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SHARON NESBIT: Our columnist takes a look at the roughneck hangouts along the Sandy River at a time when Troutdale was still considered 'far' from Portland.

Sharon NesbitThe Historic Columbia River Highway was not always as green and pristine as it is now. In the 1940s the highway between the Troutdale and Stark Street bridges offered a string of "joints" catering to a public that wanted to come to the Sandy River and party.

With the recent burning of The Tippy Canoe — Troutdalians call it "The Tippy" — another of the landmarks that lined the highway along the river is gone. Of course, it hasn't been a "joint" since Shirley took it over and fixed it up.

But oh, the stories we can tell.

Troutdale back then was just far enough out of town to be, well, out of town.

Far enough from Portland that the big swells could come out to places like the automobile club, now the Yoshida estate, and indulge in fat cigars, illegal booze and floozies.

So the river from bridge to bridge had numerous attractions. During Prohibition you could buy moonshine across from the site now occupied by Tad's Chicken and Dumplin's. The proprietor claimed he sold coffee but no one would want to drink his coffee.

When the highway was opened a little more than a century ago, the stretch from Troutdale to the Stark Street Bridge was not yet complete. But after the two bridges were linked, night spots and dance pavilions began to spring up.

Montrose Ringler, who would later take his dance hall to Portland, where it is remembered as the Crystal Ball Room, was once on the Sandy River. Heading up river from Troutdale there were one, maybe two gas stations, a motel, Tad's, The Tippy, the Big Bend Tavern and who knows how many other places.

It was common knowledge that the Big Bend and Tippy did not look too close at the age on a driver's license.

Like I said, just far enough out of Portland that people thought they could get away with stuff.

The lost fisherman trick was a good one. Some guy would turn up missing, his car and fishing gear in the lot at Lewis and Clark State Park, only to be found later with a woman — not his wife — at the Bridal Veil Motel. It happened often enough, the cops learned to check the motel before they started dragging the river.

But The Tippy generated the most stories. The first two times I went in there it was necessary to step over guys wrestling on the floor.

I especially remember one night when word was out that there was a banjo player at The Tippy, and we went down to find the music pounding and the dance floor crammed. In the middle of the frolic was a gray, old woman, dressed in rubber boots and rain gear, a professional fern picker, joyfully dancing in the middle of the floor.

In those days, you could make pretty good money picking ferns for the florist business, and you could spend it all at The Tippy.

My old friend Bob Scott, former Corbett fire chief, remembered one night when they went to The Tippy in the first aid truck, summoned because a guy collapsed on the dance floor. Scott and another firefighter waded into the big party, people still dancing all around the fallen man. Nothing they could do established order. So Bob got down on his hands and knees and crawled across the floor to unplug the juke box.

For the life of me, I can't remember how the fallen dancer turned out, whether he lived or died.

Memories. Gone up in smoke.

FOOTNOTE:

This tidbit from Tim Hills, McMenamins historian.

Regarding the reference to Montrose Ringler in Sharon's Nesbit's column, his given first name was Michael. Later he assumed the name Montrose, the name of an ancient Scottish warrior.

Montrose (or Michael) was the P.E. instructor at the YMCA in Grand Rapids, Mich., in the mid 1890s. He received rules from James Naismith of the YMCA in Springfield, Mass., for a new-fangled game with a ball and two hoops hung high above the floor. Naismith later christened it "basketball."

A few years later Ringler moved west to Portland to head up the "physical culture" department of the local YMCA here, and introduced the game of basketball to the city.

The Trail Blazers owe him a debt!


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