Three times through the 4th of July parade! Typewriter as an instrument! 100-year-old City Band member.
This series of articles is based on an interview with three men who between them have 164 years of experience with the Ashland City Band, along with other research.
4th of July parade story – three times through
Who has been in Ashland’s 4th of July parade three different times in one parade? Only Raoul Maddox of the Ashland City Band. Here’s how it happened.
First time through: The City Band has always marched at the front of the parade, right after the motorcycle police and color guard that lead the parade. Several band members have also been in the Firehouse 5 band that played the parade route on the back of a pickup truck or an old fire truck.
Second time through: When Maddox was in the Firehouse 5 band, he kept his car on Water Street at the end of the parade route, then drove as fast as he could through the residential streets back to the parade starting point for his second time through.
Now, third time through: For three years, in the late 1960s or early 1970s, there was also an Ashland High Alumni Band that marched in the parade. These were former high school band members who came together just for fun. Well, and also for the incentive of a keg of beer from Cook’s Tavern downtown after the parade, so they could “tip a glass or two with their old friends.” During these years, Maddox somehow had to make it back to the parade start one more time to march with the Alumni Band.
4th of July parade story – backwards through the parade
Ed told me his father Dave Wight (City Band Conductor from 1968-1976) would sometimes get a police escort back to the parade starting point, so he could make it for his second time through the parade with the Firehouse 5. In those days the Firehouse 5 would meet before the parade in an office downtown where one of them worked. To get in the proper spirit of the parade, they consumed plenty of local ‘spirits’ beforehand. One year when Dave played, they drove the fire truck backwards in the parade – possibly the result of a rather conspicuous consumption of local beverages that day.
Typewriter as an instrument!
2008 witnessed the centennial of American composer Leroy Anderson’s birth. In honor of the centennial, Don Bieghler conducted a different Anderson piece during every concert that year. One Anderson composition was a short novelty piece for typewriter and band, written in 1950. Percussionist Yvonne Rowe was selected to perform the solo on her trusty Remington typewriter.
When it came time for the piece, Yvonne surprised the band and truly made it fun. First her husband brought out an authentic early 20th-century typewriter stand. Then Yvonne came out dressed for the part with a big grey wig, cake makeup, and long-skirted secretarial attire from 60 years earlier. It delighted everyone, and after a great performance the band gave her a standing ‘O.’ I wish I had a video of Yvonne and the Ashland City Band performing this piece. The best I could do was find a version for you on YouTube. Here is a link to the one I liked best.
James DePreist was the conductor of the Portland Symphony and the Britt Festival Orchestra. Raoul invited him to conduct encores several times at the Ashland City Band. One encore piece was a University of Michigan football fight song, and DePreist asked Maddox, “What’s a wolverine?”
Ed Wight tells a story of two “surprise” guest conductors. The City Band closes every concert with a couple marches. For one concert in 1979, Raoul Maddox spotted two former City Band conductors in the audience. On the spot, he invited both Irv Myrick and Dave Wight to conduct the marches that night. Even the guest conductors were surprised.
Martin Majkut is the conductor of the Rogue Valley Symphony. Many people don’t know that his first conducting experience in the Rogue Valley was not with the symphony, but was conducting the Ashland City Band. Majkut moved here in the summer of 2010, but the symphony season didn’t start until the fall. That summer he conducted the City Band in an arrangement of a Czechoslovakian tone poem.
In the summer of 2019, in honor of his 10th year in the Rogue Valley, I got to see Majkut guest-conduct a second time with the Ashland City Band.
Virginia and the trap door
This is a story from the 1940s about Virginia Westerfield, a long time clarinet player in the band. To get into the old bandstand, you had to enter through a trap door. You had to climb up narrow steps, then the door in the bandstand floor was swung back to let musicians in. Before the concert could begin, the trap door had to be closed for all the musicians to fit on the stage. Apparently, Virginia was late in arriving one day and found the trap door shut tight against her. We don’t know if the conductor intentionally closed the trap door to keep her out, or if he didn’t realize she was coming up the stairs. But after that, she was never late again during all her years with the band!
A 100-year-old City Band member
According to Bieghler, “Preston Mitchell, who played tuba in the band starting in 1989, was 100 years old in September 2017. We surprised him by playing ‘Happy Birthday’ at a park concert. Preston retired at the end of the 2017 season.”
Bieghler went on to say he gets frequent requests to play ‘Happy Birthday’ during a concert. To avoid awkward moments turning people down, the band came up with an ingenious solution. They only play ‘Happy Birthday’ “for those who are 100 years old.” So far, the only one to meet this threshold besides Preston Mitchell was an audience member – Sadie Williams – in 2016.
More to come
There are still more City Band stories to tell. I will share more humorous and meaningful band stories in Part 4 of this series about the Ashland City Band.
Author in-person interview with Don Bieghler, Ed Wight and the late Raoul Maddox on July 7, 2019. Thanks to Ed Wight and Don Bieghler for proofing the article and adding more of their memories in the process.
C’mon everybody, don’t delay. We want to claim our spot on the parade route before the excitement explodes like fireworks.
Heads tilt as the low-flying jets zoom overhead. Heads swivel as friends, neighbors and local celebrities pass by, and all this before the parade even begins.
I laugh to hear my friend mutter “only in Ashland” as the parade flows by with grass-skirted hula dancers, followed by kilt-wearing bag pipers, followed by the Jewish temple Klezmer band, followed by Jesus carrying his large wooden cross.
The young ones are wide-eyed for unicycles and stilt-walkers, ever-alert to leap for incoming candy.
We admire classic old cars and wild art cars, we cheer young gymnasts back-flipping their way down Main Street, we clap along with the enthusiastic, tie-dye clad Ashland Middle School band.
After the parade, we gather as a community in Lithia Park to hear the entire Declaration of Independence, to remember why we celebrate this day.
Ashland has been known for wild Halloween revelers (in the 1980s) and cute Halloween children’s parades (still going). We also have people who like to decorate their homes for the season. This photo collection shows a few of the many Ashland homes decorated for Halloween. I included a bonus at the end — three extraordinary Halloween-themed house decorations I photographed in Southern California.
Scary, Spidery Creations
Houses with a Seasonal Theme
Back to Scary Again
Ghosts of all kinds
People like Pumpkins
Bonus Halloween Houses, from Balboa Island in Southern California
Rogue Roundup Rodeo & Wild West Show Butler-Perozzi Fountain is Unveiled
Ashlanders thought big in 1916. Southern Oregon had never seen anything like this before. Rogue Roundup promoters brought in three train cars full of bucking horses and quarter horses, plus steers for roping, wrestling and riding. The horses and steers came from Pendleton, Oregon, home of the very successful Pendleton Roundup since 1910. Pendleton also sent many cowboys, cowgirls and Native American riders. More horses and riders came over from Klamath County.
The Roundup was held at the Butler-Walker property just east of Ashland. As of 2021, this property is still an open field, located where Walker Avenue meets East Main Street. Like the parades, band concerts and baseball games, there were three days of Rogue Roundup on July 4, 5 and 6. A grandstand was built that would hold 10,000 people. The grandstand overflowed on day one and was nearly full on days two and three. Here’s a clue as to why: According to the newspaper, the Rogue Roundup was “the wildest exciting series of entertainments ever staged in the valley.”
