BACK STORY • Out of office 15 years, Goose Hollow's Bud Clark remains a city icon
Although Bud Clark retired from day-to-day management of the Goose Hollow Inn several years ago, he still stops by every so often. And when he does, some of the customers usually want to talk to the former Portland mayor about city government.
That's what happened last week, when Clark dropped by the tavern, at 1927 S.W. Jefferson St., for a friend's birthday party. After a few minutes, a customer sat down across the table from Clark and began complaining that the city was not maintaining the paving around Skidmore Fountain, even though it was spending millions to rehabilitate the surrounding Old Town area.
'People think I still fix things,' says Clark, who chose not to run for a third term as mayor in 1992.
He has no desire to be in charge of the city again. Asked if he misses being mayor, Clark is blunt: 'Oh, God, no. I have a life.'
A good life, too. Since leaving City Hall and cutting back on his responsibilities at the Goose, Clark has rafted rivers, traveled to China, and spent countless hours with his children and grandchildren.
Clark also suffered a personal tragedy. His beloved wife, Sigrid, unexpectedly died seven years ago. Although Clark still misses her, enough time has passed that he has been able to begin a new relationship with Norma Heyser, a former high school friend who lives in Lake Oswego, where she is very active in neighborhood affairs.
In fact, Heyser's activism has helped prompt Clark to return to the political stage, although at a much lower level. Last year he joined the board of the Northwest District Association, the neighborhood association representing the part of town where he lives.
Earlier this year he campaigned against the City Charter ballot measure that would have placed all agencies under the control of a professional city manager appointed by the mayor.
'I'll admit it - Norma was making me feel a little guilty,' he says.
The next big event on Clark's calendar has nothing to do with politics, however - it's the 40th anniversary party for the Goose Hollow Inn, which will be held at the tavern 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday.
In many ways Clark was and remains - at age 75 - the iconic Portlander, a socially and environmentally conscious small-business owner who never has tried to fit in.
John Elwood 'Bud' Clark spent the first few years of his life in La Grande before moving to Portland in 1937 with his mother, a recently divorced woman determined to start over.
He got the nickname Bud because his mother called him 'my little Buddy.'
Clark and his mother lived in various parts of the city, but eventually settled in Northwest in time for him to graduate from Lincoln High School in 1949.
'I really liked Northwest best - everything was within walking distance,' Clark says.
Uncle Sam called
Growing up as an only child, Clark convinced himself that friends and family were more important than material success. But he also was patriotic, like most Americans who came of age in the shadow of World War II.
'I was very gung ho back then,' Clark says, recalling that in the late 1930s, he and a number of childhood friends formed a group called the Blue Eagle Patrol to watch out for invading Nazis.
After graduating high school, Clark enlisted in the U.S. Marines, eager to serve in the widening Korean conflict. Perhaps fortunately for Clark, his captain already had served a tour of duty there and was more realistic. He blocked the young Marine's efforts to be deployed to the combat zone, something Clark appreciates today.
'He knew more about what was going on than I did,' Clark admits.
Clark says that he felt adrift after leaving the Marines. He came back to Portland, attended Reed College briefly, then just took off in the spring of 1960.
'I didn't really have any goals. I just hitchhiked around the country,' he says.
One day Clark found himself in the Big Sur area of California without any money. Hungry but broke, he walked into a tavern and said he would work for food. The offer turned into a series of jobs, and Clark discovered he liked restaurant work, especially bartending, where his gregarious personality helped him hit it off with customers.
It started with Spatenhaus
Still unsettled, Clark began exchanging letters with Joanne Walker, a woman he knew from high school. After a while, she talked him into returning to Portland, then drove her Volkswagen down to California to bring him back. They married in March 1961.
'Joanne saved my life,' Clark says.
After returning to Portland, Clark continued working in various restaurants, including the former Jerry's Gables just south of downtown. With Joanne working for United Airlines, they scraped up $1,600 and bought the Dot tavern across from the downtown Civic Auditorium when its owner got injured and decided he couldn't return to work.
