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Monday, October 31, 2011

An October of history and presentations

Since I hopped off the Empire Builder at Portland Union Station that Friday morning three weeks ago, I've been immersing myself in as much Portland stuff as possible. Thankfully there hasn't been a shortage of cool things to do. Since I like history and all that business, I was happy to presented with so many options!

Within the first week, I happened to stumble upon an history presentation put on by the folks at Oregon Encyclopedia, a non-profit organization creating a "curated" wiki of all things Portland history. This particular presentation (Tuesday the 11th) was on the 1934 Longshoreman's Strike in Portland. The presentation was at a new bar, the Jack London, which is in the basement of the Rialto. I had never been to the Rialto before, mostly because bars that feature Off-Track Betting and things up that sleeve are not of my interest. (Unless I really wanted to feel like I was Bukowski or Tom Waits.) But a history presentation, sure! Ah, Portland, what's next? History night at Mary's Club? *

The Longshoreman's Strike is a fascinating piece of American/West Coast/labor/radical history, but unfortunately the presentation was not. Rather than give any background to the strike, the striker's grievances, and the eventual outcome, it was merely a series of slides with some description. I don't feel like I particularly learned anything more than I already knew. I would have left the event unsatisfied if it wasn't for the second part of the presentation: members of the ILWU local in Longview, Washington talking about the very now struggle going on with the Port of Longview.

I was a bit unsure about the Oregon Encyclopedia after this presentation (especially since they made a not-so-subtle dig at Wikipedia at the beginning of the presentation), but thankfully the next one upped the ante. Dan Haneckow, our friend from the awesome local history blog Cafe Unknown, and saver of my ass on the Train Day Ride, gave a presentation on the Flood of 1894 at the Mission Theatre. (Monday, October 17) Dan is a stickler for detail, and not a bad public speaker as well. I came away with a much clearer picture of what happened, and more importantly, how it changed Portland.

Oregon Encyclopedia had a film showing about the Historic Columbia River Highway, but it was at the Edgefield in the far east side suburb of Troutdale, a 2 hour bike ride or about 90 minutes on transit, so I opted not to go. (I also missed a presentation by the Oregon Historical Society about the historic White Eagle Saloon due to me mixing up the dates.)

Another fun history event was the Second Annual Oregon Archives Crawl on Saturday October 15. Four local archives/library organizations opened themselves up for public viewing. I missed the first one last year to do "work", so nothing could stop me from going this time around! The whole crawl was fun, but the stop that was most interesting to me (and the one I spent most time at) was the city's archives. I visited it once at its old, appointment-only location in Chimney Park out by St. Johns, but this was my first experience with the brand-new facility in the Portland State University campus. I went on a public tour of the normally not-for-public consumption archive area, enjoying its boxes of papers, climate-controlled goodness.

And last but not least, the Amtrak Exhibit Train had a stop at Portland's Union Station over the weekend. The whole deal is part of Amtrak's 40th Anniversary shindigs. Basically, the Exhibit Train is a rolling museum on wheels, filled with ephemera from Amtrak over the years. It was cool to see some of these things up close, but due to the claustrophobic nature of the setup, I didn't feel like I had a chance to really look at stuff, as I felt like I had to keep on moving. Oh well.

*Mary's Club is downtown's famed longstanding "gentlemen's club", if you know what I mean. And if you don't, this very NSFW link will enlighten you.

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