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...
Posted by Paula at 7:04 AM