Five things you didn’t know about Portland history

Five things you didn’t know about Portland history (photo)

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For outsiders, it can seem as if Portland just sprung out of the earth around the time the Decemberists put out their first album. Only in the last few years has the city been considered a “youth destination” and made the subject of a bazillion think pieces in New York-based magazines and–ahem–cable sketch comedy shows. Before then, who knew the place even existed? In truth, Portland was born on a coin toss in 1845 and has been a land of strange, bearded wonders ever since.

Just ask Doug Kenck-Crispin. As the resident “ribald historian” at orhistory.com and host of the bi-weekly podcast Kick-Ass Oregon History, he is well aware the phrase “Keep Portland Weird” isn’t so much a rallying cry for the recent influx of hipster transplants as it is an unofficial town motto stretching back 167 years. Here, Kenck-Crispin provides us with five historical facts to prove that point:

1) In 1883, when Stephen Skidmore died, he bequeathed $5,000 to the city for a fountain. Skidmore vastly underestimated the cost of such a venture, and left woefully little dollars to complete the project. Henry Weinhard’s offer to fill the Skidmore fountain with beer for the 1888 dedication was turned down by party pooper Henry Failing.

2) On St. Patrick’s Day in 1948, Mill Ends Park was dedicated. The park has been recognized by many schooled in such trivial matters as the World’s Smallest Park. Yet again, eternally imprisoning us in a shameful stance when we want to say to Seattle, “mine is bigger than yours.”

3) While we at orhistory.com are quite familiar with strippers named Mercedes and Erotica, we wish we could have met Portland’s Best Named Whore, Boneyard Mary. A longshoreman named William McMahon went missing from his ship, the Willamette Slough, and the harlot–more than just an acquaintance of Mr. McMahon’s–was suspected. A friend of the deceased, who found his cabin empty, was named “Wide Awake” Harrington, yet again demonstrating that Portland has always been Tweakerville. (And the coppers were never able to pin the caper on Mary.)

4) Remember the time the parks downtown were occupied by a bunch of dirty hippies protesting “the system,” camping and partying and fucking until the Mayor got tired of this bullshit and sent in the police? Oh, but wait, that was May 1970 at the PSU Park Blocks, when Mayor Terry Schrunk’s cops beat the shit out of a bunch of hippies, sending 31 protesters to the hospital. Props to Sam Adams, Portland’s kinder, gentler mayor.

5) Likely Portland’s first food cart, in 1957 a dozen ladies from a Red Cross class simulated feeding mass refugees from the holocaust of an atomic apocalypse. Called the Civil Defense Austerity Meal, the women cooked over an oven made from rubble brick and a galvanized garbage can. The menu consisted of a casserole of baked beans and wieners, scalloped potatoes and ham, pickled beets and a tossed salad. Ahhh-palling to you Portland foodies, indeed!

Not enough? Here now, courtesy of the all-knowledgeable Twitter feed Ancient Portland, are five even more arcane things you didn’t know about Portland. Why are they so arcane? Well, because they’re totally made up.

1) According to the historian Tacitus, Portland was founded in 851 BC by Willamette Valley warlords, who vowed they would never use umbrellas, even if common sense demanded it. This is a custom that continued through modern times. Indeed, an anonymous 1771 diarist wrote: “It is curious that, given the Inclemency of Climate & Constancy of Rain, Portlandians care not if their Wigs become soaked.”

2) In antiquity, Portland’s economy was based on moss. Moss farmers spent much of the year in the drizzle, sipping ale or coffee until summer. Little has changed. Interestingly, “moss farmers” was a derogatory term for Portlanders during the 16th-century Californite Wars.

3) Writer and libertine Giacomo Casanova’s visit to the celebrated Portland pâtissière Voodoo Doughnuts in 1791 proved scandalous when he chose a pastry that, according to a local chronicler, “amusingly resembled the Priapic member.”

4) Portlanders have always been serious about eating locally. Portland’s ancient locavores lived exclusively off squirrels, dandelions, crows, and Burgerville hazelnut milkshakes.

5) Likewise, Portland has always had an affinity for coffee. According to tradition, St. Drogo, patron of baristas, lived in a Goose Hill monastery and made devout latte art depicting the Virgin Mary. He was brutally martyred via steam wand in Canby in 1185. Scholars believe, however, that Portland’s first specialty coffee drink was not made until 1711 and was milk, coffee, and ground-up Egyptian mummies. Critics were horrified that the mummies were not local.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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Draught Pick

Sam Adams “Keeps It Brockmire”

All New Brockmire airs Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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From baseball to beer, Jim Brockmire calls ’em like he sees ’em.


It’s no wonder at all, then, that Sam Adams would reach out to Brockmire to be their shockingly-honest (and inevitably short-term) new spokesperson. Unscripted and unrestrained, he’ll talk straight about Sam—and we’ll take his word. Check out this new testimonial for proof:

See more Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC, presented by Samuel Adams. Good f***** beer.

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