As I See It

by Mary Schamehorn

Mary Schamehorn

November 27, 2013

I've had such a great response from my column last week that I am going to write a bit more about the arson fire that destroyed Bandon High School nearly 40 years ago. And since I wrote last week's column, I have found several other envelopes of "fire" negatives, so I will share a picture I took of the young man (Gary Lee Duncan) who admitted to starting the fire(s) and spent several years behind bars.

The guy in the knit cap is Gary Lee Duncan, who later admitted to setting the fires that burned the school to the ground

Some of the saddest negatives that I found were taken the next day when students (many of them in my youngest sister's class as they were sophomores that year) digging through the ruins of the school. They were happy to find even small pictures from charred yearbooks and small slips of papers with recognizable writing or faces. In fact, one of the negatives that I found was of a charred piece from a year book, with a picture of me (as the photography teacher).

Students digging throught the ruins

Since the gymnasium, which is now the junior high gym, and the junior high itself did not burn, students and administrators gathered there for an assembly several days later to let the students know where they would be continuing their education: city hall, the Episcopal church, the Presbyterian church, Coast Guard station and the junior high. Classes were even held on the stage in the gym. It was a logistics nightmare as buses transported students all over town, but Supt. Otis K. Murray and principal Bob Stolz made it happen. (Not long after the school burned and before the new one could be completed our beloved school superintendent died of a massive heart attack . . .and Bob Stolz carried on.) It was a difficult year, to say the least.

The junior high and the old gym are behind the burned building

One of the pictures shows three members of the school board (George Barnes, Eugene Inks and Darryl Moody) as they listen intently, along with staff and administrators, to the plan for continuing students' education.

I can remember a lot of what happened, without even going back to the articles that I wrote 40 years ago, by looking at the photos. There is one of the large trailer house that was dragged onto the cement between the junior high gym and what had been the high school. That became the office. The only thing that remained the next day of the high school complex was the vault.

The vault is all that remained

I took several pictures of people from all walks of life rushing in and out of the burning music room (which was a separate building across the parking lot west of the high school) carrying the precious instruments. Only us old-timers could appreciate seeing one of the town's real characters, Alfred Owens, packing out his share of instruments. One man, who I am pretty sure is Eddie Waldrop (because they lived just around the corner on Franklin), is dressed in slacks and an overcoat, and he is also helping to save the instruments, which were piled in the grass away from the building. As they go in and out you can see flames shooting from the roof and the back of the building, which was pretty small.

As I begin piecing together Bandon's history, I will be sharing them with my readers, who seem to enjoy the look back . . . .

Oh yes, one envelope of negatives I found were of Perry Bros. sawmill (located where Bandon Supply is now), which was also the victim of arson. I can't remember the details or if they ever found out who burned it, but the pictures I took inside the charred building pretty much tell that story.

*           *           *

I'm not sure what it means to sign up for the "do not call list", but lately I've figured it out: not much. You can imagine when Sunday night, in the middle of 60 Minutes, a call came in. A woman's voice said she was representing the Jordan Cove project, and urged my support. I tried to break in to tell her I was on the "list," but she kept on talking, which soon made me realize that it was a recorded call.

If this is the way they intend to garner support, I'd suggest they take another look at their "game plan."

I don't think this one will work with most people.

*           *           *

The chamber had its combined "Shop Bandon" kickoff and holiday gathering Friday night at Billy Smoothboar's, and everyone had a great time. Dan Barnett and his wife, Lynn, went all out to make it a festive event. When you drove up to the restaurant, you were blown away by the thousands of lights, and it was even more wonderful inside. There were beautifully adorned trees, lights and holiday decorations everywhere. The food was great and there was lots of it. I don't normally eat dessert, but the small peppermint/butter crème delicacies were "to die for" and I ate three of them.

Dan also reminded me that on Dec. 18, he and his employees will be hosting a special event for children in need. Last year they had about 75 youngsters, and he's preparing for over 100 this year. There will be a gift for every child, along with hot chocolate and other finger food.

"This is really what Christmas is all about," Dan said, as he recounted the thrill that the children got from this party designed just for them.

And he's right.

