Darwin’s Theory Bar in Anchorage (see below)
(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser. If you are seeing this through an e-mail, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking on the title above so the post is not clipped or shortened.)
While we’re not technically still in a lockdown, by no means have things returned to normal based on the pandemic. And for me, Beerchasing is on a hiatus other than Happy Hours on our back deck and one trip to the Benedictine Brewery in Mount Angel. Janet and I could easily social distance outside in a wonderful environment.
Visit the St. Michael Taproom in Mount Angel at the Benedictine Brewery
The Evolution of Darwin’s Theory
One of my favorite Dive Bars in the nine years of Beerchasing is Darwin’s Theory in Anchorage, Alaska. It’s owned by an Oregon State graduate and we visited it in 2014 at the start of an Alaskan cruise. To that point, I had pretty much restricted my blog posts to Portland establishments.
My wife and I were doing a lot of retirement traveling, however and I thought, “Why not expand this project to other venues than Portland?” Darwin’s was one of the first and we loved this little two-room dive bar with great nooks and crannies and which only served beer in bottles. We each had a beer and left at about 10 PM to walk back to our hotel – but – it was still totally daylight and I said, “Since it’s this light, I’m going back to have another beer.”
Lincoln Town Coupe – plenty of passenger room, but more important, spacious fenders….
At the crowed bar, I ordered a PBR and sat next to Bill – an Alaskan fisherman. He told me about his work driving repeatedly across the US from LA to Washington DC in the 70’s. Bill said he had a Lincoln Continental with big fenders. I’ll leave it to your imaginations what he carried in those fenders….
When I told him about my hobby reviewing bars he advised me to be very careful in downtown Anchorage because there had been several murders in watering holes during the past year. I thought he might be exaggerating, but when I got back to the hotel, I checked it out on-line. He wasn’t! Three men were shot and injured outside the Anchor Pub less than a year before – three blocks from Darwin’s.
Jon and Nancy Magnusson and Bob and Stephanie __
My daughter’s wonderful in-laws, Jon and Nancy Magnusson, from Seattle, were traveling to Alaska with their good friends Bob and Stephanie Thompson in January to see the Northern Lights and their first stay was in Anchorage. They asked if I could recommend a good bar…. And you can see from the picture below that they loved Darwin’s as they did the dog-sled ride they took the next day.
Homespun wisdom from Darwin
Darwin’s also publishes a monthly newsletter I still receive and I got a chuckle out of this rhetorical question on page 3 of the June edition. After being closed for ten weeks during the pandemic, the bar reopened on June 1.
“I always wondered what a job application is like at Hooters. Do they just give you a bra and say, ‘Fill it out.’?”
Speaking of Darwin and looking for some more lighthearted topics in response to a global crisis, I was reminded of the Annual Darwin Awards.
“How did my work evolve to this ridiculous award??”
The judges use five criteria and to win, “Nominees must significantly improve the gene pool by eliminating themselves from the human race in an astonishingly stupid way. All races, cultures, and socioeconomic groups are eligible to compete.”
I was struck by the reference to a winner in a 2014 article in the Arizona Independent Network which quoted a study by researchers in England. One of the 413 winners from 1995 to 2014 was the the terrorist who posted a letter bomb with insufficient postage stamps and who, on its return, unthinkingly opened his own letter.
High School Memories Continued….
Vortex 1 – August 1970
In two recent Beerchaser posts, I mentioned Dr. Cameron Bangs and the story of this late and fabled Oregon physician including his role as supervising physician at Vortex I. It was the only state-sponsored rock concert in US history held at McIver State Park near Estacada, Oregon in August, 1970.
Matt Love, a very talented and prolific writer who has his own publishing house on the Oregon Coast – the Nestucca Spit Press – wrote a book on Vortex I from Dr. Bangs’ 20,000 + word diary. Several articles Matt wrote for Vortex Magazine are also fascinating and particularly relevant at this time because of the 60 + days of protests now occurring in downtown Portland 50 years later.
