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Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels

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Desert Dancer 19 Feb 02 - 05:50 PM
artbrooks 19 Feb 02 - 06:17 PM
bflat 19 Feb 02 - 07:18 PM
Mark Cohen 19 Feb 02 - 10:23 PM
Francy 19 Feb 02 - 11:57 PM
leprechaun 20 Feb 02 - 12:15 AM
Amergin 20 Feb 02 - 03:24 AM
Charley Noble 20 Feb 02 - 09:26 AM
GUEST,AR282 20 Feb 02 - 11:37 AM
Desert Dancer 20 Feb 02 - 12:10 PM
Charley Noble 21 Feb 02 - 08:44 AM
Gareth 21 Feb 02 - 08:46 AM
Teribus 21 Feb 02 - 09:23 AM
ChanteyMatt 21 Feb 02 - 02:23 PM
GUEST,jonnylately 21 Feb 02 - 08:55 PM
Melani 21 Feb 02 - 11:16 PM
leprechaun 22 Feb 02 - 12:28 AM
Amergin 22 Feb 02 - 12:31 AM
Charley Noble 22 Feb 02 - 10:58 AM
leprechaun 22 Feb 02 - 11:48 AM
Francy 22 Feb 02 - 12:01 PM
winniemih 22 Feb 02 - 12:07 PM
Barbara 22 Feb 02 - 03:46 PM
Amergin 22 Feb 02 - 03:59 PM
Amergin 22 Feb 02 - 04:00 PM
GUEST,jonnlately 22 Feb 02 - 11:06 PM
Amergin 22 Feb 02 - 11:12 PM
leprechaun 23 Feb 02 - 10:58 AM
Barbara 23 Feb 02 - 11:29 AM
Charley Noble 23 Feb 02 - 01:55 PM
Francy 23 Feb 02 - 06:04 PM
leprechaun 23 Feb 02 - 09:37 PM
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Subject: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 19 Feb 02 - 05:50 PM

Portland, Oregon, that is.

This past Sunday, the Arizona Daily Star (Tucson) ran an article in the Travel section that might interest shanty singers. While it lasts, here's the link, so you can see the pictures.

Here's the text, for future reference:

PORTLAND'S SHANGHAI TUNNELS Subterranean maze offers real peek into city's not-so-proud past By Mary L. Peachin ARIZONA DAILY STAR Sunday, 17 February 2002

Our small group of five huddled in a narrow, covered alleyway off Davis Street in downtown Portland, Ore. Michael P. Jones, curator of the local Cascade Geographic Society, held court. He described a little-known legacy of the city's not-so-proud past: the Shanghai Tunnels - a Victorian-era network of subterranean passageways.

The tunnels' name gives a clue to their past. From 1870 to 1917 - especially when labor was in short supply - thousands of Portland-area men were drugged and kidnapped by operatives known as crimps. The men were captured and loaded onto ships bound for Shanghai, China. When they awoke, stranded at sea, they were forced to work as crewmen in a kind of indentured, seafaring servitude known as Shanghaiing. In the practice's heyday, thousands of men a year were reported missing and presumed sold into such slavery.

Jones discovered the tunnels almost half a century ago. As a child, he spent a lot of time with his foster brother, Tom Taylor. The two boys regularly visited Tom's father, a resident in one of the city's old hotels. Over several visits, they became friendly with the old men who spent their days there. "I just about drove everyone out of the lobby with my endless questions," he said. "Listening to these old people was better than reading any history book."

One day an old man, known to the boys only as "Captain Grump," told Jones that if he really wanted to know Portland's history, he should explore its Underground. "Follow me," the man said, pointing his cane to the hotel floor, where some oak boards lay under a loose covering of tin. The boys did, and he led them into a dark basement with a pack of matches and a brief word of advice: "Don't make any turns until you reach the Willamette River."

To this day, Jones devotes time to studying, excavating, restoring and exploring the city's Shanghai Tunnels. The network of basements and passages spans nearly five miles of the city's downtown, from the Willamette waterfront west to what is now North 23rd Street - underlying today's Old Town, Chinatown and Union Station.

