Monday, August 04, 2008

Small Town America ~ Elgin, Oregon

Elgin, Oregon is my home ~ the land rough and remote and I call it mine. Even though I've been grown-up and gone now for more years than the 18 that I was spent here, my family roots, heart and soul are still deeply embedded in the Union County soil.

Elgin is a small farming and logging community that sits in pretty little Indian Valley in the Blue Mountains of Northeastern Oregon, population around 1200. I swear that these 22 years later, when I pull into town, the same little old men are still sitting on the same little old bench in front of the downtown corner market. Things and times have not much changed in this remote corner of the world. My little brother (born much later than the rest of us, and raised in northern California) is a city boy and can't imagine why we would want to go back there, that things are so behind the times. I try to explain to him that those are the exact reasons, besides the absolute love of the land, that my husband and I, my older brothers and sisters, want to go back. It's home. Enough said.

This is the old Elgin Opera House and City Hall. I'm not sure what goes on in the Opera House these days, but when I was a kid it was a movie theatre. There wasn't a movie shown every weekend, just now and again. It's a great old opera house with a wonderful balcony and red velvet curtains and seats. There is a notorious story about an old pistol-carrying character who got excited during an old western and shot the bad guy on the screen when my mom was a teenager. During my growing-up years that hole was still there in the screen. Of course, it had to be pointed out and talked about whenever you went to a movie. I wonder if it's still there?
You know you're in a small town when the grain elevator is located right behind city hall!

"I am from the cool feel of the big stone porch on a hot summer day
where the sound of laughter and the clink of dishes makes you know that you are safe.
I am from brick."
This is the house that my Mom grew-up in, the house that I wrote the above passage about in my poem "I Am From Hammer and Nails". My grandparents lived here for many years and we all have beautiful, loving memories of this place. My sister, Susan, recently wrote about the pantry in the basement of this house in a post about canning. To me, it brings back memories of Daddy-Longleg spiders and dust; to her, the smells and sounds of canning. Behind the house, there was a firepit with Grandpa's great big fat hotdogs roasting away and long stone benches that were so cool to lay on on a hot summer day. So many cousins running around, so much love.
I'm keeping on eye on this old family home, and if it ever were to come up for sale again...SNAG!! Somethings should just be kept in the family. I can definately see myself being the Grandma in this house.

My brother and his wife, Todd and Gidge, bought this house a couple of years ago from an old Elgin family. This wonderful old house belonged to our shop teacher. Mr. Hendrix was the wood shop teacher for more years than I can even imagine and so very talented. His students won all kinds of awards for the projects that came out of that shop. I had him freshman year and made a cedar-lined chest that I no longer have. It was a toy-box for the girls when they were small, but was pretty heavy and had to be left behind in one of our moves years ago. A classmate of mine built a Grandfather Clock that was just incredible and won a state competition, if I remember right. I also took ceramics from this same teacher. He was no-nonsense and taught us all so much. Anyway, off the track there, Todd and Gidge's house sits on an acre in town, has a huge garden spot and a small pond that they have stocked with bullfrogs and bass. So much fun, but the best part is the big shop that sits behind the house with a big workbench that was signed by some of Mr. Hendrix's students that must have come to his house for special lessons. We got a huge kick out of finding our uncle's name scrawled on this workbench. Uncle Phil is our mom's oldest brother, so does that give you any idea of how long Mr. Hendrix was the shop teacher?? Decades! Our Grandfather and Dad also re-roofed this house for the Hendrix's years ago. Small town living has so many many connections and circles...even when you come back so many years after leaving.

"Here we have Elgin High, winning her way to fame.
The purple and white will shine tonight
and romance lies in her name..."
How proud we were to be Elgin Huskies, of course we had our own version of the school song, sang to the same tune.
"Juniors never stumble,
Seniors never fall;
We sober up on pure alcohol.
Send those Freshman out for gin
and don't let a sober Sophomore in!"
I wonder if that has been passed down all these years and if the kids still sing it?

