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Memories of Will Rogers

MORELAND MEMORIES
by: , An early photo of Will Rogers, in costume and on stage, in vaudeville. Photo courtesy of www.wikipedia.org.

I have been reading a biography of Will Rogers, one of the great personalities of my youth. In so doing, I discovered that a once-in-a-lifetime Moreland Memory of my own popped into my mind.

It happened in August of 1935, when I was fourteen years old. Even then I had a connection to newspapers, but at that time it was simply as a carrier for the daily Oregon Journal. But, for that one afternoon, I became a NEWSBOY, riding my bicycle around Eastmoreland, shouting, 'Extra, extra! Will Rogers killed in plane crash!'

The newspapers sold for a nickel in those days, and a bundle of the 'extras' had been delivered to my usual corner at Reed College Place and Bybee Boulevard. All told, I had a Journal route for more than four years back then, but that was the only time I was called upon to sell an 'extra'.

I quote from the biography I'm reading, 'Will Rogers, His Life and Times', by Richard M. Ketchum: 'Perhaps not since the death of Abraham Lincoln had a tragedy touched so many Americans as did the loss of Will Rogers and Wiley Post. It overshadowed everything that was going on in the world. Four full pages of the New York Times were devoted to the event on Saturday, August 17th, and for an entire week the newspaper and radio coverage continued.'

For readers too young to remember Rogers, I add another quote from the same book: 'Will Rogers was a beloved cowboy, trick roper, columnist, public speaker, and also star of vaudeville, radio, and movies. He was part Cherokee Indian, and one of his famous remarks was, 'My ancestors did not come over on the Mayflower, but they met the boat.''

The death of a celebrity or a major political figure, especially if due to an accident or act of malice, hits society hard. Rogers was killed at the peak of his popularity, while embarking on an around-the-world airplane trip with the pilot Wiley Post, when their plane crashed near Point Barrow, Alaska.

I do remember what a stunning tragedy it was here in Portland for all who heard of it, so the response was strong to my afternoon of hawking that 'extra' edition.

And after all these years, it remains for me an indelible 'Moreland Memory'.

Elliott K. Snedecor, a lifelong resident of Eastmoreland and Westmoreland, brings us his 'Moreland Memories' each month from his beach retirement home in Newport. Nonetheless, he can still regularly be found walking the streets of his old neighborhood, reacquainting himself with the places and friends of his youth.