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The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised


Medford News 1968


The Year Past in Review
    The year past, from a news standpoint, was an interesting one, providing the usual variety of stories and developments, but to staff members of the Mail Tribune's news department only a few stories stood out enough to be rated among the top five stories of the year.
    In the "spot news" category, one in which the story has a relatively short-range impact, Dick Fosbury's performance in the Olympics at Mexico City rated at the top by 12 of the 15 staff members voting.
    Fosbury won the gold medal with his unusual style in the high jump, and was accorded a hero's welcome upon his return to Medford. One of the largest crowds in Medford's history turned out to welcome Fosbury home.
    The spot news story ranking second was the story about the Harvey Rowden family, which received eight second place votes, while the third-ranking story concerned two events at Crater Lake National Park--the body of a murder victim being found and two youths being rescued from the Crater Lake caldera.
    Two sons of Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Rowden of the Applegate have lost their lives in Vietnam. On the day they were notified of the death of the second son--John W. Rowden--the oldest surviving son, Douglas, received notice to report to the Portland induction center in March.
    The Jackson County Selective Service Board granted Douglas a one-year compassionate hardship deferment. The Rowdens' oldest son, Marine Pfc. James H. Rowden, was killed in March, 1966.
    A camper at Crater Lake National Park found a body in August. The body was identified by FBI as George Stephen Mear, 29, of Buffalo, N.Y. and Florida, but an investigation has failed to locate the victim's car or other information.
    The two youths who were stranded on the caldera June 16 were Gary Dreier, 17, and Larry Gates, 17, both of Northfield, Minn. who attempted to hike up the Crater Lake wall via a rock slide rather than the main trail. A helicopter from Medford lowered sleeping bags to the youths for Sunday night, and rescued them early Monday morning.
    From a long-range view, only the elections (primary and general) and pollution problems in the Rogue Valley gathered enough votes to be rated among the top five local stories of the year.
    To list the five top stories in some order of ranking, it would appear something like this:
    1. Fosbury's gold medal.
    2. The elections.
    3. Pollution in the valley.
    4. The Rowden family story.
    5. The murder and rescue at Crater Lake.
    Beyond those stories, however, the 15 staff members voting (one was on vacation and did not vote) were widely diversified in their selections, reflecting, in many cases, their reporting and writing fields.
    Elections last year provided some of the top news stories statewide as well as locally, particularly the Senate race between Robert Packwood and Wayne Morse, who conceded defeat only after a recount.
    With much importance being placed nationally on the Oregon primary in May, most of the major national candidates were attracted to the Rogue Valley, including President-elect Richard Nixon. Others included Sen. Eugene McCarthy and the late Sen. Robert Kennedy, and personalities such as Jill St. John and Myrna Loy, who visited the valley on behalf of Sen. McCarthy.
    Only about one local race proved to attract considerable interest--that of Medford mayor between William Singler, the winner, Clayton Lewis and Joe Hosick--although one measure--vector control throughout the county which was approved--also generated considerable interest.
Pollution Problems
    Pollution problems in the valley included conflicts between the city of Medford and the Bear Creek Sanitary Authority, especially when the city announced in January it was going ahead with plans for a new sewage treatment plant. The State Sanitary Authority gave the city permission to go ahead with its plan in September.
    But perhaps just as important was the fact that regional approval was reached between the Bear Creek Sanitary Authority and communities of the valley.
    Air pollution was not without its share of space in the news columns, with complaints being lodged against the Steve Wilson mill at Phoenix. The Jackson County Court, after hearing the complaints, referred the fallout problem to the State Sanitary Authority in June for further action.
    Further action, however, became unnecessary when the mill was destroyed by fire in October, and plans for the future were not announced.
    Also in October, the State Sanitary Authority approved plans of Boise Cascade to modify its wigwam burner to reduce air pollution, and in November ordered Timber Products to halt wigwam burning by April 1, 1969, and to modify its burner by Dec. 15, 1968.
Rates Several Votes
    The education field rated several votes by staff members, but they were so varied [that] education could not be classed as one of the top five stories of the year.
    Southern Oregon College started new degree programs in physics and sociology in the spring, opened new buildings, and in October registered its 4,000th student.
    Elections to establish new tax bases in three school districts--Medford, Ashland and Butte Falls--were included in the education news. Only the proposal in Ashland was approved at the general election. Medford school superintendent Dr. Elliott Becken resigned during the year to accept a similar position in Arizona, and was replaced by a superintendent from Arizona--Dr. Richard Langton.
    In other news involving education, Butte Falls School Supt. Ernest R. James was killed in an automobile accident on the Butte Falls Highway, and the principal of Howard School, Harold Boner, in Medford died following a heart attack.
    One other item of interest involving someone in the education field was Tom Nash's climb up Mt. McKinley. He is superintendent of the Jackson County Intermediate Education District.
