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  • Ednold

Forest Grove 9/16/22

Updated: Sep 20, 2022

Friday night in mid-September and it was just the two of us: Me and The Bucket. Mrs. Ednold was stuck at work, but The Bucket never declines a chance to get out of town, especially to drive through the rolling hills of Polk and Yamhill counties to the town of Forest Grove. We hung a left in McMinnville and got on Highway 47 headed north. Soon we were going through Dilley, but we didn’t dally, and kept on a few more miles to Ballad Town U.S.A. That’s Forest Grove’s nickname because it hosts the annual All Northwest Barbershop Quartet Contest, and has for over 70 years. In honor of that tradition, they also have the world’s tallest barber pole, which is accurate if you consider a big telephone pole painted red, white, and blue with some kind of big bulb on top of it a barber pole. For unknown reasons they thought it would fit best right next to the Pacific University running track, so that’s where you’ll find it.

Forest Grove was settled in the 1840s and incorporated in 1872, making it the first city in Washington County. It was named for a grove of oak trees that still stand on what is now the campus of the university in the middle of town. Forest Grove has been a college town since the early days, and the university has always been the dominant feature of the community. Chemawa Indian School also used to be in Forest Grove, opening in 1880 before moving to Salem four years later.

You music aficionados out there know that several cities have their own sound. There’s the Nashville sound, the Memphis sound, the Detroit sound, the Seattle sound, and probably others. But how many of you know about the Forest Grove Sound? In February of 2016 a strange sound was heard by several people on several different days and nights during that month. The Oregonian described the sound as a “mechanical scream” and the Washington Post said it sounded like a “giant flute played off pitch”, while NBC News thought it was “akin to a bad one-note violin solo broadcast over a microphone with nonstop feedback”. Though some type of utility issue was suspected, the Public Works Department and the natural gas company found no problems with any of their lines. The sound was heard for the last time on February 27th and the source was never found, although Jimmy Fallon has a theory.

I was scheduled to meet my nephew Billy for dinner before the game, but I had a little time to kill before then, so I made the short drive west on Pacific Avenue to visit Forest View Cemetery. I don’t know any of the people buried there, but I feel like I do. It took a little exploring, but eventually I found her right next to her brother and father. It says Nellie W. Kirry on the stone, but her maiden name was Owens, and she was the real life Nellie Oleson from Little House on the Prairie. I never really watched that TV show, so I’m not sure what the story lines were like, but when I was little my parents read all of those books to us and my dislike of Nellie Oleson started at an early age. She was the spoiled brat child of the town’s storekeepers, and she looked down her nose at farm kids like Laura Ingalls. If you’re not familiar with the character, just know that the actress who played her on TV, Alison Arngrim, wrote a memoir entitled Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated.

The Prairie Bitch

Originally I had planned to come and spit on her grave, but I did a little research and found that the Nellie character was really a composite of three different girls from Laura’s childhood, and the nasty side of Nellie Oleson was mostly based on a different girl named Genevieve Masters. But the character was named Nellie, so people, like me, made assumptions about what Nellie Owens was like, while Genevieve got off the hook. It’s true that Nellie Owens’ parents did run the store in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, but her real personality was apparently much more pleasant than Nellie Oleson’s. I’m glad I found that out in time and didn’t spit on her.

A few years after the events described in the books, Nellie’s family moved to California, then to Tillamook, where she found a husband. They moved on to Rainier before finally settling in Forest Grove, where Nellie died in 1949. Isn’t it funny that she started out in Walnut Grove and ended up in Forest Grove? I wonder if she ever went to Cottage Grove? Her son Leslie was, by the way, a star on the Forest Grove High School football team, and it’s just weird to think of the Nellie Oleson character and then imagine that same person cheering for her son at a Forest Grove football game.

Though I don’t remember him, apparently Nellie’s little brother Willie had a small role in the books also, and he’s buried right next to his sister. I have reason to believe he was not the brightest of young men. The real life Willie Owens was blinded in one eye in a fireworks accident one Fourth of July while they still lived in Minnesota. After moving to Oregon, he went out to chop wood one day and a twig poked out his other eye, leaving him completely blind. Willie! Dude! When you’re down to one functioning eyeball you need to be more careful than that! If you want to hear more about their family click on this.

It was nice to see the Owens family resting peacefully, those with eyeballs and those without, but it was time to head over to the university for dinner with Billy. I thought about searching for that old plaque with my name on it, but that would have to wait for another time. I grabbed a pizza on the way and we met up outside the University Center and found a table where we could stuff our faces while talking about our respective experiences on campus many years apart. I was a little humbled, but not greatly surprised when, as I got up to leave, Billy told me he thought I was the coolest uncle ever, and I assured him that he is still tied for second on my list of favorite nephews. It was a very nice visit.

