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So Proud of My Hometown

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At least as of 2009, my town of Springfield, Oregon had the highest known number of strip clubs per capita of any city in the United States. It has (or had) 7 strip clubs for a town of 58,000 residents. And I would really like to see this number compared with military towns in the middle of nowhere like Columbus, Georgia. But even though this is obviously a very non-scientific survey, this is a very high number.

This is so not surprising. Springfield is a rough town. Most of these clubs congregate along Main Street in the downtown, an area that was pretty well abandoned by most people even before the mills closed in the late 1980s. In fact, the area started turning around a little bit with the arrival of Mexican immigrants. At least today you can go town there and get a good taco. But it is still a pretty grim place, one awash in meth, trailer parks, and poverty. I used to deliver newspapers as a kid on the edge of this area. My friend’s paper route was even closer and I’d argue quite unsafe for a 12 or 13 year old.

Our visions of regions mostly consist of one or two stops. With the Northwest, we think of Seattle and Portland. We have images of Pike Place Market and bike trails and microbrews. All that is true. But outside of the cities, in the old logging areas, things have been rough for a long, long time. It’s not a coincidence that Kurt Cobain came from Aberdeen. That area has been ravaged by logging for over a century. After the old-growth timber was ripped out, it was targeted as a place where people should buy logged-off land and start farms. This was a terrible idea, leading to generations of poverty that not great jobs in the mills did not alleviate. It’s the same through the region–Libby, Montana; Coquille, Oregon; Centralia, Washington. Springfield is no different. I can’t quite say that why there are so many strip clubs in my hometown and not some other very similar town. But I know this area very well and I can say that there are not a lot of options for people.

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  • Fighting Words

    Well, I guess there is a good reason why Oregon is known as “the Beaver State.”

    By the way, is this also the same “Springfield” that inspired “the Simpsons?”

    • We all believe it is the same Springfield, more or less. Groening is from Portland and there are many Oregon references in the early years. Of course, that’s all basically ended, as has the meaning of the show.

  • djw

    My theory: nearby, larger, wealthier, but still full of horny frat boys Eugene banned smoking in bars about 10 years before the statewide ban, thus making Springfield a vice-oriented destination for the degenerates of Eugene.

    Furthermore, the regulation of strip clubs in Oregon is fairly lax relative to other states, isn’t it? That’s probably part of the story.

  • Ruby

    One of the clubs has quite a funny readreboard. You also can’t beat Springfield for a good diner.

    • I think that might be the sex shop on South A Street rather than one of the strip clubs.

  • Murc

    That area has been ravaged by logging for over a century. After the old-growth timber was ripped out, it was targeted as a place where people should buy logged-off land and start farms. This was a terrible idea,

    Possibly OT, but why? Farming sounds like a pretty decent use for logged-off land. Is the environment not suited for raising non-tree crops?

    • Because the soil was terrible, the land strewn with gigantic stumps and other post-logging slash, it was far from markets and subjected to downpours that caused erosion. Essentially, if you could get flat land along rivers, you could do well, but the vast majority of people ended up with really bad land.

      They tried the same thing in Minnesota and Wisconsin after the cut-over of the 1880s and 1890s and it was equally disastrous.

      • witless chum

        Upper Michigan, too, but we they had the mines. Reading some local history, there were a couple different instances of a guy coming from Finland, or off the farm, working and saving up money in the Copper Country or the Marquette Iron Range and then buying a farm and working it part of the time, while still working in the mines sometimes.

        • Lurker

          Actually, in a semi-industrialised society, this is a rather good deal. In Northern and Eastern Finland, this worked well for about 60 or 70 years: you own a small farm, capable of sustenance-level agriculture. This gives you your food. In addition, there is always logging and timber floating work going on in the winter and early spring. Thus, while neither the farm or the logging would be enough to make a living, the combination works. (Meaning you are above the level of immediate danger of starvation.) I’d imagine that seasonal mining work fulfils the same economic need. The way of life was very familiar to the Finns of Michigan.

          The onset of the chain-saw in 1960s destroyed this mode of living in Finland. The work force needed for logging went down to a fraction and the modern agricultural machinery made traditional farming obsolete.

