Look at these photos and SMILE. Maybe even laugh! 20 photos – how many do you recognize? More funny, strange and artistic sights & sites in Ashland.
I can’t guarantee that you will be able to see all of these sights for yourself. Things change. I took the photos shown here over a period of four years, though many were taken in the last few weeks (summer 2021).
Walking through the Railroad District
Spooky and strange
Spooky and stranger
Not-spooky but strange
A bit of nature in the Quirky Ashland photo collection
Classical pianist humor
The Doors (no, not the late 1960s rock group)
Tiny but mighty
If you liked these photos, check out “Quirky Sights in Ashland: Part 1” and other related photo essays.
The couple who moved to Ashland to play in the City Band. Guanajuato “Rain dance parade!”
Who told me these stories?
This series of four articles about the Ashland City Band is based primarily on a 2019 interview with three men (Don Bieghler, Ed Wight, and the late Raoul Maddox) who between them have 164 years of experience with the Ashland City Band.
The couple who moved to Ashland to play in the City Band
Band director Don Bieghler shocked me when he said: “We’ve had people move to Ashland so they could play in the Ashland City Band.” He was talking about Peggie and Herb Greuling. They had been living in Florida, where Herb had just retired from the U.S. Air Force band.
As Peggie told the story to a Seattle Times reporter, she and her husband wanted to retire in a college town with four seasons, but not too cold. They hoped to find “the kind of place where they have band concerts on Sunday afternoons.” The couple flew to Portland, rented a car there, and drove thousands of miles exploring the West Coast. They were frustrated. Nothing struck them as a new “home.”
When they returned the rental car in Portland, they expressed their frustration to the rental car clerk, who responded: “You should have tried Ashland.” Former band director Maddox remembers receiving a letter from the Greulings, and responding with detailed information about Ashland and our City Band. That sealed the deal, and the couple moved to Ashland.
They lived in Ashland for more than 26 years. Yes, both played in the Ashland City Band, Peggie on saxophone and Herb on bass clarinet.
Peggie was an especially accomplished musician. In addition to playing in the band, Peggie was a school music teacher for many years. She played 11 instruments in order to be able to work with all the students! Her specialty instruments were saxophone and violin. She even volunteered to teach violin, by the Suzuki method, to Talent Elementary School first graders. And she bought the first violins to get them started.
I was happily surprised to find a YouTube video of the Ashland City Band in the 1990s playing several songs that Peggie Greuling wrote. Leona Mitchell was the vocalist and Peggie played saxophone solos.
Peggie passed away in 2018 at the age of 93, just weeks before the couple’s 60th wedding anniversary.
City Band uniform colors through the years
Have you ever gone to an Oregon Ducks home football game and checked the team’s uniform color schedule to see what color you should wear to the game? I learned that the Ashland City Band did something similar many years ago.
Prior to 1977, the band’s uniform colors were black slacks with a white shirt. In Raoul Maddox’s first year as conductor that year, he decided to change the uniforms to brighter colors. According to Maddox, “Every week we would change the color of our shirts, and so would the audience. So if we were wearing red, most of the audience was in red. If we were in yellow, they were in yellow. It got so they kind of liked it.”
The next year, Maddox decided on standard uniform shirts that included a swan, then the symbol of Ashland.
In 2011, when Bieghler was conductor, it was time to buy all new uniform shirts for band members. He couldn’t find the same green color they had been wearing for a number of years. Bieghler agonized about the decision, to the point of having sleepless nights. He finally chose a teal color, and was relieved when band members told him they liked it a lot. They still wear teal color shirts to this day.
I asked for more stories. Bieghler and Maddox came up with two from the band’s trip to our sister city Guanajuato, Mexico.
Thunder in Guanajuato
“One interesting story was on our trip to Guanajuato,” Bieghler said. “We were on stage in the opera house, and we were doing this dramatic-sounding song. There was a period of silence in the song, and all at once there was a tremendous crash of thunder and lightning outside that just filled that gap. It was like an act of God.”