The Rogue Roundup “Entertainments:”
**Cowboys and cowgirls half-mile pony racing. **Cowboys on bucking horses. “Donal Cannon of Pendleton, a sixteen-year-old boy, won the $300 saddle, first prize in the bucking contest, over 78 entries.” **Not only bucking horses, but also bucking burros and bucking calves. **Even a lady bucking horse rider, “Dorothy Morrell of Klamath Falls, champion lady bucking horse rider of world.” **A mile-long pony express race, with cowboys switching between two horses. **Steer roping, with the steer getting a 50-foot start on the ropers. **Steer bull-dogging (jumping off a horse at full speed and wrestling a steer to the ground). **Bull riding, with riders using saddles. **Indian relay race. **Female Indians half-mile pony race. **A horse-mounted tug of war, with teams of four saddle horses each. **How about this one…”Cowboy Roman race. Two horses each, rider to rise 50 feet from start.” [I wish I had a photo of that to show you.] **Just for fun, the “drunken ride” and fancy riding by Walter Seals of Pendleton. **And finally, the “slick ear horse race.” The newspaper described it as: “Wild horse to be given 40 feet start. Cowboy to rope, catch and ride, without saddle or bridle.”
Ashland organizers were excited that they were able to contract for a party of ten Umatilla Indians from Northeast Oregon, who brought their families. The Ashland Tidings described the Native Americans who participated in the Roundup this way: “These Indians have the most beautiful Indian costumes of any of the Oregon tribes and will come with full outfits. The head chief’s headdress, robes and so forth are ornate with beads and Elks’ teeth and are all together valued at $10,000. The Indians are all high-class athletes and will make the white cowboys hustle in all the events in which they enter. Sub-Chief Gilbert Minthorne will be in charge of the party.”
With all of this activity, Ashland was able to attract large crowds to the Roundup. The newspaper reported attendance of 15,000 the first day, 7,000 the second day and 8,000 on the third day, for a total of 30,000.
Postscript on the Roundup
It was such a success that the organizers decided to make it an annual event. They formed a stock company, with many locals investing $25 to $100 each. Organizers arranged a five-year lease for the land on which the 1916 Roundup stands and track were located. They built a larger covered grandstand and improved the grounds for 1917. The 1917 Roundup was very successful, with even greater attendance than in 1916. However, it went downhill from there and did not survive as an annual event.
Water Sports and Band Concerts
As the afternoon Rogue Roundup was drawing a full house of spectators east of downtown Ashland, others had the option of water sports at the Natatorium indoor swimming pools or band concerts in Lithia Park.
At the Lithia Park main bandstand, three bands played through the afternoon of July 4. First the Central Point Band played, followed by the Medford Band and finally the Grants Pass Band.
Unveiling of the new Fountain in Lithia Park
Then at 8:00 P.M., people attended the unveiling of a beloved fountain in Lithia Park that we still enjoy today. On July 4, 1916, it was called the “Unveiling of the Fountain of Youth.” We know it as the Butler-Perozzi Fountain.
Opening the ceremony, the Medford Band played again! Professor Vining gave some remarks to dedicate the fountain and statue. Finally came the unveiling of the Fountain of Youth by 12-year-old Lucile Perozzi, daughter of Domingo and Louise Perozzi, assisted by the “flower girls.”
Here is how the Ashland Tidings of July 6, 1916 described the fountain: “The fountain is made of beautiful Verona marble. The figure is that of Cupid playing with a swan. These words are inscribed on the fountain: ‘Flori di peshi,’ [should be ‘Fiori di peshi’] which is the Italian for ‘Flower of peaches.'”
How did this fountain and statue find its way from the Florence, Italy studio of sculptor Antonio Frilli all the way to Ashland, Oregon? It came by way of the 1915 San Francisco Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Two Ashland friends and businessmen, Gwin Butler and Domingo Perozzi, had recently donated some of their land to the expansion of Lithia Park. Butler traveled to the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, held in San Francisco’s Marina District. Similar in size to a World’s Fair, the Exposition celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal and was attended by over 18 million people.
Many objects displayed at the Exposition were available for purchase at the end of the fair. Butler thought this Italian marble fountain he saw there would be perfect in Lithia Park, so he sent a telegram to his friend Perozzi to come immediately. When Perozzi arrived in San Francisco, he agreed to help purchase the fountain, which the two men bought for $3,000 (equivalent to about $75,000 in 2019 dollars).
The fountain unveiling ceremony concluded with Ashland Mayor O.H. Johnson accepting the fountain on behalf of the City of Ashland “in a short, humorous address,” and then wrap-up music by the Medford Band.
Those not interested in the fountain unveiling could have attended a band concert, this one by the Ashland Band, in another part of Lithia Park.
July 4th Fireworks
Was this the end of July 4th celebrations? Of course not! There must be fireworks on July 4th, and indeed there were.
Fireworks started around 9:00 P.M. on Granite Street, and were viewed by the crowds in Lithia Park. The Hitt Fireworks Company prepared the shows for all three days. T.G. Hitt was a chemist from England who opened his fireworks business in Seattle in 1905. By 1915 he was prominent enough to provide the fireworks for the massive Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco mentioned above. That may have been what brought Hitt Fireworks to the attention of Ashland organizers.
In addition to aerial fireworks, Hitt Fireworks specialized in dramatic set pieces on huge wooden frames, embedded with fireworks. Ashlanders got a taste of these set pieces all three days of the celebration. The Hitts got so famous that they were asked to create “special effects for scenes in several blockbuster movies, including the famous burning of Atlanta in Gone With the Wind, the battle scenes in All Quiet on the Western Front, and the fire and explosions in What Price Glory?” [Tate]
In addition to the best aerial fireworks Ashlanders had ever seen bursting in the sky, the Ashland Tidings described some of the elaborate set pieces produced by Hitt Fireworks. The writer raved about “dancing figures, an American flag, two monster pinwheels, a lithia fountain, a design on which below a bottle the words ‘Ashland Lithia Springs’ were emblazoned, and out of which a fountain of fire shot, more gun shots and more fixed designs, all of which beggared description.”
Following fireworks, there was a concert by the Central Point Band at 9:30 P.M. at the Lithia Park main bandstand.
Dancing past midnight
People who were still awake and on their feet after 12 hours of non-stop Independence Day celebration had a choice of two dances, where they could continue to party into the morning. One dance was at the Natatorium, which was not solely a swimming facility. It also had a maple wood dance floor and room for 500 spectators or promenaders. The Natatorium was located at A Street and First Street, a five-block walk from the entrance to Lithia Park.
The other dance was held at the Bungalow restaurant, conveniently located in Lithia Park. The Bungalow, as it was known, had just opened on June 1, 1916 across Winburn Way from the Lithia water gazebo. See below for photos of the gazebo in 1916 and the spot where The Bungalow was located 100 years ago (now an open grassy area).
Ashland Partied for Two More Days!
Those who started July 4th by watching the morning parade and ended the day dancing past midnight probably did not wake up in time for the July 5 morning parade. Yes, the City of Ashland provided a second day of non-stop celebrations on July 5 for the thousands of visitors (and a third day on July 6!). I plan to write articles about July 5 and July 6, 1916 in the future.
Ashland Tidings, May 11, 1916 Ashland Tidings, May 22, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 1, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 8, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 12, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 15, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 29, 1916 Ashland Tidings, July 3, 1916 Ashland Tidings, July 6, 1916 Ashland Tidings, July 10, 1916 Ashland Tidings, July 13, 1916 Ashland Tidings, October 30, 1916
Anon. “The Greatest Fourth of All,” The Table Rock Sentinel (newsletter of the Southern Oregon Historical Society), May 1987, p. 13-24.
