I Hate Roseburg

I was laying on the railroad tracks just outside the Roseburg, Oregon yard. I was hog tied and naked, and bruised pretty badly from the butt kicking a bunch of rednecks just gave me. Many of the jobs in Roseburg had to do with Weyerhauser, either their mill or the trees that fed it. About four blocks up the street was my little rental house, my possessions piled in the front yard and burning like a beach bonfire. My comeuppance for being a long haired disk jockey working at the only rock and roll station in a redneck logging town. I was almost in my front door when they came at me, screeching to a halt in their rusted piece of crap pickup truck, beer bottles in hand. It was fall of 1969 and I was just out of the army since the first week in January.

I ended up in Roseburg trying to be a good Samaritan. I ran into a girl in San Francisco who was sitting on a doorstep and crying her eyes out. She’d run away from home with a couple of high school girlfriends to experience the big city. They’d ditched her when they met a couple of guys and left her with no money, no anything to fend for herself. I took her back to my place, a crash pad apartment near Alamo Park on McAllister Street. It was a dump, but it was free. I could go on for days about what life was like back then, but let’s stick with the girl.

I fed her and spent a lot of the afternoon and night talking to her, hearing how much her life stunk and thinking that she had it pretty good. Nice family, boyfriend, popular at school. Go figure. Anyway, I figured the last place she needed to be was on the streets of San Francisco and suggested she go back home. She was not receptive to the idea, she said she couldn’t go home by herself because she was afraid. So, Sir Galahad, I volunteered to take her. Of course, I had no money, had no car, but hey, whatever. We got some sleep and in the morning hit the roads with our thumb out. We lucked out, sort of. We caught a ride with a family of four in a Ford station wagon that hauled us all the way to Grants Pass, a stone’s throw from her home town of Roseburg. It was a very religious family who quoted scripture and talked about Jesus the whole way.

It took two more rides to get to Roseburg, but we made it. We showed up at her family home and no sooner than I managed to tell her father that I’d picked her up in San Francisco he got pretty irate and punched me in the nose. I fell down and her brother, a tree faller, had some fun kicking my ribs until they all managed to understand that I had not taken advantage of her, but had convinced her to come home. “Oh, well then.” he said looking down at me. That’s different.” The family herded themselves into the house and shut the door. I picked myself and dusted myself off and went wobbling back towards town. Along the way, a guy in a 1965 Mustang pulled over and asked me if I wanted a ride. He took me into town and bought me a beer and a burger at a little restaurant. Turns out he was the program director for a little radio station, KYES. Saying I spoke english well, which was apparently very unusual in Roseburg, he offered me a job at the station. I took it, of course. I stayed with him for a month until I’d saved enough money to get my own place, and moved into my little house down by the rail yard.

The radio station was a little low power AM enterprise that was licensed to broadcast only from sun up to sundown. Gary, the program director, was running it with an “underground FM format,” which meant that we played the way cool rock and roll and avoided teenybopper bubble gum rock. We had a pretty good sized audience, but the majority of the town was into country and western and didn’t think highly of the long haired hippy freaks ruining America over at KYES. I got used to getting a lot of threatening telephone calls on the request line, nestled between dedication calls requesting tunes be played in honor of youthful puppy love. “Would you play White Bird by It’s a Beautiful Day and dedicate it to Jeremy with love from Hannah?” Sure, baby. And we would. “Would you play I’m gonna kick yer ass all over Main Street you punk commie pinko bastard?”  Uh, sorry. We don’t have that. They’d always hang up before we could respond.

The station owner and manager complained to the cops about the calls, and they told him that maybe his radio station shouldn’t be begging so hard for a whipping, and so we didn’t suppose we could depend on them for much. And that was evident when a cop came wheeling up to where I was laid out on the tracks, naked and hog tied. He got out of his car and started explaining how he should really be arresting me for indecent exposure. I was taken to the police department and given a pair of coveralls, and then turned over to a Lutheran minister who put me up for the night. The police weren’t interested in taking a complaint about either my being attacked or the funeral pyre for my possessions.

Imagine a whole town of Ted Nugents and you’ll have a good image of Roseburg just as 1970 was about to happen. Both Gary and I had pretty much decided that Roseburg wasn’t for us, and so we drove on up to Portland where we immediately found work at another AM radio station playing cool music.

But that’s another story.