The “Rain dance parade” in Guanajuato
According to Maddox, the band was drenched as it marched in a parade in Guanajuato. But not just any parade. He laughed as he told me, “It was a parade to bring on the rains to fill the reservoirs. Halfway through the parade it started to rain, and by the time we got through, the rain was bouncing ten inches off the ground! Everybody was just soaked. So we came around this place avoiding all the gargoyles that were spitting water out from the freeways and the buildings, and went into a parking garage. A lot of the other companies that were in the parade [Mexican bands] were already in there when we came in. We were all like drowned rats; we were wet! They greeted us and then pretty soon we were all entertaining each other, and it was just like a wonderful homecoming. There were probably a couple hundred people in the parking garage trying to get out of the rain. It was a lot of fun. And it was a successful parade!”
Supporting school bands
Band members are proud of their cooperation with Lions Club of Ashland, which sells ice cream at the evening band concerts. 100% of the proceeds from ice cream sales are donated to the Ashland Middle School and High School band programs. According to the Lions Club website, “Over the period of 2008-18 we donated $28,265 in support of the [school] bands.”
Declaration of Independence every 4th of July in Lithia Park
As many long-time Ashlanders know, the Declaration of Independence is recited in full each 4th of July at the Lithia Park bandshell. That tradition seems to go back more than 100 years.
Gettysburg Address at 4th of July City Band concert
2013 was the 150th anniversary of the Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. That year, local actor Bob Jackson Miner spoke the powerful words of the Gettysburg address after the Declaration of Independence was recited.
It was a hit with, so the following year, band conductor Bieghler and Miner came up with an idea to add to the emotion of the Gettysburg address. In 1998, the City Band had played a piece called “American Civil War Fantasy” that has a long drumroll during the piece. They planned the timing of the Gettysburg address during the drumroll with only one rehearsal before the concert.
After the 2014 concert, one of the band members told Bieghler that “I had tears coming down my eyes” as they played the piece. Community members who heard the speech were so moved that Miner has spoken the Gettysburg address each 4th of July since then.
Closing Words from Director Don Bieghler
“One of the things I most appreciate about the band is the wonderful audiences that come to the concerts every week. We have good community support. People come up to me that I see every week, to make a comment or give a compliment. They’re curious about what we do and they appreciate that the city supports the band.”
Unusual multi-trunk pine tree on Holly Street. Chosen as Ashland’s 2020 Tree of the Year.
I have been drawn to this Ponderosa Pine from the first time I saw it. The multi-trunk shape is so unusual.
When I spoke with Gary Pool, who used to live on Holly Street, he pointed out this dramatic Ponderosa pine on Holly Street as a possible Native American trail marker tree. I had never heard of the term “trail marker tree” and I did some research. I found this interesting insight and explanation online.
“Trees have been used as signs for centuries. Between 2002 and 2005 I had the privilege of being involved with the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian. During that time period, I worked with several native Americans, including a Native American ethnobotanist who taught me many interesting things about Native American Culture including the practice of using Marker Trees to show the way. Native Americans used to use trees to tell in which direction they should travel. These were called Marker Trees.
“Favorite tree selection for these trees were oaks, maples and elms. These species were selected for their flexibility in youth, but hardwood in maturity. Marker trees were bent in the direction of a frequently visited destination such as a water source, campsite, or a safe river crossing.” (Ronda Roemmelt 2015)
The photo below shows a tree identified by experts as a Native American trail marker tree.
After my research, I have concluded that the Ponderosa Pine on Holly Street is not a trail marker tree, though it would be romantic to call it one. Here is my reasoning. Nearly every trail marker tree photo I saw online shows the bent branch that “points the way” only 3′ to 6′ above the ground (like the photo above). The lowest bent branch on the Holly Street pine is more than 10′ above the ground. I think it is a case of unusual artwork by Mother Nature.
I hope you enjoyed this brief introduction to Ashland’s 2020 Tree of the Year. I will write a comprehensive photo essay about the tree at a later date.
Blue Atlas Cedar on Liberty Street. Bears like to sit high in this tree!
The tree 391 Liberty Street (a house that was moved from Beach Street) was Ashland’s 2001 Tree of the Year. Each year residents nominate favorite trees around town, the Tree Commission narrows the selection to a few, and then residents vote for their top choice. The 2001 choice was a majestic Blue Atlas Cedar. My photo through the electric wires doesn’t do it justice. I hope you will see it for yourself.
Liberty Street residents have told me of seeing a mother bear and two cubs sitting about 40 feet up in this tree!