*           *           *

"Bandon's Night of 1000 Lights" will take place in Old Town this Saturday, and it sounds like businesses are planning a lot of special things for people. Children can have their pictures taken with Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves in Old Town starting at 2. At 5:30, the lighting of the community Christmas tree will take place in front of the visitor center. I saw pictures of the 54-foot-tall tree, and it's pretty impressive. Old Town stores and businesses will have special events, sales and activities throughout the day and many of them will remain open late. Now, more than ever, it's important that we support our local businesses as much as possible. They are here for us year-around, and we need to be here for them.

*           *           *

I was saddened, but not surprised, to learn that C&K Markets, owners of Ray's Food Center, had filed bankruptcy. It was only three years ago that the U.S. Labor Department came down hard on them for a series of failed investments involving their employee pension fund.

The front-page story in the Curry Coastal Pilot, Nov. 10, 2010, reads: "Brookings-based C&K Market Inc. has agreed to repay as much as $8 million over six years into an employee 401(k) plan that company officials used to make a series of real estate deals that went bad."

"The agreement with the US Department of Labor stems from what the agency said was $2.2 million of improper loans, credit extensions and other real estate transactions made by . . . President Doug Nidiffer and former company officer Rex Scoggins.

"The agency's lawsuit alleged that plan trustee Nidiffer . . . . made loans and extensions of credit totaling $2,185,000 from the plan to Gregg W. Boice, between November 1998 and January 2001, to develop Rogue Landing, a proposed resort on the Rogue River. Boice defaulted on the plan loans on several occasions. On March 31, 2003, the Rogue Landing property was transferred to the plan (401 k) in lieu of foreclosure on the property. The plan then assumed the cost of ownership of the property.

"Under the agreement, Nidiffer (who is the son of the late founder Ray Nidiffer) agreed to resign as a trustee of the real estate investment portion of the company's current 401 (k) plan."

Articles about the bankruptcy continue to blame competition from stores like Wal-Mart, Fred Meyer and others as the reason for their financial problems, but it's hard to believe that this judgment just three years ago didn't factor in to what happened to the corporation.

I saw just the list of utilities that they are agreeing to pay, which is a portion of what is owed for water, sewer, electricity, phone, cable, etc., and it came to almost $800,000.

I knew something was going on when the local Ray's dropped Western Family, Darigold, stopped renting movies and took out the pop machines. None of these decisions sat very well with their customers.

Fortunately the Bandon Ray's Food Place is on the list of stores that will remain open. About one-third of their stores will be closed or sold.

What a sad legacy for a once thriving corporation.

As I See It

by Mary Schamehorn

Mary Schamehorn

November 20, 2013

I've decided to start next week's column while I'm still pretty emotional about what I found tonight. I'd been talking with Judy Knox and Jim Proehl at the museum the previous day and we all lamented that none of us seemed to have any pictures of the huge arson fire that destroyed the Bandon High School in January of 1974 . . . forty years ago in January.

I still remember that horrific night like it was yesterday. I was living above the Bandon Theater, which was torn down years ago and once stood in the vacant lot between Bandon Coffee Company and the Harbortown Center. Around 2 a.m., the fire siren went off. I grabbed my long camelhair coat, threw it on over my nightgown and headed for the fire. As I drove by the firehall, which was below the City Hall, I noticed a young man, with whom I was familiar, standing there with his knit cap in his hand. (He stood out to me because a few weeks earlier, Police Chief D. S. "Big Mac" MacDonald and I had been having coffee at Lloyd's when Gary Lee Duncan told Mac that the Western Auto store (now True Value) was going to be burglarized that night. It was. Duncan wasn't among the perpetrators, but he had set them up.

Although I did not know where the fire was, I thought it was strange that Gary Duncan would be standing on the sidewalk outside the fire hall. When I arrived at the fire, which turned out to be the high school, I parked in front of the school and began taking pictures. But very soon, I realized this was not an ordinary fire as flames began shooting from both ends of the high school, as well as the music room. "Oh my God," I screamed, "this is arson." I got there before the fire department, but as they began to arrive on scene, it was evident to everyone that this wasn't a job for a single fire department. They began to call for mutual aide.

Front of Burning Bandon High School

By that time, Gary Lee Duncan was standing alongside the burning high school. Although I was not yet involved in city government (that would come three years later), I knew that the police officer was very new on the job, and I went over to the patrol car and said, based on what I saw, he needed to get an alibi from Gary Duncan. I jumped in the patrol car and he went over to where Duncan was watching the fire. Duncan told him that he had called in the fire.

