In May of 1926, the incomparable Buster Keaton took his cast and crew 900 miles north of Hollywood to shoot his silent action-adventure-comedy classic, The General, on location in the tiny town of Cottage Grove Oregon. Based on a true story, the movie starred Keaton (who co-directed the film along with Clyde Bruckman) and Sennett Bathing Beauty, Marion Mack. Keaton did his own crazy stunts (some were clearly death-defying) and in its climatic train wreck, Keaton created the most spectacular and expensive pyrotechnic scene in silent movie history. Shooting wrapped within four months and the movie was released in December 1926. Keaton reportedly said he was more proud of The General than any other film he ever made.
A quick synopsis of the plot is as follows: Johnny Gray (Buster Keaton) is the engineer of the train “The General.” During the Civil War, Union spies seize the General with Gray’s girlfriend Annabelle Lee on board. Johnnie gives chase to get back his girl and his engine. High jinks ensue.
For this week’s Listen Up we’ve selected one of the most memorable scenes from the movie as Johnnie gains on the stolen General by deftly removing railroad ties that have been thrown in his path. The score for this remastered clip was written in 1987 by Carl Davis.
photo above: local AM radio station KNND broadcasts live from a shop window in historic downtown Cottage Grove Oregon
Anxious to get on the road, we skipped breakfast. Two hours later, en route from Portland to Jacksonville with stomachs rumbling, we pulled off the highway just south of Eugene in the small town of Cottage Grove Oregon. I’d read it was “an All-American City, a charming small town” and Steven remembered that he had seen pictures of covered bridges and Buster Keaton on Pinterest when he researched the area. Sure enough, we entered town under the silent gaze of a two-story painting of Buster Keaton on the north side of the Cottage Grove Hotel. Midweek, drizzly and off-season, we had Main Street – not more than a few blocks long — pretty much to ourselves. Around every corner the town’s past surfaced through murals painted to wake up blank walls. Who is Opal Whiteley and why does her ghost roam the streets? Cottage Grove’s quirky appeal cut through the squirrel-gray winter weather and a colorful vintage neon sign promised fine food. Upon closer inspection, the sandwich board outside promised potato chowder – perhaps the holy grail of rainy day comfort food. The tiniest restaurant we’ve ever eaten in, Grove Fine Food was no frills, no nonsense, no credit cards, and a friendly one-man operation. We slid into a booth, the aroma of potato chowder filling our nostrils as our mood swelled in happy anticipation.
“Two bowls of potato chowder please.”
“Oh, oh, I ‘m out of chowder. I’m really sorry. You know it’s off season, don’t see that many customers – hard to judge how much soup to make. I’m so sorry.” He nervously tapped his order pad with his pencil, afraid we might bolt.
“That’s okay, how’s your chili?” I asked quickly and lightly trying to aswage his unhappiness about the possibility of disappointing us.
“Oh, no chili,” he whispered and frowned.
“Uh-huh. Well, then how about –”
“Wait a minute, let me see something.” And he darted from the table. We watched as he stepped into the kitchen, lifted a pot lid, peered into the refrigerator, and returned with, “I have one order of potato chowder and one order of green pea soup made fresh yesterday that I can heat up if you give me a minute.”
Knowing my penchant for a really good bowl of pea soup, Steven responded, “That’s perfect.”
And it was.
With more covered bridges than any other American town west of the Mississippi, Cottage Grove Oregon and greater Lane County have earned the moniker “Covered Bridge Capital of the West.” Six of the bridges are within a 20 mile radius of downtown, making for a 1-2 hour trip by car or bike. Better yet, pack a picnic and spend the day, because the bridges will lead you through Oregon’s beautiful countryside, across creeks and rivers to trailheads, swimming holes, and fishing on Dorena Lake. The route is easy to follow and can be found at traveloregon.com.
The Man Makes the Hat Makes the Man
Mad hatter and comic genius Buster Keaton first designed and created his signature porkpie hat by cutting and restyling a wool felt Stetson and stiffening the brim with sugar water. He continued to make thousands of them for his movies, until his wife, Eleanor, took over as milliner and switched to reconstructing the flattened porkpie out of old grey fedoras.
Casual or bespoke, a hat completes a finished look – it’s like a cherry on top of a sundae. Further, the choice of hat — as well as the angle at which a man chooses to wear it — reflects the wearer’s personality, and that’s a fact that never goes out of style. The following celebrities are just a few of the men who have shown they have the confidence to strut their stuff in savvy, picture-perfect chapeaux.
Still haven’t found the hat that’s right for you? Get inspired with Zippertravel’s “Hats Off” board at Pinterest.com/Zippertravel.
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