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  • Ednold

Waldport 10/22/21

Updated: Oct 24, 2021

This Friday night we drove over to the coast to the little town of Waldport. The town was named by settlers who had floated down the Alsea River in the late 1870’s. Wald is the German name for forest and port is the English word for a port. A combination of German and English had come together to provide a name for the town, so it makes perfect sense that the Waldport High School mascot is the Irish. Or, depending on your source, the Fighting Irish; a small difference but an important one, and I was curious to find out which it was. I prefer the more docile, passive variety of Irish to the fighting kind, but I was prepared for whatever we would encounter. And the whole idea of naming yourself for people from a foreign country is just weird. Waldport High School didn’t exist before 1958, and by then I doubt the residents were predominantly of Irish descent, if that was ever the case. There’s nothing wrong with Irish people, but why not name your team the Norwegians? Or the Bolivians? Or the Koreans? When you stop to think about it, it’s all a bit strange.

The town was incorporated in 1911 after having been laid out in 1879. On an old Indian burial ground! I kid you not. Had these people never seen Poltergeist? Or The Amityville Horror, or Pet Sematary, or The Shining? It’s ok though, because those are just made-up stories, right? Well, then explain how, in September of 1975, 20 people just vanished from the town of Waldport. I didn’t think you could, so I’ll do it myself. On September 14 of that year, at the Bayshore Inn in Waldport, the leaders of what came to be known as the Heaven’s Gate cult got their little club started with a recruiting meeting. Over the next few days 20 people from in and around the town just disappeared. It later came to light that they had given away their possessions and dependents and joined the other loonies on a trip to Colorado to catch the next UFO to Crazytown. That group that committed mass suicide more than 20 years later got their start right there in Waldport! I think it bears repeating: Never build on an old Indian burial ground.

Since those people back in the 1870’s had floated down the Alsea River to get to Waldport, we decided we would follow the river down too, and we took Highway 34 over the Coast Range. It’s a twisty little road but we went at just the right time of year to get to see the full spectrum of colors on the maple trees that line the banks of the river. There were still some pale green ones, and the others ranged from dull yellow to dark orange. It’s a pretty drive if you aren’t in a hurry. And you also get to drive by Little Switzerland. I assume that little settlement got its name because it bears some resemblance to some parts of Switzerland, and if you try really hard you can kind of see it. It’s in a deep canyon next to the river at the bottom. There are no snow-capped mountains but the hills are high and there are meadows alongside the river, so when we squinted really hard and yodeled just a little bit we were able to convince ourselves that we were back in the Alps for just a moment. Then we continued on to where the river turns into Alsea Bay, and we had arrived in Waldport.

The west (home) grandstand

We've been through Waldport a hundred times, and even stopped a few times, but I don't think either of us had ever been off of Highway 101 and it was pleasantly surprising to see the rest of the town. There's a lot of it I never even knew was there and it seems like a really nice place. Waldport has always been a lumber town and a lot of logging still goes on in the area. The Army built a railroad line between Waldport and Toledo in 1918 to transport spruce that was used to build airplanes during the war. At one time there were several mills and a couple of salmon canneries in Waldport, but none of them remain. The first Alsea Bay Bridge was completed in 1936, and was replaced with a new one in 1991. It’s not as picturesque as the one in Newport, but it’s pretty cool in its own smaller way. The unincorporated community of Bayshore on the north side of the bridge isn’t part of Waldport, but the kids there go to Waldport High as do the students from farther down the coast in Yachats, about 8 miles away on the southern edge of Lincoln County. Here’s something interesting: Know what Yachats means? In the Siletz language, it means “dark water at the foot of the mountain”. All that in just one funny word. This whole post would be about two sentences long if I knew how to write in Siletz.

The old high school was near downtown along the big slough, and you can easily pick out the empty lot that it used to sit on. The new school was built in 2013 up on top of the hill south of town. There’s plenty of parking right around the football field, so we found a good spot for The Bucket and located the entry at the southwest corner of the field. $6 each got us in the gate with a program. We were early, but it was Senior Night and also Little Cheerleader Night (or something like that) so there were lots of others already there staking out their seats in the stands, so we joined them in that endeavor. Waldport has a proper grandstand. It’s plenty big for a 2A school, it’s comfortable, it has a big press box up top, and it has a roof. The seats are aluminum bleachers, but they have little seat things on them that make them much more comfortable than your typical bleacher seats. I don’t know what to call them, so I took a picture. If anyone has a suggestion for what to call them please leave a comment. There is a small section of uncovered visitors’ seating across the field. The field is two-tone artificial turf surrounded by a rubber asphalt track. I’m not sure how old everything is but it feels newer than 2013.