A few minutes later I saw a stranger also watching the fire. Having been married for five years to an Oregon State Police officer, I had what can only be called the "police mentality," and I began shooting pictures of this stranger. I was still convinced that Gary Duncan was responsible for the complete devastation of our high school, but just in case he wasn't, I wanted to document others strangers who were on the scene.

Front of Burning Bandon High School

As the OSP arson squad began to investigate, they contacted me, and I shared with them the picture of the stranger, but still insisting that Gary Duncan was responsible for this horrible tragedy. They learned that the guy in the picture was a truck driver who may have lived in Coos Bay. They knocked on motel room doors until they found the guy. It turned out he was not the arsonist, but in fact, he was the guy who turned in the fire. That, of course, told us for sure that Gary Lee Duncan was lying.

A short time later, one of the "underworld" guys that I had befriended during my many years in the newspaper business, came to Western World one day and told me that Gary Duncan had broken down the back door of the theater (where I lived.) That definitely got my attention and I moved all of my precious belongings up to the Western World office, which, at that time, was where Price 'n Pride's produce section is now located.

It wasn't long before the Oregon State Police arson investigator, a man named Jack Winchester from Eugene, arrested Duncan, who confessed to acting alone in burning down the school. Ironically, he had never even been a student at the school, but he left a legacy that will never be forgotten.

I told Judy and Jim that I would search my vast collection of old negatives from my 40-plus years at Western World, but I did not believe that I would find them.

I found a box of negatives, which contained package after package of negatives that were slugged 1970, 1971 and 1977, but nothing from 1974.

Then a single envelope fell out of the pile. On the envelope it said, "BHS honor society." I decided to look inside and found two strips of high school fire negatives. You would have thought I'd won the lottery.

As I scanned them into my computer, tears rolled down my face as I remembered that night when so many people lost so much. I know there are other negatives somewhere, and eventually I may find them, but what I found tonight were some of the best, and I plan to share them on Facebook and with the museum. I've also included a couple with this column.

They will mean a lot to anyone who was in school at that time.

*           *           *

Everyone is invited to attend the holiday kickoff "Bandon's Night of 1000 Lights" on Saturday, Nov. 30, in Old Town. Santa and Mrs. Claus and their elves will be there for pictures starting at 2 and the community Christmas tree lighting at the visitor center is scheduled for 5:30. There will also be specials and activities in most of the Old Town shops. The Holy Trinity Catholic Church youth group will be sponsoring a living nativity at the amphitheater on the Port of Bandon boardwalk near the picnic shelter.

*           *           *

The Wall Street Journal, in a recent article in its U.S. News section, points out that the Supreme Court is sharply divided over the meaning of religious liberty as defined by the Constitution, pertaining to prayers at town (council) meetings. The court recently heard arguments over invocations that have opened town-board meetings in Greece, NY, since 1999. The prayers overwhelmingly have reflected Christian themes, prompting a lawsuit by atheist and Jewish residents and a federal appeals court directive that Greece lessen the sectarian character of its invocations. A decision in the case, Greece v. Galloway, is expected by June. President Obama has come down on the side of the city.

It will be interesting to see what the court decides in light of the fact that the Bandon City Council has opened its meetings with an invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance for many years.

*           *           *

While reading an article in the Oregonian about the controversy of the Oregon School Activities Association's decision to change from four to six sports classifications, I read that Don Grotting, the superintendent of the David Douglas School District in Portland, was a member of the OSAA Board of Directors.

I remember Don well. During the mid-90s, when I lived at my house in Powers for a couple of years, Don was the superintendent of the tiny Powers School District. I always thought he did a great job, even though I didn't agree with his decision to take away all graduation privileges from the valedictorian after she admitted to showering with a group of her male student friends. It made the news big time, including national television.

But he survived and obviously went on to bigger and better things.

To top it off, he was recently named 2014 Oregon School Superintendent of the Year.

*           *           *

Although I don't know all the details, I have learned that the Bandon Police Department will now be up to full staff with the hiring last week of a new officer from Grants Pass.

Like the other new officer, Officer Lombardi, Chief Bob Webb said he has high hopes for his new officers and felt they were a good fit for Bandon.

