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A blast from the past

Willamette Living History Tour returns Saturday


Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - This year's Willamette Living History Tour will, for the second year in a row, take visitors back to the year 1913/ For the second year running, the Willamette Living History Tour will bring residents all the way back to 1913 this Saturday starting at 7 p.m.

The annual tour in the historic Willamette area began in 2008, and spent its first five years focusing on the year 1908 before shifting to 1913 last year in honor of West Linn’s centennial celebration.

“So (1913) is back by popular demand, I guess you could say,” tour organizer Danny Schreiber said. “Historically this was the time that West Linn became its own city, but at that time Willamette was also its own city.”

With more than 90 volunteer cast members, the tour combines live theater with historical re-enactment. The characters and happenings throughout the tour are based entirely upon real life events, which are meticulously researched for hundreds of hours beforehand.

“It’s an interesting hybrid between history and live theater,” Schreiber said. “We know these things did take place, but we don’t know what each person said. We don’t have transcripts of City Council meetings, so that’s where the script has to be more theatrical in that sense.

“But all the characters did exist, and did live in 1913.”

The first guided walking tour begins at 7 p.m., and the last walk is scheduled for 9 p.m. Though the one-hour tours will cover much of the same historical ground as last year’s, Schreiber said each year brings new variations to the event.

“The cast always changes,” Schreiber said. “A few scenes have been changed or adapted, and we removed some scenes. But we’re still seeing the same historical facts.”

The starting location has also changed for the 2014 tour; the walks will begin at the historic Leisman/Elligsen house at 1785 Willamette Falls Drive, and end in the Lavender Bleu Tea Room at 1887 Willamette Falls Drive.

Scenes from the 1913 tour touch on a number of topics, from the temperance movement to wedding showers and stunt aviators. In shifting forward from 1908 to 1913, Schreiber found a new wealth of source material.

“In costumes and settings, there’s very little difference,” Schreiber said. “But in characters and events, there’s a lot of difference. By 1913, women already had the right to vote in Oregon ... also by 1913, the prohibition movement was growing strong in Oregon.”

For history buffs like Schreiber and co-organizer Elizabeth Smolens, hosting the tour is a chance to revel in scenes from the past — and they leave no stone unturned.

“It’s kind of magical to see the whole neighborhood turn back 100 years,” Schreiber said. “You see the old cars, horses, goats, carriages ... last year we had a couple of extras, including the West Linn Police.”

And that was a good thing too, as the police — dressed in old fashioned “Keystone cops” uniforms — were forced to make a DUII arrest during the 2013 tour after a driver plowed through the barricades.”Hopefully that won’t happen again,” Schreiber said with a laugh.

As of Sept. 11, tickets for the tour were nearly sold out. To inquire about tickets or learn more, visit willamettelivinghistory.org.

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