Spring Cleaning (The Stories I Could Never Get To): The Tailored Torso of Columbia Boulevard


Easter’s Finest

I wanted to believe I was looking at John F. Kennedy, a brawny rendition, beefy, broad shouldered but the hair, the hair was a dead ringer for JFK. I was wrong. It turned out all right because I learned the identity of the statue in the yard of a house facing the Oregon Humane Society complex. Through the power of assumption I had convinced myself the statue was Kennedy but being set straight makes me appreciate that someone with research skills unearthed information and reported back to me. Shout out to volunteer researcher Amy M! The Kennedy Files will remain closed for now while a new file, labelled under the name Ngo Dinh Diem, will be opened.

The puzzling nature of the house, the statue and the curious costumes kept me wondering. No one appeared to live there. Feeling like an intruder, I tended to rush up the steps, cross the patio, take photos and bolt. What kind of journalist am I? I should have barged through the door asking, “who, what, where, when, why and even how?” It’s about questions and demands for answers which is why there’s no explanation of these seasonal decorations. It happened every couple of months in time for a holiday. I am left wondering what happened to the Christmas costume? A photo would have been in order but I must have missed it.

Here’s a roll call of the holiday outfits I did manage to document:




St. Patrick’s Day









Campus Security: A Soldier Statue

Tanned and ready.

When I first saw the statue it was highly recognizable. From my studies of Revolutionary War history, I knew it to be a Colonial soldier. The hat, clothes and gun all fit those times. I was born in the Boston, Massachusetts area, so I grew up surrounded by Colonial history. There’s also a hazy flashback to my father’s National Guard trophy with the Minuteman soldier standing on top. The statue seems out-of-place here in the west, so far away from that old history. It now has the feel of a monument to someone who got lost a long time ago as he wandered and stumbled about in search of cheap real estate and a decent cup of coffee.

On campus.

I noticed the soldier statue from the other side of Barbur Blvd. It’s a busy road with four lanes so it’s likely that I initially overlooked the Colonial Office Campus. It may have taken a second look  for the colonial reference to make sense. The Colonial Office Campus is exactly what it says it is, office space for professional services used by lawyers and counselors. The statue can be found past the intersection of Capitol Hwy and Barbur Blvd heading towards Tigard.

Half a dance away

In front of the main office park building there’s another statue. My imagination had me thinking that this one was a child of the solider. The kid, dressed in what appear to be rags, gets to stay home and frolic while his father fights the war. Online I noticed a couple of the tenants mention the statues as landmarks to help clients find their offices. So eventually it made sense: Colonial soldier, Colonial Office Campus, Colonial columns on the main building; there’s a flurry of Colonial activity in a small section of SW off of Barbur Blvd. that’s subtle and unexpected.

Locked and loading.

The detailing on the sculptures drew me in. The soldier, with his sleeves rolled up, his burly arms fiddling with his gun as he stands as well as anyone could stand with knees stuck in a block.  His permanent stance graces a plinth decorated with 13 stars in tribute to the original 13 colonies. The child had been holding a light on a chain which, I was told, will be repaired.

Wired and ready.

The young frolicker was created in 1974. The Colonial soldier followed in 1976 which had me wondering if Oregon had been caught in the throes of bicentennial fever like the rest of the nation. The artist’s name, Carlton Bell, is inscribed on the base of each work. The soldier’s base also had three other names listed. It’s safe to assume they assisted on the project. Carlton Bell proved to be a mysterious figure. I found little information about him online.

My research did lead to a blog post about Portland Public Art. I would suggest anyone reading this take a look at that post too if only to see an excellent close up photograph of the soldier’s face. There was some speculation on the part of the writer of the public art blog. I know my writing for the Portland Orbit often leads me to speculate but from what I was able to gather, especially after talking to the friendly office park manager, the statues were made for the campus and not for previous businesses. The comment section offers details and stories about the life of Carlton Bell that I plan to explore in a future post. One commentator made an effort to identify the gender of the kid sculpture as male because his brother had been the artist’s model.

Ready for my close up.

I like the folk art feel to these statues. They have a charm that livens up a drab section of Barbur Blvd. while adding a dash of intrigue. The soldier appears to be guarding a curve in the road or protecting against an invasion from the motel across the street. There’s a randomness that’s refreshing in the placement. A Colonial soldier, far from the pages of history, silently stands guard. My first reaction was to wonder why there were roadside statues hanging around on Barbur Blvd. The Colonial theme helped me make sense of it, and the question should really be: Why not?

Guard duty.



Quite the crossing guard.








Bunyan Need a Bath!

Paul Needs A Bath

When I first started this blog I included a picture of Paul Bunyan in a blog post professing my love for giant milk cartons and loafs of bread that can be seen around Portland. A woman in the neighborhood who is involved with the Kenton Neighborhood Association saw the post and photo and remarked on how dirty Paul looked. This got me thinking. Paul needs a bath. He’s sooty, especially around the forearms, his painted on shirt is peeling and he’s fading. When it is sunny, he gets blasted. His skin turns paler and his clothes get dingier every second.

I was told that a Paul Bunyan bath runs in the neighborhood of $10,000. Well, that’s what you might expect to pay at the Bonneville Hot Springs Resort and Spa but good luck getting Paul there. It is quite an involved process. It takes time and multiple people to scrape, power wash, scrub and then repaint Paul. The last time it happened was in the summer of 2009.

Bunyan's Bath 004

Bunyan's Bath 005

Bunyan's Bath 008

That’s right, Paul has not had a bath in over five years. We’re lucky Paul doesn’t perspire or the neighborhood would be smelling like it did when the Union Meat Company had a processing plant in the area. I don’t know how it was all arranged the last time Paul was cleaned up but it’s looking like it’s time to start thinking about another restorative/industrial spa session.

Paul needs boots 1

Paul needs boots 2

Despite the fact that our Paul Bunyan statue never takes a step, his shoes are worn out. It’s time. It’s beyond time. We can all agree that no one should have to go over five years without a bath! New shoes, clothes and a good scrub for our beloved Paul Bunyan statue are the order of the day!

Paul Needs...

See this link for more great info on the Paul Bunyan statue in Kenton. The book PDXccentric will tell you about the time the statue was in a movie so you have to buy it:


Here’s a link to a great Kenton history page. Scroll down to see the version of Paul with heavy mascara.


Check out the neighborhood photos from the Kenton Commons web page. They are beautiful. Wait a minute, I live here?