And through a few conversations and checking out his website, I also discovered that Matt wrote a serialized chronicle entitled Pioneer Pride – An Oregon City Memoir. It was fascinating to me because we both graduated from Oregon City High School – I was in the class of 1966 and Matt in 1982.
I would suggest that the recollections of sports, high school love and unforgettable teachers – both terrible and terrific – among other interactions in Matt’s great narrative make it one you should read regardless of when and where you graduated.
And it made me start to reflect…….I thought about our senior prank. Around ten of us managed to hoist an old berry field outhouse on to the roof of the high school.
Oregon City High School as it was in the 1960’s
This was not fake news in 1966 – unfortunately….
Principal Vern Larson scared the hell out of us the next day when we were called into his office to “property chastise” us as referenced in the article to the left in the Oregon City Enterprise Courier.
Now I joke, however, about how he told us to shape up and even “said a little prayer” for us in his office at the end of our session – “If you ever do something like that again, God Help You….!”
“I’ll Say a Little Prayer for You…..said Vern Larson
And there were the highs and lows of high school romance. I recently played about ten times consecutively and now cannot get the hit tune which epitomizes this topic out of my head, “There’s a Moon Out Tonight” by the Capris.
“Dated Up” just like he “Married Up”
It reminded me of Ginger, my first girlfriend. The Capris – a doo-wop group out of New York City, were a one-hit wonder, but one member is still living and the group continues to perform. (The flip side of the 45’RPM was “Indian Girl” which never hit the charts and would also not be politically correct in this time.)
The Capris – “There’s a Moon Out Tonight…”
The Jet’s – the OCHS dance team
I was a junior and Ginger was a senior and I couldn’t believe that a member of the Famous Oregon City Dancing Majorettes would go out with a younger guy.
We met in a study hall and I finally got up the nerve to ask her out. We kidded Ginger because KISN – a Top Forty Radio Station had a contest – Mrs. Brown’s Daughter – named after the Herman’s Hermits 1965 number 1 single on the Billboard Top 100 – “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter.”
She had been nominated and her picture was one on display in the window of their studio on W. Burnside in Portland. Ginger was embarrassed and I assured her that it wasn’t me who nominated her; however, nobody would have been surprised if she won.
And nothing beat a date after the Friday night football game (even though OCHS did not have its own field and played home games at Thora B. Gardiner Jr. High’s cow pasture gridiron). Getting a cheap burger in my VW Bug at Dick’s Club 19 in Gladstone – that’s right, burgers were only $.19 – was a chance to see classmates and plan the weekend.
Matt’s memoir was a great catharsis. On three consecutive days when I was drinking a Buoy IPA (7.5 ABV and 70 IBU) on our back deck, I was also harkening back to what a great place Oregon City had been to live and be educated. I moved here from Cincinnati, Ohio, the summer before 7th grade.
For a few years, I had an Oregon Journal afternoon paper route and every day would park my bike on the Promenade overlooking downtown and take “the only outside municipally owned elevator in the US” down to Main Street to deliver to my customers.
Oregon City was the first incorporated city west of the Rocky Mountains and when I delivered the paper to the County Clerk’s office, I would see the original Plat of San Francisco –filed in OC. It was first filed in 1849 and rediscovered in a vault in 1904.
After college and the Navy I came back to live and work in OC and eventually was appointed to the City Planning Commission (for almost eight years). I met my wife (now of forty years), Janet, at one of those meetings in 1979 after she was appointed the Neighborhood Involvement Coordinator on an LCDC grant. She subsequently became the Assistant City Administrator for the City of West Linn in 1981.
One of my favorite teachers in junior high was Mrs. Maxine Stroup, who taught Oregon History . She made us realize we were living right where countless celebrated Oregon events took place over the years. Mrs. Stroup brought those to life. She was a dedicated and enthusiastic teacher and historian. She made a lasting impression on all her students.