Police work in a small town is not always easy, but it's nice to know someone is there when you need them.

*           *           *

I was saddened to learn of the death of Kris Nayaert, 45, who was the widow of the late Bandon Police Sergeant Carl Nayaert. Carl died of an aggressive form of cancer years ago when their two daughters were very young. Friends say she never got over the loss, and eventually her health just gave out.

She did a wonderful job of raising their two daughters, the youngest of whom is a freshman in college.

People will remember Kris and her two daughters as all having worked at Ray's Food Place in the past.

As I See It

by Mary Schamehorn

Mary Schamehorn

November 13, 2013

I've been so busy lately scanning old slides and negatives (mostly from my many years at Western World) that I have hardly had time to figure out what is going on in town.

To begin with I found a small box of old slides in my mother's garage, and in there was a very old yellow envelope, which contained 14 or 15 slides dating as far back at 1947 (a picture of me standing alongside my grandparents' Christmas tree). I believe the slides were taken by our long-time friend, the late Alicia Leuthold, who was librarian in Bandon when the library and city hall were in the building, which now houses the museum.

She was the only one that ever took slides, and that is why I'd never seen any of the pictures. With the technology that is now available, I scanned the slides into my computer and will now be able to share the pictures with my family. There were also six or seven packages of slides my grandmother had taken (or sometimes purchased) during her European travels. One featured my grandmother with Dave and Margaret Cox and their two sons, Casey and Tom. The Coxes owned Bandon Face Rock Golf Course (when it was called Westmost Golf Course) for many years, and it appeared from the note on the slide that they were all visiting in Hawaii when the picture was taken.

But even better are the thousands of negatives that I rescued from Western World back in the '70s. Boxes and boxes of negatives, many of which I had taken, were headed for the dump. Many date back to the late '50s, and I have an entire manila folder of negatives from 1962. I haven't found those that I took during the infamous Columbus Day Storm of October 1962 when I was a cub reporter at Western World. I know they are around somewhere, but I think I kept them out for special handling . . . and who knows if I'll ever find them.

I found one envelope, slugged Op. Swallow. I couldn't figure out what that meant, until I scanned the slides onto the computer. Much to my surprise, it was a big group of people getting inoculated at Ocean Crest Elementary School. I recognized the two nurses, Norma Howe and Marjorie Moore, and scanned the crowd for familiar faces.

All of a sudden I spotted a little girl sitting alongside a woman on the bleachers who looked a lot like my mother. And it was . . . and the little girl, who wore a darling dress and little hat, was my youngster sister, Mindy, when she was 3 or 4. Since they were taken in 1962, I may very well have been the photographer, but I certainly don't remember the event.

One envelope of negs, taken in June of 1962, simply says "highway work." I know the work is near the site of the present Face Rock Creamery, but the only building in the picture is what was previously on the site where the new cheese factory is located. Another shows a sign for "Fairy Creek" (which was later replaced by the true name of the creek, which, of course, was Ferry Creek). I plan to look through the bound volumes at Western World to see what major highway project was occurring at that time.

There is also a series of negatives of one of the jetties (I think the north) under construction. These are priceless, and once I get more negatives scanned, I plan to share the scans with the museum as Judy has advised me that I have some that they have never seen.

People keep asking me what I am doing to keep busy after quitting the Herald in July.

If they could see me hunched over the computer, examining picture after picture for familiar faces and events, they would know.

My guess is this could literally keep me busy for years.

*           *           *

I'm always concerned about the amount of garbage that makes its way onto the streets, sidewalks and driveways in our community. And lately, I've begun to figure out where some of it is coming from.

A circulation person for The World throws rolled up newspapers once a week (fortunately it's on garbage day because that's where it ends up) into people's driveways, but not everyone bothers to pick it up. It just lies there on the ground, in its plastic wrap, until it blows onto someone else's property.

Two weeks ago I received the latest "Coos Bay" phone book in my post office box, along with a yellow card making sure I got it. Yes, I got it. So you can imagine how surprised I was a few days later to find another one, in a yellow plastic bag, lying outside in the rain on a small bench alongside my house. How many Coos Bay phone books do we need?

In my neighborhood, I've noticed a lot of phone books and rolled up newspapers still lying on the ground.

