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Salem’s Famous Visitors
 

Over the years, the capital city has played host to everyone from movie stars to presidents

Baseball legend Hank Aaron once spent the night in Salem before an autograph show at a local bed-and breakfast. Charles Lindbergh flew by in his "Spirit of St. Louis" in 1927 and tipped the aircraft’s wings to the city, and several presidents and wanna-be presidents have campaigned in the capital city.

In the past 150 years, the Capital Journal, The Oregon Statesman, and the Statesman Journal newspapers have documented the visits of noted personalities, from women’s suffrage leader Susan B. Anthony to movie stars Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton in the summer of 2001. Michael Moore promoted his documentary concerning the Iraq War in 2004 to a packed crowd at the Salem Armory encouraging those in attendance to vote in the National election.

Susan B. Anthony, then 41, spent several weeks in Oregon in 1871, and several days in the Salem area drumming up support for women’s suffrage, which was still almost 50 years away.She camped out at the Oregon State Fair with local women’s rights leader Abigail S. Duniway. The two women traveled throughout the Willamette Valley by stagecoach and even horseback to campaign for a woman’s right to vote.

According to a Sept. 17, 1871, The Oregon Statesman report on Anthony’s speech at the Reed Opera House:"People may have expected that a champion of the new movement would be something of a scold, but the tones in which she did her scolding - - for she scold all of mankind at a terrible rate - - were decorous and womanly, so much so that the effect of her lectures was greatly enhanced by the admirable manner and apparent good taste of their delivery."
"...We believe that when the first effect of her appearance wears away the women of Oregon will realize that while she told many truths and told them well, she treated their own husbands and fathers unfairly."

Harry S. Truman stopped in Salem on a trip to view the deadly Columbia River Flood of 1948. Unable to lad his personal plane, "The Independence," in Portland, Truman landed at McNary Field on June 11. "This is some son of a bitch flood, isn’t it?" Truman said to Salem Mayor Robert L. Elfstrom Sr.The mayor agreed.

Truman’s stay in Salem was brief. He boarded a car for the drive to Portland, but on the way through downtown, the green convertible he was in stopped to allow the president to stand wave his hat at the crowd.Jack Nicholson came to Salem in the spring of 1975 to star as R.P. McMurphy in the film, "One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest." The movie, shot in part at the Oregon State Hospital and in Newport, earned Nicholson his second Academy Award for best Actor.An Oct. 3, 1975, article by Oregon Statesman Reporter Ron Cowan previewed an advance screening of the film in Salem.

"I have very good feelings about Oregon," Nicholson said. "I’m going to direct a film in Oregon next year." The film, based on the western novel, "Moon Trap" by Don Berry, was never made.Willamette University football and country singer/actress Dolly Parton may not seem like a natural fit, but somehow the Country Music Hall of Fame found herself leading cheers for the Bearcats alumni football team in September, 1989. She attended the game as a friend of her business-associate Heine Fountain, a Willamette alumni who was coaching the alums. "I just love this part of the country," she told a reporter. "It’s always beautiful, and the people are always nice."

Perhaps Salem’s best-known former resident, Herbert Hoover, became the 31st president of the United States in 1929. Hoover spent just three years in Salem, but his later fame made him forever a favorite son. Orphaned before his 10th birthday, the Iowa native was sent to live in Newberg with is uncle. In 1889, his uncle opened a land-settlement office in Salem, and the family moved into a house at Hazel and Highland Avenues NE.According to remembrances of Hoover Published in the Capital Journal, he was a quiet, serious teenager with few close friends and an intense appreciation for the outdoors. He was introduced to literature by local educator Jennie Gray. Hoover said Gray had the greatest influence on his life. With Gray’s help, Hoover left Salem in 1891 to attend Stanford University.Hoover returned to Salem several times.

In 1955, upon his return for an 81st birthday party and dedication of his Newberg home, he was met at McNary Field by only a Statesman photographer and reporter. Hoover then checked in to the Senator Hotel, located where Courthouse Square now stands, and was warmly received the next day on his way to Newberg by car.

A little bit of Hoover still remains in Salem, according to local legend. The initials "H.H.," carved while he was a teen, were found on a brick wall outside of what was then Lincoln Wade’s grocery store. The building now houses Boone’s Treasury.

Compiled by Cynthia Harvey

Bibliography:
Capital Journal newspaper, June 1972, special supplement on Salem's past and future.

Statesman Journal newspaper, April, 2001, special 150th anniversary supplement.

 

 
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President Herbert Hoover
President Herbert Hoover in Salem, 1955
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Clark Gable

Clark Gable performed at the Elisnore Theater
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Smoothers Brothers

Smoothers Brothers performed at the Oregon State Fair
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