Historic Willamette Falls at the south end of town
I had not seen Mrs. Stroup in almost twenty years until she showed up at the final hearing in 1979, where after six-months of agonizing debate and testimony, we were set to adopt the controversial Historic Preservation Ordinance. Sentiment on what type of control the City should have on historic property was very polarized. (sound familiar….?)
Janet in 1981 after she became Assistant City Administrator for the City of West Linn
After three hours we finally took the vote and it was adopted with one dissent. As the hearing ended, I saw Janet (we had been dating for several months but nobody new it) talking to Mrs. Stroup and a very outspoken Neighborhood Group representative advocating for strong controls and who was not pleased with the final ordinance. The conversation went like this:
Beerchaser: “Hi Mrs. Stroup. It’s so good to see you and I remember well your wonderful classes from many years ago.” I then turned to Janet and the neighborhood rep and said, “Mrs. Stroup was my seventh grade Oregon History teacher.”
Neighborhood Rep: “Well it’s too bad that she didn’t teach you a damn thing about it.”
And each day when I delivered papers on Main Street, I would look to the Willamette River and see the beautiful and historic Oregon City (Arch) Bridge, built in 1922. (Some classmates walked the arch before the game with arch-rival West Linn right across the river)
We first lived on Center Street right across from the historic Barclay House. (I learned in Mrs. Stroup’s class that Dr. Forbes Barclay, after working for the Hudson Bay Company, moved to Oregon City and built the house in 1842.)
The Barclay House – right across the street from our house on Center Street
“(He)…… served as physician for local settlers and townspeople, and served as Clackamas County coroner, City School Superintendent, Oregon City mayor, and city councilman.”
Now, according to Wikipedia, the house is purportedly one of the haunted locations in Oregon – “The apparition of a red-haired boy has been seen on the property.”
The Barclay house is in the same block (right next door) as the historical McLoughlin House (Mrs. Stroup taught me that Dr.John McLoughlin was the Superintendent of the Hudson Bay Company and the Father of the Oregon Territory…..)
My summer job was watering the (expansive) lawn each day and mowing each week for a total of $20 per month.
A big lawn for $20 per month…..
Now even in the 1960’s, it seemed like a paltry wage. However, on reflection, I guess it could buy 104 burgers and a large order of fries at Dick’s Club 19.
There were some astoundingly bad moments in high school like in the middle of Mrs. Westwood’s Latin 1 class (they still taught it back then….and she was another outstanding educator) in 1963, when we heard a shaken Principal Larson announce that President John Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas.
Excellent Latin and French teacher
I loved my senior Modern Problems teacher, Mr. Larry Austin who was also my Senior Advisor. I had an A going when I missed one afternoon class because we had an away golf match.
One week later, Mr. Austin decided to give us a quick oral quiz and told us to write two pages on what we thought were the most salient points in the film he had shown us the week before about the “Census.”
Just one of the five “Census???!!”
Well, it was spring term my senior year, I was thinking about the fall when I was going to enter Oregon State University and without giving much thought to its relevance to a Modern Problems Class, I produced an eloquent stream of consciousness essay on the “Five Senses.”
“It’s been interesting……”
He gave me a D and wrote at the top of the test, “I suggest next time, you focus more on hearing…..”
Perhaps that’s why when he signed his picture in my yearbook, he ended with the sentence, “It was interesting having you in class this year.
Another teacher – this one in my junior year for Algebra II and Trig was Wayne Bauer – he was also the varsity baseball coach. The following incident took place his 29th year of teaching at OCHS. Mr Bauer’s classroom routine for the fifty-minute period was pretty basic – lecture for ten or fifteen minutes, give the next day’s assignment, tell the class to work on our homework and then sit back in his desk chair and read what I assumed were coaching magazines until the bell rang. (Alternatively, he would leave the room altogether for the Teachers’ Lounge.)
Admittedly, I was somewhat immature (as were a number of my classmates) and getting the homework done was not a high priority. We usually just chatted or read our own magazines. But I made a mistake one day when Mr. Bauer came back and heard me yelling across the room to a classmate as he opened the door. He walked to the center of the room, paused for effect and then said in a stern and emphatic tone:
“Williams. You have a lot of potential. Too bad it’s wasted.”