Brettschneider, Ginger. “Lithia Park’s Fountain of History,” Southern Oregon Heritage Today, Vol. 2, No. 2., February 2000, page 4.
In Part 1, I wrote about the seven “streams” that made up the “mighty river” of activities. I wrote about why Ashland hosted 50,000 visitors in just three days — July 4, 5 and 6, 1916. That was the big-picture introduction to the events.
In the next articles, I will introduce you to the people who made it happen and to the hour-by-hour packed schedule from 10:00 A.M. until past midnight all three days. As the Ashland Tidings wrote on July 6, “There has been ‘something doing every minute’ from morning to – well, almost morning again.”
First Day: July 4th
July 4th began with Queen Lithia’s Pageant, the Industrial and Patriotic parade. That was followed by a baseball game, a patriotic ceremony, water sports in two locations, the Wild West Rogue River Roundup, six band concerts (!), the ceremonial unveiling of a new fountain in Lithia Park, fireworks, and finally two dances that lasted into the morning. In this article, I will focus primarily on the parade and the Lithia Park bandstand patriotic ceremony.
The Huge 4th of July Parade
The Medford Mail Tribune wrote: ” The floats, the civic organizations, the riding clubs and the cowboy contingents, escorted by four marching bands, from Ashland, Central Point, Grants Pass and Medford made up such a cavalcade as had never been witnessed before in Ashland’s streets.” [quoted in the Table Rock Sentinel]
Today’s 4th of July parades are led by Ashland police officers on motorcycles, then a color guard holding United States and Oregon flags, followed by the Ashland City Band to bump up the energy of the crowd. The opening of the 1916 parade was very similar, according to the Ashland Tidings newspaper.
“In the lead was the chief of police and the Ashland patrolmen, mounted on horseback. Then Ed Thornton [Secretary of the Elks Club] on a magnificent charger. Next came the Ashland band in their natty uniforms of blue and white.”
Back then it was police on horseback leading, now it’s police on motorcycles leading,. Back then the Ashland band was in natty uniforms of blue and white, now the Ashland band is in natty uniforms of teal and white.
The Tidings declared that “the 30,000 people who lined Main street from the East school to the West school cheered and cheered each and every feature.”
Here are the parade entries the 30,000 people saw, according to the newspaper.
This is a long list of parade entries, so brace yourself…and have fun comparing 1916 with the parade entries you see today.
**The Coast Artillery Corps company of Ashland (which had been created in response to World War I)
**Ashland Girls Marching Club, thirty marching girls in white costumes
**Red Cross Brigade
**Riding in automobiles were the Mayor, guests of honor, and officials of Southern Pacific Railroad Company. Today we still have politicians and guests of honor in the parade.
**The Lithia Springs commission rode in their own decorated car
**Queen Mary Weisenburger rode in a float of pink and white. Miss Emma Jenkins was maid of honor to the queen, with little flower girls and pages at her feet. Remember “Queen Mary,” as she will star in both serious and humorous episodes to come.
**J.N. Dennis’ little son rode in his “Lithia Racer” automobile
**Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) patriotic float, followed by many other patriotic floats. [The G.A.R. was a fraternal organization of veterans who fought for the Union during the Civil War. At its peak, more than 400,000 men were members. Max Pracht of Ashland, who helped make Ashland peaches famous, and for whom Pracht Street is named, was a member of the G.A.R. Read about Pracht and Pracht Street here. The last Civil War veteran died in 1956, but an organization of descendants of Civil War veterans, called Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, carries on the traditions.]
**Mrs. Peil’s decorated car, which won a first prize. [Mrs. Alice Peil is remembered today for the “Alice Peil walkway.” In order to have easier access to the family business, Alice and her husband built a steel stairway from their home at 52 Granite Street down to the Plaza, where Emil Peil had opened a blacksmith shop, and later ran an implement store with Alice. After Ashland residents started using the shortcut regularly, Mrs. Peil donated both the stairway and the northern six feet of her lot to the city, thus formalizing the public use of the walkway.]
**”Wah Chung’s Chinese colony was represented by an Oriental float of a unique character.” [Ashland had a small Chinatown from about 1880 to 1930, but Wah Chung and his family were the only Chinese who actively participated in the greater Ashland community. You can read my article about Wah Chung and the Chinese community in Ashland here ]
**The Vining Theatre had a coupe with a young lady representing Mary Pickford riding in it. [Ashland’s Vining Theatre offered a mix of live vaudeville shows and silent movies. In 1916 Mary Pickford was one of the most popular actresses of the silent film era, known as “America’s Sweetheart.” Three years later, in 1919, she co-founded United Artists movie studio, an amazing feat for a woman at that time.]
**Medford Riding Club, with 18 riders who wore “natty black and white riding costumes,” won a first prize.
**A World War I preparedness float
**An Indian float “was awarded the special prize.” Umatilla Indians had come all the way from Northeast Oregon to be part of the parade and the Rogue Roundup.
**Pioneer ladies of Ashland float had an old wagon “such as was used in crossing the plains….”
**Local railroad workers had a complex float called the “Lithia Special.” It had a full size engine, cab and caboose constructed around a car, and “won the industrial prize and the most unique feature of the parade….”
** Bands: “…never before have four bands marched in one parade in southern Oregon.” Not only did the Ashland band march, but also the Medford band, the Central Point band and the Grants Pass band.
**The Humane Society had a float. [The American Humane Society had been established in 1877, and Ashland must have had a branch.]
**The Elks Lodge (B.P.O.E. No. 944) had 50 marchers in uniforms of white with purple ties.
**The Auxiliary float “was easily the most beautiful of the parade” and got a first prize. According to the Ashland Tidings, “The float was done in yellow and white. it represented ‘A Gift to the World,’ huge loving cups representing the gift. The center of the float was built to represent a fountain with the fairy of waters waving her wand for the waters to arise and gush forth power and health. Young ladies in costumes and carrying symbols of art and music to give praise to Ashland were grouped in niches around the fountain. A huge harp on which to play paeans of praise was played by Mrs. Shirley Keene in Grecian costume. Minora Cornelium represented the arrival of spring.”
**The Women’s Civic Improvement Club had five cars done alike in white with red rosettes, and won a second prize.
**The Maccabees, Rebekahs and Medford Woodmen of the World, more fraternal organizations, had the next floats.
**Ashland horse riders went on and on. There were “perhaps 200 in line, on horses, followed by children on ponies and many in cowboy and cowgirl costumes.”
**Western Union Telegraph Company had a float.
**Ashland Fruit and Produce Association had a “float loaded with seasonal fruits.”
**The Eden Valley Nursery float complemented the Fruit and Produce Association “with immense papier mache apples and pears.”
**Nurmi Baking Company of Medford float came next.
**Briggs & Elmore had a decorated car. [I wonder if it was anything like Briggs’ shoe store decorated car (below) at the 1912 parade.]
**”The Saunders car in white, with a bevy of pretty girls, received applause along the route.”
**East Side Pharmacy float was next.
** Then came another pharmacy, Poley’s Drug Store. Its “Malted Milk float captured second industrial prize.” [Below is a photo of Poley’s Drug Store float from the parade in the early 1900s.]