At its height, shanghaiing was a sordid, yet thriving business. At first, ships' captains went to the law enforcers when their men went missing, but the often corrupt officials responded with denial, claiming that the men were simply enjoying themselves in the city's many saloons and bordellos. The captains ended up having to pay anywhere from $25 to $50 to retrieve each of their men. Eventually, the captains learned to cooperate with this corrupt system of "protection." In those days, seamen were not paid until the end of their three-year tour of duty. Less-than-honest captains could have their men shanghaied before they were paid, and pocket a share of the crimps' fees.

The city proved itself an ideal center for shanghaiing, Jones explained. It offered "corruption, victims and an underground system to hide the men." And Portland's freshwater port meant no barnacles to clean off incoming ships - and a faster turnaround for captains wanting to make a clean getaway.

From bad to much, much worse

The lives of the captured men began badly - and got worse. Recent captives were placed in unlit, underground holding cells furnished with only a bucket. In one cell, a dead rat rotted on the window. Jones pointed out rotting shoes at various spots on the room's dirt floor. It seems that broken glass was scattered around the floor, and the men left shoeless. If one should escape, the captors reasoned, he would be moving slowly and could be easily traced.

In the next room was a wooden stage, where captains came to select and purchase the drugged sailors. As our group moved farther into the tunnels, Jones continued to regale us with more stories of the past, drawn from his lifelong passion - local oral history.

As the years passed, shanghaiing dropped off, but the Underground retained its dangerous flavor, housing opium dens and then Prohibition-era speakeasies and houses of prostitution. The tunnels even served as a hideout for Chinese immigrants facing discrimination.

We moved along the narrow passageways, entering a low-ceilinged room where Jones pointed out hand-cut masonry and wooden support beams crafted by the Chinese.

Above an arch, the initials KKK were etched in stone. The sordid history of the Underground includes stories of the "anti-coolie" league, a precursor of the hate group, whose members, from the 1880s to the 1920s, harassed and even killed local Chinese immigrants. Both the immigrants and the Ku Klux Klan met in these tunnels.

Jones got much of his information from the older residents of Portland, including a few who remember the tunnels well. Frank Hammond - one of the few shanghaied men ever to survive the six-year trip to China and successfully return to Portland - contributed many details and stories.

Ghostly experiences reported

Though he maintains that he doesn't believe in ghosts, Jones told of many visitors reporting paranormal experiences in the tunnels. Years ago, some missionaries befriended a prostitute named Nina, offering to help her leave prostitution if she could provide information about the Underground, the crimps and the captive sailors held in cages under the city. Nina gave the missionaries the information they requested. Two nights after they went to the police, however, she was found dead at the bottom of an elevator shaft. Many visitors have told of seeing or feeling Nina's presence (and others') in the Underground's alleyways and stairways - a hand brushing against them, the smell of pipe tobacco, mysterious voices.

Our group huddled even closer together, crouching to protect our heads from overhead pipes lining the low ceilings, and training our flashlights on the uneven path.

Another musty room featured a Victorian-era "fainting sofa" on wheels, surrounded by a pile of rusted bedsprings. The springs were most likely from mattresses the crimps placed under the trapdoors to catch drugged sailors, who had been treated to a drink full of opium knockout drops.

Jones told more classic tales of shanghaiing days. Some sailors went drinking at the Snug Harbor saloon. Peering down a stairwell, they spotted 10 open barrels of whiskey - and promptly rounded up their friends to partake in the discovery. A while later, the infamous crimp Joseph "Bunco" Kelly discovered the men passed out on the floor. On closer inspection, he realized they were dead - having mistakenly drunk embalming fluid from the mortuary next door. Kelly sold the dead sailors for an extra $5 a head, promising the captain that the men were so "dead drunk" he wouldn't have to worry about them waking up and jumping ship en route to the Pacific.

By 1898, when the rolls of shanghaied men reached 1,500, wary sailors began using a buddy system, with one sober man keeping an eye on his shipmates. But even though most bars had a urinal trough (and no reason to leave the premises), men continued to disappear through "deadfall" trap doors in the saloon floor. Jones demonstrated one of these doors, pulling a handle that dropped a stuffed effigy from above onto an old mattress. Some saloons had as many as 12 deadfalls, allowing crimps to "harpoon" dozens of men each night. When they woke up on the ships, shanghaied men were considered the lowest of the low. "Not even the rats were lower," Jones noted. And if a ship ran out of food, the captain would serve up some "long pork" - meaning that one of the shanghaied men would be killed and cannibalized.

