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  • Ednold

North Douglas 10/13/23

Our string of dry, sunny games finally came to an end this week as we got on the interstate and headed south. The grey clouds hung low as we drove down through the valley, and by the time we’d reached Eugene I was dodging the cats and dogs as they fell. I was actually a little concerned that the football field might become flooded and the game be rained out, until I remembered our destination: The one place where they never have to worry about a flood. Drain! Drain is a city in northern Douglas County just west of I-5, where the North Douglas school district has their only high school: North Douglas High. As we left the freeway and headed into the hills the clouds lifted and the weather grew drier. By the time we arrived there was still a moistness in the air, and it looked like it could rain a little if it wanted to, but the clouds mostly clung to the surrounding hills as we toured the small town to see what we could find.

We found out that Drain wasn’t actually named for the quality of its water flow properties, after all. It was named after a Mr. Charles Drain, who donated the land upon which the town was platted. He had bought a land claim from our old friend Jesse Applegate in 1861 and sold 60 acres of it to the railroad in 1872. He sold it for $1, and in exchange the railroad surveyed the town, including a railway stop, called it Drain, and the rest is history. Actually, all that stuff I just said is history also, but you know what I mean. Mr. Drain built himself a big mercantile building, and the town was incorporated in 1887. In an apparently unrelated happening, seventeen years later Drain was the site of the last sighting of a California Condor in the state of Oregon. No wonder they almost went extinct; flying around outside their own state like that.

For a few people in Drain, dreaming about what might have been could have to do with their poor SAT scores, or the time a few years later when they were left at the altar. But most people in Drain would agree that it was when the Drain Normal School was closed in 1908. It had been opened in 1883 and the state took it over two years later and named it Central Oregon State Normal School, where they trained teachers. There were originally four such schools in the state, but the state pulled their funding. When funding was resumed only three of the schools were reopened, in Monmouth, Ashland, and LaGrande. These three are now Western, Southern, and Eastern Oregon State Universities, respectively, and the school in Drain was once one of them. How different might the little town be now if the legislature had kept that fourth school?

We saw the Pass Creek Bridge, behind the library on A Street. It’s a stubby little covered bridge officially built in 1925, and it’s not much to look at, but if you enjoy reading about people debating whether or not it just might be considered the oldest still-standing bridge in Oregon you can Google it. It’s an interesting story.

We then took B Street to the east side of town and found the school parking lot already beginning to fill up. The school building has an older, traditional look, and feels like it hasn't changed much in a long time. We kept right on by the school, though, and found a spot in the lot of Mr. and Mrs. Drain’s old house. Conveniently, it’s directly east of the football field, making me wonder if the Drains weren’t huge high school football fans in their day. It’s a Queen Anne style house that has been refurbished, and it looks like a house that people would live in if the town they live in is named for them. Queen Annes have lots of towers and turrets and porches and asymmetric little rooms and ornate woodwork around their gables, and stuff like that. If I ever tell you I live in a town named Ednold, you can assume my house looks much like Mr. and Mrs. Drain’s old house. Most people would consider it Victorian architecture, but Anne, the last Stuart monarch, reigned in the early 1700’s, well before Victoria was even born. Her big sister got a college named after her, or half of one at least (William and Mary), and Anne got a style of architecture named after her. Just to spark discussion; which of those would you choose if you had the choice?

It had started to sprinkle by the time we left The Bucket in Mr. and Mrs. Drain’s parking lot and walked around the fence to the north to gain entry to the football field next to the school. $5 got each of us in, with a printed program, and we followed the walkway toward the small grandstands. As we did so, we passed a sign telling us all about the Drain Black Sox baseball team. We learned that the Black Sox were a semi-pro team organized in 1952 in part because lights had just been installed at the high school field and people wanted to get their money’s worth from those lights. They hired longtime Linfield coach Roy Helser as their manager, and in 1958 they won the national championship held in Wichita, Kansas. The very idea of a town of 1,000 people winning a national championship in anything is a little crazy, but it really happened. By the early 60’s, however, sponsorship money had become hard to come by and the team disbanded in 1961. But they were around long enough to get themselves enshrined in the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame, and that field they played on, and those lights they played under, were where we’d be spending our evening. Pretty damn cool.

