One of Boring's most interesting residents was a "boxer" who squared off against a world-class prizefighter. The story is a local twist on Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed, which was a transparent attempt to be rid of an obnoxious neighbor.
The newspapers described Boring's Free Coldwell as "red-headed, arms like a gorilla, heart like a snail and the punch of an infant." He was also a pain to live with. Coldwell would swagger through town looking for fights, making up tales of his feats and false prowess. He was less a boxer and more a drunken slugger.
So the town of Boring, sick of his antics, decided to put Coldwell to the test. They set up a bout between local bigmouth Coldwell and an up-and-comer in Portland, Tommy Burns, who would eventually retire with a record of 47-4 as a prizefighter.
The residents of Boring constructed an impromptu boxing ring in the middle of town hall, and ensured Coldwell wouldn't back out by hiding the accolades of his combatant. The fight was for a purse of $4.90, and there was a single rule — don't kill Coldwell.
The story of Boring's elaborate attempt to knock a blustering neighbor down a few pegs is just one of many amazing stories that historian Bruce Haney uncovered in his upcoming book, the aptly named "Eccentric Tales of Boring, Oregon."
"Despite what the name tells you, Boring has never been boring," Haney said. "The book is a collection of fun, interesting stories that give you a better idea of early 20th century life in Oregon."
The book dives into the strange happenings that have occurred in Boring. Readers will learn about the time firecrackers were blamed for burning down half the town, discover tales of the wild man lurking in the woods, uncover the true identities of the Wild West Gang, and relive the incident of a runaway potato train.
The book is broken into four sections — Boring People, Boring Crimes, Boys of Boring, and Dangerously Boring. All of the stories happened between 1903 and 1928, as Haney, 36, wanted to focus on the past and touch on things that had been forgotten. That means he left out more recent tales like a bank robbery gone wrong in the 1980s.
Haney began writing the book two years ago, and he has a hard time picking a favorite story — though he enjoyed writing about Coldwell getting his comeuppance.
"These are the best stories I found," Haney said. "So many interesting things have happened in Boring."
The book will be released Monday, April 19th, and will be available for purchase from all major book retailers. Preorders are available at bit.ly/3sKkLkV
Passion for the past
Haney's interest in Boring began with a thought: how old were some of these buildings he passed every day on his way to work?
Haney, who lives in rural East Multnomah County, would ponder what led to their construction and the people who had lived and worked in Boring. Growing up, he always loved exploring new topics — describing a healthy obsession of researching pop culture, music, movies and more whenever he stumbled upon something new.
"I'm always looking for stories," Haney said.
So it made sense that he would dive into the history of Boring, a place that finally felt like home.
"We moved around a lot when I was a kid," he said. "So once I found Boring, I knew it was a place I wanted to stay."
As his love of the past led him to suss out the strange happenings in his community, an opportunity arose to share those findings during a monthly speech at the Boring Community Planning Organization. He also took over the Boring Oregon History group, providing another outlet to share his passion for the past.
That passion rings through "Eccentric Tales of Boring, Oregon," as Haney blends all the humorous interactions he had during his research with factual information. He wanted to both entertain and educate his readers.
"By reading, you get to understand what life was like in Oregon back then," Haney said. "I took little facts and used them to enhance the stories."
His process for learning about the tales would rely on meticulous research and detective skills. Often the hunt would begin with a conversation. People in Boring would recount things they had heard from relatives, or strange rumors, and Haney would start from there.
He would comb through old newspapers, scour vintage documents and letters, and examine old photographs. Local churches helped with backlogs and photographs, as did the Sandy Historical Society and Gresham Historical Society.
The "Eccentric Tales of Boring, Oregon," is Haney's first published work, and he is excited to have people finally get their hands on his book. He is already looking to the future, researching the strange happenings in Sandy as a potential follow-up.
"I'm really proud of the book," Haney said.
What: "Eccentric Tales of Boring, Oregon"
by Bruce Haney
A series of whacky stories and history from a not-so Boring town.
When: Releases April 19th
Preorder a copy at bit.ly/3sKkLkV
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