August 11, 2014

The “Real” Indian Shirt Story

 

I’d always intended to post an article someday about the connection between my Northwest novel and the original White-Pioneers-Meet-American-Indians story from the Bigelow House Museum in Olympia. I never dreamed I would post it as a video. But here it is—and it’s fun: Washington State Historical Society Program – The Indian Shirt Story.

If you’d prefer to watch me read and sign books in person, come on along to one of my author events scheduled for fall. I’d love to see you there.

Shoalwater Tribal Library (Tokeland, WA) September 18, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Cooper Point Village Book Club (Olympia, WA) October 16, 2014 at 1:00 pm

Orca Books (Olympia, WA) October 24, 2014 at 7:00 pm

 

 

 

March 11, 2014

Blues Highway

On a warm October morning in the Mississippi Delta, more than a decade ago, my husband and I set out before dawn to search for the grave of the man who—according to legend—sold his soul at the crossroads so he could play great blues guitar.

No figure looms larger in American blues mythology than Robert Johnson. Whether by a deal with the devil or through his own hard work and practice, Johnson played wicked slide guitar during the 1930s. He died in Greenwood, Mississippi, in 1938, ostensibly poisoned by a man who thought Johnson was eyeing his wife. Or at least that’s the story. The tale of the jealous husband, like that of Old Scratch at the crossroads, adds both danger and mystery to the King of the Delta Blues. (more…)

January 13, 2014

Kam Wah Chung

 

From the outside it doesn’t look like much. Given its location, standing alone in a city park in the small eastern Oregon town of John Day, the stout little structure might be mistaken for some kind of shuttered concession stand—a place to buy hot dogs and soft drinks in summer, when the park swimming pool is open. Except for the hand-lettered sign overhead saying Kam Wah Chung & Co., and the fact that its address is on Canton Street, you’d never guess that this building— just blocks from the Grant County Fairgrounds—once stood at the center of one of the largest “Chinatowns” in the American West.

When gold was discovered not far from John Day in the early 1860s, Chinese immigrants flocked to eastern Oregon just as they’d rushed to the California gold fields a decade earlier. In 1887 two Chinese men, Ing Hay and Lung On, bought the existing Kam Wah Chung store in what was then a flourishing Chinese frontier community. They would own and operate their idiosyncratic business—part general store and part traditional herbal dispensary—in its original building for more than 50 years. (more…)

July 8, 2013

No Cooler Now Than Before

 

I’m up to my eyebrows this week correcting galleys for The Indian Shirt Story, which goes “live” as an e-book on August 16th.  No time, alas, for original thoughts on history. But for those of you who love a good old-fashioned, small-town summer festival, here’s last year’s look at Capital Lakefair–still as uncool as ever.

Profoundly Uncool for 55 Years

 

 

 

 

 

Like this article? You might enjoy my novel, The Indian Shirt Story, coming as an e-book from Musa Publishing in the summer of 2013. “Like” HEATHER LOCKMAN AUTHOR on Facebook to stay up to date.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 20, 2013

The End of the Oregon Trail

 

We’re all about the Oregon Trail out in this part of the country. Or at least, we used to be. Within two miles of Washington’s state capitol there are nine separate monuments, large and small, to the Oregon Trail or the hardy pioneers who came west in covered wagons.

There are statues and street names, tablets and markers, a bronze bas relief of a wagon train, even a concrete Art Deco bridge that commemorates, among other things, the “First American Pioneer Settlement in Washington.” In the 1940s and ’50s the restaurant at one end of that bridge was known as the Oregon Trail Café, though today it’s a Tahitian-theme biker bar with karaoke on Saturdays. We aren’t as sure now as we were back then how we feel about those brave pioneers and that Manifest Destiny stuff. (more…)

April 29, 2013

Sentimental for Hippies: Olympia’s Species Parade

It’s a cross between Earth Day and Mardi Gras—without the booze or the plastic beads, and with specific instruction for butterflies, aardvarks, and polar bears not to throw candy into the crowd. That, of course, would be littering. And encouraging  kids to eat sugar. And supporting Big Corporations running factories in faraway places. The annual Procession of the Species in Olympia, Washington—which paraded through the streets of downtown for the 19th time last Saturday—is not about any of that. (more…)

March 29, 2013

The Alligator Man and Other Delights

 

 

Okay, it isn’t a real museum—not in the modern sense of the word. No curators, no lecture halls, no yellow school buses unloading hordes of fourth-graders out on the sidewalk. Marsh’s Free Museum, located on the Washington coast, owes more to P.T. Barnum than it does to Charles Darwin, though the two-headed calf and the eight-legged lamb would surely have intrigued them both.

Marsh’s is a souvenir shop in the seaside resort of Long Beach. It’s a strip mall emporium gussied up with an old-fashioned false wooden storefront, halfway between the go-cart track and the kite shop with miniature golf. For the better part of a century Marsh’s has lured customers with an irresistible array of oddments and curiosities. There’s no charge for looking—a human tapeworm! A real shrunken head!—but gawkers find plenty of taffy and trinkets for sale once they get through the door. (more…)

March 13, 2013

The Finnish-American Hall

 

There’s a hole in the Finn Hall story.

Literally. A hole.

If you stop in southwest Washington to read the Finn Hall interpretive sign, tucked into trees off the road along the south flank of Mount St. Helens, you can’t help but see immediately that an adjective is missing. Not merely omitted—gone. Carved right out with a knife blade from the old-style wooden marker, leaving a neat rectangular hole where a modifier should be. (more…)

January 2, 2013

Cement City

 

There’s not much romance in Portland cement.

Lumber towns have their logging lore—the ox teams and skidders, the great Northwest woods. There’s a brawny caulk-boots-and-flannel appeal to towns built on timber and sawmills. But plain gray industrial cement doesn’t have quite the same rugged charm. When it comes to promoting heritage, a town with a name like Concrete is starting from miles behind. (more…)

December 20, 2012

Christmas Island

 

Some people might call it folk art. Others won’t see it as art at all, not even really good lawn art—though surely everyone can agree it’s a big twinkly Christmas monument to most of the major freedoms found in the First Amendment.

In South Puget Sound we just call it “what’s left of Christmas Island.” Over the past seven decades this giant outdoor Nativity scene has been loved, honored, glorified, ridiculed, vandalized, and evicted. It used to be bigger, it used to be grander, but by golly it’s still here.

It started in 1941 when a man named Leonard Huber built a larger-than-life Christmas display—with lots of angels and lots of lights—outside his house in Olympia. The scene went dark during World War II, thanks to strict wartime blackouts, but by ‘46 it was back again, drawing carloads of post-war families ready for Peace on Earth.

And then in 1959 it turned into Christmas Island. (more…)