I hope you enjoyed this brief introduction to Ashland’s 2001 Tree of the Year. I will write a comprehensive photo essay about the tree at a later date.
Another massive Monterey Cypress. Corner of Wimer Street and Scenic Drive.
The 2004 Ashland Tree of the Year lives here at 407 Scenic Drive. It is a massive Monterey Cypress, possibly planted in 1889 when the house was built. Arborist Casey Roland explained to me that for a Monterey Cypress in Ashland to get this large, there is probably a stream running underground near the tree.
The historic 1889 house at 407 Scenic Drive
This beautifully renovated 1889 house at 407 Scenic Drive is independently listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of the best examples in Ashland of the Queen Anne/Eastlake architectural style. It was built in 1889 by S. Pedigrift, a mason and plasterer who seems to have lived in Ashland only three or four years.
Notice especially the matching Queen Anne style bay windows. George Kramer wrote in the National Register nomination form that the bay windows are so typical of “Eastlake fancy work” style that Pedigrift may have purchased them from a catalog and incorporated them into the house design.
Through the mid-20th century, the owners of the house also cultivated orchards up the hillside behind the house. Robert Dooms, who owned the house and lived there from the mid-1950s to 1988, told George Kramer that when he was a child in Ashland, the previous owner Robert Johnson “paid him $1 a pound for picking cherries, apricots, and peaches behind the house.”
I hope you enjoyed this brief introduction to Ashland’s 2004 Tree of the Year. I will write a comprehensive photo essay about the tree at a later date.
Colorful flowers brighten a fence. East Main Street at Wightman Avenue. Ashland neighborhood art. Artist: Shea Cathey.
“Hope You Smile”
Between COVID-19 and wildfire smoke in the Rogue Valley, summer 2021 was a difficult one. We needed as many bright moments in our days as possible. This mural has been bringing smiles to faces and hearts since it was painted in June 2021. Whenever you drive, bicycle or walk along East Main Street, it is likely to brighten your day.
The colorful flowers were born from the vision of homeowner Jody Johnson and artist Shea Cathey. Their intention from the beginning was to uplift community members who pass by, which is why Shea named the mural “Hope You Smile.” As you can see from the quote above, they are succeeding. I had the pleasure of talking with both Jody and Shea.
The origin story
I asked Jody when she first envisioned the mural. She told me this story: “My husband Mark and I moved here three years ago. Both of us love color, the brighter the better. When we moved in, the fence was weather-beaten, gray, and falling apart. We had it shored up and stained.
“After moving here, I missed my friends. I started volunteering at the Senior Center, helping with lunches. That’s where I met Shea. She is wonderful, a really giving person, and very talented. I’m not sure Shea knows how talented she is. Shea was doing art lessons and projects with the senior citizens before COVID shut all that down. After they shut down lunches at the Senior Center, Shea and I stayed in touch.
“Mark and I walk this neighborhood a lot. A couple houses down that way [she pointed toward Fordyce Street] have painted their fences. We thought they were really creative. Once we ate at the Mexican restaurant [La Casa del Pueblo on Siskiyou Blvd.] and they had a beautiful mural on the wall. I was thinking: I wonder if I could find out who did it, because I think our fence would be the perfect place for a mural.”
Offer to the artist
Jody didn’t find out who painted the mural at La Casa del Pueblo, but she already knew a good artist. She continued her story: “When COVID hit, Shea wasn’t as busy as she was before. We were out to lunch one day, and I said to her, ‘Would you ever be interested in doing a mural on my fence?’ And she was like, ‘Sure, that sounds like fun.’ Then she asked, ‘What do you want painted?’ I said, ‘You are the person with the talent and the artistic ability. I just like color, so I want something with a lot of color.’ Based on that, she made a drawing for me – and I loved it!”
See a photo of the original drawing below.
Jody told me she thought of painting the inside of the fence, but she felt like that would be selfish. She wanted people to enjoy it as they drove by, and also to provide a colorful entrance to her Mill Pond neighborhood. Before painting could begin, she had to take the idea to the Mill Pond HOA (Home Owners Association) for approval. Almost everyone on the HOA board liked the drawing, so the mural was approved.
The humble artist
“I’m not sure Shea knows how talented she is.”
