A Gathering of Oregon City Boys
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In a few recent posts, I have mentioned my years in Oregon City – my youth including graduation from Oregon City High School in 1966 (Go Pioneers!) and my experience as a young adult in this historic community.
The last Beerchaser post was a review of the impressive new (February, 2021) community gathering place named Corner 14. It was featured along with some of the City’s rich history – the first incorporated city west of the Rocky Mountains.
The co-owners of this collection of twelve food carts, 24 taps and cocktails (“Great Food, Spirits and Brew”) are former Oregon City Mayor, Dan Fowler and his daughter, entrepreneur, Cherisse Reilly – a 1997 OCHS grad.
An earlier post during the pandemic entitled “Beerchasing Miscellany – Looking Back” also talked about memories of life in this bustling suburb a few miles south of Portland, Oregon.
Well, I had a wonderful afternoon Beerchasing recently with two other good friends – both OC Pioneers. I’m somewhat surprised that I had never been to the Falls View Tavern – a classic dive bar that is located right on Highway 99E – and as you might expect – right across from the historic Willamette Falls. I’ll be writing about the tavern’s story in the next month.
Jim Westwood, a 1962 graduate, is a retired Oregon appellate lawyer, who along with his Portland State College teammates, made history in 1965 with their unexpected, underdog run on the nationally televised GE College Bowl program.
Jim is also a frequent Beerchasing companion and his story is conveyed in my blog post in which he was a Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter in 2013. Jim and I also cherish our conversations over single-malt beverages in Portland.
But we’ve had equally lively, diverse and sometime heated dialogue over beer in some great Portland dives, which have included The Tanker, Belmont Station, Kelly’s Olympian ,The Standard, TC O’Leary’s, the Yard House and more.
I was interested in a Portland State University Facebook post recently which read, in part:
““One of the College Bowl trivia whiz kids who helped put Portland State College on the map was reunited with an old friend recently. PSC alum, Jim Westwood, captain of the 1965 National Champion GE College Bowl Team dropped by Smith Hall (named after Mike Smith, a deceased member of the same team) to pose with the trophy the team won for its undefeated run on national TV. ‘It’s the first time I’ve held it since 1965, he said.’
The silver bowl features the names – Westwood, Robin Freeman, Larry Smith, Michael Smith and coach, Ben Padrow – and is stamped March 7, 1965, the date of the 415-60 victory over Birmingham Southern in the final match. It’s been ….on display…for decades.”
As if Westwood isn’t enough grist for a robust chat, our other companion was Matt Love, who lived in Oregon City during his junior high and high school years and graduated from OCHS in 1982. He relates this story in one of his excellent books Pioneer Pride, which I read with continuous fits of laughter and nostalgia.
You see, Matt is a prolific author (nineteen books) who owns the Nestucca Spit Press – a small publishing company. His repertoire, to name a few I’ve read, includes Oregon Tavern Age – an exploration of dive bars on the Oregon Coast – something Thebeerchaser relished.
Add to this list, The Bonnie and Clyde Files – How Two Senior Dogs Saved a Middle-aged Man. In 2009, he won the prestigious Oregon Literary Arts’ Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Legacy Award for his contributions to Oregon history and literature.
And although I have communicated with Matt multiple times over the last eighteen months by phone, e-mail and ZOOM, the Falls View was the first time I had the privilege of meeting him in person – one that I’ve been anticipating since 2011. That’s because Matt was a key factor in my decision to launch “Thebeerchaser.com” that year.
It was appropriate that we meet in a dive bar because my first “contact” with Matt was through his blog “Let it Pour.net.” – a colorful and well researched account of his visits to historic dive bars along the Oregon coast from 1999 to 2011, when he discontinued it.
I was so enthralled with his stories and the vivid descriptions of the bars’ history, regulars, staff and stories that I decided that a similar tour of watering holes would be a wonderful retirement hobby to pursue in Portland.
That goal expanded to include saloons all over Oregon – including some of Matt’s great haunts like the Old O in Lincoln City and the Sportsman Pub and Grub in Pacific City – both on the Central Oregon Coast. Oh yes, there’s also Newport’s Bay Haven Inn, the Mad Dog Country Tavern, the Tide Pool in Depot Bay and…….