Then it was off to the high school on the far north side of town. Forest Grove is a 6A school playing at the 5A level in Special District 1, made up of a hodgepodge of teams from Hood River Valley to Wilsonville to Hillsboro. They made it to the state championship game in 1976, losing to Sunset, but since 2018 they’ve finished in the middle of the pack, hovering around the .500 mark. The Vikings have been outscored 82-20 in the first two games of the season, both losses, so my expectations were not too high for this game, a non-league contest against the Mountain View Cougars of Bend.

Hey, did you know that only one person born in The Philippines has ever played major league baseball? Sure you did. But did you also know he went to Forest Grove High School? His name was Bobby Chouinard and he was a pitcher for the Orioles, A’s and Rockies in the 90’s.

Another Forest Grove grad is Richard VanGrunsven. You may not have heard of him, but his company is a leading manufacturer of airplane kits. Yes, I said airplane kits. The Van’s Aircraft Company has sold many thousands of kits allowing people to build their own airplanes. Since the planes aren’t mass-manufactured, they’re considered experimental and aren’t subject to a lot of the same standards that apply to other aircraft. So, there are people building their own airplanes in their backyards and then flying them around. Who, besides Mr. VanGrunsven, thinks this is a good idea?. I just pray that those people aren’t like me. When I put something together and end up with a few extra bolts or washers at the end I just throw them in the garbage and call it good.

Aubrey Gordon is a Forest Grove graduate too. Anybody heard of her? Probably not, since she is an author and podcaster who goes by her professional name: Your Fat Friend. Apparently Your Fat Friend writes and talks about fat, being fat, fatness, fat acceptance, and other fat stuff. So, someone named Your Fat Friend writes about fat and is world famous, and Ednold writes about football and has to cajole his own family members to read it. Lesson learned. You can expect a lot more stories about fat from now on.

Since Mrs. Ednold was sitting this one out, once I parked The Bucket in the big lot out front on Nichols Lane I was all by myself. I walked over to the ticket booth on the southeast corner of the field and almost simultaneously experienced both ends of the happiness spectrum. First of all, I learned that admission would be $8 and when I handed the lady a $20 bill she told me they didn’t make change and that I had to pay the exact amount. They didn’t even have a cash box since everyone paid with a card on the little digital doodad on the counter. So, apparently I’m the last remaining person on earth who still uses actual money. I told her I didn’t have anything but $20s, and guess what? She and the other lady told me not to worry about it. I could just walk in for free! Their names were Vanessa and Myra and they instantly restored my faith in humanity. Of course, I went in, bought a Coke, and came back with the $8. How could I not? And of course they laughed at me, but my conscience was clean and I could enjoy the game. Those two made my night.

West (home) Grandstand

Forest Grove High School opened in 1907, but it wasn’t in the same place. I don’t know when the current version opened, but it’s big and very modern-looking. The grandstand is big and covered, but you can tell it’s modern too by the aluminum bleacher seats inside. Not my favorite thing to sit on, but it’s nice and cozy under the roof and there are large bathrooms underneath it and a big concession stand at the south end of the field. Visitors seating is uncovered aluminum on the east side of the field. The field itself is new-looking artificial turf surrounded by a rubber track. It didn’t rain at all, but it was overcast and looked like it could at any minute, and I was glad to have that roof over my head.

East (visitor's) Bleachers

The game itself was about what I expected, and there’s no need to go into much detail. It will suffice to say that Forest Grove was outplayed in every phase of the game. They showed flashes of decency now and then, but were never really in the game. The Cougars led 28-7 at halftime, but it felt like a bigger lead than that.

For the first time this season we had both cheerleaders and a band, and at halftime the crowd got to see a real marching band making some kind of designs on the field that I could never make out. They weren’t the best I’ve heard, but their drumline rocks, and the Forest Grove fight song is the OSU fight song, so they have that going for them. Then the Vikettes dance team did their thing. Without Mrs. Ednold there to evaluate the dancers and cheerleaders I’m not sure what to say about them except that to the untrained eye they seemed to all do very well. But I’m no expert.

When the show was over it was time to head to the concession stand for a hamburger. I wasn’t really hungry but I had to try something and report on the quality. And besides, I’m going to need to put on a few pounds if I’m going to start writing about fat. The hamburger took forever to get but was very good and well worth the wait. The coffee was coffee.

By the second half it was starting to get a little cold for the first time this season, but otherwise it was more of the same, with the Vikings unable to stop the Mountain View attack, and the final score was 42-7. Not much of a nail-biter, and I wish we could have had reason to hear the OSU fight song a few more times, but entertaining nonetheless. And I had gotten to see Billy, and Nellie, and eyeless Willie Owens, and Vanessa and Myra, so despite the score it was a really nice night.

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