go home

74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99

FEATURES: Intro | the Mt. Hood freeway | city hall of fame | architexture | rhymin' rogues | some of our favorite Portlanders | 25 years of statistics | what ever happened to...| Nike's marketing muscle | The Oregonian's big oh's

1980: fire and ice: Mt. Saint Helens | the battle over desegregation | Ron Wyden: the ultimate policy wonk


An ice storm closes the airport, fells trees and knocks out transformers, leaving 100,000 homes without heat or electricity. The National Weather Service can't predict when the freeze will ease, because the storm cuts power to its Portland computers.

A solar eclipse darkens the Pacific Northwest for two minutes beginning at 8:13 on the morning of Feb. 26. Predictably, the skies over Portland are overcast, forcing most Portlanders to watch the event on TV instead.

Ominous signs of economic trouble on the horizon: Unemployment is inching upward, gas prices are soaring, tourism is down, and inflation climbs to 15 percent.

After 123 years of local ownership, the Blitz-Weinhard brewery at Northwest 11th Avenue and West Burnside Street is sold to Pabst Brewing of Milwaukee, Wisc. Things get blurry afterwards: Pabst will sell the brewery to G. Heileman Brewing, which will eventually merge with Stroh Brewery Co., which will, in turn, sell the Henry's brand to Miller.

A new technology--the color copier--reenergizes a flagging art form: Xeroxing your naked body. WW views the resulting images, on display at Marylhurst's Mayer Gallery, with a certain disdain.

Retired painting contractor and carpet-layer Walter Powell teams up with his son Michael to set off a bookselling revolution--juxtaposing new and used titles on the same shelf. From a derelict storefront in Northwest Portland, Powell's Books will grow to employ 430 people and carry an inventory of more than 1 million titles.

The Oregon Dairy Products Commission defends its failure to use black models in its billboards by claiming that "blacks can't digest milk."

Portland historian E. Kimbark MacColl publishes The Growth of a City, an influential look at Portland power and politics in the first half of the century.

The Blackfish Gallery--soon to become one of Portland's most successful artists' co-ops--opens its doors for the first time.

After asking for the resignations of his entire cabinet, President Carter appoints Neil Goldschmidt as his new Secretary of Transportation. Following weeks of speculation, political
wrangling and tied council votes, Commissioner Connie McCready is
ultimately appointed to succeed Goldschmidt as mayor.

WW says the Lotus Cafe and Card Room "has a forbidding façade with a reputation to match. A gaping hole in the plaster by the door stands above a littered stairway leading to a now-defunct hotel. Tired old men with sunken cheeks stand outside the card room entrance smoking cigarettes.... Beer is only 30 cents until 10 am."

Floods, Prohibition, two world wars--nothing, it seems, can dent the charm of Huber's, Portland's oldest restaurant, which this year celebrates a mind-boggling century in business. Originally named for scholarly mixologist Frank Huber, the saloon hit its stride with the arrival of Jim Louie, a Cantonese stowaway who cooked and carved up turkey sandwiches for Huber (originally given away free with each drink) and took the helm in 1911. His descendants still own the joint, renowned for its turkey and signature flaming Spanish coffees. In 1990, Huber's earned the dubious distinction of selling more Kahlua than any other bar in the nation.




  Mount Saint Helens didn't merely "erupt" on the morning of May 18, it exploded. "This is it!" geologist David Johnston radioed in from nearby Coldwater Ridge, seconds before the mountain detonated. Those were his last words. He was one of 57 people who died that day, including mountain man Harry Truman, who refused to believe the mountain would really blow, and former WW photographer Reid Blackburn, who was on assignment for National Geographic. The eruption blanketed Portland in an eerie post-apocalyptic layer of gritty gray ash that settled on trees and puffed up from the ground with every step. As the news spread across
the globe, phones rang off the hook as distant friends called to see if we, too, had become part of the 75 tons of ash that was ejected 16 miles into the air and is still circling today.


He was an unlikely candidate--a lanky bundle of nerves who flunked the Oregon Bar exam three times. His major accomplishment: a successful referendum to reduce the price of dentures. He'd never held an elective office. But in May, RON WYDEN, the 31-year-old co-founder of the Oregon Gray Panthers, stuns the pollsters by crushing incumbent Bob Duncan 60-40 in the Democratic primary for the 3rd Congressional District, which covers Portland's east side. Wyden went on to trounce his Republican opponent in the general election.



  The battle over desegregation dominated Portland's school agenda in 1980. The fight became so tense that at one point Black United Front leaders Ron Herndon and A. Halim Rahsaan disrupted a School Board meeting by standing on top of a desk.

The two activists were billed for $400 for damaging school furniture, but more importantly, the black community got what it wanted--the board dismantled some of its most discriminatory policies.

Nationally, the backdrop for desegregation was the mandatory busing that federal judges ordered to integrate the public schools. Portland escaped

mandatory busing by coming up with a voluntary plan in the '70s, but in the eyes of the black community, that plan simply replaced one injustice with another.

Instead of improving predominantly black schools, the district eliminated the middle grades at most of them, which meant that black middle-school students either traveled to white schools or didn't go at all. "There were no middle schools in the black community," recalls Rahsaan, who was the Black United Front's education chairman. "That made it de facto forced busing."

Two new board members--utility executive Bill Scott and teacher Steve Buel--had been elected on the strength of aggressive desegregation leanings. The board was divided, however, on how best to address under-achievement at traditionally black schools.

When board member Phyllis Wiener died in July 1979, it took dozens of ballots to name her successor: integration champion Herb Cawthorne, who became the first black man to serve on the board.

By the end of 1979, the black community was fed up. "We knew the schools over here were inferior," Rahsaan says of North and inner Northeast Portland. "We had worse test scores and fewer resources, and the teachers weren't as good."

The Black United Front organized one-day school boycotts in 1980 and 1981 and presented the board with a steady stream of demands. "There was a period of a few meetings when the Black United Front essentially wouldn't let us conduct our business," recalls Scott, who was then board chairman. Front members attended School Board meetings en masse and created a "ruckus" if they felt ignored, says Rahsaan.

In the desegregation plan adopted in April 1980, the board created Harriet Tubman School--which would be the only middle school in the Albina area. It was a major victory for the Black United Front because it ended what amounted to forced busing for black students.

Although the majority of the board favored sweeping changes, they also saw Superintendent Robert Blanchard, then the longest-serving big-city superintendent in the country, as an impediment. In a surprise move, the board fired Blanchard in June. Blanchard's supporters launched a well-financed campaign to recall the board members who voted to fire him, but the recall ultimately failed.

Demographically, the plan has done little; many schools that were considered "racially isolated" in 1980--meaning they had more than 50 percent minority populations--remain so today. The overarching aim of Portland's plan, however, was not so much to address head counts as it was to equalize opportunity.

Rahsaan says that focus was admirable, but in reality, outcomes haven't changed much in the past two decades. Last year, for example, black students in Portland lagged behind whites by more than 220 points on the SAT and were twice as likely to drop out of school. "Obviously, the desegregation policy hasn't worked," he says. "We were fighting for the same thing then that we're still fighting for now."


search site play dish screen visual arts music performance feature feedback site map search site personals classified webxtra culture news Willamette Week 25 years