Category Archives: History

Grant’s Getaways – Oregon’s Beach Birthday


See the Oregon coast as it looked in the 1940s

An image from the online exhibit: bathers at Cannon Beach

There are just two more days to submit your pictures of recreation on the Oregon shore to the contest! Voting begins on Thursday.

In the meantime, you can enjoy some historic coastal photographs and take a virtual roadtrip from Astoria to the California line by perusing this online exhibit put together by the Oregon State Archives. They’ve taken the text from a 1940 travel guide to U.S. 101 created under the New Deal-era Federal Writers’ Project and combined it with Oregon Highway Department photographs from the same period. The result is an engaging chronologue of the highway that at that time had just begun to connect coastal communities and draw new automobile tourists to the shore.

Some Things Never Change

Take a look at this great photograph shared with us by the Special Collections & Archives Research Center at Oregon State University. It shows a group of Oregon Agricultural College (as OSU was then known) students on a visit to Nye Beach in Newport in 1910, Oswald West‘s day. This was back when you dressed for an outing with friends by putting on a full suit and a derby or an ankle-length dress and hat with a veil!

Although this picture was taken more than 100 years ago, it feels somehow familiar. Perhaps it’s because while beach fashions may have changed over the decades, the tradition of going to the coast has remained constant over the generations.

That’s why we’re inviting everyone to share their family photos, new or old, through the Celebrate the Shore Photo Contest starting on Monday–to recognize the common experience and access to the coast that all Oregonians have enjoyed thanks to the efforts of Oswald West and Tom McCall. When the entries are posted online for voting in August, we hope it will be like a big statewide scrapbook of coastal memories.

Enjoy your weekend!

Happy Birthday to Oswald West

Oswald West (image via the Oregon Blue Book)

Today marks 140 years since the birth of Oswald West on May 20, 1873. A little less than 40 years later, as Oregon’s 14th governor, he would draft landmark legislation to protect the public’s right to use the tidelands up and down the entire coastline–one of his signature achievements in office.

This Saturday, May 25, will mark the day in 1958 that Short Sand Beach–one of the jewels in the state park system, loved by surfers and beachcombers alike–was dedicated in his honor as Oswald West State Park. Governor West, who had just celebrated his 85th birthday, attended the ceremony south of Arch Cape. Historian Joe Blakely wrote, “Always dapper, West wore a suit and tie and a matching brimmed hat. He pointed out scenic spots with his cane. West’s blue eyes twinkled and his broad smile beamed as photographers recorded the event.”

Beachgoers at Oswald West State Park

There’s no better tribute to this great Oregon figure than to visit the coast. Here’s hoping you can get to the beach over the Memorial Day weekend and celebrate the legacy of Oswald West by putting your feet in the wet sand.

Watch “The Politics of Sand”

A feature-length documentary about the social and political history of the Oregon coast is available for free viewing in five segments online at The film, entitled The Politics of Sand, was made by Portland-based Anchor Pictures, directed by Tom Olsen, and produced by the Cannon Beach History Center and Museum. It covers about 150 years of history through engaging archival footage, photographs, and interviews, and is well worth watching for anyone who wants to understand the context of the legislative actions taken by Governors Oswald West and Tom McCall to protect public access to the shore.

A still image from the film The Politics of Sand

Happy 100th, Tom McCall

Governor Tom McCall (image courtesy Oregon State Archives)

The passage of Governor Oswald West’s bill declaring the Pacific shore a public highway was not the only significant event in the story of Oregon’s beaches that happened in 1913. That year also saw the birth of the future 30th governor of the state, Tom McCall, who would have turned 100 this month. McCall is perhaps the only other figure who can match Oswald West in terms of their historical importance to Oregon’s coastline. That’s because in his very first year as Governor (McCall served two terms, from 1967 to 1975), he was able to successfully marshal both media coverage and public support to usher what became known as the Beach Bill through the Oregon Legislature, thereby resolving any lingering doubts about the public’s right to recreate on the shore. Read the rest of this entry

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