A fitting return

The final room we entered was the beginning of an area known as the Catacombs. It housed a wooden, cigar-store Indian, which stood more than 7 feet tall. Jones told us one last story: Apparently, Kelly sold the carefully wrapped wooden statue to a gullible captain, who was willing to pay the inflated price of $75 based on Native Americans' reputation as hard workers. Kelly warned the captain not to wake the man until he got to the Pacific. When the ship reached the ocean, the captain tried to arouse his captive, and found out that he'd been cheated. He angrily tossed the carving overboard. The Indian washed ashore at Astoria, Ore. - and now is on proud display in its original home, the Portland Underground.

* Mary L. Peachin is a Tucson-based adventure travel writer and photographer.


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: artbrooks
Date: 19 Feb 02 - 06:17 PM

Hi Becky....I think there was a piece on the History Channel about this not long ago, but its still interesting. This article has some information I haven't heard before.

Art


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: bflat
Date: 19 Feb 02 - 07:18 PM

This is a fascinating story. Surely the local officials were looking the other way when all this was happening. I'd like to read more about the subject. I've visited Portland twice and never came upon this information. Utterly fascinating.

Ellen


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 19 Feb 02 - 10:23 PM

I lived in Portland for 2 years and never knew about this! Seattle has an "underground", too, but its origin was different: the level of the streets in downtown Seattle was raised one story to prevent the constant tidewater flooding. This left the original street levels of buildings as an unused "underground". Now you can take an enjoyable tour of "Underground Seattle"; if "Underground Portland" isn't a full-fledged tourist deal now, I'm sure it soon will be.

And shouldn't that be Northwest 23rd St.? Or am I forgetting my Rose City geography?

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: Francy
Date: 19 Feb 02 - 11:57 PM

You're right Mark, it should be NW 23rd. But most of the tunnels are close to the Willamette River off Burnside between NW Davis and NW Couch a bit south of Chinatown. But progress is slowly taking over and it disappears slowly and sadly with each new development, (for the betterment of Portland!!!((HaHa)) ) Great place to visit though and very interesting... David Rea, great picker and singer from Toronto of the 70's plays down close to there now & then. I did my share of busking down there in the late 70's and early 70's. Frank of Toledo


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: leprechaun
Date: 20 Feb 02 - 12:15 AM

My brother and I are planning a trip to Portland to sample some of the Irish Pubs. We may have a guide lined up. When would be the most likely time to encounter Irish music, and real people? (as opposed to hip-hop and party kids)


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: Amergin
Date: 20 Feb 02 - 03:24 AM

Wedensday night at Biddy MacGraw's there is a jam session (i think)....let me see there is also another nice little pub in St. John's that has sessions going on too....

There is a play that gets shown every year in Astoria, oregon that is based on real events....Astoria was a once a major port and many sailors were shanghaied...though the wharfs and such that had the tunnels were all burnt down when the town went sdown in ashes in the early years of this century....called Shanghaied in Astoria...I guess it is supposed to be a comedy....in my two years there, I never got around to seeing it.


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: Charley Noble
Date: 20 Feb 02 - 09:26 AM

My favorite book on shanghaiing remains SHANGHAIED IN SAN FRANCISCO by Bill Pickelhaupt, Flyblister Press; this is a well documented book with similar outrageous stories to those described above.

My favorite sea poem on this topic is one by C. Fox Smith, "Shanghai Passage" which I've adapted and posted in another Mudcat thread.

I'm going to be traveling out in Portland West in mid September and I've love to hear how "Shanghai Passage" resonates in the tunnels.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble, Roll & Go


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: GUEST,AR282
Date: 20 Feb 02 - 11:37 AM

The same sort of thing went on in San Francisco. Even worse, young Chinese females were often captured and brought to San Francisco to be sold as sex slaves to any men who could afford them--of course, they had to be closely examined before a purchase could be made.

This kind of thing went on well into the 20th century and may still go on for all I know.