          • PopeRatzy

            Eric,
            As the Son/Grandson of Oregon loggers I can tell you that the chain saw was very prevalent well before the 1960s. The smaller limbing saw was the 1960s advent when they started making the smaller motors. But the fallers were using chainsaws in the 30s.

            • Malaclypse

              But the fallers were using chainsaws in the 30s.

              In Finland?

              • PopeRatzy

                URK, good point, reading iz fundymental.

  • Amanda in the South Bay

    Holy shit, you mentioned Coquille-I was born in Coquille, and my entire dad’s side of the family moved west in wagon trains and settled on the southern Oregon Coast.

    I grew up in Saint Helens, and had to endure the usual shithole of a small town upbringing. Which pretty much inoculated me against pickups and country music, but also now that I’m living in the SF Bay Area, you see a lot of people who think Portland ==Oregon. My upbringing (I fondly remember when SH got Taco Bell and McDonalds back in the 90s) is so radically different than what young professionals who move to trendy southeast Portland in Hawthorne, or tech professionals who live out in Hillsboro or Beaverton experience, or pot heads from Palo Alto who go to the UofO experience.

    • Amanda in the South Bay

      The last time I went through Coquille, was back in…oh, I think 2005, when I drove from Saint Helens down to Monterey to attend the Defense Langauge Institute. Once I crossed over to the coast from I-5 south of Eugene, I definitely entered small town timber country, and it was depressing. That area has been especially hard hit from the decline of the timber industry, and I thankfully only stayed a night with my uncle in Coquille before I left for CA.

      Thankfully Saint Helens is now becoming a suburb, because the long standing Boise Cascade paper mill shut down for the most part a few years ago, and it for a long time was the economic lifeblood of that community (dad retired, brother got trained as a millwright there, sister and I worked there during college over the summer) and now the city can handle the shutdown a lot better than 15 years ago.

    • Holden Pattern

      Even Portland is endemically short on jobs. Great town, but underemployed.

  • Peter VE

    Is this why you moved to Providence? We have a pretty high density of strip joints, though we can’t match Springfield….

    • I may have been exposed

      • Robert Farley

        Y’know, Lawyers, Guns and Money would be a great name for a strip club. I’m just sayin’…

        • Henry

          I am sure Warren would be honored.

  • DrDick

    Sadly, this portrait is true for much of rural America where extractive industries (farming, mining, logging) no longer provide the decent livings that they once did. The infrastructure is crumbling and the business district replaced by McDonalds, Taco Bell, and KFC in strip malls and a WalMart on the edge of town. Jobs have gone away and the young people have mostly followed them. It goes a long way toward explaining the meth and oxy epidemic. It is also the reality that DBT describe in their music (and part of why I love them).

    • Joshua

      Yea, I’ve seen that town in about 20 different states.

      And nobody cares.

    • Murc

      Farming isn’t really categorized as an extractive industry, I don’t think. I mean, I guess it CAN be, if you just work the soil until it gives out and then move on, but I wouldn’t really class it with, say, mining and logging.

      • witless chum

        Depends how you log, too.

      • DrDick

        Some of the routine definitions class all natural resource/raw material production (which also includes fishing) as “extractive industries,” (in contrast to manufacturing or wjholesale/retail and services) which is the sense in which I am using it.

  • Even Portland is endemically short on jobs.

    A joke from my UO days
    Q: Why did all the hippies move to Eugene?

    A: Because they heard there was no work.

  • Allen

    As a long time Eugene resident, but now Portland resident, I can remember how we looked down on
    Springfield, almost as much as we looked down on Corvallis. Franklin Blvd. was like Hwy 99, once it became Main St. it was like 99 becoming 99W, you were done forever tainted.

    • Yeah, I grew to be very defensive about Springfield when I was attending the University of Oregon. Having people say they are sorry when you tell them where you are from leaves only one possible response–to tell them to go fuck themselves.

  • prufrock

    I knew two Marines who were from Libby, Montana. At least one of them joined the Corps because he wanted to get away from there. The other one once mentioned that they didn’t get their first fast food restaurant until Wendy’s opened up a franchise sometime in 1990.

    • DrDick

      WE have one of the highest rates of enlistment in the nation here in Montana. Mostly for just that reason. Pretty much every county in eastern Montana (except around Great Falls and Billings) has lost population for the last 30 years or so.