**Ashland Trading Company float was filled with greenery and with children.
**Home Laundry had a float.
**The White House Grocery was very popular in Ashland, and their float came next.
**Hotel Oregon on East Main Street was the premier hotel in Ashland at this time. They were in the parade “with an automobile load of pretty girls.”
**Clover Leaf Dairy had a float.
**The Natatorium: “Several boys in swimming costumes represented the Natatorium.” [The Natatorium was a block-long indoor swimming and dancing “palace” on A Street from 1909 to 1919.]
**The Grants Pass Moose band marched next.
**There were cowboys and cowgirls (perhaps 150) from Pendleton and Klamath Falls, as well as Ashland and Medford locals.
**The parade included clowns in vari-colored costumes, though most of the comic features were saved for the King Sulphur parade on July 6.
**I am not sure what to make of the newspaper’s description of this parade entry: “Benton Bowers handled the reins of an old-fashioned stage coach team loaded down with cowboys and three trick bears which were brought to Ashland by Cowboy Timmins after he had roped them in the wilds of the Curry country.”
**There was a Rogue Roundup float that advertised the Wild West rodeo event to take place at 2:00 P.M.
**According to the Tidings newspaper, some decorated automobiles closed out the parade (even though this was supposed to be the parade without automobiles; the next day’s parade, July 5, was supposed to be the decorated automobile parade).
**Wait…one more thing…the paper said there were decorative bicycles interspersed throughout the parade.
Mrs. Hilty, coordinator of all three parades
Today’s Chamber of Commerce staff and volunteers can tell you how much work it takes to put on Ashland’s large 4th of July parade each year. In 1916, one woman volunteer took on even more, and the newspaper gave credit where credit was due. “Mrs. Hilty was in charge of the parades of the three days, and her executive ability was a monster factor in the success which all three scored.”
Mrs. Hilty was an active community member. She also appears to have been a social activist at heart. Later that year in October 1916, she put on a one-woman program at the ladies’ Civic Improvement Club meeting. According to the Ashland Tidings, “Then Mrs. Hilty carried the gathering back to old school days in her sketches of Harriet Beecher Stowe [abolitionist, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin], Julia Ward Howe [abolitionist, women’s suffragette, poet and author, who wrote the song ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’], Helen Hunt Jackson [Native American rights activist, poet, author], Ella Wheeler Wilcox [poet and author] and Louise May Olcott [should be spelled Louisa May Alcott; author of Little Women]. Especially close and dear are the recollections of the vivid human bond in ‘Little Women.'”
After the parade was over, visitors and locals had a choice of multiple activities. At 10:00 A.M. people could watch the first of three baseball games between teams from Weed, California and Medford. The first game was an easy win for Medford, 9-0.
Those who approved of Oregon’s new prohibition law that had just taken effect on January 1, 1916 could have heard a lecture at the Chautauqua building sponsored by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
If July 4, 1916 were a normal hot July day, many people would have walked over to Helman’s Sulphur Baths for 11:00 A.M. water sports. See photos below for what Helman’s looked like inside and outside.
After the parade, most people probably attended the patriotic ceremony at the Lithia Park bandstand. If we had the ability to travel back in a time machine, the 1916 Lithia Park bandstand event would seem very familiar to those of us who attend today’s 4th of July Lithia Park band shell after-parade patriotic ceremony.
Here is the 1916 program and how it compares with today’s programs: Opening music by a city band…in 1916 and today. Reading of the Declaration of Independence…in 1916 and today. The “Star Spangled Banner,” played by a city band, sung by a vocalist accompanied by the audience…in 1916 and today. Speeches by dignitaries…in 1916 and today. More band music and vocal music…in 1916 and today.
One more “in 1916 and today:” the current Butler Band Shell in Lithia Park, built in 1949, is located right where the original, smaller Lithia Park bandstand was built.
In 1916, the Declaration of Independence was read by Miss Minnie Bernice Jackson, who was 23 years of age at the time. E.L. Rasor led the singing of the “Star Spangled Banner,” and the main dignitary address was given by I.E. Vining, owner of the Vining Theatre on East Main Street. [Irving Vining received a postgraduate degree at Teachers College at Columbia University in New York. In addition to owning the Vining Theatre, he taught for seven years at Southern Oregon Normal School.]
In Part 3, we will learn about the Rogue Roundup Wild West show, more band concerts, the unveiling of the “Fountain of Youth” in Lithia Park (now called the Butler-Perozzi Fountain), fireworks on Granite Street and finally late night dances in two Ashland locations. All of that was still on July 4!
Ashland Tidings, May 11, 1916 Ashland Tidings, May 22, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 1, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 8, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 12, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 15, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 29, 1916 Ashland Tidings, July 3, 1916 Ashland Tidings, July 6, 1916 Ashland Tidings, July 10, 1916 Ashland Tidings, July 13, 1916 Ashland Tidings, October 30, 1916
Anon. “The Greatest Fourth of All,” The Table Rock Sentinel (newsletter of the Southern Oregon Historical Society), May 1987, p. 13-24.
Was this the largest and most audacious celebration in the history of our town?
It takes many streams coming together to form a huge river. The Amazon River of Ashland 4th of July celebrations was the year 1916. From what I know of Ashland history, I think it was the largest and most audacious celebration in the history of our town.
Here are the streams that created 1916’s audacious river.
The first large stream…the 4th of July parade had already been an Ashland tradition for decades as of 1916. Ashland’s parade history began with floats on horse-drawn wagons in the late 1800s. Decorated autos were added in the early 1900s. In 1916, bold Ashland boosters planned a parade on the 4th of July (of course) followed by a parade on the 5th of July (oh, my!) followed by a parade on the 6th of July (three in three days!).
A second large tributary…the dedication of Lithia Park. Ashland’s Lithia Park grew out of a humble 1892 beginning as 8-acre Chautauqua Park. Thanks to the vision and perseverance of women in the Chautauqua Park Club and the Women’s Civic Improvement Club, with support from some wealthy men of Ashland who saw their vision, land was purchased in 1908 to create much larger Lithia Park. The official dedication of Lithia Park was July 5, 1916.
The third, an audacious and booster-crazed stream…July 5, 1916 was also the official dedication of Ashland’s Lithia springs water. Local boosters were convinced that the combination of Lithia water, sulphur water and soda springs water was about to catapult Ashland to recognition as a spa town of national and world renown.
A fourth, more modest stream…July 4, 1916 was the unveiling of the “Fountain of Youth, now known as the Butler-Perozzi Fountain. Generous Ashland businessmen Gwin Butler and Dominic Perozzi had recently donated some of their land for the expansion of Lithia Park. Butler traveled to the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, held in San Francisco’s Marina District. A massive event, the Exposition celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal and was attended by over 18 million people. Butler thought an Italian marble fountain he saw there would be perfect in Lithia Park, so he sent a telegram to his friend Perozzi to come immediately. When Perozzi arrived in San Francisco, he agreed to help purchase the fountain, which the two men bought for $3,000 (equivalent to about $75,000 in 2019 dollars).
Fourth, another huge, audacious tributary…the Rogue Roundup, a Wild West show to rival the already successful Pendleton, Oregon Roundup. The first Pendleton Roundup (rodeo and more) in 1910 had drawn 7,000 spectators, and it just kept growing from there. Ashland aimed to outdo their fellow Oregon town in 1916.
