 2009 / 10:42 am

    You could record over the internet, too, via webcam or just a mic on, say, Skype.

  2. devlyn June 25, 2009 / 8:16 pm

    What a fantastic idea! Having only moved to Oregon 2 years ago, I don’t have many memories of the state besides crossing the Columbia a few times on family trips. I love reading the comments here, though, and can’t wait to see what other stories are unearthed with your project. Keep up the awesome work.

  3. John June 26, 2009 / 8:00 am

    For my next door neighbor’s 14th birthday, his dad took him, together with my sister and me (I was 12) to Amatos nightclub. Dick Novak broadcast a radio show from a booth in a corner. I think the radio station was KVAN. I recall asking him to play Little Darlin’ by the Diamonds. I believe the year was 1957. Why he took three kids to a nightclub is beyond me, but obviously it made a lasting impression.

  4. Cambridge Homes June 26, 2009 / 10:44 am

    I used to be an archivist and worked in libraries and museums in the early 1990s. I’m amazed at how the internet can be used to keep history alive and to preserve all sorts of aspects of everyday life from the not so distant past. It’s been especially eye opening for me since, as somebody who really likes old paper, I’ve long been of the mind that the historical record of the digital age will be very incomplete. Glad to see I’m being proved wrong.


  5. Tim Callicrate April 27, 2010 / 2:50 pm

    I’m an Emmanuel Baby-1960 and remember the Columbus Day storm through the bars of my crib in a back bedroom!, rides downtown with my grandmother who moved here in 1917-fresh from the Panama Canal(her father was one of the chief railroad engineers and she thought they were going to stay at the Hoyt Hotel-too expensive!) the smartly uniformed elevator operators at M&F/Lipman’s and watching in amazement the floors flyby through the chicken-wire glassed doors, Christmas lights/window displays and the 10th floor Toyland/monorail at Meier & Frank’s with root beer floats at the old serpentine lunch counter next door, all the old theatres when they still had ushers and neon and everyone got dressed up for an evening show, Hilaire’s Reataurant, walking all over town to catch the right bus back home, later on the Mall being constructed and skipping class from Benson to join the Blazer parade when we won the Championship with Walton!, the building of I-5 through 40 blocks of a once serene middle class neighborhood and creating further tensions that erupted between the white and black citizens with the burnings/lootings on Union Ave, ArtQuake!, Vat & Tonsure, Hamburger Mary’s, Wiscarson Music, playing the Kimball Theatre Organ for Benson Tech Shows…sorry, but I gues my recent 50th b-day has unleashed the nostalgia gods…would be very interested in helping with oral history of Portland; especially North Portland.Thanks, Tim

    • Dennis5150 December 3, 2012 / 1:39 pm

      This might be slightly off topic, but I recall the (for lack of a better term) “pods” at the lloyd center sometime during th early 60’s, that had real people living in them for weeks(???) demonstrating how people could or would live duirng a nuclear fallout event. Does anyone else remember this?

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