Stories by, and about, the Bilderbacks

‘Now and Then’ in the Forest Grove News-Times by Ken and Kris Bilderback

Saving lives was just something Ron Hoodenpyl had to do

Dec. 27, 2017 “You have to do this. You have to,” Ron Hoodenpyl told himself as he prepared to crawl back into the smoldering house. By now Ron’s clothes, the clothes he put on that morning to drive a school bus, were soaking wet from the spray of fire hoses. He still was choking on soot from the first time he entered this modest wood-frame house a few minutes earlier, searching desperately in the blinding smoke and heat for a young mother and her infant daughter. Read more.

Old Gaston 1173 now shrouded in Eastern Oregon mystery

Engine 1173

Engine 1173

Sept. 28, 2016 Engine 1173 survived a fire that nearly destroyed in 1983 and went on to serve Gaston for another 26 years. Even then it went on fighting fires in Eastern Oregon, but now it’s entangled in a felony theft case and a mystery that involves a controversial sheriff. Read more.

Gaston author explores past, future of Wapato Lake (from the News-Times)

Kris and Ken Bilderback

Kris and Ken Bilderback

June 1, 2016 Bootleggers. Moonshiners. Those terms conjure up images of The Dukes of Hazzard and Smokey and the Bandit, romanticized as comically inept cops chasing wily outlaws in their hot rods. Once upon a time, Forest Grove had its own humorous episode involving bootleggers and a traffic stop gone wrong. Or at least it seemed humorous, until a police officer was shot and killed in the line of duty. Read more.

Gaston author explores past, future of Wapato Lake (from the News-Times)

Kris and Ken Bilderback

Kris and Ken Bilderback

May 25, 2016 Mark Miller of the Tigard-Tualatin Times covered my recent talk at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge for the Tualatin Riverkeepers. Read more.

‘Now and Then’ in the Forest Grove News-Times by Ken and Kris Bilderback

1942: The year Forest Grove (almost) ruled baseball

Kris and Ken Bilderback

Kris and Ken Bilderback

March 16, 2016 It’s been a long time since Forest Grove-area baseball fans had a native son to cheer for in Spring Training. But back in the days of World War II, Dilley and Verboort were home to two of the sport’s most-promising prospects. Read more.

Joseph Gale’s cows solved ‘beef’ with British, won hearts for America

Kris and Ken Bilderback

Kris and Ken Bilderback

February 17, 2016 In the 1840s, 30 years before free-roaming, downtown-clogging cows sparked an uproar over grazing rights in Forest Grove, the problem was not too many cows, but rather too few. In fact, the shortage of cows was one of the major beefs that led settlers to start down the path to American statehood, and three men from the Forest Grove area were key players in that drama. Read more.

Grazing rights, cow arrests spark uproar in downtown Forest Grove

Kris and Ken Bilderback

Kris and Ken Bilderback

January 27, 2016 The battle over cattle grazing on public land is making headlines in Eastern Oregon. But about 150 years ago, it was making headlines right here — on the streets of downtown Forest Grove.  Read more.

Early Gaston residents buck tide, build high school

Kris and Ken Bilderback

Kris and Ken Bilderback

January 13, 2016 On January 14, 1916, the people of Gaston awoke to an epic blizzard.

On an ordinary day, a snowstorm was no big deal for the people of Gaston, because nearly all lived within easy walking distance of their workplaces. But this was no ordinary storm, and this was no ordinary day. In fact, it was to be one of the most important days in Gaston history. It was the day the Governor was scheduled to dedicate Gaston High School.

Gaston was a far different city 100 years ago. It had department stores, doctors, hotels, and a train station — but not (until 1915) a high school. Read more.

Think 113-22 is a blowout? Not for Gaston. How about 154-16?

November 25, 2015 January 1979 was one of the most frigid months in Oregon history, with ice storms paralyzing much of the region, resulting in the cancellation of dozens of high school basketball games.

But in high school athletic circles, January 1979 is not remembered for its frigid temperatures, but rather for the handful of games that were played, resulting in some of the most-lopsided scores in Oregon history. Forest Grove, Gaston, and Hillsboro teams found themselves in the middle of the action, although at opposite ends of the spectrum. Read more.

Washington County’s role in Gender and Justice at the End of the Oregon Trail

Kris and Ken Bilderback

Kris and Ken Bilderback

October 28, 2015 A century ago, a few high-profile criminal cases in western Washington County played key roles in the evolution of Oregon law with respect to the treatment of women and children.

A 14-year-old Gaston girl, for example, made headlines across the Northwest in 1919 when she was convicted of stealing a car and sentenced to a decade of hard time in the all-male Walla Walla penitentiary, where women convicts were kept in separate quarters to handle laundry and other chores for the male inmates. Read more.

Dundee Lodge: Quiet retreat has rich, fascinating history

Gaston's historic Dundee Lodge is finding new life. News-Times Photo by Chase Allgood.

Gaston’s historic Dundee Lodge is finding new life. News-Times Photo by Chase Allgood.

September 2, 2015 What do bootleggers, steam-powered race cars, and Tofurky have in common? Gaston’s Dundee Lodge. Read more.

Oregon pioneer also fell victim to a psychic and her daughter

May 6, 2015 Gaston’s Ralph Raines lost much of his fortune to a psychic, but he was not the first, nor will he be the last, to be taken in such a way. Read more.

News-Times reviews Law and Order, does not seek the death penalty for its authors

Book cover

The story of race and crime unfolds in our new book.

July 1, 2015 From death by cow to ‘artistic’ hangings to a sheriff driven mad, new book details early Oregon justice. Read more.