Fifth, a small but passionate stream…baseball fans were treated to a three-day, three-game rematch between the Medford, Oregon and Weed, California baseball teams.
Sixth, a musical stream…more band music in one place than Southern Oregon had ever heard. The Ashland band, the Medford band, the Grants Pass band and the Central Point band each played two or three times a day for all three days. They even played all together as a massed band in a grand symphony of band music.
Seventh, another bigger-and-bolder-than-Southern-Oregon-has-ever-seen stream…you can’t forget fireworks on the 4th of July. But not just one day, not even two days…three days in a row of massive fireworks! July 5 and 6 featured unusual daylight fireworks.
Finally, what made this blowout “4th” possibly the largest event in Ashland’s history was a combination of three straight days of multiple activities (each of which attracted between hundreds and thousands of spectators) with nonstop action from early morning until past midnight all three of the days.
How Big Was the 1916 Celebration?
To get an idea how big, let’s compare some numbers from 1916 with recent years. In recent years the 4th of July parade attendance has been estimated at 20,000 people. That’s with Ashland’s population currently about 21,000 and Jackson County’s population about 220,000.
In 1916, 4th of July parade attendance was estimated at 30,000 people, with the City of Ashland’s population only 5,000 and the entire Jackson County population under 25,000!
That was just July 4th. Twenty thousand more came for all-day and into-the-night celebrations on July 5 and July 6.
Where did all the people come from?
From far and wide! For example, the Ashland newspaper quoted the Klamath County Evening Herald on June 1, 1916: “there will be many automobiles of Klamath people romping across the hills for Ashland” and regarding the Roundup, “Klamath county vaqueros will of course take a prominent part – and the prominent prizes.”
Most Southern Oregon cities canceled their own 4th of July celebrations in 1916 and cooperated to make Ashland’s celebration a success. Ashland reciprocated by calling July 5 “Medford Day” and July 6 “Grants Pass and Klamath Falls Day.”
Southern Pacific railroad company was committed to making Ashland’s 1916 Independence Day celebrations a success. It was a win for the railroad, because at that time many people still visited Ashland by train. Southern Pacific railroad sent two of their Vice Presidents and their general passenger agent John M. Scott, who spoke at one of the dedication ceremonies.
Beyond this July 4th bash, Southern Pacific was committed to helping Ashland become a popular resort town, as that would increase their passenger train business long term.
Here is one small example of Southern Pacific’s largesse. Local professor Henry Gillmore wrote a song called “Ashland the Beautiful.” The front and back covers of the sheet music described Ashland as “Oregon’s Famous Spa.” In addition, the back cover promoted Crater Lake National Park and Josephine County Caves (now Oregon Caves National Monument). Southern Pacific printed the sheet music at its own printing plant. The Tidings of July 31, 1916 wrote: “Ten thousand copies of the song are to be printed immediately for distribution throughout the east, and later ten thousand more for the Pacific coast territory.”
Ashland Tidings, May 11, 1916 Ashland Tidings, May 22, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 1, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 8, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 12, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 15, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 29, 1916 Ashland Tidings, July 3, 1916 Ashland Tidings, July 6, 1916 Ashland Tidings, July 10, 1916 Ashland Tidings, July 13, 1916
Anon. “The Greatest Fourth of All,” The Table Rock Sentinel (newsletter of the Southern Oregon Historical Society), May 1987, p. 13-24.
When Ashland had a Chinatown (90 to 130 years ago) The Chinese family that mixed with Ashland’s elite The village cluster in China where Ashland’s Chinese residents were born Chinese New Year in Ashland highlights What was different about Chinese New Year in 1916?
“The well known local capitalist”
He was described in 1913 as “the well known local capitalist” by the Ashland Tidings newspaper. Was he the owner of a local bank? No. Was he one of the big local landowners from a pioneer family? No again.
Here is a hint from a 1915 Ashland Tidings article: “Mr. and Mrs. Hum Pracht and Mr. and Mrs. Henry Provost were entertained at dinner Sunday evening by Mr. and Mrs. Wah Chung at their home on A street.”
This wasn’t just any dinner and these weren’t just any guests. This was a Chinese New Year dinner. As for the guests, Hum Pracht had managed the bustling Ashland Depot Hotel, and his father Max Pracht had shipped peaches all over the country from his huge Ashland orchard. [Max Pracht article] Henry Provost was a former Mayor of Ashland and part of a prominent Ashland family.
His Real Name
These Tidings articles described a Chinese man who, along with his family, became part of the fabric of early 20thcentury Ashland. He was known in Ashland as Wah Chung, which was the name of his business: Wah Chung and Company.
For some reason, people found it easier to call him by his business name rather than learning his Chinese name. That’s why in all the quotes from the Tidings his name is Wah Chung. However, his birth name was Wong Quon Sue. Out of respect for him and his culture, I will refer to Wah Chung primarily by his family name, Mr. Wong.
Social Standing in Ashland
Here’s another glimpse of Mr. Wong’s social standing from an Ashland Tidings article about the 1916 Chinese New Year. “The local celebration lacked some of the features of those of bygone years when the entire population of Ashland made a pilgrimage to Wah Chung’s on China New Year and partook of Chinese nuts and candies and watched the fireworks.”
If you bear with me until the end of the article, I will explain why the people of Ashland could not enjoy the 1916 Chinese New Year with “rice wine, plum wine and other ancient drinks which go down like water but biteth like the serpent and kicketh like the mule….”
Mr. Wong, the Businessman
Mr. Wong made his money and his place in the community as the Chinese Labor Contractor for Southern Pacific (SP) railroad, a position he held more than 42 years. Most of the workers who built the railroad line across the Siskiyou Mountains in the mid-1880s were Chinese laborers. Some stayed on to maintain the tracks.
Mr. Wong was responsible for hiring, feeding and taking care of Chinese workers to maintain a section of the SP tracks in Oregon and Northern California. That would be a big responsibility in itself. But he also was responsible for finding, feeding and taking care of Chinese workers to maintain a section of SP tracks in the Salt Lake region! How did he find time for all of this plus a family, a grocery store, a restaurant, a mine in the Applegate, community activities and more?
Chinese Community in Ashland
Originally, Ashland’s Chinese community consisted mostly of railroad workers. This was quite different than in Jacksonville, where most Chinese residents were active in gold mining, and where there were more conflicts between the Chinese and American residents.
After the railroad’s completion in 1887, dozens of Chinese stayed on as railroad maintenance workers and used Ashland as a home base. In addition to railroad work, “During the period from 1890 to 1940, many of the Chinese left were running laundries and cooking for hotels and families.” [Atwood-2, page 9] According to Henry Enders, the cooks and waiters at the Ashland Depot Hotel were Chinese men. [Atwood-1, page 83]
Mr. Wong’s Roots in China
I am indebted to staff archeologist Chelsea Rose of SOULA (Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology) for telling me that Wah Chung’s birth name was Wong Quon Sue, and that he was born in Chun Lock village in China’s coastal Taishan county, Guangdong province.
I read dozens of early 1900s newspaper articles and many other references about the early Ashland Chinese community, but never saw his birth name. Ms. Rose pointed out to me that Mr. Wong may have named his store and business Wah Chung (which was a common Chinese-American store or business name) because it roughly translates as “Flower of Opportunity.”
In 2017, Chelsea Rose traveled to Chun Lock village in China as part of her research for the Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project. She has learned that not only Wah Chung, but also most of Ashland’s Chinese residents in the late 1800s and early 1900s, were from this same village cluster in China.
