Sunday, March 25, 2012


There was an old man from Albina,
Who went off in the hills as a miner,
But he's since reappeared,
With his stories, most weird,
And a red Turkish fez like a Shriner.

I have been away. And like any other prospector who has headed off into the hills with gold pans and victuals piled up on his mule, I have probably been forgotten. But this note is to forewarn you of my eventual return. And instead off coming back empty handed, I am returning with pure gold. My research into the skeleton-filled closets of this city have turned up far more interesting stories than I had anticipated. And I am going to have to jam as much as will fit into one book of which each chapter could have been a book in its own right.
The Albina rail yard

A few notes on Albina

Albina was a city in its own right for years before becoming part of the great metropolis—a bustling city at that. The train yards were alive with the arrival and departure of passengers, and the great steam engines of the day growled and snorted into the roundhouse to be switched onto various rail lines.
I worked on the Albina grain docks for over thirty years, and during my time the days were quiet in comparison. The rail terminal for passengers moved across the river. The old break bulk cargo docks and sacked grain warehouses were long gone, replaced by a cement plant and grain elevators. 
The area in 1888

Albina grain docks 1880s

The Albina Engine and Machine Works was next door to Irving dock. For years steel vessels were built here, starting with the smaller warships of WWI. During WWII navy tugs and warships continued to be built, include a line of warships known as the mighty midgets. When the war ended tugs and ferries were constructed here. The company used large amounts of asbestos in its construction, and the site, and the adjacent Willamette river is polluted with years of oil spills, and other chemical spills.

Some of the warehouses added grain elevators. This is O Dock before 1960 when the warehouse  burned
Where once thousands of men (and later women) labored, filling the air with the very human sounds of shouting, cursing, and laughing, now is heard the quiet groan of huge machines. An export grain elevator, for example, is merely a gigantic machine, operated from a control room, designed for blending various qualities of  grain and delivering it out of its spouts into a waiting ship. So where at one time gangs made up of dozens of men loaded heavy sacks into the holds of ships, now one man (or woman) pushes some buttons.
How is miss thee, dear old O Dock! (of course I could visit at any time)

It is quiet down there along the river, and it may get quieter yet. This is a long story, and one I hope to tell in its entirety some day.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Haul on the Bowline!

Today as I was getting the urge to do a little show and tell it occurred to me that I was in the process of doing the same thing that I had laughed at while surfing YouTube. Kids now days, mostly girls, will come home from shopping and make a video of the stuff they purchased, usually with a running commentary. These are called "haul videos" (for you grownups who don't keep up with the kiddies). The Wikipedia article on the subject says that by late 2010 there were a quarter of a million haul videos on YouTube alone.

So this is a haul blog post. Today I got some really, uh, what's the latest way to say "cool?" stuff in the mail, stuff I had found on eBay. (Is that how it is capitalized?) So here it is:

1. Some dark read trade beads, supposedly made in Russia and used by the Hudson's Bay Company. They came from an antique dealer in Manitoba.

2. A token from Erickson's Saloon. The place with the "mile long bar," the giant gorilla bouncer, and the shanghai tunnels.

3. A postcard, postmarked 1886, of the Portland waterfront. This is the oldest postcard of my hundred plus collection of Portland images, mostly of the river, wharfs, and bridges.

It's nice to have a few artifacts around from the old days. It's even more fun to share them. No more laughing at haul videos for me folks.

The title of this blog was inspired by a shanty to be sung while hauling on the bowline to lift the square sail and bring the ship into the wind.

Haul in the bowline, my Kitty comes from Liverpool
Haul in the bowline, the bowline, ho!
Haul in the bowline, Liverpool's a fine town…
Haul in the bowline, Kitty's on the game again
Haul in the bowline, the bully ships a-rolling
Haul in the bowline, the old man is a-growling
Haul in the bowline, its a far cry to pay day
Haul in the bowline, and bust the chafing leather
Haul in the bowline, well either bend or break her
A pint of rum, a glass of beer, a sailor likes his pint of rum