The Clarks reopened the tavern as the Spatenhaus in October 1962. Clark remembers that he had to borrow $100 that first day to buy a keg of beer and make change for customers.
Although this should have been an exciting time for the couple, tragedy struck the next month when Joanne was killed by a drunken driver.
'I was in shock and just kind of wandered the street for a year. Friends ran the tavern for me,' Clark recalls.
After recovering from the loss, Clark threw himself back into work, and the tavern became a popular downtown watering hole, attracting workers from the nearby offices, government buildings and a thriving neighborhood a few blocks south. He also met Sigrid Fehrenbacher, a violinist with the Oregon Symphony.
They married in February 1964 and moved to the Multnomah Village area. Sigrid had a son, David, from a previous marriage, whom Bud adopted. The Clarks then had two sons of their own, Jason and Nicolas.
But when daughter Rachel was on the way, they decided to find a bigger home. They were looking in the suburbs when a real estate agent suggested they stop by a large house near Northwest 22nd Avenue and Northrup Street that had just come on the market.
'It was a former brothel, and the seller was desperate for someone to buy it before the madam moved back in. We took a look and decided it was perfect,' Clark says.
Urban renewal closed bar
When Clark and his wife purchased the Spatenhaus, they did not realize that plans already were in the works for its destruction. Some business leaders had long ago decided the neighborhood to the south was a blight on the city that needed to be replaced.
They began putting their plans in motion after former Multnomah County Sheriff Terry Schrunk was elected mayor in 1956.
As mayor, Schrunk helped persuade the voters to create the Portland Development Commission as the city's urban renewal arm in 1958. By 1966, the City Council had designated the neighborhood and adjacent property - including the location of the Spatenhaus - the city's first urban renewal area.
'It was like a miniature Brooklyn, more dense than Northwest Portland is now. And it was all torn down to make way for high-rise apartment towers,' Clark says of the South Auditorium Urban Renewal Area, the first Portland Development Commission project.
Clark lost his lease on the Spatenhaus in May 1967 when the city acquired the property to build the Ira Keller Fountain, named after the first PDC board chairman.
By happenstance, Clark and Sigrid had bought Ann's Tavern at Northwest Jefferson Street and 19th Avenue a short time earlier as a second business. Clark remembers that when the Spatenhaus closed, many of the regular customers shifted to the Goose Hollow Inn, mixing with neighborhood residents, including artists living in what was then an inexpensive part of town.
Barkeep turned candidate
Clark became a familiar neighborhood figure over the following years, bicycling to work and greeting neighbors with his distinctive, 'Whoop whoop!'
He also plunged into neighborhood politics, a passion shared by many Portlanders, partly in reaction to what was seen as the backroom deals that produced the South Auditorium Urban Renewal Area - largely seen as creating a barrier between downtown and the Willamette River. He help found the newspaper that became the Northwest Examiner and joined his neighborhood association.
Under Clark's management, the tavern gained a reputation as a socially conscious business. Long before the state started banning smoking, the Goose Hollow Inn featured Smoke-free Mondays. Meat-free Tuesdays soon followed to tout the benefits of vegetarian dining.
After Schrunk suffered a heart attack and decided not to run for re-election, neighborhood activists rallied behind city Commissioner Neil Goldschmidt, who was elected mayor in 1972.
Goldschmidt led the successful effort to kill the so-called Mount Hood Freeway, which would have cut a wide swath through the neighborhoods of east Portland. When some of the freeway funds were diverted to the first TriMet light-rail line, a transformation in the city's thinking seemed to be complete.
But after Goldschmidt left City Hall to become President Jimmy Carter's transportation secretary, the next election was won by Commissioner Frank Ivancie, a Schrunk ally.