I wonder what gives businesses the right to toss things all over the ground without permission from the homeowner? If I wanted the free newspaper, I would pick it up at the local market, and if I needed two phone books, I'd call the phone company.

As far as I'm concerned, it's just more garbage to pick up and dispose of.

*           *           *

The latest in an all-too-familiar scenario: a person being killed by pit bulls occurred last week in Seattle. A 65-year-old woman was on her daily walk when two pit bulls jumped over a fence and began to maul her. Before they could be stopped, she was seriously injured, and several days later she died of a massive heart attack from the trauma.

One reader put it into perspective. He said: "pit bulls account for only three percent of the U.S. dog population, yet they account for over 33 percent of the dog maulings and deaths in the U.S. (maulings being defined as life-altering or life-ending dog attacks). Pit bull owners try to push the statistic that pit bulls account for only 5 percent of dog bites, but this is an irrelevant statistic. THINK PEOPLE, dog bites are not the issue, DOG MAULINGS and DOG CAUSED DEATHS are what matters."

I sent this on to a friend of mine, who shares my concerns, and she felt the percentages of maulings and deaths would be much higher; regardless the evidence is becoming pretty overwhelming.

*           *           *

I've heard some concern expressed over the fact that the City is installing an electronic readerboard to keep people informed of events that are happening in the community. One friend felt it would be tacky; I don't agree. I think anything we can do to let people know about local activities will enhance, not detract, from the community.

I subscribe to Sunset Magazine, and the November issue had a feature titled "The West's best cabins - waterfront." One of those named was Coast Cabins at Manzanita. The writer says: "Why it's cozy: heated floors, private outdoor hot tubs, feather beds, and BBQs that double as firepits. What's out the door: the cutest small town on the Oregon Coast (that's Manzanita - sorry, Bandon), a windswept beach, and killer sunsets. Cinematic Cannon Beach is 13 miles north."

Okay, so the writer doesn't feel we're the cutest city on the coast, but I'll settle for second any day . . . over Cannon Beach, Florence, Newport, Brookings, Gold Beach . . . and the list goes on and on.

It's important to point out that Manzanita appears to be a community of very high-end properties for city dwellers from Portland and Salem. That's their market.

The people I talk to daily love Bandon, and I don't think a readerboard is going to detract from what makes us special.

*           *           *

An article in the Register-Guard last week told of four Oregon health centers, who have received a combined $2.3 million from the federal government. The money comes from the Affordable Care Act and will be used to help low-income Oregonians.

The Bandon Community Health Center is one of the four, along with the Umpqua Community Health Center in Roseburg, but there was no mention of the amount to be received.

But that's certainly good news for Bandon.

Only recently, I took advantage of their shot clinic, to receive a shingles shot for $21 . . . a far cry from the normal cost, which ranges somewhere between $250 and $300 a shot. They also had available, at no cost, flu and pneumonia shots.

I'd already received my free flu shot during the drive-through clinic sponsored by Southern Coos Hospital.

We are, indeed, fortunate to have health providers who are doing what they can to protect the community.

As I See It

by Mary Schamehorn

Mary Schamehorn

November 06, 2013

I never cease to be amazed at what is posted on the Bandon, Oregon, website, but it was a bit strange to see a link to a petition calling for the firing of Bandon High School's football coach. The petition was started by Wayne W. Knox Jr., a BHS graduate, but no relation to Ron and Judy Knox.

The petition reads, in part: "We . . . wish to express our unhappiness in the direction of our football program. This program has always been a beacon of accomplishment and pride of our community. But now over the course of the current leadership, this program appears to us to be heading down the wrong path. Many of us had the opportunity to play for some of the great coaches of the past. To us there appears to be a lack in fundamentals being taught to our players, this is unacceptable. We also question the play calling and lack of adjustments being made during the course of the game."

Shortly after receiving this (which I have no intention of signing) I received a similar request from former Tiger football standout Remy Boots, who is in his early 60s and graduated from BHS, and also coached at the high school.

Since he doesn't live here, I am not sure why Remy is getting involved, but, of course, that is his business, and the petitioner did ask all BHS alumni and/or spouses of alumni to sign.

Nothing like a losing football season (or two) to stir up the "natives," but I guess this isn't much different from what college and pro coaches face annually.