That seemed like a good pursuit, so I embarked on visits to bars and breweries throughout the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii) and even a few in Europe. The total before the pandemic approached 400.
Of Dogs and Meaning – and He Really Does Mean it!
And while I’m slightly biased based on my friendship with Matt, I have to rave about his most recent book – one that garners my whole-hearted endorsement even though I’m only 64 pages through the 102-page work entitled Of Dogs and Meaning.
I grew to really appreciate Matt’s writing style, his humor and rich descriptions from reading the aforementioned “Pioneer Pride” and his booklet “Oregon Tavern Age,” but his tome on dogs (and life) is absolutely captivating – and I make that assertion even though Janet and I have never had a dog during our 41 years of marriage.
That said, we love our grand-puppy Sullivan in Seattle and sobbed when our other five-year old golden retriever, Wesley Walter (who our 2 ½ year old granddaughter referred to as “Dog Dog,”) succumbed to a heart-attack in April at just 5 1/2 years old.
Matt, at times can be cynical, but his keen insight on both the human and canine condition – often using well-placed rhetorical questions – is overlaid with rich humor and erudition:
“What’s with the phrase, ‘dogging it?’ Football and basketball coaches from my youth always screamed about not ‘dogging it’ during practice. Was the implication that dogs loaf and humans shouldn’t follow suit when competing at sports? It makes little sense, but then again it does, because human insults that reference dogs are legion in American speech.
For example, ‘hot dogger,’ is a derogatory phrase applied to a basketball player who plays with a certain panache and executes theatrical dribble drives, behind-the-back passes and balletic fade-away jumpers. Pete Maravich was the greatest hot dog basketball player in the history of the sport. Who wouldn’t want to play basketball like Pete?”
In sixty-four pages in his yarns and anecdotes about canines, I’ve seen references to works by Lord Byron, Ring Lardner, John Steinbeck, Eugene O’Neill, John Irving and Shakespeare.
Besides Matt;s own heart-warming stories from athletics, teaching and most notably, of his own dogs – Sonny, Bonnie and Clyde, and Tex. He relates canine tales ranging from those involving George Washington, James Madison, John Kennedy, Barack Obama, Winston Churchill and WC Fields.
And of course, his years in dive bars yield a few good anecdotes:
“I met a dog in an Oregon Tavern who fetched cans of Hamm’s for humans from behind the bar, but only Hamm’s. Budweiser was out.”
And to illustrate his points, he uses song titles and lyrics from country legend George Jones, the Monkees, Harry Nilsson, Blake Shelton and the Beatles as well as his own musical piece, which has not yet made the Country Hit Parade: “I Had to Put My Dog Down. Wish it Had Been My Ex-girlfriend.”
I’ll finish with a long excerpt (but one worth reading in its entirety) from page 16 which made me laugh out loud – one of many times
“In third grade, I fell off a shed and broke my left wrist. As some sort of therapy, my parents surprised me with a beagle. I named him Tex and he became my best friend, boon companion….
My most indelible memory of Tex involves leaves and and football. I would spend hours raking leaves into giant piles that I arranged to resemble an offensive line in football. Tex would stand on the opposite side of the piles.
I would toss him a hamburger chew toy, he would snag it with his teech, then bolt back through the piles like the fat fullback he was. I would play middle linebacker and meet him in the hole, tackle him and boy and dog would roll and roll on the grass, and the leaves would fly and fly. He never fumbled……
We played this game for years. He knew it was coming when I started raking and waited with the hamburger in his mouth. When he died my freshman year in college, he was buried in the yard with that hamburger. Raking hasn’t been the same since.
I once told a woman I was dating that I grieved more over the death of Tex than my grandfather. She later cited that as the moment she knew she was going to dump me. Another woman I dated suggested that my three dogs sleep in my truck outside her home. It was over right there. Another woman I dated told me it would never work because I had three big dogs.”
You can order this book for only $20 from the Nestucca Spit Press. I guarantee that you will become a fan of this talented writer.
Multiple photos courtesy of Matt Love and the Nestucca Spit Press, the City of Oregon City, Corner 14 and Portland State University
*1. Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare#/media/File:Shakespeare.jpg
*2. Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hamms_Logo.jpg