Marriage, New Home and Ashland’s Chinatown
Mr. Wong started working for Southern Pacific as their Chinese Labor Agent in 1883. He likely moved to Ashland in 1883 or 1884. On September 13, 1901, he married “a San Francisco belle of China town” in a wedding that was attended by “many of the aristocratic circle” of San Francisco, as well as leading Chinese residents of Yreka. His wife, Wong Soo Lue, was known in Ashland as Mrs. Wah Chung.
Mr. Wong owned four lots in the railroad district. At least three of them were at the corner of A Street and 2nd Street, the historic center of Ashland’s Chinatown. Most Chinese in Ashland lived near A and 2nd Streets, or in houses or tents across the railroad tracks from there.
He built a new two-story house there. Carpenters were putting the finishing touches on the house just in time for his 1901 wedding. A newspaper article described his house as having electric lights, a small but beautiful bedroom, and all modern conveniences.
The Wongs’ Garden
The Wah Chung family raised vegetables and fish in their yard. They grew “both vegetables of native variety and vegetables of Oriental variety,” according to the Ashland Tidings of September 6, 1915. “The other day one of the employees of the Tidings office was shown over the patch.” Mrs. Wah Chung gave the Tidings writer several Chinese cucumbers to try. The writer was impressed with their “superior flavor” compared to American cucumbers. He was most impressed by the Chinese string beans – 1 to 2 ½ feet long!
As for fish, “Three large deep pools in the back yard supplied eels and a kind of shrimp which were often used in meal preparation…..” [Dunlap 1964]
Why Ashlanders went to his Chinese Grocery
Mr. Wong owned a two-story Chinese grocery store on A Street next to his house, with a Chinese laundry in the building he owned next to that. In addition to serving the local Chinese community, his store was a magnet for children in the railroad district. Elizabeth Carter remembers going to Wah Chung’s store with her father and brother to buy firecrackers. And Almeda Helman Coder said that “He [Wah Chung] used to give us Chinese nuts, funny little round Chinese nuts, more like a little dried up fruit.” Archeologist Chelsea Rose told me these were lychee nuts. It is interesting to note that she and colleagues found lychee nuts during a 2013 archeological excavation in the Jacksonville Chinatown.
In addition to buying firecrackers, adults in town had another reason to visit his store – the Chinese medicines available there. On Jan. 9, 1910, the Medford Mail Tribune ran this ad: “Chow Young’s Chinese Medicines will cure rheumatism, asthma, paralysis, sores and private diseases. These remedies may be procured at the store of Wah Chung on A street, Ashland, Oregon.”
Wah Chung & Co. included at least two other businesses. At one point he owned a Chinese restaurant at 82 North Main Street (current site of Bluebird Park next to the Thai Pepper restaurant). A 1913 newspaper article said it had been closed for some time and was being reopened by “a gentleman of Chinese lineage” named Charlie. Beyond Ashland, Wah Chung & Co. bought a gold mine in 1896 for $600 from John O’Brien of Applegate.
Mr. Wong was active in the larger community of Ashland. He was a member of the Ashland Commercial Club, precursor to today’s Ashland Chamber of Commerce. He and his wife were listed in the newspaper among the givers to the Ashland Red Cross Offering of 1917.
Mrs. Wah Chung (Mrs. Wong) and the Children
Despite extensive research, I haven’t been able to learn much about the children. Mr. and Mrs. Wong adopted a girl, Jennie, and several years later their son Sammy was born.
They also had a daughter Gin Tie, who sadly died of cholera at nine months of age. Victoria Kindell (who ran the Ashland Historic Railroad Museum for seven years) located Gin Tie Wah Chung’s unmarked grave at the Ashland Cemetery and paid for a grave marker to be placed there.
Jennie and Sammy both attended public schools in Ashland. According to the Mail Tribune, Sammy “was a bright boy and was well liked by both teachers and pupils.” Elizabeth Carter, who grew up on Mountain Avenue next to the railroad tracks, remembers Sammy coming to her house many times to play.
We also know that on Christmas 1921, Sammy was a guest at a “very merry Christmas party” at the home of Mr. and Mrs. G. C. Peebles on upper Liberty Street. First Santa Claus arrived (by car, not sleigh) and then they had a feast.
Mabel Dunlap remembered that when Jennie was in elementary school, “Many of the children made fun of her and called her names. Probably because of my defense of the bewildered Chinese girl, and because of our friendship, I became a special friend of her family.”
“I often went to Jennie’s home with her and at times was asked to write letters for Mrs. Wah Chung, who could speak English but could not write it.” “Sometimes I helped with her sewing and was always received with dignity and warmth.”
Mabel Dunlap 1964
Marie Prescott remembers attending Jennie’s birthday party at the family home one year. She was in Jennie’s class at school, and said the parents invited everyone in the class to the party and served them a full meal.
Bridging Two Cultures
The Tidings in 1913 wrote warmly of the doll Jennie brought to her elementary school fair. “A Chinese doll dressed and entered in a doll cab handsomely decorated with the Stars and Stripes and with the Chinese national colors, by Jennie Wah Chung, attracted much attention.”
I think this doll perfectly encapsulates the way Mr. Wong and his family were able to successfully bridge two cultures. On the one hand, Jennie had a Chinese doll. On the other hand, she entered it decorated with the Stars and Stripes. That made it hard to judge her as a “foreigner.” Yet she didn’t abandon her culture. Along with the Stars and Stripes, she included the Chinese national colors in the doll cab.
Mr. Wong seems to have been able to adeptly live this balancing act.
“Wah Chung was a perfect gentleman…everybody trusted him.”
Ashland business owner Henry Enders
He was able to befriend and gain the trust of the powerful families and institutions of Ashland. He and his wife mixed socially with “the cream of the crop” in town, and he did things like drive his patriotically decorated car in Ashland 4th of July parades.
Mr. Wong’s stellar reputation allowed him to represent and help Ashland’s Chinese citizens, both locally and around the West Coast.
In this introduction to the Chinese community in Ashland, it is important to acknowledge the legal and social discrimination they lived with.
The Chinese faced tremendous discrimination and racism both in Oregon and throughout the United States for many decades. Nationally, “The Chinese Exclusion Act [of 1882] prohibited further immigration of Chinese laborers, and barred those already living in the United States from bringing their wives and families over to join them. The law became increasingly more restrictive, and by 1892 Chinese individuals needed to carry proof of legal residence with them at all times or risk deportation (Voss and Allen 2008:12).” [Rose & Ruiz, page 194]
Wah Chung sometimes had to travel to San Francisco, Portland or Seattle to assist someone who needed help reentering the United States after making a trip home to visit family in China. Here is an example, from an actual document in the year 1900.
The City of Ashland had local discriminatory laws. For example, in 1883, the Ashland city council passed an ordinance designed to keep out Chinese who might want to open a laundry business: “December 7, 1883: ‘China Washouse [sic] or laundry to pay a license of forty dollars per year or at the same rate for a shorter period.'”
The atmosphere in Ashland for Chinese seemed to improve in the last decade of the 1800s and the first few decades of the 1900s. Despite this, Wah Chung’s acceptance in the community was an exception. The majority of the Chinese in Ashland either spent almost all their time out of town maintaining the railroad, or they seem to have been nameless and little known to the larger community.