On 30th anniversary with OCHS – “(HIs) ability as a teacher balances his skills in coaching.”
Well, two of my teammates on the JV Basketball team were in the room and by the time I got to practice that afternoon, my fellow hoopsters had adopted the moniker “Wasted Willie.” And it stuck through High School. (Even Ginger in her message when she signed my yearbook, referenced “Wasted Willie.”)
Now perhaps, Wayne Bauer, had some foresight because my nickname from my freshman year in college (and to this day as you will see from my blog header above) is “Dirt” – a derivation of “Dirty Donnie” — that’s another story. I guess both “Waste” and “Dirt” could be considered Salt of the Earth! But his comment did at least motivate me to shut up and do my homework in the 80% of the period available each day from then on.
Basketball at OCHS
Things have changed since the ’60’s. To make the varsity (or for that matter a JV squad) these days, one generally has to start playing AAU or club sports in grade school and go to summer camps. The physicality of most contemporary varsity athletes is amazing.
In Ohio, there were no grade school team sports and junior high was therefore the first time I tried out for basketball. After getting cut in seventh grade, I made the eighth grade team but got cut in the ninth. I was devastated – so my dad put up a lighted basket in our driveway. (Probably no longer permitted in the historic neighborhood…) I spent many hours practicing.
Knowing the chances were not good because the JV Team is made up of both sophomores and juniors, I still tried out and made the JV Team as a sophmore.
Notice the athleticism of the guy on the far right.. 1964 Sophomore Year *1
Then the next year, I was one of the three juniors to play JV (guys who would make varsity their senior year but would get more playing time as a JV.) I loved it.
*1 A heartfelt expression of gratitude to Joe Gabriel, the Manager in the picture above, one of our classmates along with my best friend, Gary Kestler, both of whom made the ultimate sacrifice for his country in Viet Nam.
I started every game and Coach Dick Arbuckle, who was also the head varsity football coach, was the best coach I ever had – a real motivator.
He went on to be head football coach at Sheldon High School and then had an outstanding career as an assistant coach at a number of Pac 8 Division 1 schools including Oregon, Oregon State, Cal and Arizona.
He inspired us as a team and even the last guy on the bench knew he might get called and to be ready at any time. I learned that first-hand my sophomore year when towards the end of the first half of the season we played West Linn away.
I had hardly played at all that season and only if the game was out-of-reach. In the first quarter, the starters and sixth-man guard were just dragging and Coach looked down at the end of the bench and said to my surprise, “Williams!”
I was in pretty good shape and got two steals right away and played most of the rest of the game ending up with three steals and going 7 for 8 at the free-throw line. The next week, a local sportswriter, started his column with: “Sometimes its not the stars of the game who make it interesting to watch. Such was the case when Don Williams, who couldn’t weigh more than 120 pounds dripping wet……”
Coach Arbuckle years later
I also still remember in my junior year what Coach did after we lost our first two games and then went on to win eight straight only to lose in a lackluster Friday night effort at McMinnville. (Janet’s home town.)
On the next Tuesday night, we were suited-up and ready to play Forest Grove and as we were gathered for the pre-game talk, he said,”
“After last Friday, none of you deserve to start.” He handed the score-book to the manager and said, “Manager, you pick the starting line-up.” He did and we won the game by the largest margin that season.
While most of my hardwood experience in my Senior Year was on the bench, it was always a thrill to come up from the locker room for game warm-ups to a packed spirit-filled gym. The pep band was stationed on an elevated platform in one corner of the gym and except for the cross-river rival West Linn Lion’s game when they played “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” the group would play the memorable four stanza pep-song “OC – OC – OC High!” It had stunning lyrics sung by everybody in the gym:
“OC – OC – OC High
“OC – OC – OC High
“OC – OC – OC High! (OC High)
And one of the most thrilling highlights for our class during our senior year was winning the TYV League Basketball Championship and a trip to the OSAA State Tournament held at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland.