Festivals Receive Votes
    The two festivals--Britt and the Shakespearean--received five votes for the fourth-ranked story of the year in the long-range impact category. Leading the news of the festivals was groundbreaking for the festival's new indoor theater--the Angus Bowmer Theater. Also last year, the Meyer Memorial Lake in Lithia Park was dedicated during opening ceremonies at the festival.
    Fatalities in Jackson County came in for their share of votes, with the story about the Rowden family receiving eight votes for the second best spot news story of the year.
    Fatalities last year included 30 persons killed in traffic accidents, four of them in one accident on Christmas Day. Eleven county servicemen, including the second Rowden son, were killed in Vietnam during the year.
    Six other county residents became other fatalities during the year. These included a two-year-old girl who swallowed candle dye, a teenager falling from a tree, a hunting accident, a baby who was burned by coffee, a high school student who choked to death, and an eight-year-old boy who died in a fire.
Other Lake News
    In addition to the body of a murder victim being found, and the rescue of two stranded youths at Crater Lake National Park, a $2 million building program was announced for the park, and additional fees for campground use also entered into the voting for the park.
    The Medford-Jackson County Airport, Jacksonville and construction and business generally received votes for ratings among the top stories, but the votes were widely distributed among the subjects.
    Additional jet service came to Medford on the wings of a United Air Lines 737 in November after the main north-south runway was extended and the taxiways improved. But with the advent of jet service by United and merger plans by Air West, service to metropolitan areas north and sound became more limited, and resulted in no direct air service to Salem.
    Adding to the airport stories was one about a controversy developing over parking. The Medford city council, which took the action without discussions with the Airport Commission, later apologized to the commission.
Construction and Business
    Construction and business generally received several votes, but this year this category ranked lower than it has been in the past by staff members. The highest construction rated among news department personnel was fourth place by four staff members.
    But the field was active.
    New motels, including the Red Lion and Holiday Inn, were constructed, an addition was built to Thunderbird Lodge, and the Standard Transformer Co. plant at White City was constructed and started operation. The $218,000 Mormon stake center in Medford, the Medford water treatment plant near the Rogue River, the new city hall, and the new Jacksonville post office were dedicated during the past year.
    Plans were announced for the property formerly occupied by Sacred Heart Hospital--an 82-unit townhouse development on 15 acres with another 10 acres in recreation and landscaping--the Jackson House was razed to make way for a downtown parking lot, plans were announced for the Medford Mall at the Crater Lake Highway interchange (which resulted in later discussions about the zone reverting back to its original zone since work has not yet started on the development), and Hearthstone Manor, a nursing home, was opened.
    In other business news, the Mark Antony Hotel in Ashland closed its doors following the Shakespearean festival season, and is now for sale, and the Army Corps of Engineers announced plans to let a contract this year for the Cole Rivers fish hatchery in the Lost Creek Dam Project.
    In addition to the Jacksonville post office, which was built in the architecture of the late 1800s, other news out of Jacksonville concerned considerable discussion and controversy developing when the 100-year-old Alexander Martin house was razed for a new subdivision.
    As a result of the latter, the city of Jacksonville plans now to consider a "historic zone" for the city.
    A $1 million windfall for Jackson County received several votes as a story among the top 10, but the voting ranged from third to eighth places with only two or three votes being cast for each place. The county received about $1 million more than it expected in timber receipts last year.
    One staff member considered county zoning the top story of the year, while six others voted for it in seventh, eighth and ninth places. The county planning commission decided to concentrate on countywide zoning, and surveying work started on aerial mapping of the Rogue and Applegate rivers leading to river zoning.
    Surveying also started in preparation for aerial mapping of the valley floor.
    Other stories which received votes as among the top ones during the past year included agriculture; ex-Police Chief Ed Zander of Central Point being missed by a bullet; the closing of the Ft. Vannoy Job Corps Center in Josephine County; the hassle between the Medford Giants and the County Fair Board; the county opening the new Cantrall-Buckley Park on the Applegate River; work continuing on the Palmerton Park near Rogue River; Long Mountain's disincorporation; and the lumber market declining and recovering.
    Agriculture got its share of space in the news columns with a record number of orchard heating nights last spring, which resulted in about a 50 percent reduction in the fruit crop. This in turn resulted in more consideration being given to over-tree sprinkler systems for frost protection, which was used on a limited basis in some orchards last year.
    Some valley agriculturists have been giving more serious consideration to a wider variety of crops to support the valley's economy.
    Many of the stories which received votes as among the more important during the past year will carry over into the new year, and may become top stories during 1969.
Medford Mail Tribune, January 5, 1969, page C1



Last revised August 4, 2012