Monday, April 28, 2008

The Argus Observes: Spring is a hussy full of realism

By Don Lynch
From the April 30, 1956 edition of The Argus-Observer

This is the mid-point of spring, the end of capricious April, the beginning of May gardening, the advent of fishing season, a time when we start to enjoy a full schedule of outdoor activities.

Our spring is a hussy whose pulchritude is full of realism. As you watch you see her pretty places one by one obscure the scars of previous times. The new leaf, the new sprout, the new bud among the old thorns break forth with their promise of a whole new cycle of living and tantalize the senses with the poignancy of beauty in forgotten places as they retell the eternal message of the annual rebirth of life in spring.

Just now half through her time spring has a delicate charm quite different from the rich, deep, beauty of colorful autumn. Now tulips brighten the flower beds, purple lilacs spread perfume, apple blossoms fill the orchards and flowering trees dot well-kept yards.

The roadsides border the fields and the unfarmed hills crown the horizon with alovely carpet of green that shines for a few days each spring, then turns to the dry brown of dead grass. Just now this passing green is in full splendor as the tender grass reaches up to cover last year’s old, dry growth. This gives our landscape an all-over greenness that it has at no other time of year.

The fields themselves have a smooth uniformity that will disappear with growth. Now their landscape forms a patchwork carpet of a thousand hues of green overlaid with a pattern of trees that carry the delicacy of first leaves, giving a soft, sometimes chartreuse hue of green, soon to become richer and darker as the leaves reach full size and color.

Where is nature is there a softer landscape than a little valley of alfalfa grown just enough for full cover and resting under an overcast of scattered clouds that lets the shafts of sunlight to the ground in a mottled pattern? There you see more shades of green than are seen in a modern household paint chart.

So far this has been a good spring in this land of ourse with more April warmth than we generally get and with the promise of abundant water melting from deep snow packs in the mountains.

In this once desolate desert region, made habitable by the hands of men, often spring is a desolate season. It lacks the soft moisture of springtime in the lovely coastal areas.

Winter sometimes carries on and on ‘til summer breaks forth overnight and we wonder, “Where was spring?”

Not so this year. We’ve had a lovely early spring. We may have heat in our homes for Memorial Day and again on the Fourth of July as we sometimes do in this eccentric climate. But in between there’ll be warm and lovely days, days for fishing or farming or gardening or golfing or whatever one likes to do.

(Editor’s note: The weather in the Ontario area was sunny, expected to go to a high in the mid-seventies and to a low of about fifty degrees on April 28, 2008, the day this was posted.)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Kanga Wada first Japanese-born resident to pass citizenship test

The April 27, 1953 edition of The Argus-Observer reported that 66-year-old Kanga Wada was the area’s first resident who was born in Japan – and Issei – to pass the U.S. Citizenship test.

The McCarran Act, passed in 1952, first made it possible for Japanese-born residents of the United States to become citizens.

Wada, whose daughter Dorothy was named historian of the Ontario High School’s 1953 graduating class (for achieving the third highest academic rating in the class), came to Malheur County 23 years earlier, settling near Vale and clearing sagebrush land for planting. In 1953 he raised row crops on a farm near Ontario.

Wada was one of 100 Issei to join the citizenship classes set up by Malheur County educators. Rev. Norio Yasaki acted as translator for Wada during classes and the citizenship exam. Those who took the exam were not required to speak English but did have to demonstrate a knowledge of U.S. constitutional government. Wada’s exam was administered in Vale by Herbert Boss of Boise, area director for naturalization and immigration.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Argus Observes: Ontario’s ‘boy’ Elmo Smith is going places

By Don Lynch

From The Argus-Observer for April 23, 1953

(Editor’s note: At the time this column was published, there was no way for the author to know that Smith would, within a few short years, become governor of Oregon.)

It begins to look like Ontario’s boy is really going places in politics.

Senator Elmo Smith has announced his candidacy for the presidency of the Oregon State Senate, a job that is second only to the governor’s office in prestige in government in Oregon.

Although Smith now resides in John Day, Ontario will always regard him as a product of this city.
It was here that he established himself as a successful newspaper publisher and a leader in local government.

He came to Ontario in the depression years of the mid-thirties as a youngster not long out of college. He worked for the Ontario Argus for a time, and in 1937 began publishing his own newspaper, the Eastern Oregon Observer. Those must have been tough years, but he has told me they were good years that provided a lot of fun.

Whenever they had more money than it took for beans and shoes and ink and paper, they made some little improvement --- added some new type or a better press or spent some money to promote a new idea.

Smith was a great idea man. He tried most any idea he could think of. Many of them paid off. The paper grew and prospered with the net result that in about a decade Smith ran an initial investment of a few hundred dollars into an asset that the sold for about $40,000.