I am not sure exactly what was said on the Bandon site, but the host blocked Knox from posting on it. And when I clicked on it, the information had been removed.

Who knows where this is going, but I did send it on to a school board member, who apparently had already seen it, just to make them aware.

*           *           *

I didn't realize what a really big deal the Cape Blanco Country Music Festival, slated for Aug. 1-3 at Sixes, really was until I saw large ads in both Sunday's Oregonian and the Register-Guard.

Tickets are already on sale for the three-day event and range from $120 for a three-day general admission ticket to $140 for the three-day premium general admission ticket. It's another $125 for the three-day RV and camp spot, right there on the site.

The headliner is country music star Brad Paisley, who will be joined by Randy Houser, Eric Church, Dierks Bentley and Chris Young over the three-day event. Paisley is scheduled to be there on Friday, Aug. 1.

This festival is sponsored by Bi-Mart, and apparently country music aficionados are well aware of festivals like this because everyone is pretty excited.

My guess is that it will be a big boost for businesses in both Bandon and Port Orford as thousands of people are expected to descend on northern Curry County for the event.

The ad said that soon tickets can be purchased at Bi-Mart with members saving $15 off the advertised prices.

If it were Susan Boyle or the other Britain's Got Talent stars, Jonathan and Charlotte, I would pay any price to see them, but I don't know much about country music. We'll see . . .

*           *           *

I received a call Wednesday morning (two days after last week's column was posted) from Al Greenfield saying that the deal for the sale of McFarlin's "had fallen through." In my column, I wrote that the city council had approved a liquor license application for the new owner of McFarlin's. But apparently after that application was sent in, the deal failed to materialize.

He inferred that somehow my saying that the pub had sold was "hurting his business."

Since less than two days had elapsed (Monday and Tuesday), my first thought was that the time of year and the days of the week could have accounted for the slow business. I also reminded him, in a friendly way, that the fact that his business is down could have something to do with the opening of Foley's Irish pub a short block away.

Also, generally when a new owner is announced, people will go into a business just to see what changes, if any, have occurred.

Al suggested that people may want to come into McFarlin's to see their new menu, which will be unveiled this week.

It certainly was not my intention to hurt the business, and since most people know it has been for sale for a long time, I was pleased that he had finally found a buyer.

Hopefully, the community is large enough to support two pubs (and a third when you factor in McKee's at the Dunes), and if you give them what they want fair prices, a great menu and friendly service they will support you.

*           *           *

I just returned from the Sunday afternoon performance of "A Taste of Broadway II," put on by Dan and Anita Almich of New Artists Productions. This was a sensational show and a true "adventure in youth theater."

The cast included 16 vocalists and dancers, who mostly herald from Bandon and the Coos Bay/North Bend area.

I understand that the audiences were sparse for the two-weekend event, but they had their largest crowd Sunday afternoon, and we were extremely appreciative of the talent of the young people and the effort put in by the Almich family to bring this kind of entertainment to the Sprague Theater.

I also loved to see the expressions on the faces of some of the younger children in the audience as they dream of the day they will join New Artists up on the stage.

This was a big production, and was the first time that several of the young people had sung solo. This is invaluable experience for people of any age and it bodes well for live theater in Bandon.

Anita Almich thanked a lot of people at the end of Sunday's show, including Sprague Theater manager Jeff Norris, who devotes a lot of time and energy to make sure the lighting and sound are carefully choreographed.

This show was special for me as I have watched Autumn Moss Strong grow from a toddler into an accomplished young woman, as well as my neighbor, Olivia Kincaid, who was one of the dancers.

Cranberry queen Emma Wampler also did a superb job as one of the lead vocalists. Her rendition of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" was fabulous.

*           *           *

The Greater Bandon Association, in conjunction with the Bandon Chamber of Commerce, will be presenting a night of 1000 lights on Saturday, Nov. 30. This old-fashioned Christmas season kickoff will feature Santa and Mrs. Clause, roving Christmas carolers and musicians, a giant Christmas tree lighting with carols, and cookies and hot cider.

"Shop Bandon" will also be in full swing, and Harv Schubothe (GBA head) said they hope that merchants will have their Christmas decorations up by then and will stay open until 7 that night.

Harv and the GBA work extremely hard for Bandon, and this is one more example of their leadership.

previous columns by mary schamehorn