Prior to the start of the game there was a presentation of not only the senior football players, but also the senior cheerleaders, which was a nice touch. They were all presented with their families and some of the entourages were quite large. Then, when the game began, we got a good demonstration of how to organize a night when there are dozens of tiny future cheerleaders around. From the beginning, the elementary-aged little girls were all down in front of the stands cheering alongside their high school mentors. This kept them from running wild for a full half before their halftime performance and eliminated the need to corral them all as halftime approached. I’m going to remember that in case I’m ever asked to organize a Little Cheerleader Night. When halftime finally did arrive, they all took the field and performed their routine to the applause of the crowd, then were free to go home, which most of them did.

Got a name for these?

The Irish were playing the Mohawk Mustangs in a matchup of teams from the Northern Division of 1A Special District 1. Waldport was 5-1, with Mohawk at 3-2. As always, we were sitting with the home fans and cheering for the home team, but my heart wasn’t really in it. For one thing, Mohawk was one of my favorite trips, and it would be hard to root against the Mustangs. For another, the Irish are actually a 2A school who’ve moved down to play against 1A competition, and in an 8-man league they had significantly more players on their roster than their opponents. Something doesn’t seem right about that and I innately pull for the underdog in those situations, but we were Irish for the night and I did my best for them.

East (visitor) seating

And before I go any further, let me announce that the curse of Perrydale has ended, effective immediately. You may remember that, after Mrs. Ednold and I were banished from the Perrydale grounds last spring, I placed a curse on the Pirates and I still believe it was the right thing to do. But the Waldport Irish put up 90 points against them last week and this week the St. Paul Buckaroos hung 58 on them. Both big losses for the Pirates. At this point I believe the curse has served its purpose and it would just be cruel to let it continue. You’re welcome, Perrydale. Let no man say that Ednold is completely heartless.

As you may imagine, on top of a hill near the beach there was a strong wind, coming from the south, that made passing a risky proposition all night. But both teams had good runners and racked up lots of rushing yards, which isn’t hard to do with only 8 defenders on the field. Often, if you can break through the first line of defense there is a lot of open field. The Irish got off to a quick start, using their speedy quarterback to run the ball through the less-speedy Mohawk defense, and they took a 38-12 lead into halftime.

Waldport has a good little pep band but, unfortunately, the Irish have chosen to use the Notre Dame fight song as their own. And as much as they score that meant having to hear that song many times. It’s wasn’t the bands fault, but I’m like one of Pavlov’s dogs when I hear that song. It makes me feel like I’ve just eaten some Alpo. Luckily, the Irish Booster concession stand had lots of stuff to take that taste out of my mouth. My dinner was a real broiled hamburger and my dessert was a Pot of Gold. I didn’t know what that was when I ordered it and I worried that I might chip a tooth, but who could see that on the menu and not get one? It turned out to be an exact replica of the Frito pie I had last week at Days Creek, just with a better name, and every bit as good.

The Mohawk Mustangs hung within striking distance for most of the game, but you never got the feeling that the Waldport lead was in serious danger. The teams took turns running up and down the field and the score was 46-28 after three quarters. The Irish added to their lead to make it 62-28, and things got a little chippy on the field before the rain began to fall. With 3 minutes left on the clock the deluge began, with the rain coming down sideways and soaking everything and everyone not under cover. The roof did its job perfectly for us though, and the short walk back to The Bucket wasn’t too bad.

I wish I could say the same for the ride home. With the darkness and the rain I decided Highway 20 from Newport might be an easier route back to the valley than Hwy 34. It’s hard to imagine it could have been any worse. The darkness combined with the rain coming down in buckets made visibility almost zero. The wiper blades were swishing so fast I was afraid they were going to fly right off, and I still had a constant layer of water on the windshield. I would have pulled over and waited it out but I couldn’t see where the edge of the road was. By the time we were headed back downhill the rain had started to let up a bit and that’s when I realized that I had probably set a new world record. I’m pretty sure I went more than a half hour without blinking and my eyeballs were exhausted and on fire from searching for the road in front of us.

So, we had helped root the Irish on to victory and the only Irish that looked like they wanted to do any fighting were on the football field, AND I got my own name in the record books on the same night. I’d have to say it was a worthwhile trip.

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Oct 24, 2021

Ednold, I don't know how you find out all this stuff! I've lived in Oregon all my life and I never heard of the disappearing people. You're amazing.

That is a beautiful drive, especially this time of. year........if you're not in a hurry. Sorry your return trip turned out to be harrowing.

Keep up the good work. I look forward to your blog every week.

My college roommate married a guy from Walport, but they had to attend Newport high school back in the day. RJS

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