Subsequent investment in the newspapers in John Day and Madras had increased his net worth substantially, and at the same time provided him with an income that has permitted him to take an active part in state politics.

Smith was elected mayor of Ontario in 1940, resigned in 1943 to enter the navy and served again as mayor for two years after he returned to Ontario.

He puts out an unusually good newspaper for his readers in Grant County, but his really outstanding quality as a newspaper publisher is his business ability. I know of no other weekly publisher who has his financial ability, and at the same time gives the readers as good a product as he does.

He has one other unusual ability that he doesn’t get to practice very often. He is the best advertising salesman I have known in the weekly newspaper business and he is as good as the high-powered Hearst men I used to work with on the Examiner in San Francisco.

Although we were once vigorous competitors, Elmo and I are the best of friends personally. But that does not prevent us from disagreeing publicly if necessary, and we both understand that.
We agree on the broad general issues in government, often disagree on specific things. I must confess that time often brings me nearer Smith’s view than I was at the time of disagreement.

Smith is opposed in his race for the Oregon Senate presidency by Senator Phil Hitchcock of Klamath Falls. From this distance, it looks to me like a contest of working ability against personal charm.

Hitchcock is an able man. Smith has told me so himself. And he certainly has as much personal charm as any man in the senate. For these reasons, he might be tougher competition in front of the electorate in a general election than within the senate itself where Smith’s great capacity for productive work is known and understood. And Smith has plenty of personality too.

I think we may expect that Elmo Smith will fare well in the contest, either win or gain substantially in prestige. If he didn’t think so his hat wouldn’t be in the ring and I know of no shrewder judge of his political prospects than the senator himself.

He has appraised his other political fights realistically. I hope he wins this one.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Scholastic honors announced; Marble tournament scheduled

The April 23, 1953 edition of The Argus-Observer named the scholastic leaders in the senior class at Ontario High School.

Two students tied for valedictorian with the best grades in the class: Yae Inouye and Terry Fujinaga. Miss Inouye was also active in Girls League and Fujinaga was a basketball player.

Two students also tied for the next highest scholastic honor, class salutatorian. They were Bob Williams and Grace Shikuma.


The April 20 edition noted that Ontario school officials were beginning to hold elimination level marble tournaments to determine which students, ages 6 to 12, would qualify to participate in the upcoming Veterans of Foreign Wars-sponsored citywide tourney.

That will be followed by a district-wide tourney in Ontario, and state and national tournaments set to be held in Portland. The culminating national tournament in Portland was to take place June 17 to 20. A Portland boy, Sonny Myrick, had won the national tournament in 1952.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Argus Observes --- Weiser lights up with fiddle and square dance festival

By Don Lynch
From the April 20, 1953 issue of The Argus-Observer

Weiser had the crowd literally “hanging from the rafters” for its annual square dance festival Saturday night.

The Weiser high school gym was packed so tightly you couldn’t have wedged in another person. There must have been more than 2,500 spectators and dancers.

The big attraction was the Northwest Mountain Fiddlers Contest. It was added to the dance festival as a crowd attraction and the winner was a sufficiently colorful character to warm the heart of the most hardened chamber of commerce promoter.

He was 84-year-old Millard “Dad” Roberts of Grangeville. He had a full, flowing beard that made him look like Noah just coming out of the ark.

He got up, tucked his fiddle under his beard, drew three or four precarious screeches out of his violin and then lit into “Redwing” as pretty as you please. He followed with “Golden Stairs” and the crowd loved it.

But that wasn’t all the show. There were many other entertaining fiddlers, good specialty acts, and the dancing pleased both dancers and spectators.

The dance floor was just as crowded as the galleries. You had to dance closely within your square or the first thing you knew you’d be swinging a “gal” from another square.

A Life magazine photographer provided the most interest for me of anything in the evening. He used film like it was paper. The reports said he took 700 pictures and he certainly looked it.

Sometimes I think we look silly getting into awkward positions to shoot news pictures, but we aren’t in a league with that guy. He stood on the piano and twisted into strange contortions. H shot from the balcony and from the floor.

He must have taken some excellent pictures in so many exposures. Of course the magazine may not use the pictures. It can use only a relatively small portion of the stories it covers.

If the pictures do run they will doubtless appear in the “Life Goes to A Party” section in the back of each issue. It’s something for readers in this region to watch for and enjoy if it does run.

Ontario has its annual square dance festival sponsored by the Kiwanis club schedule for a May date about a month away.

We can hardly hope to compete with the Weiser dance which has come to be the top event of its kind in the valley. And we’d have a time handling such a large crowd if we did.