I didn't get all the pictures that I wanted this trip, so sometime there will be an Elgin Part 2. You NEED to see C-Zer's drive-in, my Grandparents old hardware and lumber store among other sights.

May you all be blessed with the love of a small town...


LEArning4Him: Lea Family Homeschool said...

Makin' me homesick again!!! I haven't been back to Elgin for over a year. Thanks for sharing the pic's.

Adrienne said...

Hi Paula -
I am ready to go back to life in small town America. When we were first married we lived in rural small-town Wasco County, Oregon. I miss the feeling of knowing everyone in town and the joy of life at a slower pace. I think I could go back at a moment's notice!

Thank you for sharing your hometown with us. Yes, please let us see more.

Razor Family Farms said...

I have not been back to my hometown since moving 3,000 miles to get away from it. I don't think I'm ready to return just yet. Too many memories. One day.

I love that you posted about your hometown and sincerely hope that you'll start a trend that other bloggers would follow. Wouldn't it be neat to see where everyone came from?


Mimi said...

when I was a young girl I lived in Clinton Arkansas for about 5 years (until I was 10 years old)
your town sounds so very much like mine...
thanks for the memories...

Beckynsc said...

I miss my small town also! I haven't been back for about 3 years. I wanted to visit this summer, but I don't think that's gonna happen. There's always next year. And you can bet I'll be blogging about it!

Josh said...


I see you mentioned me. LOL Yeah, it is true I don't understand, but maybe I am not suppose to, you know?? I can't believe that I am typing this from my apartment on the 21st floor in downtown Chicago, and did you hear about our awesome lightning and tornado storm yesterday? LOL

Thanks for sharing Elgin with me, it seems to me that what I remember of the brick house, it was a big 2 story house (but that was prolly the basement). However, I do remember grandma's little red house very clearly as I spent lots of time there on holidays from Northern California. :-)

Juliet said...

Oooh, Elgin looks lovely- a lot like the little town of Natimuk, in Western Victoria, Australia, that I spent a few of my growing up years in. For me it was the smell of peppercorns and sun-warmed grass! Oh I could so go back and do it all over again! But I don't know if I could leave my church now... I have too much fun there!

I actually just hopped over to meet you because I've just received the circle journal, and your name is listed on there! Unfortunately you've still got a bit of a wait, as it's got me and then Jackie in Canada to go before you get it. I can't wait to read more of your home-town remeniscences!
Blessings, Juliet.

Love Bears All Things said...

I love this post. I could just picture so much in my mind as I read. I've never been to Oregon but I know it is beautiful.
Mama Bear

Mary said...


What an incredible post. I love small towns and rural areas. I grew up on the farm and there was a little village near us where we hung out and played baseball and had so much fun. Today people still live there but the general store, the garage and all the other businesses sit in decay. I need to visit and get some photos. A great trip down Memory Lane.

Just to let you know, the book arrived safe and sound. I'm looking forward to reading it. Thanks so much.


Terri said...

Thanks for the tour of your home town, Paula! Lucky you still have family there and are able to go back a visit awhile!
I'm jealous! I haven't been home in nearly 20years!

tipper said...

Just a great post!! I love reading anything about our great histories! Very neat town.

catieann said...

Catie here. I am actually visiting small town america right now in central new york. Mommy is almost done with school for this semester a few more hours next week!! I brought my 5 yr old grand daughter to visit her 6 and 3 yr old cousins for ten days!!
Nakiah has been walking us all over town showing us her favorite places---she is so cute. The first place was the town cemetery which started in the mid to late 1800's. It is 3 doors down... her school and playground and the 'libary' where they played for an hour yesterday in the children's fun!!
Might post to my own blog while here but not sure.
thanks for the visual prompt for our own memories.

Stacey's Treasures said...

This is the neatest post in the world!!!
I didn't know Uncle phils name was carved in Todds bench. That is so cool!
If you find Grandmas house up for sale, I want it too. its big enough for all of us!

Cris said...

Oh Paula, I just love to hear stories like this. xoxo