    • Lack of fast food restaurants is a minus?

      • DrDick

        You obviously have not eaten at enough small town cafes. It is often the case these days that fast food is the only choice for eating out as the cafes went out of business owing to higher operating costs and declining sales.

    • witless chum

      We didn’t have fast food in Baraga and/or L’Anse, Michigan until the 1994 or so with a subway and 1997 or so with a Burger King.

      • PopeRatzy

        This is very frightening. Having been born just south of Springfield in Cottage Grove, having family in Creswell and having lived in the Michigan UP during my military career. I know all these places and, as the young lady above mentioned, I live in the Bay Area because there is no way for me to make a living in those places of my childhood and youth.

  • c u n d gulag

    I know it’s me – I’ve been a straight and horny male for more decades than I care to mention, but I never liked going to strip clubs, and only went when that was a friends destination for the evening.
    I think I went into one by myself once, maybe twice. Certainly less than a “handful” of times.

    I don’t understand the appeal – if I can’t take it home, I don’t want to look at it.

    That’s like walking into a nice steakhouse, sitting down, and getting to look and smell the steaks, but you’re not allowed to eat it there, or do a take-out.
    Hell, sometimes the steak is allowed to do a ‘lip-dance’ right in front of you, but you still can’t take a bite!

    Why go?
    To remind yourself of what you once got, or what you NEVER could get?

    • soullite

      While I’ve never been to a strip club either, I have a friend who likes to frequent them and if what he says is true, then very often you can bring them home. It just costs extra.

      • c u n d gulag

        There’s a joke there about paying for an already well-chewed steak, but I’ll leave that alone – that would be sexist.

        And besides, I’m no one to lecture anyone, since, in my youth, I wasn’t averse to steak in almost any way, shape, or form, and like most men, would have lied, cheated, and stopped just short of stealing, for a good bite. Or, a bad bite, for that matter….
        :-)

        • mark f

          There’s a joke there about paying for an already well-chewed steak, but I’ll leave that alone – that would be sexist.

          Comparing a woman to a good piece of meat, however, is totally not sexist.

          • c u n d gulag

            That was part of the joke I was trying to make.

            EPIC FAIL!!!

            It’s too early in the morning to be witty.
            Especially when you’re a nitwit! :-)

            My apologies!

            • mark f

              I see that now. I think I’ll take my morning dourness to the coffee shop.

      • Halloween Jack

        Clubs like that tend to get closed quickly. Towns (especially economically depressed ones) like the revenues that strip clubs bring in, and cops especially like the payoffs, but local politicians also like easy vice busts.

    • Henry

      I could agree more. What’s the point of being a dog in a meatmarkets. Just looking at the meat and licking your own balls.

    • Halloween Jack

      I’ve been a straight and horny male for more decades than I care to mention

      What were you before?

      • c u n d gulag

        A zygote, a fetus, an infant, a young child, a tween, and then moved into my teen years and the insane hormonal spectacle that is puberty.

        Is there another sequence that I’m missing?

  • soullite

    A few big, key places with a whole lot of meth-addled and dying towns in between is probably an accurate portrayal of America.

    • Henry

      What are you taking about>? small towns is where real amuricans live, at least according to St Sarah.

  • Davis

    My sister lives in Tampa, and she told me that Tampa has the most strip clubs in the country. She called them “titty bars”.

    • c u n d gulag

      Yeah, I’ve heard them called that, too.

      When I was a Training Director at a telecommunications company, I was sent with our VP of Tech Ops to go to Tampa for a new product roll-out.

      I’d never been, and he had, so I asked him what we could do while we’re there?

      He said we could go look at the “shoe stores.”

      “Shoe stores? Why shoe stores?” I asked him, thinking maybe I had a cross-dressing Imelda Marcos wannabe on my hands – NTTAWWT.

      He explained that they were strip joints, and they were called that because the only thing the women wore was shoes.

      He went there.
      I went out every night to an amazing restraurant instead, especially the Cuban and little local seafood ones.
      Cuban pork and striped bass are so much better than strippers.

      Maybe your sister can stop calling them “titty bars” and start calling them “shoe stores?”
      :-)

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  • chauron

    Poor men.

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  • evil is evil

    Sounds like the town near Eugene where I started a riot in a country and western bar in the 1970s.

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