Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What's in a Name?

Saturday night, my wife and I left Orycon and drove across the river in the rain to the Portland Historical Society, which pretty much has all the artifacts of Oregon history worth having. The state keeps most of the documents, but the Society keeps the hardware. Got a hundred thousand square foot warehouse full of it, out in Gresham. 

Some friends of ours, considerably better off financially than are we, had the winning bid in a charity auction on a catered dinner for ten, to be be held after-hours at the place, and we were invited along.

The food, supplied by the Heathman, was outstanding. I had a dish of chicken, shrimp, and morel mushrooms to die for. Great red wine, too. 

Part of the event was a chance to roam around the exhibits, getting a special tour from the director.

Electronic media are wonderful–TV, radio, ebooks, computers, iPads and the lot–but there is something lost with their gains. A hand-written letter from Mark Twain (signed "Sam Clements") to somebody in Oregon isn't so fascinating if you just read the text-version on your computer. Even a high-rez picture scanned into your computer simply isn't the same.

Look that that spidery, ornate handwriting on the copy of the Oregon constitution's preamble.

A copy of the first newspaper printed on the west coast was upstairs. They passed around a chunk of the Oregon Meteorite, the largest iron one ever found, and told a terrific story about where it was first located, how it was stolen, and where it wound up eventually. (In a planetarium in New York City.)

In the 1830s, the two men who owned most of the property known as The Clearing, on the Willamette River, decided they needed something a little classier to call it. Each wanted to name it after his home town. Asa Lovejoy was from Boston; William Pettygrove, from Portland, ME. They decided to flip a coin, best two out of three. Pettygrove won; had Lovejoy done so, we'd be Boston, the City of Roses, and our not-working basketball team called the Boston Trailblazers.

That penny, a large cent, is in a glass case just off the lobby. 

There is a certain pleasure to be found wandering though history. The nine-foot-tall gasoline pump here; the old diving suit there; the gravy boat from the captain's chest of the first ship to sail up the Columbia. A pair of our current governor's old bluejeans ...

A fine time was had by all, and I learned a bit more about local history than I had known. What's not to like?

1 comment:

Ed said...

Sounds like a fun and interesting time and made me hungry.