As It Was

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Colorful vignettes dedicated to the regional history of Southern Oregon and Northern California. As It Was is an all volunteer effort -- produced by Raymond Scully and narrated by Shirley Patton in partnership with writers from the Southern Oregon Historical Society.

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A collection of As It Was essays is available in a high-quality paperback book at the JPR Online Store.  Each episode is also available below.

Southern Oregon became a getaway for Hollywood stars during the 1950’s, many drawn by the fishing on the Rogue River. They often stayed at Ginger Rogers’s ranch west of Medford, including Mario Lanza, the Hollywood tenor who starred in the 1951 hit movie “The Great Caruso.”

It wasn’t easy to establish a newspaper in the early days of the gold rush.

In 1857, Franklin Mowry was 27 years old, mining for gold on Jackson Creek near Jacksonville, Ore.  In a letter to his brother Silas in Pennsylvania, Mowry described the mining life Out West.

In 1907, George Taverner and his wife, Mary Elizabeth, moved to Ashland, Ore., and bought a home designed by Frank Clark, Southern Oregon’s leading architect at the time.

Snow removal at Crater Lake in the 1930’s created pals of Harry “Happy” Fuller and a snowplow machine he named Betsy.

Beginning in early 1853, a group of men in Yreka, Calif., began organizing an Order of Odd Fellows lodge. The lofty principles of the Odd Fellows were “love [sic] friendship and truth” through “benevolence and charity … That charity that will grasp a distressed brother’s hand …(and)… warm into life his sinking and feinting [sic] spirits … infuse new hopes, fresh courage, and inspire him to go forth and renew the battle of life …”

In 1853, Ephraim Catching filed a donation land claim along the Coquille River in Coos County, Ore.  Soon 52 people lived in the village that sprouted there, named Myers after the man who platted the land, Henry Myers.  The town’s name changed to Myrtle Point in 1876 in recognition of a nearby grove of trees.

Before the arrival in 1903 of the first automobile in Medford, Ore., pedestrians crossing the city’s dirt, and sometimes muddy, streets, had to dodge riders on horseback and horse-drawn wagons.  Runaways were frequent.

First established in 1871, the Bogus School in Siskiyou County, Calif., has closed and reopened several times. Saleen Heckle was an early teacher during the 1899-1900 term.

The Golden Drift Dam, constructed a few miles upriver from Grants Pass, Ore., by the Ament family in 1902, was anything but golden.  The concrete structure’s purpose was to provide power and water to the Aments’ Golden Drift mining project as well as irrigation water for farmers.

Gold and Timber have played an important role about 25 miles northwest of Grants Pass and three miles downstream from Galice. The location was once the small logging and sawmill camp of Yankville.

Three Southern Oregon landmarks straddle state borders.

During the 1940’s and 50’s Mario Lanza became the most famous operatic tenor of the time.  Lanza admired tenor Enrico Caruso, and in 1951, he played the role of Caruso in the movie titled “The Great Caruso.”

The issue of what to do with transients is nothing new.  Thousands of unemployed, hungry men passed through the Rogue Valley during the Great Depression.

The movie director, James Ivory, is known for English period pieces such as “Room with a View,” “Howard’s End,” and “The Remains of the Day.”  Less known is that he grew up in Klamath Falls, Ore., and still spends summers at the family cabin at Lake of the Woods.

Brothers Hugh and Denis O’Connor emigrated from Ireland to America in 1907, settled near Merrill in Southeastern Oregon and developed an 800-acre ranch that at its peak raised some 3,000 lambs a season, plus alfalfa hay, grain and potatoes.

It was expensive in the 1800’s for the federal government to feed soldiers at remote outposts such as Fort Klamath in Southern Oregon.

The usual explanation for why the railroad passes through Medford, Ore., instead of Jacksonville is Jacksonville’s failure in 1884 to pay a $25,000 “bonus” to the railroad toward anticipated construction expenses.

In 1910, Grants Pass parties sometimes made the front page of the local paper.  They included dances, but more often were organized around a picnic and games aimed at getting young men and women together.

A significant measles outbreak in 1917 at Lincoln Elementary School in Medford, Ore., serves as a reminder that before vaccinations were available, outbreaks were common in the Rogue Valley.