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Historical society presents Tualatin's origin story

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Pat Romans and Daniel Nyberg rehearse for Tualatin Historical Society's 'docu-drama' about the city's decision to incorporate in 1913.One could say that Tualatin was founded on — or perhaps, because of — booze.

This Sunday, the Tualatin Historical Society will present a spirited “docu-drama” set in 1913, with a cast of characters that includes the innovative farmers and grassroots industrialists who shaped the city. They’ll re-enact the argument that led to Tualatin’s incorporation as a city 100 years ago, and show that the main point of contention wasn’t Tualatin’s identity: it was whether Tualatin should continue to serve liquor.

Fittingly, Dave Phillips, owner of Country Inn Grill and Bar, will play saloon owner Fred Wesch. Tualatin Community Services Director Paul Hennon has been cast in the role of the city’s first mayor, Thad Sweek, with second-generation Tualatin native Art Sasaki portraying Old Hing, a Chinese immigrant who became a beloved if eccentric Tualatin fixture. City Manager Sherilyn Lombos and Tualatin Public Library’s head librarian, Abigail Elder, round out the cast.

Local historian Loyc Martinazzi penned the script with Lafky Carlson. Martinazzi explained the story is told from the point of view of a time traveler who transports the audience to 1913 Tualatin. Thanks to the involvement of members of the local Mask and Mirror Community Theatre group, the journey will be set to popular prohibition songs of the era, like “Rum by Gun.” To ensure both sides of the debate are represented, Martinazzi said she would be taking up her guitar to play “Little Brown Jug” and other hits from the drinking song genre.

A town with no beer?

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Pat Romans and Larry McClure rehearse for Tualatin Historical Society's 'docu-drama' to celebrate the Centennial.After the 1904 passage of a statewide law allowing each county to decide whether to prohibit alcohol, Washington County had decided to continue serving. With the Temperance Movement in full swing, many Tualatin residents were proud members of the Anti-Saloon League — and fiercely in favor of remaining outside Washington County proper, which made Tualatin a prohibition town by default.

But prominent city leaders like John L. Smith emphasized the advantages of incorporating: Tualatin could re-open its two saloons, allowing residents to better capitalize on their prime position between Portland and Salem, just as two major railroad lines were established through town.

“Plus, there were people who thought taxes on the alcohol could provide the services the area was beginning to need: gravel roads, little sidewalks, street lights, that type of thing,” Martinazzi explained.

The prospect of liquor tax revenue ultimately led to Tualatin’s current status as a city, and the process was marked by the kind of high drama that makes for great theater: The petition to put the question of incorporation on the ballot mysteriously disappeared shortly after 69 signatures were recorded in favor of the measure. A Washington County court then hosted a volatile three-hour argument, after which city father and then-Commissioner John Nyberg voted with the county judge to allow the election to proceed. In the end, incorporation was voted in with a mere 57 votes to 47.

As Martinazzi pointed out, federal prohibition would undermine Tualatin’s main motivation for becoming a city less than seven years later

The Tualatin Historical Society presents its Centennial docu-drama Sunday, Feb. 17, at 2 p.m. at Winona Grange Hall, 8340 Seneca St., in Tualatin. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. Audience members are encouraged to arrive early to ensure a seat. For more information, visit tualatinhistoricalsociety.org.




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