Mabel Dunlap described “…Chinese families who lived in the houses clustered about the Wah Chungs. In these buildings the shades were always drawn and this appealed to my youthful curiosity. Jennie once took me through some of the houses and although the rooms were in semi-darkness, I noted everything was spotless. The women were sewing and doing their household chores and the children were well-behaved.” [Dunlap 1964]
Later Life and Death
Mr. Wong had an outstanding and astounding career with the Southern Pacific. In 1925, the Southern Pacific Bulletin wrote:
“Wah Chung is now 82 years old, yet judging from his hale and hearty appearance he will probably continue for many more years to be of helpful service to the Company’s Maintenance of Way Department.”
The article went on: “Wah Chung keeps these gangs [the Chinese track workers] up to maximum requirement, looks after the welfare of the men, takes care of their commissary, and has been a very valuable asset to this Company. He enjoys a wide acquaintance and is always a welcome visitor, either in the office or on the line. Although well along in years, he is still quite an active man and personally handles all the details of his work.”
Mr. Wong died in a Portland hospital in 1927, two years after this glowing article was written. Tragically for Mrs. Wong (Mrs. Wah Chung), their son Sammy died only three months after his father, due to a drowning accident in the Willamette River.
In her 1964 interview, Mabel Dunlap said: “The last time I saw Mrs. Wah Chung was on a summer day on a street corner in Ashland. She had come to collect the last of the money due her late husband by the railroad. She planned to return to China. She wept as she told me of Sammy’s death.”
Their daughter Jennie married, perhaps to a San Francisco Chinese businessman. The 1925 Southern Pacific article states that Wah Chung “has a married daughter living in Boston.” I have not been able to track her life after that point.
Back to Chinese New Year 1916
Rather than end this article with death, I’d like to add a bit of humor about Ashland life in 1916. Let’s circle back to my description of Ashland’s Chinese New Year 1916. Why was it different than previous years “when the entire population of Ashland made a pilgrimage to Wah Chung’s on China New Year and partook of Chinese nuts and candies and watched the fireworks.”?
The Tidings article goes on to say: “The great difference was in the banquet, which is the central feature of the New Year celebration, and at which every manner of dish from the Flowery Kingdom is served.”
Now we get to the crux of the matter: “What’s the use of banqueting on bird’s nest soup, shark’s fin and other delicacies if the edibles can not be washed down with good old wine imported from Canton.”
“Alas, rice wine, plum wine and other ancient drinks which go down like water but biteth like the serpent and kicketh like the mule, can not be served at the spreads. ‘Gum sing,’ which means ‘bottom’s up,’ is a toast that can not be drunk. The white man’s prohibition law put a crimp in the celebration.”
Ashland Tidings February 3, 1916
Many residents of Ashland were probably cheering when they read this article, due to the cultural clashes at the time around the subject of alcohol. If you remember from your school days that Prohibition in the United States became law in 1920, you remember correctly. So how did that affect Chinese New Year 1916 in Ashland, Oregon? Simply because voters in the State of Oregon “jumped the gun” on the national trend and voted 136,842 to 100,362 “to prohibit after January first, 1916 the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors within the State of Oregon….”
Sadly, this is why the people of Ashland could no longer enjoy Chinese New Year in 1916 with “rice wine, plum wine and other ancient drinks which go down like water but biteth like the serpent and kicketh like the mule….” Thank you, Tidings columnist, for the colorful language.
In conclusion, here is an upbeat entry from the Ashland Tidings that says a lot about the man Mr. Wong and his relationship with the Ashland community.
“Wah Chung, popular Chinese merchant, made his yearly round last week, distributing Chinese lily bulbs to his merchant friends. The bulbs are supposed to have the peculiar property of bringing happiness and prosperity to those under whose care they bloom.”
Ashland Tidings December 14, 1916
References for this article:
Ashland Tidings 3/31/1913 Ashland Tidings 6/5/1913 Ashland Tidings 9/29/1913 Ashland Tidings 2/18/1915 Ashland Tidings 2/3/1916 Ashland Tidings 12/14/1916 Ashland Tidings 6/28/1917 Ashland Tidings 6/3/1919 Ashland Tidings 1/4/1922 Atwood-1: Atwood, Kay. Jackson County Conversations, Jackson County Intermediate Education District, 1975. Atwood-2: Atwood, Kay. Minorities of Early Jackson County, Jackson County Intermediate Education District, 1976. Dunlap, Mabel Roach, as told to Bernice Gillespie, "Local Woman Recalls Days of the Chinese in Ashland," Ashland Daily Tidings October 7, 1964. Kindell, Victoria. Personal interview 2/16/2019. Medford Mail 5/22/1896 Medford Mail Tribune 1/9/1910 Medford Mail Tribune 5/25/1927 Medford Mail Tribune 8/8/1927 Oregon Secretary of State website. https://sos.oregon.gov/archives/exhibits/highlights/Documents/proclamation-oswald-west-prohibition.pdf Rose, Chelsea, M.A. Personal interview 2/13/2019. Chelsea is Staff Archeologist at SOULA (Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology). Her research locally and around the state is part of the Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project. Rose, Chelsea and Ruiz, Chris. "Strangers in a Strange Land: Nation Building, Ethnicity, and Identity in the Oregon Territory," in ALIS VOLAT PROPRIIS: Tales from the Oregon Territory, 1848-1859, Association of Oregon Archaeologists, Occasional Papers No. 9, 2014. Waldron, Sue. "Growing Up In Ashland's Railroad District," Table Rock Sentinel, SOHS, March 1988.
COLLABORATORS AND FRIENDS
The Southern Oregon Historical Society is a great resource. (1) If you like history, SOHS can always use volunteers to help with research, digitizing and transcribing. Learn about SOHS here. (2) Second, I encourage you to join SOHS as a member to support their work. The JOIN link is here.
Independence Day (the 4th of July) is the biggest community holiday of the year in Ashland, Oregon. The parade brings together more people than any other event of the year. I was happily surprised that Ashland Mayor John Stromberg, during his speech at the Lithia Park bandshell this July 4th, recognized and thanked the thousands of people from all over Southern Oregon who attend the Ashland parade.
Community excitement for Independence Day is not new. The 4th of July parade has been a big event in Ashland for more than 100 years. Let’s take “a walk down memory lane” and look at parade photos from more than 100 years ago.
The oldest parade photo I have been able to find is from the late 1890’s, probably from the 1898 parade when America was in the middle of the short Spanish-American War that lasted from April 21 to August 13, 1898. It was primarily a naval war, and the parade float in the shape of a battle-ship gives the hint for 1898.
Here are a number of photos from the 1911 4th of July parade.
Ashland got creative for the 1912 parade. Do you think Briggs was a shoe store?
The 1915 parade photos focus on people of Ashland.
Does anyone know which community group’s Ladies Auxiliary is represented in this 1916 parade float?
Two photos with dates unknown
I like Ashland being known as “The City Noted for Lady Equestrians.”
My thanks to the Ashland Library for access to their historical photo collection.
Ashland 4th of July Parade – Recent Highlights Part 2.
Part 1 of our 4th of July parade recent highlights ended with a Bald Eagle. We will start Part 2 with another dramatic Bald Eagle from Wildlife Images, which has been saving injured and orphaned animals since 1981.
