The City of Californicating, Oregon

by Bob Sparrow

    I love Oregon, but as a Californian I always go there in disguise; not the glasses, big nose and mustache kind, but rather with an affected Canadian accent, which ends up sounding more like a drunk Norwegian with a lisp.  Why the disguise?  I’ve found that it’s never a good idea to tell people in Oregon that you’re from California.  The reason dates back to the real estate boom of the ‘70s when California home prices were very affordable and were attracting people from all over the country . . . the world.  Californians, wanting to get away from this sudden in migration, decided that the ‘promised land’ had moved across the border to Oregon, so they started moving north . . . in droves.

     Oregonians, fearing that these new California immigrants would turn Oregon into another California, were not the least bit pleased with the influx of ‘flakes from the land of fruits and nuts’.  While there was some question as to whether signs ever really existed at the California-Oregon border that read, ‘Welcome to Oregon. Now go home!’, Oregon governor at the time, Tom McCall, did set the tone with this quote to a CBS news reporter, “Come visit us again and again.  This is a State of excitement. But for heaven’s sake, don’t come here to live”.  But Californians still came, and to this day most things that smack of progress in Oregon are blamed on those who have ‘Californicated’ the state.

     So it was with mixed emotions that I went to Sunriver, Oregon on a recent business trip – anxious to see this beautiful part of the country for the first time, but concerned that there may still be a bounty on California natives loitering in these pristine environs; especially if I was going to enjoy a cigar while I was there. I thought rules for smoking in California were stringent, if you want to smoke in Oregon, you have to go to the Southeast corner of the state and step into Nevada.  If you’re going to continue to smoke, Oregonians would prefer that you just stay there.  I left the cigars at home.

     Prior to my trip I decided to look up a little history of Sunriver.  The short version is that it was built by the Army as a training camp during WWII and then developed as a resort in 1968; I guess that’s the long version as well.  The developer picked the name, so the brochure says, “to reflect the most characteristic features of the area”.  Perhaps I came at a different time of year than the developers, but it was only on the last day of my visit that the sun came out and I caught a glimpse of the river.  Had it been up to me to name the place, I probably would have called it something like Overcastandcold – of the four days I was there in mid-April, it rained once and snowed twice!

     I discovered that Oregonians have never shown much imagination when it comes to naming their cities, to wit: Drain, Sinks, Cake, Bakeoven, Wagontire, Lookingglass and Noon.  There is also the self-deprecating town of Nimrod and one left over from their hippy days, Zig Zag.  When they ran out of domestic objects as names they started just copying other US city – Cleveland, Denver, Kansas City, Detroit, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and Nashville are all cities in Oregon.  To add an international flavor, they have cities named Glasgow, Lebanon, Little Switzerland, Paris, Rome and Damascus to name a few.

     I will say that the one sunny day I did have in Sunriver was spectacular, Mt. Bachelor shown as a snow-capped peak set against a deep blue sky, was awe-inspiring (see picture).  ‘The Three Sisters’ peaks of the Cascades couldn’t have been more beautiful; the closest town: Sisters.  I know that I breathed air in Sunriver that no one has ever breathed before.  Oregonians are excellent stewards of the nature around them and I love that.  It was ultimately a joy to fully understand and appreciate how Sunriver got its name.

Aloha, not a Hawaiian salutation, just another Oregon city.


About Sparrow/Watson

Writer of tributes, poems, travels and observations of life
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