Though obsolete, Engine 1170 still inflames passions

April 8 2015 Engine 1170 is a 1938 Ford truck that for decades carried volunteer firefighters into battle. Now there’s new life for the beloved engine. Read more.

Here’s a video about 1170:

What does ‘natural’ mean for Wapato Lake?

November 12, 2014 Sharks once swam in what now is Gaston, then the Atfalatis called it home. Then came onions and the Japanese. The thread that ties them all togther is Wapato Lake, which is on the verge of a comeback. Read more.

Joann Boatwright piece about our Washington County Museum show

October 8, 2014 Ken and Kris Bilderback work to make history fun, but can murder, suicide and mysterious deaths actually be fun? Audience members can be the jury. The Bilderbacks will present five cases of death, law and social change on Wednesday, Oct. 15, at the The Washington County Museum’s special Museum After Dark program “You’re the Jury! Dial ‘M’ for Murder in Washington County.” Read more.

‘Now and Then’ in the Forest Grove News-Times by Ken and Kris Bilderback

Sept. 3, 2014 About the time that industrial giants moved into rural Oregon, the anti-union zealotry of the Ku Klux Klan and Nazis had been embraced by many political, business and media leaders in Oregon. That confluence of events made unionizing extremely difficult for previously agrarian workers adjusting to a new way of life. Read more.

News-Times of Forest Grove story about Gaston Centennial

August 20, 2014 This year’s Good Old Days Parade and Wapato Showdown car show honor Gaston’s Centennial. Ken and Kris talk about the history, and Walter Bilderback makes a guest appearance because of his globe-trotting Wapato Showdown hat. Read more.

Op-ed about Amazon-Powell’s dispute in the Forest Grove News-Times by Ken Bilderback

June 18, 2014 Amazon is not the bad guy, Rupert Murdoch and Stephen Colbert. Read more.

Forest Grove News-Times, April 23, 2014: “Ken and Kris Bilderback’s latest book recounts sensational murder trials; a visit to Forest Grove from a United States President; accusations of blackmail and bribery against Pacific University’s president; killer cows, deadly train crashes and so many other fascinating details of local history since white settlers first appeared that you’d never expect the most riveting chapter focuses on sewage.” Read more.

‘Now and Then’ in the Forest Grove News-Times by Ken and Kris Bilderback

May 21, 2014 For the families of some lost at war, Memorial Day can be a reminder of an agonizing wait for closure. Read more.

April 30, 2014 Driving through Cornelius? Remember that the road to Heck is paved with good intentions.Read more.

April 16, 2014 Happy 100th birthday, Gaston! Or is the town really 102-and-half years old? A fight over taxes and sewage led to the birth, death, and rebirth of an Oregon town. Read more.

April 9, 2014 As a “holocaust of flames” tore through Forest Grove, a little boy on a bicycle and a love-struck farm boy race to help.Read more.

March 26, 2014 After young men went off to fight and Japanese-Americans were imprisoned, Oregon begged reluctant Mexican migrant workers to venture north. Read more.

March 12, 2014 In a time before corporate bureaucracy made such things impossible, volunteer emergency medical technicians once saved lives in Oregon’s Coast Range.

Read more. February 12, 2014 The story of the year for 1948 was one about star-crossed, war-time lovers, circling the globe in search of each other. Read more.

January 29, 2014 Forest Grove once was a hotbed of National Football League activity. Seriously. Read more.

January 8, 2014 The recent purchase of 175 acres of farmland southeast of Gaston has raised questions about the intersection of faith, education and property taxes. But that’s nothing new in the complicated history of the property, which has served spiritual educational institutions since 1904. Read more.

January 1, 2014 With a motto of “Where Oregon Pinot was born” and a new distillery preparing to open next year, Forest Grove has clearly embraced alcohol as a lynchpin of the economy. Yet for about the first 120 years of its existence, the city flaunted its sobriety. It was one of the last remaining “dry,” or at least “moist,” towns in Oregon. Read more.

December 18, 2013 There’s nothing left of the fabled Hotel Laughlin — no signs that this block, which the city hopes will be the centerpiece of a rejuvenated downtown, already held that distinction a century ago. Read more.

Stories about us Forest Grove News-Times: Released last week, Ken Bilderback’s new book is filled with gripping stories of heroism and humor, a fascinating chapter on “ambulance wars” and a look at historical trends such as the emergence of female firefighters and the switch from volunteer to paid fire chiefs. Read more. “It was a chimney fire,” former Chief Ron Hoodenpyl says, looking back at that memorable call. “The chimney pipe went down into the crawlspace, so they went down to check. … They never thought they would find what they found.” “We were knee-deep in shit,” says Alfred Wells, never one to mince words. “Toilet emptied right into the crawl space.” Read more.

Clarkston News: The legend of Chief Sashabaw and Oliver Williams is well known in the Clarkston and Waterford area, but the question remains: how much of the legend is actually true and was there truly a Chief Sashabaw? At least that’s what former Michigan resident Ken Bilderback wants to know. Read more.

Forest Grove News-Times, May 7, 2014: “Levy timing, spending questioned.” This story refers to my efforts as a citizen journalist to question why a levy vote was hurriedly called before releasing information crucial for voters, including why the impending consolidation with other districts was not disclosed, why no estimate of costs for the only capital expenditure was not revealed and more. Read more. “Mystery of the changing call volume.” This story explores my allegation that false and misleading call volume numbers were used in public statement to influence an election. Read more. “Fire agencies to take first serious look at consolidation.” This story discusses talks that have been underway for a year, which are likely to result in the eventual merger of at least six fire departments. Read more.