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 20 Feb 02 - 12:10 PM

Human beans is not a pretty critter, much of the time. And civilization hasn't changed as much as we think, really. There are horrors going on right under our noses to this day, not just on the other side of the world. I'm grateful to those who make it their job not to ignore it and to ferret it out.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: Charley Noble
Date: 21 Feb 02 - 08:44 AM

Refresh!


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: Gareth
Date: 21 Feb 02 - 08:46 AM

Not that different from any seaaport - Liverpool anyone ?

Gareth


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: Teribus
Date: 21 Feb 02 - 09:23 AM

Some amazing stuff in this thread.

There used to be a pub in Portsmouth, not far from the Dockyard main gate. This pub used to host sessions on a Sunday night and the first time I went there the landlord showed me a concealed gallery that was used to protect 'locals' from the press-gang in days of old.

If the Press were out and came into the pub those in the know used to dart into this gallery and shut the door. The landlord would then let them know when the coast was clear.

Unfortunately the pub shut down a few years back - no idea what became of it.

Cheers and thanks for the thread,

Bill.


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: ChanteyMatt
Date: 21 Feb 02 - 02:23 PM

Stan Hugill spoke of the shanghai tunnels in several towns including Portland Or and Port Townsend WA in his book Sailor Town. It's a book that every chanteyman/woman/person should have in thier libraries.


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: GUEST,jonnylately
Date: 21 Feb 02 - 08:55 PM

Shanghied in Astoria, mentioned above, is a comedy in the broadest sense. You can throw popcorn and boo and hiss at the crimp and his stoodge Snake, er , Sneak. My girlfriends daughter played the part of a oh so happy hooker in its annual production last year. The piano and tenor banjo add a vaudeville atmosphere to the production, and it is worth the drive to the coast. The tunnels underneath Astoria had to be boarded up because burglars and drug shooters were using the tunnels as hideouts.


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: Melani
Date: 21 Feb 02 - 11:16 PM

"Shanghaiing Days," by Richard Dillon, is another good one about San Francisco, and predates Pickelhaupt. They compliment each other nicely. The cigar store Indian story has also been told about San Francisco.


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: leprechaun
Date: 22 Feb 02 - 12:28 AM

So how about if all you Mudcat musicians come to Oregon to see the play in Astoria and research the tunnels in Portland. While you're on the coast you can check out the Newport Aquarium. In the first part of July there's the Oregon Country Fair in Veneta, a massive naked drug orgy disguised as a crafts fair.


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: Amergin
Date: 22 Feb 02 - 12:31 AM

Is the Country Fair still going on? oh boy...will have to try to make it one year....get some mushrooms....

So leprechaun...you say come to Oregon...does that mean you live here?


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: Charley Noble
Date: 22 Feb 02 - 10:58 AM

Yah, what other Mudcatters live out in the Portland West area? I know my old Mudcat friend Barbara lives nearby in New Sharon, and another olde-time Michigan musician Jane should still be rattling around Portland proper. And I also have a pack of cousins in Portland. Are there any nautical music folks out there? I definitely want a tour of the tunnels when I'm there in September.


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: leprechaun
Date: 22 Feb 02 - 11:48 AM

You may have seen me post about being from the flag-burning capital of the western hemisphere. Or cheering for the Ducks.


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: Francy
Date: 22 Feb 02 - 12:01 PM

I live soutwest of Portland on the coast 7 miles east of Newport; Toledo, Oregon....... Frank of Toledo


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: winniemih
Date: 22 Feb 02 - 12:07 PM

I live in the Portland area. There are two well known (in our area anyway) sea shantey singers that call themselves "Shanghaied on the Willamette".I believe their name comes from the topic of this thread. They do some great regional songs. Portland Folklore Society could connect you with them if you wanted to catch a performance when you visit (sorry, I can't do links or clicky things; try portlandfolklore.com ). I know they have at least one C.D. As for Irish music in Portland, Alberta Street Pub has sessions and invitation only jams happening many days of the week, and Biddy Mcgraw's is doing a Sunday session (just started a week ago). Also there's a "friendly" (i.e. slower paced) Irish session that happens almost every Friday at various locations. You're welcome to P.M. me if you'd like more info. Winnie