Shea Cathey grew up in a small Louisiana town. She has loved making art since early childhood. She took art classes in high school, and at 17 years of age one of her paintings was chosen for an exhibit at the Whitney Museum in New York. When she got to college, she studied nursing and let her art go for a while.
I asked, “When did you start thinking of yourself as an artist?” Shea replied, “There’s still a part of me that feels like I am pretending, even when I am teaching art classes, because I didn’t get a degree in art.” On the related subject of selling her paintings, she said, “Painting and drawing are things I enjoy so much that I feel weird charging people for it. That’s something that I know I have to get over.”
Shea and her husband had lived all their lives in Louisiana. A combination of introspection and difficult life lessons led them to consider moving. They researched nationwide for a state with a good scope of practice for nurse practitioners (her husband’s profession), a small town with a university, an open-minded area that supports art and artists, and finally a good school system for their four children. Where did they end up? Right here in Ashland.
The humble artist as excellent teacher
“I enjoy teaching people art because people who say, ‘I’m not an artist, I can’t even draw a straight line,’ end up taking my course, really liking it, and being proud of themselves. That makes me so happy!”
Since moving to Ashland, Shea has taught art classes through the Senior Center and OLLI, as well as in Bellview School classrooms and private lessons. She told me, “Pre-pandemic, I taught a free art class at the Senior Center once a month, called something like ‘Art with Friends.’ That class was always full.” Since COVID shut down in-person classes, she has taken on the challenge of teaching art on Zoom. It still works, but is not quite as satisfying.
I was moved by Shea’s description of her deep emotional connection with her art students.
“I enjoy teaching people art because people who say, ‘I’m not an artist, I can’t even draw a straight line,’ end up taking my course, really liking it, and being proud of themselves. That makes me so happy! So it makes me feel weird charging them. It seems like an experience that everybody deserves.”
The grateful artist
“I have a really awesome circle of friends here in Ashland, that I never had in Louisiana.”
Shea is grateful that her family lives in Ashland, and that she can share her love of art with people here. Her appreciation of the Ashland community led her to say “Yes” to Jody’s offer.
Late May and early June, when painting took place, had many days with temperatures in the 90s. Hence the sunglasses when I stopped to talk with Shea and take her photo on June 1st, a 99-degree day. Sitting in front of the south-facing fence, she cared for her body by limiting painting to morning hours as much as possible.
The painting process, step by step
The small drawing Shea created for Jody, which you saw above, was the template she worked from. She was right at home painting a fence, for two reasons. First, I was surprised when she told me, during our interview, that almost all of her studio paintings have been done on wood rather than canvas. Second, she likes to paint big things. Whether a studio painting, a mural on a bedroom wall or on a fence, she is comfortable going big.
Painting begins with paint. Shea likes to mix her own paint colors. Normally, she only buys the three primary colors – red, yellow and blue – plus black and white. Then she mixes any other colors she needs from them.
The first step was sketching outlines on the fence of the flowers and leaves. Sadly, I missed taking a photo of that step.
“While she was painting, so many people stopped to tell her how they loved it – and they still do. Especially when the farmers market is happening across the street, I can’t tell you many people have told my husband and me, ‘That makes us feel so happy.'”
Next came filling in the outlines with white paint, which acted as primer on the fence.
Then came color – lots of color. Seen from across the street, the colors seem to flow together, to complement each other. The photo below shows the almost-completed mural.
Seen up close, I enjoy the variety of colors in the flowers and leaves. Each bright flower seems to pop out of the fence on its own, saying “Look at me.”
As a final step in completing the design, Shea painted a white background between the flowers to help the colors stand out. She left the original orange-brown fence color top and bottom as a frame for the mural. The frame ties in with the colors of Jody and Mark’s house.
What kind of flowers are these?
What do you think?
I asked Shea. She told me she would call them ranunculus, or buttercups, though you could make an argument for peonies. I have peonies in my home garden and they don’t quite match the mural. I had to look up photos of ranunculus. When I did, I thought, Yes…that’s what the fence flowers are.
Where to find “Hope You Smile”
You will find the mural on East Main Street near the corner of Wightman Street. Another landmark is the National Guard Armory, location of the Tuesday Growers & Crafters Market, which is across the street from the mural.
Cathey, Shea. Interview June 2021 and other communications.