Bands and Horses
When I think of traditional parades, I think of floats, bands and horses. Ashland’s parade is definitely not traditional. We don’t do well in the “floats” category. We do better in the “band” category. Thanks to the Ashland City Band and American Band College (photos shown in Part 1), we get to hear some rousing band music as we watch the parade go by.
Thanks to El Tapatio Mexican restaurant, we also have horses in the Ashland parade most years. These are beautiful horses, even dancing horses that really impress me. Enjoy the brief video clip below.
El Tapatio restaurant – dancing horse video
Dogs of All Shapes and Sizes
Then we get into dogs of all shapes and sizes. Here are a few to refresh your memory of funny dog moments from parades you have attended. I remember in the 1990’s a community group used to walk with 15 to 20 wiener dogs (okay, dachshunds). I was always amazed that those short-legged, sometimes big-tummied dachshunds could walk the entire parade route. Below you will see a genuine 4th of July “hot dog.”
Princess Riding a Unicorn
This is not a horse photo. This is a real princess riding a real unicorn. They graced us with their presence here in the rough and tumble “real world” back in the 2006 parade.
More Ashland Community Groups
Here are photos of an assortment of community groups and students from years 2011 to 2017. I am sure you will recognize many of them. You might even be active in one or more of these community groups.
Two Ashland Businesses
Two Ashland businesses stand out for me as I remember many years of parades. I already mentioned one – El Tapatio Mexican restaurant – in connection with horses. They also bring colorful Mexican dancers who brighten the parade with their traditional dresses.
The other business that has grabbed my attention through the years is Southside Tattoo. I am not personally a tattoo aficionado, but I have enjoyed their souped up cars and motorcycles.
Many kids love big trucks, especially fire trucks. Ashland Fire & Rescue comes through with at least one big, bright, red fire engine each year. I remember years ago seeing a dalmation in the driver’s seat. In recent years, several youth have had the thrill of riding in the fire engine and waving to the crowd (but not driving the truck).
Youth Dance and Gymnastics
Judging from Ashland parades, many young girls (and a few young boys) participate in dance classes and gymnastics. Seeing their enthusiasm and the moves of the older teens is one of my favorite parts of the 4th of July parade each year.
When you see the photos and video below, or when you see them in the parade, remember that they are doing dance moves and flips on hot pavement, generally on a hot day, for 1.1 miles.
YMCA gymnasts in action (2017)
Quirky and Serious
I will close with photos of people who are making a statement.
The Final Parade Entry
For many years, the colorful and lively drum and dance group called Samba Like It Hot was the final group in the parade. As they went by, people flowed out from the sidewalks into Main Street and followed them to the Plaza — and then on to food booths, craft booths and music at the Lithia Park bandshell.
Independence Day (4th of July) is my favorite day of the year to be in Ashland. It is coming up in a few days, so I decided to share some of my photos taken through the years. I hope the photos will trigger fun memories for those of you who have attended multiple parades.
For those who haven’t, this can be an introduction to the quirkiness, fun, community spirit and patriotism of Ashland’s 4th of July. Or, as one of my San Francisco Bay Area friends put it, while shaking his head and rolling his eyes as one “strange” parade entry after another came by: “Only in Ashland.”
The Ashland Chamber of Commerce and the citizens of Ashland go all out from early morning until late at night to make this day special. Fortunately, my wife Kathy loves Ashland’s 4th of July as much as I do. We are able to walk to the parade from our home, which makes the day a bit simpler than needing to drive. But the Chamber has parking lots and shuttle buses to simplify life for drivers as much as possible, since a huge crowd always attends the parade.
Many businesses and community groups in the parade toss candy to the kids along the sidewalk. This family provided very clear instructions! They put their pre-parade time to good use.
The day always starts with a 2-mile fun run and a more serious 10K run. This year the runs will begin at 7:45 am in front of the Ashland library.
The Flyover and Start of Parade
When it’s time for the big parade to start, the crowds wait in anticipation for a jet flyover. Here are photos of three flyovers, including 2013 when it was a biplane flyover rather than jets. Not as fast or as loud! But still fun. One friend told me the jets might not make it this year for the start of the parade, but I don’t know if that is true or not.
The parade begins at Triangle Park and ends just past the Plaza on Water Street. Ashland motorcycle officers traditionally lead, followed by a Color Guard and then the Ashland City Band.
Ashland City Band (2014)
Ashland City Band close-up (2008)The parade Grand Marshal is usually a “famous” Ashland citizen. Last year all veterans and active military were honored as the Grand Marshall. This year two women who have each volunteered for the Ashland Chamber for more than 20 years will be the Grand Marshals.
2017 parade Grand Marshal – Veterans & Active Service men & women of the Armed Forces
Famous, and not so Famous, Politicians
Because the Ashland parade attracts so many people, Oregon’s United States Senators frequently come all the way to Ashland to be in the parade. It’s a bit surprising that both Senator Wyden and Senator Merkley have chosen to walk the parade route rather than riding in a fancy car. Not-so-famous politicians include local Mayors and City Councilors.
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden has been at the Ashland parade many times (2012)
Every year, there is a delegation from Guanajuato, Ashland’s sister city in Mexico. The Guanajuato Queen does ride in a fancy car. She and the other delegates from Guanajuato will say a few words during the afternoon celebration at the Lithia Park bandshell.
The Guanajuato Queen from Ashland’s sister city Guanajuato, Mexico attends each year (2008)
Eclectic Community Groups in the Parade
Now we find out why people who are used to “regular” parades, like my friend from the S.F. Bay Area, get “thrown for a loop” at the Ashland parade. The community groups who parade in Ashland are an eclectic bunch. As evidence, I present the bagpipers and the hula dancers. That’s why I love this parade so much!
Hula dancers in the parade (2010)
It’s not just our community groups that come up with eclectic parade entries. So do our religious and spiritual groups. From Jewish, to Fundamentalist Christian, to Easter Orthodox Christian, to “Only Kindness Matters,” be prepared to be surprised.
Temple Emek Shalom klezmer band (2007)
Jesus in the parade (2007)
Archangel Gabriel Orthodox Church (2017)
Spiritual rather than religious (2016)
The American Band College
The American Band College is a summertime Master’s degree program that takes place at Southern Oregon University each year. We citizens of Ashland get to benefit when this talented group of musicians plays for us, both in the parade and also the evening of July 4th. They have enough band members to fill up three flat-bed trucks during the parade, so it’s a full sound…complete with truck air-horn accompaniment! They perform a concert at 8 pm in the evening at Ashland High School football stadium. It is extra-special because they continue to play at 10 pm throughout the fireworks display, and those who attend the concert have “the best seats in town” to see the fireworks. In Part 2 of this post, I will tell you other places in town where I have gone to watch the fireworks.
Peace Corps Volunteers, Belly Dancers and Readers
Here are more eclectic community parade entries, from Peace Corps to belly dancers to fans of the library. Ashland is home to many readers, many bookstores and a very active library.
I will end Part 1 with an iconic American eagle, courtesy of Wildlife Images, an organization in Grants Pass founded in 1981 to care for sick, injured and orphaned wildlife.
In Part 2, we will meet more animals, community groups, dancers and gymnasts. In addition, I will share a few photos from the afternoon activity that takes place at the Lithia Park bandshell.
This is where real patriotism takes place. When was the last time you read or heard the entire Declaration of Independence? If it has been a long time, I recommend that you hear it live in Lithia Park, so you can remember what a radical idea the United States of America was when it was founded.