Ivancie's 1980 victory prompted liberals to begin searching for a candidate for the 1984 election. Although Clark seemed an unlikely choice, his lack of political experience proved an asset when Ivancie didn't take him seriously and didn't mount much of a re-election effort.
Clark's 1984 primary election victory was the biggest upset in the city's history - a feat recalled 20 years later when former Police Chief Tom Potter almost took the election over well-funded commissioner Jim Fransesconi in the May 2004 primary before crushing him in November.
Clark's two terms as mayor were as unpredictable as his Marine-turned-neighborhood activist background would suggest.
Although initially viewed with suspicion by many in the business community, he supported many of their priorities, including the construction of the Oregon Convention Center and a Fred Meyer superstore opposed by inner Northeast Portland neighborhoods.
At the same time, Clark pushed the Portland Police Bureau to be more responsive to city residents and eventually appointed Potter chief because of his commitment to community policing. Other major accomplsihment included the adoption of the first formal city plan to end homelessness.
Most Portlanders remained enchanted with Clark and re-elected him in 1988 over 11 opponents, including Ron Still, Ivancie's police chief.
Even after three terms of Mayor Vera Katz and three years with Potter at the helm of city government, Clark still is remembered favorably by many residents. After Potter proposed cutting the city's Platinum Bicycle Master Plan to save $100,000, cyclists began handing out bumper stickers reading, 'Bud Clark is My Mayor.'
Clark is not living in the past, however. After choosing not to run for re-election again in 1992, he returned to running the Goose Hollow Inn for several years, then reduced his work hours to spend more time pursuing personal interests, including spending time with his children and grandchildren.
He has not completely lost his interest in the business world. He and several of his children own Whoop Whoop LLC, a real estate investment company that owns several properties around the Southwest tavern and in other parts of town.
The company also owns the Goose Hollow at the Cove in Seaside, a tavern that opened two years ago with the same atmosphere and menu as the original Goose Hollow.
Clark's second wife, Sigrid, died at age 59 of meningitis in February 2000. Her death came just days before their 36th wedding anniversary, leaving a void in Clark's life that he said he did not think could be filled - until three years ago, when he attended a friend's wedding anniversary and was reacquainted with Heyser, now 73.
Although both maintain separate residences, they spend much of their free time together, occasionally taking lengthy road trips through different parts of the country.
'Neither of us are necessarily planners, and this means we 'follow our bliss.' Bud seems to have a sense of where the bliss is and what road to take, sometimes at the last minute. It's magic,' Heyser says.
Heyser admits she did not follow Portland politics much when Clark was mayor, and has been surprised by how many people recognize them when they are traveling.
'Often, on our trips, people recognize Bud saying, 'Aren't you, … are you?,' and Bud will say, 'I'm Bud Clark.' Then they will start telling a story about 'those times' tearing up with emotion. One woman truly wept telling her story. I consider those must have been good times, and it's a privilege to be there at those times,' she says.
Heyser has worked for years on neighborhood issues and started the Lake Oswego Action Coalition citizens' group. Clark's relationship with Heyser helped prompt him to become active in local politics again.
Although Clark had long worried that the City Council was ignoring the wishes of the Northwest District Association on parking and other issues, Heyser's neighborhood activism pushed him toward joining the association's board last year.
Now Clark is one of the most visible critics of the council's decisions to allow a series of parking garages to be built in Northwest, including one just west of Papa Haydn restaurant, at 701 N.W. 23rd Ave.
'I was down there the other day, and it was so busy - people were standing on the sidewalk where the garage would be. I just don't see how it could be safe,' he says.
Clark knows that change is inevitable, however. He still lives in the large Craftsman home where he and Sigrid raised their children, just a few blocks away from the proposed garage - an area bustling with new development spurred by increasing property values.
But the familiarity of the Goose will be on Clark's mind Friday when he plans to join the other partygoers celebrating the tavern's four decades as one of the city's best-known landmarks - an event many partygoers also will view as a celebration of Clark himself, still a true Portland icon.