Although we lost our first round game to Lincoln High of Portland, we beat Wyeast in the second round before losing to Thurston High in overtime to be eliminated.
I will never forget that experience even though I did lose my chance to score in the State Tournament when in the Lincoln game, I missed an uncontested lay-in after intercepting a pass at half-court. We had a cracker box gym in OC and there were rows of spectators behind the basket at the Coliseum. Oh well….!
The first time in 20 Years!
At the end of our senior year, our class gave the School a big plywood rendering of Pioneer Pete – our wonderful school mascot – to hang at the entrance to the gym which it did for years until a new school was built in 2003.
Fortunately, in 2001 when a few activists wanted to “emasculate” our mascot by “photo-shopping” out his musket, the ill-conceived move was resisted. One suggestion was to replace the musket with a flag pole.
And I covered this story in a 2012 Beerchaser post, because it was quite interesting as reported in this excerpt from the December 12, 2001 story in The Oregonian:
” A burly guy with a coonskin cap, Pioneer Pete stands like a sentinel throughout Oregon City High School. He stares from hallway murals, the backs of varsity jackets and walls in the gymnasium and football stadium.
A musket in his grip and a knife slung off his hip, Pioneer Pete is catching some flak these days. Some students and administrators say his weapon-toting ways break rules that apply to students. He’s even been booted off the cover of a brochure advertising the search for a new superintendent.”
A rich history from 1885
Well, the District Administration got quite irate about the flack this article created and sent the following message:
“Please note that this was not about Pioneer Pete , the OCHS mascot. It was a clip-art picture that was to decorate a brochure to advertise our superintendent position nationally. Our preference, with the covered wagon on the cover, was a couple of pioneers, not a mountain man with a gun.
The story in the newspaper was inaccurate. There is no conversation about changing Pete at the high school. The Oregonian reporter has certainly heard from us today about the misleading story and we have asked for her to clarify that this was not a discussion about Pete. On a slow news day, this story has taken off. We have been barraged with angry people over our decision to change a clip art picture on a brochure……….”
Current logo from OCHS website
I, personally am all in favor of most gun control legislation, but Pete, who used his musket and Bowie knife primarily to put meat on his family’s table should not be a victim of revisionist history.
And I’m proud to see that the current logo on the OCHS Website still has Pete carrying his musket. In fact, in a June 2019 Oregonian story entitled, Oregon’s Top 10 High School Mascots, Pioneer Pete (with musket) was No. 5!
At our 50th class reunion in 2016, we got a good laugh when a classmate – rather than taking away from what Pete was carrying – added something in his left hand for a more mature Pete to help “walk the trails.” He also gained a receding hairline.
I guess a certain amount of penitence on my part is required for those of you who logically come to a blog entitled Thebeerchaser expecting to hear about bars and beers and instead, read my embellished memories of high school and living in a great Oregon community.
But rather than apologize, I want to thank Matt Love for his Oregon City Memoir. It was so well written and enjoyable and it compelled me to take some time to recollect some times in the past we tend to take for granted.
And remember, I currently can’t go to most bars or breweries now anyway. But that will come. In fact, in the next post I will feature Matt Love’s Oregon Tavern Age – a fifty-four page tabloid that is filled with wonderful stories on his 22-years writing about dive bars on the Oregon Coast.
In closing, my fellow Beerchasers, Sgt. Phil Esterhaus (the late actor Michael Conrad) used to close every episode of Hill Street Blues with the now famous admonition, “Let’s be Careful Out There!”
Well, I think the good sergeant, if he were still on duty would change that now to:
PS: Thanks to my friend Mollie Larson Cook for the pins she sent me shown here. Mollie, also known as The Jazz Cookie, is a talented writer and painter now living in Corvallis. She has two outstanding blogs which you should check out:
Art and Tulips and I Thought There was a Pony