The small aluminum grandstands for the home team is uncovered, but we picked out a couple of seats right in the middle of it and sat in the shelter of Mrs. Ednold’s umbrella while the skies made up their minds whether they really wanted to dump water on us or not. They changed their minds several times as the teams warmed up, and that giant umbrella went up and down in response. The bleachers weren't quite full, as many War Eagle supporters chose to view from the fence surrounding the narrow track or hang out by the concession stand to the north of us, but there was a large crowd altogether. The visitors from Illinois Valley on the far side of the field had much smaller aluminum bleachers, but a temporary cover had been erected for them, and they were able to keep dry, and the North Douglas band had their own section of folding chairs on a small terrace to our north that was also under a temporary cover.

East side (home) grandstand, with the Drain house behind

Our game would be a matchup of two teams from 2A Special District 3, and both were coming into the game with identical 4-2 records. Neither North Douglas or their opponents from Illinois Valley have ever won a state championship, but the North Douglas Warriors also include players from the Yoncalla Eagles this season, and Yoncalla has won a couple of championships, though the last of those came in 1961. Both North Douglas and Yoncalla played 1A 6-man football in 2021, but came together last season to play at the 2A level, and the combination of the Warriors and Eagles teams has produced the War Eagles mascot, with uniforms of black trimmed with the Warrior red and Eagle yellow, and they look pretty sharp. They finished at 4-5 last season, but are off to a better start this time around. The sporadic rain wasn’t the only sign that this season is getting to be a little long in the tooth. It was both senior night and homecoming for the War Eagles, and the four seniors were introduced along with their families prior to the game.

By that time the rain had stopped for good, and we were able to enjoy the game without the umbrella, though the natural grass field was a slippery mess that only got worse as the game went on. With only the narrow cinder running track and the War Eagle bench separating us from the field, the action was right in front of us as the visitors got off to a fast start. It looked like they might just run away with things early on, but the War Eagles ran back a kickoff before the end of the first quarter and went to the first break still in the game, 20-8. The Cougars from Illinois Valley were hard to stop, though, and by halftime had stretched their lead to 34-16. There was plenty of action in the 9-man game, but the highlight of the show was about to begin.

The homecoming princesses made their entry in a string of shiny muscle cars that made lots of cool muscular noises when their drivers revved them during their trip around the cinder track to deposit the girls in front of us to be met by their princes. I was a homecoming prince once, and I had that experience of watching my princess get to ride in a Corvette while I stood there like a dummy waiting for her. I'm not complaining, but when you think about it it's kind of strange to me. It seems to make sense to everyone else though, so forget I mentioned it. Anyway, the girls all looked very princessy and the escort of the one who was crowned queen by last year's queen was escorted by the quarterback of the football team. Who would ever have expected that? I shouldn't joke about what was truly a very nice ceremony, and everyone involved appeared to be worthy of their honors. And it was our first homecoming in a while, so thank you War Eagles. And what homecoming would be complete without some Frito pie? North Douglas had it, I got some, and I don't think I even need to mention how good it was: It was Frito pie.

Before we get back to the game, allow me to express my respect for both the War Eagle cheerleaders and their band. Before the game was over I had the distinct feeling that the people of Drain, Oregon are probably the most polite and civil people anywhere. The cheerleaders did say that we should "get a little bit rowdy", and they even spelled it for us just to make sure we knew what they were talking about. But it was delivered more as a courteous request than an exhortation. They weren't imploring us or commanding us, just politely hinting that, should we feel like getting rowdy, then by all means we should. They were good, though. Just more reserved than I've come to expect. The pep band, meanwhile, played the standard football tunes, but they did so with a group heavy on flutes and clarinets. The music that is usually dominated by the trumpets and trombones was very light, as if they were concerned for the aural health of those within hearing distance. Which is not to say they weren't good or that I didn't enjoy them. They were precise in a way that many high school bands aren't, the softer sound was actually kind of nice, and those clarinet players probably like being the stars of the show, for a change.

When the game resumed, Illinois Valley resumed scoring points. They scored on passing plays. They scored on running plays. They scored on long plays, and short plays. The War Eagles scored a few touchdowns of their own but could never stop the Cougars consistently enough to threaten their lead. They were able to trim a 24-49 deficit after three quarters to a 40-61 score by the final whistle, but the Cougars got the win while the War Eagles fell to 4-3 on the season. It was an entertaining game with lots of scoring, and the muddy field lent an added element that you don't see at bigger schools with their fancy fake grass. And we were there for senior night and homecoming, eating Frito pie on the Black Sox' old field in a town named after a plumbing conduit. Things don't get much better than that.

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18 oct 2023

As a long time Drain fan I feel the need to add that Roy Helser's National Championship team included as few of his Linfield Conference Championship players. For several years he "invited" some of his best players to spend the summer in scenic Drain.

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