preservation and encouragement

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Sunday, January 04, 2009
world's tallest

Before I can describe how I came to take several pictures of the World's Tallest Barber Pole today, I feel like I need to give some background information: My family is full of map nerds. It's not really so bad with me (sure I had National Geographic star maps, maps of the ocean bottom and the arctic circle on my walls for years, but they're currently in drawers) -- but my mother, sister, and various uncles have it BAD. Topo maps, old insurance maps of the city, arguments about what certain markings on BLM maps "really mean" and so on. Road trips throughout my life have been much more interesting due to this gene mutation, but interesting covers a lot of ground. (Usually of the "well, it didn't look that twisty/empty/deserted/completely without gas stations/bedevilled by sasquatch on the map!" or "did it really go down to one gravel lane for 20 miles?" variety.) My Fresno uncle's specialty is picking roads that technically have fewer miles and are therefore "faster," but they're usually clinging to the side of a mountain, one hairpin turn after the other. He really gets into describing how (even though he's never been on it), it's not as a twisty as it looks while my aunt stands behind him and shakes her head and mouths "don't do it" to anyone who will catch her eye. My mom's particular talent is choosing roads with no gas stations and no way to get off of them, just as the sun is going down. Ah, TRADITION!

Did you know there was a special program to put writers to work during the great depression? The Federal Writers' Project was part of the Works Projects Administration under FDR. One of the most famous products was the American Guide Series, the goal of which was, according to this site, to "reflect topics such as local history, folklore, economic development, scenic areas, places of interest, local lore, facts, and tours. The books were initiated to stimulate travel to bolster the economy during the Great Depression." These books are GREAT FUN, and the NYT has begun a multimedia series sending journalists out to re-take some of the tours and see how things have changed. (these tours are also great fun!) Click here for more NYT WPA resources.

ANYWAY, for Christmas my mom acquired a copy of the Washington book for my sister and ordered a reprint of the Oregon book for herself. Today was tour day! She chose one that started downtown and headed out toward Forest Grove on state road 8, which has changed a lot since the 30-40s (fewer farms, more strip malls featuring tanning salons and dollar stores). But once we got to Forest Grove, things started looking up.

First, we stopped and had lunch at the Grand Lodge. (the service is always really S L O W, but the food is tasty and I love how they rehab these old buildings!)

copper top
I also love this copper tabletop. I think it looks way cooler than stainless steel.

world's tallest

After lunch, we drove around the campus of the local university to see some work that the company my sister works for had done. This is where we encountered THE POLE. I don't know how I feel about this, honestly. It's a tall pole, sure, but is it really a barber pole just because it's painted red white and blue? There's no barber shop nearby! (Although I did notice what seemed like a lot of hair salons around town.) It's no World's Largest Frying Pan, I tell you what. But I did learn that Forest Grove is HUGE in the world of barber shop quartets! It is Ballad Town, U.S.A, for crying out loud! How could I live this close all this time and not know it?

I can't help but think this kind of trip and discovery is exactly the sort of thing that the American Guide Series was trying to promote, which leads me to wonder what kind of public works projects will be launched in the new administration. I hope they make room for artists and writers, too.
5 comments on "preservation and encouragement"
  1. I don't think I have ever been to the Grand Lodge. We should go sometime!

  2. we should! it's covered with mysterious masonic symbols, plus you could see THE POLE. (which is nearby).

  3. I love me some mysterious masonic symbols. Is it too late to go now?

  4. It's also a hotel! I take this as a license to arrive any time of the day or night.

  5. I am sure the Grand Lodge would be sad if you didn't!


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