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Today is the 100th birthday of the legendary Oregon governor, Tom McCall. In celebration, Oregon Public Broadcasting is airing The Oregon Experience:  Tom McCall March 19, 2013, 8:00 PM.

I was alerted to this by this story on Oregonlive, the online edition of the local fishwrap (The Oregonian): OPB's 'Oregon Experience' documentary examines lasting impact of Tom McCall.

He was Oregon's governor from January 9, 1967 to January 13, 1975 so I had the privilege of living under his leadership just before I shipped off to boot camp and voting for him after I was discharged. And he was a republican, the only one of two I have ever voted for, the other being Mark O. Hatfield.

If you are an old native of the state, you know all about him. If you are a whippersnapper or a emigre to the Beaver State (sorry Duck fans), this will be an opportunity to be introduced to one of the staunchest advocates for Oregon and its wonderful beauty.  

From the above linked Oregonlive piece:

It's the early 1980s, and Vic Atiyeh is Oregon's governor. He's appearing at a media event publicizing the placement of a new "Welcome to Oregon" sign at the California border. Atiyeh has invited former Gov. McCall, who famously encouraged out-of-staters to visit Oregon, but "for heaven's sake, don't move here to live."

As the camera gets close we hear McCall's formal, stentorian voice declaring his hopes that Oregon remain choosy about the company it keeps.

"Oregon is demure and lovely," McCall booms, "and it ought to play a little hard to get."

It would sicken him, he says, to find that Oregon is "nothing but a hungry hussy, throwing herself at every stinking smokestack that's offered."

As Atiyeh wryly observes, on that day nobody quoted him much.

Here's short little video on his commitment to Oregon and its environment.

"Some highway engineers have a mentality, engineeringly speaking, that would run an eight lane freeway through the Taj Mahal, that is our problem."
The Oregon Historical Society has this excellent biography on Gov. McCall.

A few of the issues he championed were:

The "bottle bill" which was the nation's first mandatory bottle-deposit law and was designed to decrease litter in Oregon.

The "Beach Bill," which granted the state government the power to zone Oregon's beaches, thus protecting them from private development.

Land use planning which resulted in the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC, hated by most republicans now days).

He was also famous for sponsoring Vortex 1 (Another Oregon Experience doc which you can watch on line at the link).

In the summer of 1970, some tens of thousands of people converged in rural Clackamas County for an event called Vortex 1. This “biodegradable festival of life” celebrated freedom -- freedom from violence,  from drug laws and from clothes.    It also served as an elaborate ploy to lure young people away from Portland.   And to this day, Vortex remains America’s only large-scale rock festival ever sponsored by a Republican governor.


Summer, 1970.  Richard Nixon was president and the Vietnam War raged on.  The preceding months had seen the shooting of war protesters at Kent State University and the beating of demonstrators in Portland.  Now anti-war activists were planning to converge on Portland during an American Legion convention.  The FBI was forecasting 50,000 people and a violent outcome.

Governor Tom McCall's solution?   A "biodegradable festival of life."  

Vortex I is the only state-sponsored rock festival in U.S. history. It was, in fact, a diversionary event to lure young people away from planned -- and potentially violent -- anti-war protests at an American Legion convention in Portland. And by most almost every measure, it succeeded.

The festival took place at a state park near Estacada.  Some now-unknown person created the name "Vortex I: A Biodegradable Festival of Life," and it stuck.  And many people came. Estimates range from 30,000 to 100,000.

It wasn't Woodstock but it had all the elements of the classic rock festival. Many of my friends in the Oregon National Natural Guard were assigned to hang out and smoke dope there.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Oregon on Tue Mar 19, 2013 at 04:45 AM PDT.

Also republished by History for Kossacks.

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