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: Barbara
Date: 22 Feb 02 - 03:46 PM

Sure, Charley, love to see you here, and can probably connect you with some of my more thoroughly shantysinging/seafaring friends. Got some dates yet? We also have a 50 acre farm west of Sheridan, and would love company. PM me if you want more specifics or a phone #. We have a music gathering here mid-July in conjunction with the Portland Folklore Society. PM me if any of you want to come to that, too.
Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: Amergin
Date: 22 Feb 02 - 03:59 PM

Here is a blicky to the Portland Folklore site....

click here

Charley Noble....you might want to try to get ahold of Margo...about the maritime singer types.....though I do love a good sea song....


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: Amergin
Date: 22 Feb 02 - 04:00 PM

Oh and you might want to check out the Maritime Museum in Astoria....a wonderful place it is...


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: GUEST,jonnlately
Date: 22 Feb 02 - 11:06 PM

Right now, as we speak, for you salt sea sorts out there, the Fisher Poets gathering is taking place in Astoria, poets, musicians,artists, etc. that have some connection to the maritime trades come here to whoop it up. Just this weekend so HURRY. Sing your seaside shanty town blues! And tell Dale Clark he's got a great touch with a lyric and you will be rewarded amply. He's at the VooDoo room tonight, or the Wet Dog tavern, not sure which. Got to go.


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: Amergin
Date: 22 Feb 02 - 11:12 PM

the Wet dog....ahhh.....many times I have staggered out of there....after pints of Peacock Spit and Oatmeal Stout...and bushmills.....good food too...and friendly folks....the owner used to buy us drinks from time to time....or give us discounts.....


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: leprechaun
Date: 23 Feb 02 - 10:58 AM

I jumped out of an airplane once in Sheridan. Almost landed on a big stack of logs.

Several of my clients get to sojourn at that big Hotel in Sheridan.

There used to be some type of Folk music venue in Toledo, Frank. What happened to it?


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: Barbara
Date: 23 Feb 02 - 11:29 AM

That folk music venue in Toledo is run by Frank and Nancy (Francy), and it is alive and well, thanks to them. Don't miss it. I'm sure you can get them to send/post you a schedule.
I believe the, uh, guests at Sheridan FCI refer to it as Disneyland, lep.
And after many years at least one fatal a year, the locals managed to close Gonzo Ted Mudfield's skydiving down.(His plane had a bumpersticker on the inside of the door that said "Where the hell is China?"). Our entertainments are tamer now. We don't live in town so we miss most of them -- fights in the bars and the city council. The country is beautiful, and a number of artists and musicians live in the hills roundabout.
And my daughter is in her sixth year of learning Japanese in a part of our local public school system, so we aren't quite ready to invite Cletus and Buford to move in, unless they happen to be guests at Disneyland.
Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: Charley Noble
Date: 23 Feb 02 - 01:55 PM

Sounds like lots of interestng sessions or whatevers to visit. Come August I'll probably start a new thread about my plans to "parachute" in. In short, Judy and I will be driving up from 'Frisco so she can attend a conference of legislative staff people from 9/19 to 9/24. I'll have lots of flexibility while Judy is dutifully attending work sessions. We'll probably fly back to Maine by Friday, the 27th.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble - www.rollandgoseasongs.com


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: Francy
Date: 23 Feb 02 - 06:04 PM

We're still doing it Leprechaun...Took a couple months of, but nexrt Friday March 1st, at 7:30PM at the Trinity United Methodist in Toledo, Oregon, Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen will be featured. When I get my full schedule together, I will post it here......Half price for the concert for all Mudcatters.......Let me know ahead of time....Thanks Frank of Toledo


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Subject: RE: Shanty background: Portland's Tunnels
From: leprechaun
Date: 23 Feb 02 - 09:37 PM

You got it Frank of not the Toledo in Ohio. I'll probably also hear about it on KLCC. This Spring I can stop in on my way to the crab docks in Newport. I'd be in Newport today for the Seafood and Wine Festival if not for a family wedding. Maybe by Spring I'll have found my Mudcat T-shirt. I know it's around here somewhere.

And Barbara, a Japanese immersion school there too? My kids have been in Spanish immersion since first grade.


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