Monday, October 3, 2011

Pendleton, Oregon

Yes, I know….I’m in Yakima, Washington, but we moved along so quickly from Colorado I didn’t have time to blog about our time in Pendleton.

Luckily we arrived the day after the popular Pendleton Roundup celebration, so there wasn’t a lot of traffic.  We stayed at the Elks Club parking lot which was still full with Roundup revelers.  A few of the restaurants and bars posted signs saying they were closed to recuperate from the Roundup activities LOL.

We were disappointed to find out that although Pendleton Canadian Whiskey was bottled in town, there weren’t any tours or sampling.  The have all acquired a taste for this premium sipping whiskey after being introduced to it by The Abeyta family, when they camped with us in South Fork.

We followed several suggestions and did take the 1 1/2 hour Pendleton Underground Tour. Although there weren’t many original items, and most of the stores and shops were re-created, the underground stories and activities were true, and I feel, accurately portrayed. 

The town of Pendleton began in 1890’s, but they didn’t have their first law enforcement until 1922.  So there was a lot of robbery and theft of merchants’ products as they were delivered. To counter that trend, the merchants broke through the walls in the basements of buildings and created an underground passage to move products. Basically the whole downtown area was connected by tunnels under streets and through basements under the buildings. The tour showed businesses from different periods of time.

In the early days there was a Sundown Law in Pendleton where the Chinese folks were not allowed outside after dark, so they lived underground and had access to businesses. In later years the public had more access underground.

Pendleton Underground Tour (7)
Replica of bath house run by the Chinese

Pendleton Underground Tour (23)
High water table made water easily available.
Pendleton Underground Tour (10)
Butcher shop.
Pendleton Underground Tour (6)
Cowboys at tavern
Pendleton Underground Tour (11)
Speakeasy in later years
Pendleton Underground Tour (8)
Even a ice cream parlor

Chinese living underground was very interesting.

Pendleton Underground Tour (21) Pendleton Underground Tour (24)
Pendleton Underground Tour (9) Pendleton Underground Tour (22)
Opium table where a person laid while smoking

I think everyone’s favorite was touring an actual brothel….no, not an operating brothel, but authentic none the less.  Prostitution thrived in Pendleton until 1953, yes, that is 1953. Up until that time there were as many as 18 houses of ill-repute operating in Pendleton at any one time.  They only closed down because a new minister came into town and developed a list of all the ladies and all the clients.  He brought the list to a meeting of the city council and threatened to publish the list unless all the brothels were closed down.  The next morning school buses arrived at the brothels and gathered up all the ladies and dropped them off at small towns around the area.  Do you think some “interesting” names were on the list?  Ya think?

The brothel they showed us had been sealed up at the street level. The interior was very well replicated with the 1940-50 period belongings.

Pendleton Underground Tour (17)
Opening to the “rooming house”
Pendleton Underground Tour (18)
The “Thirty-nine steps to heaven”
Pendleton Underground Tour (19)
Checking out the rooms
Pendleton Underground Tour (20)
Personal room of one of the ladies.

The tour’s $15 entrance fee was a bit steep, but we felt the 1.5 hour tour was well worth it.  The many stories told were fascinating and so funny.  We’d recommend taking the tour if you are in the area.

Pendleton Woolen MillLater we stopped at the Pendleton Woolen Mills.  This is the plant where they weave the blankets, but the store sold a sampling of all their clothing from their beautiful jackets to their well-known shirts.  Seeing their wares was nice, but the price point was way out of our league.

Remember, you are loved.


  1. Howdy B&J,

    Glad you're finally going on vacation!!! This trip has got to get better for y'all.. A BAWDY
    HOUSE!!! Bobbie, why I never!!! $15 is a hunk,
    but how many house of ill-repute can you get in for that little $$$?? In Reno it'll be $$$$$!!!

    Smooth roads & balmy breezes !!!

  2. Glad you got to visit Pendleton. I have fond memories of attending the Pendleton Roundup three years in a row in the early nineties. There was a saloon everywhere including the parking garage of the Tapedera Motel where you sat on hay bales to enjoy your choice of drinks. The riders bucked out of the chutes onto a hard track at the rodeo. The Happy Canyon Pageant is a spectacular event. A very good friend of mine was a Happy Canyon Princess as well as her daughters and granddaughters through the years. She made the leather dress which weighed at least 50#. Thanks for bringing back those memories in your blog.


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