Finn J.D. John

"Offbeat Oregon:" Unusual stories of historic Oregon ... suggestions welcomed.

UO Libraries ## Leonidas “Shorty Davis” Douris’s disappearance was covered extensively in newspapers, although no photograph of him was apparently available. This headline appeared in the Portland Morning Oregonian after a man claimed he’d been dumped into an old dry well. It turned out not to be true. Image:

Offbeat Oregon: Popular rancher’s disappearance may be state’s oldest cold case

The disappearance of sheep rancher Shorty Davis has got to be Central Oregon’s oldest cold case … there are older unsolved crimes, but it’s hard to come up with one that people are still ...

Image: United Artists ## The movie poster for “Harold Hecht’s ‘The Way West,’” released in 1967. The big-budget Western bombed at the box office.

Offbeat Oregon: Filming of 'worst Western ever' was an unforgettable spectacle

If you’ve never heard “Harold Hecht’s ‘The Way West’” referenced as a legendary box-office bomb, that’s probably because of Michael Cimino. Cimino’s epic ...

Joe Knowles as he appeared after emerging from the wilderness of northern Maine, wearing the skin of the bear he killed there. (Image: Small, Maynard & Co.)

Offbeat Oregon: War foiled survivalist’s quest to redeem reputation

On the morning of Tuesday, July 21, 1914, deep in the heart of the wilderness of the Siskiyous near the little hamlet of Holland, a naked man was soberly shaking the hand of an official-looking gentleman ...

The wreck of the Admiral Benson as it appeared in September 1930, three months after young Stan Allyn and Wally Stenlake explored it. By the time this picture was taken, it had sunk much further into the sand, and Stan and Wally could likely have paddled right up to the deck at the stern. (Image: Postcard) Rusty Rae/ News-Register##

Offbeat Oregon: Kids' shipwreck adventure couldn't happen today

The first day of summer vacation in 1930 was a real red-letter day for Washington High School students Stan Allyn and Wally Stenlake. Of course, every high-school kid looks forward to that first day of ...

Rusty Rae/News-Register## Warm Springs Indian Scouts in the field at the scene of the Modoc War, in 1873, pose for a photograph. Their leader, Capt. Donald McKay, is the man standing in the front. (Image: U.S. War Dep’t)

Offbeat Oregon: Oregon's own patent-medicine sensation?

    Ka-Ton-Ka cure-all actually produced in a Pennsylvania factory There was a time, in the late 1800s, when one of the most popular medicines in the country was a product painstakingly ...

Image: Oregon State University Libraries##Main Street in Forest Grove as it appeared in the early 1910s.

Offbeat Oregon: Sting on secret saloon didn’t go well

In 1899, the spiritual leaders of Forest Grove had a problem: There was a serpent in their Garden of Eden. Forest Grove was founded by members of the Congregational Church — a denomination directly ...

Image: portlandcrime.blogspot.com##The wreckage of Oliver Kermit Smith’s car after it was blown to pieces by explosives in the parking lot of the Columbia Edgewater Country Club. Picture is from the files of Det. Walter Graven.

Offbeat Oregon: Sordid love triangle gone bad ended in deadly car explosion

Late on the evening of April 21, 1955, 35-year-old Portland attorney Oliver Kermit Smith left the Columbia Edgewater Country Club and walked to his car. He was probably a little tipsy; there had been a ...

Image: Ted Barber##Pioneer Central Oregon aviator Ted Barber in the pilot’s seat of his trusty Waco 9.

Offbeat Oregon: Pioneering aviators were undeterred by danger

Part of the problem with owning and operating the only flight school in town in the 1920s and 1930s was, every time one of your students slapped together some home-built piece of kit, you’d ...

Image: Greg Shine/BLM##The entrance to one of the Redmond Caves, formed when a large lava tube collapsed.

Offbeat Oregon: Lost Crystal Cave: Real or folklore?

Central Oregon is cave country. There may be more caves, discovered and undiscovered, within a 100-mile radius of Bend than anywhere else in the country — ranging in size from tiny, dangerous lava ...

Image: Wikimedia Commons##The elevation drawing from the original blueprints for the Dalles City Mint show what the building would have looked like had it been finished. The project was abandoned before the roof was finalized, so the outline of the building looks different today.

Offbeat Oregon: Portland’s play to beat The Dalles cost state its branch of U.S. Mint

Portland’s play to beat The Dalles cost Oregon its branch of the federal mint When hardcore coin collectors examine a promising piece of numismatic history, the first place their eyes usually go ...

Image: Oregon Historical Society##Gov. Tom McCall talks about the bottle bill with Mrs. J. Rand, leader of a community organization against throwaway beverage containers.

Offbeat Oregon: Stubborn citizen teamed up with Tom McCall on first bottle bill

Longtime Oregonians may remember a time, in the mid-1970s, when the “Welcome to Oregon” signs at the state’s southern border were superfluous. One could tell the difference between Oregon ...

Image: Saturday Evening Post##The front cover of the Feb. 14, 1959, issue of The Saturday Evening Post was this famous painting by Norman Rockwell (who, incidentally, appears in this painting; he’s the second juror from the left). It depicts a scene that could only happen in Oregon if the defendant were on trial for first-degree murder.

Offbeat Oregon: Because of notorious murder case, jury verdicts need not be unanimous

It’s ironic that Norman Rockwell’s famous painting “The Holdout” appeared on the front cover of the Saturday Evening Post on, of all days, Feb. 14, 1959. That date was Oregon’s ...

Image: Bryce Buchanan/ODOT##An aerial shot of Whale Cove shows the location of Bootlegger Rock and the beach on which the booze was buried.

Offbeat Oregon: Smugglers buddies staged audacious midnight jailbreak

Around 10 p.m. on the night of Saturday, March 19, 1932 — just a few months before Prohibition was ended — four vehicles rolled furtively into the little Coast Range town of Toledo. A ...

Image: Offbeat Oregon##The entrance to Whale Cove, as seen from the headland at its southern end. This photo was taken at high tide, so the rocky reef — Bootlegger Rock — is mostly covered.

Offbeat Oregon: Liquor smugglers’ luck ran dry in Whale Cove

In the pitchy darkness after midnight on a blustery February morning just off the Oregon Coast, the 36-foot powerboat Sea Island was in big trouble. The Sea Island was a Canadian rumrunner out ...

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