But we’ll have a good dance. With the acceptance given the Weiser dance, we may have a larger crowd this year than in either of the two previous years. It will be an entertaining show. Better plan now to attend either as a dance or a spectator.

(Editor’s note: Fiddler festivals are still going strong in Weiser. This one began a tradition of annual fiddling contests that continues to this day with the National Oldtime Fiddlers’Contest. This year’s is set for June 16 to 21. Details are available at

Friday, April 11, 2008

Ontario makes friends of out-of-town visitors

The April 13, 1953 issue of The Argus-Observer reported that Ontario traffic officer Art Terry had recently plugged a nickel into the parking meter for an out-of-town motorist for the ten thousandth time as part of a three-year-old Chamber of Commerce effort to make friends of visitors who stop to shop.

H. L. Logue, secretary of the chamber, said that the business group started the program to make visitors to feel the town is a friendly place to shop, trade or to visit.

As part of the effort, Officer Terry places and envelope under the over-parked vehicle’s windshield wiper explaining the program and suggesting that the visitor can mail a nickel back to help keep it going.

That way the program more than pays for itself because many a grateful driver mails back a dollar, Logue said.

Visitors from nearby towns are expected to put in the first nickel, Terry said, but after that he feeds the meter.

(Editor’s note: The story fails to make clear how Terry distinguishes cars from nearby towns from those far away, though one would guess, with Ontario situated across the river from Payette and Fruitland, Idaho and Oregon cars as a rule were treated differently than those from other states. )

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Argus Observes: Even in a weekly paper long thank you lists are not news

By Don Lynch
From the April 9, 1953 issue of The Argus-Observer

Few newspaper readers can possibly know how much of the newsman’s time and effort goes into trying to keep the news uncluttered and interesting….

The stock in trade of a weekly newspaper is its names in the news. It is expected to carry the news about the everyday doings of the ordinary folk in its home town and region.

This is sound in principle because it is the basis of reader interest in the paper.

But pursued to extremes this philosophy would produce a sheet that was nothing but inconsequential clutter --- tripe that conceivably might hold the interest of a few avid gossips with a insatiable appetite for what their neighbors are doing but be dreadfully dull to large important groups of readers whose interest is needed if the newspaper is to be “everybodys” newspaper as we attempt to make this one.

Therefore we steadfastly refuse to run meaningless lists of names. We frequently cuts lists of names of people who attended parties or who attended meeting. If they won prizes, were elected to offices or made committee reports, they may get mentioned. But lists that run a half a dozen or more names in a lump are taboo in the news unless they are in the news of crime and violence which really has public interest.

One of the most frequent requests for dull treatment of the news comes from well-meaning sponsors of various worthwhile projects, who when the work is done, want to publicly thank the people who pushed the project….Readers just aren’t interested in all these gracious comments of thanks. So we try to avoid them unless they have some real news value.

The good people who want this sort of news printed seem to feel that if a helper is publicly thanked in print it somehow means more to him than if he just receives a personal thank you.

It is quite the other way with me.

I quite agree with “Rainwater” Jones who once gave me the idea in conversation that it is both good religion and good business to keep quiet about the various things you do in public service.
The broad general statement of ethics, the Sermon on the Mount, says something about, “When thy doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.”

There is another quite practical reason why many people don’t want a fuss made over their public efforts. They don’t want to be “snowed” with further requests.

There is a premium these days on persons willing to help on public projects and the willing horse is apt to get worked to death. I’d rather not be known as such a horse, and I’m sure many other people feel the same way.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Ontario attorney Martin P. Gallagher helps craft state legislation

The April 2, 1953 edition of The Argus-Observer recounted Ontario attorney Martin P. Gallagher’s stint in Salem helping state legislators craft bills of interest to Malheur County residents --- particularly those in the farming and ranching business.

His work was part of a service the State Bar Association provided lawmakers.

One of the bills he worked on would control the use of vegetable fats in place of creamery products in frozen desserts like ice cream and frozen bars. The vegetable fats were being widely used in other states, including California, and were being introduced in Oregon.

The legislation would have prohibited the use of the words cream, dairy or creamy on products that use any animal fats, which at the time were known by the name mellorine. And products that used mellorine were to be required to announce that on the package in type as large as any other type on that package.

Another measure Gallagher helped write was to require the licensing of individuals who apply pesticides to crops. Courts had declare the previous limits on pesticide application unconstitutional.

And finally Gallagher said he worked on a measure that would limit the activities of “rainmakers.”

Note: Bob Morford

If you are interested to what happened to College of Idaho 1953 star running back, a favorite of Argus-Observer editor and publisher Don Lynch, check a recent post at our "lives of interest" blog.