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Frances K

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Oregon!  As with many coastal states it ranges from rugged shores, majestic mountain ranges in central Oregon, to the rolling, hot plains in the east. I was intrigued with the differences. It’s just another reason why I love traveling this beautiful country.  So diverse.  As diverse as the people who inhabit it.  It’s what makes what we are.

We stayed in outskirts of Portland, on the east side, on the north the Columbia River, just across from Vancouver, Washington. The park itself was pretty nice, half for short term campers, half by permanent residents.  Had a sweet little pond inhabited by a flock of ducks.  A bit noisy but fun to watch.  We have friends in Vancouver we planned on visiting, which is the main reason this site was chosen.  Though we visited Vancouver a few times, we never got around to visit Portland.  We’ll have to make a trip there sometime just to see what we missed.

Fort Vancouver NP, Vancouver, Washington. Established in 1800’s as a fur trading fort for Hudson Bay Co. It wore different hats over the decades, including a military and airbase, now a national park and archeology site.

Just a few miles from our park was the small town of Gresham.  Small town charm.  Nice to walk around and browse.  A nice bonus was the Farmers Market they have on Saturdays.  Definitely worth stopping by.  I went there one Saturday, spending most of the morning walking around.  It’s divided in half, crafts on one side, the food markets on the other, inhabiting several of the cities streets.  Very large, very worth your time.  The quality of the crafts was awesome. Food was delicious. I guess it’s a good thing that I live in small quarters as there were so many pieces of custom pottery, pictures, paintings, and knick-knacks that I wanted to buy….the quality was that good, in my humble opinion.  It was fun!!  

We stayed in the Portland area about a week then headed east to Pendleton. Now I’ve never heard of Pendleton before now. It’s a small town with an interesting history, noted for its Round-Up, a rodeo held each September for several days.  It’s been a staple in Pendleton since 1910. 

Two statues of prominent Pendleton women on Main Street.

Settled in the mid-1800’s along the Oregon Trail. It’s reputation is of a rowdy western town filled with cowboys, brothels, gambling dens and bars, kinda like the image of western towns  from stories since I was a kid.  Then there’s the underground city.  It’s a series of tunnels built under the city by Chinese immigrants back in the late 1800’s. Workers were brought to the region to work in the local mines and railroad. By the late 1800’s the railroad was almost finished and there were more immigrants than there were jobs. Thanks to the state sanctioned exclusions laws, discriminatation, constant harassment, violence, sometimes murder, chinese were competing for jobs with resentful locals. Curfews were inacted, in such a hostile and dangerous climate, they created a below ground environment for themselves.  There were apothecaries, laundries, bars, opium dens and a constant activity of digging more tunnels. When not working hard hours above ground, there was little to do below so the story goes, the digging continued.  

The tunnels were used through mid twentieth century for various uses, both legal and illegal.  It was a speakeasy during prohibition. There were brothels above and below ground, the last one above ground wasn’t closed until mid twentieth century. Bootlegging. A butcher used one section to store his meats. A candy shop.  Eventually the tunnels were closed, becoming dangerous to enter.  They didn’t “rediscover” them until the 1980’s when potholes developed throughout the town. From there the Pendleton Underground Tour was born.  They shored up the walls, recreated scenes from the past and created a very fun and informative tour.  

The Working Girls Hotel was Stella Darby’s home, brothel and hotel. A madam who was well known, had quite a bit of influence among the movers and shakers, well liked, loved by her girls and while her business wasn’t exactly welcomed in the community, it was well tolerated. Provided discreet accomodations for those businessmen or community leaders who needed to have private discussions over dinner. She is said to have treated her girls very well, helped them to get an education, get experience to obtain better jobs and get out of that life. Her girls kept in touch throughout their lives. The brothel was open until the mid 1960’s. It’s interesting that no matter the era how different some things may be the more they are the same. Last year while we were in Nevada, we took a tour of the Chicken Ranch brothel, in Pahrump. While they didnt throw buttons out their windows, someone did meet us nicely at the door. There was the greeting/waiting parlor, a place for some light entertainment or a drink, each girl given their own room, the girls own private dining room with a cook. The decor to suit the era. Interesting!

The docent told us one story that stuck in my mind (wish I could have recorded all to remember).  In most bar scenes in westerns, you see the bartender constantly wiping down the bar, one cloth after another.  Back in the day, most customers paid with gold dust (remember the gold mines in the region).  The customer would offer the gold dust to the bartender who would grab an appropriate pinch with his fingers for payment.  Residue from the “pinch” would fall on the bar.  Being “tidy” the bartender would wipe the counter with his rag and put it aside.  At the end of his day, the bartender would take the rags and do laundry himself, then take the dirty water with the gold dust, sift it and viola!  Bonus!  The story goes the Chinese laundry owner also used the same method when cleaning his clients clothes.  Seems gold dust sticks to just about anything.  Very industrious, if you ask me.  

Our stay in Pendleton was short but fun.  Small town with an interesting history.  Wish we were there in September, would really enjoy seeing their Round-Up! Next Time!

From there we headed southwest to Salem.  Salem wasn’t an original choice to stay.  I had intended to tour some of the coast but things change and I couldn’t get a reservation to stay during the dates we wanted. We were continuing south and Salem was on the way.  Found a very nice park and there we stayed.  Pretty much a rest stop for us.  Nothing planned and to be honest it was kind of nice to just chill for awhile.  

Thanks for taking this tour with me. Hope you found it interesting. Best always, and safe travels. Till next time! FjK

One comment on “The Beaver State!

  1. Kathi Short says:

    Very interesting read. Thanks for sharing. As you know I’m partial to the Vancouver area. Lots of beautiful parks and places to visit.

    Liked by 1 person

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