Does the place make the person, or does the person make the place?

Alpine

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Our first Alpine home, the old Jennie Wild home on 2nd East, at about 200 North.

Anthony loved to squirt water – on all of us. My brother’s job was to keep mom awake as she drove our little Volkswagen bug across the baking Nevada desert on our way to a place called Alpine – that was surrounded by a place called Utah. We had packed up our home in Beaverton Oregon where I had many friends, and moved away from a beautiful home, surrounded by pine trees and lots of room to play. But as we plowed through the bone dry heat that summer day, no matter how much water Anthony happily sprayed on me, Mom and Julie, the road never seemed to end. Julie said the longest drive she ever took was the distance from I-15 across the Alpine Highway into Alpine (its only about 10 miles). The mountains just got bigger and bigger but never seemed to get any closer, and the road just sort of slid beneath the wheels. In a kind of semi-heat exhaustion, we finally pulled into this little town tucked up against giants.

Beaverton was a thriving, vibrant suburb to Portland, and everything you needed was nearby – basically there was stuff going on. Not so much in Alpine. In 1970 it had maybe 800 people. The only LDS ward had just split into two wards, the first time in its one hundred plus years of existence – that was a big deal. Most of the people in Alpine had been there for generations, solid good people from pioneer stock, most still living an agricultural lifestyle, or worked in the local steel plant. So here was my semi-hippie Dad, an artist and designer, coming into town with his little family, determined to raise them in a good, clean town, with peace and plenty at the foot of the mountains. Though Dad’s career was up and down over the 20+ years we lived there, I will be forever grateful that he and mom chose to stay.

It didn’t take long before we all fell in love with Alpine, and to consider it home. Though you weren’t considered a native until you had lived there for more than 10 years, it helped that Dad bought one of the classic pioneer homes in town, one that oozed with charm and character. Unfortunately, it was barely holding together with bailing wire and duct tape. There was no heat upstairs, which of course was where all the bedrooms were, and Anth and I had to sleep in bunk beds with sleeping bags to stay alive during the winter months. I remember Mom being so buried in blankets to stay warm you could barely tell she was in there. But we were happy in that home, and all the homes we lived in in Alpine. I’m not sure what it means to sink roots into a place, because I have been a bit of a professional gipsy, but I know that a large part of who I am comes from the deep soil that Alpine provided for our family.

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The family around 1972 up Rock Creek canyon. Anthony, Dad, Julie, Mom (seated) and I with our wonderful Newfoundland Fannie. She was bigger than my brother, and was a best friend to us all.

Not long after we moved in we got a wonderful addition to the family named Fannie, a huge, lazy loving Newfoundland. She was a joy to have as a boy, willing to put up with any crazy stunt, usually because Anth I were bored out of our minds if we just stayed around the house. She was so fun to be with, always eager to please, and was rarely a problem. She started my life long love of dogs, being a friend and companion, and a part of the family. You have to remember that there was no internet, 3 channels on TV, and a whole lot of time on our hands to do stuff with. And Fannie was the perfect companion to do a lot of that stuff with.

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In our first Alpine home. Dad loved to shoot in black and white, and though Mom and Julie were always photogenic, my brother and I didn’t get that gift.

During the summer months we were less bored because Alpine was a paradise for little boys to run around and play in. If we weren’t at home, we were on our bikes scooting all over town until dark. Didn’t matter how many miles away from home we were, it seemed like we could hear mom yell when it was time to come home. There were parks to play football in, or just hang out at the town water fountain that had the best water in the world. There were Apple orchards to explore, or just eat golden delicious until you were sick. There was Burgess Market (barely 6 aisles) that you could get some candy for 10 cents and think you were in heaven (and if I had a little extra maybe a Dr. Pepper). Little league baseball to learn the great pastime, and see a curve ball come at your head and think your a dead man (but was just another strike I missed). Alpine Days in August was when the whole town came together to celebrate for a couple days. Dances, fireworks (one firework at a time), pancake breakfasts, parades etc. For a kid, Alpine Days was an exciting time, where most of the year quietly slid by with school, church, school, church and so on eating up the days.

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A few years into our Alpine days, Mom and Dad bought some property by Dry Creek on the South side of 100 South and 300 East. It took some time to plow it out and build up some rock walls to make it safe from possible flooding (that rarely happened). Dad designed the home, and put us boys to work cleaning up after the contractors. Hated it. But, it was fun to help out with installing the tile, and do some odd jobs to get it finished up. We all pitched in staining the rough cut pine exterior cladding – seemed to take forever to brush all that wood! Dad was ahead of his time for the area, with brick floors, a fairly open concept, and a red sink in a custom designed kitchen built by Mr. Loveridge, a carpenter who hand crafted all the shelving and cupboards. Dad’s studio had a huge North facing window that was fantastic, where he produced some beautiful silkscreens, as well continued to teach, design book covers and dream of moving back to New York City. He put us all to work when it was screen printing time, teaching us craftsmanship, sensitivity to form and color, and the pleasure of just being together helping out. Little did I know of the creative DNA that was being transferred in that studio.

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One of Dad’s silkscreens based upon the Articles of Faith. It was pretty large, around 30×40 inches, and took Anth and I to pull it together.

Over the years many other Artists moved into Alpine, and many families immigrated from California, weary of the crowds and dirty air, and could buy land on the cheap. Many of the creatives, such as Dad, moved into the area and saw this little village as a way to build an artistic community, one that supported and encouraged all the arts, and a place to peacefully raise their families. There were visual artists, designers, architects, writers, craftspeople of many disciplines who moved into Alpine, and by the ’80’s it was quite a hub of artistic goings on. As a kid, we seemed to be hanging out at artists homes all the time – and for me it kept my eyes wide open, and my heart stirring.

Over the years Alpine sank deep into my soul, a refuge of safety from the world. As I look back the time went so fast. Elementary school, junior high and high school all had lessons to help me grow. I was not a great student, especially with math and science, barely getting C’s as my right sided brain struggled to make sense of that different language. I became terrified of tests, as transferring logical information is something my mind just didn’t do well. Band became my passion – I was a total band geek. I Loved the challenge of the trombone, the sound of brass, and in high school became a little obsessed with marching bands and drum corps. At one point I considered a career as a professional musician, but that changed the minute I discovered drawing and jumped into the dark side with glee.

Like many people who are raised in a small town, the connection to the land and the people never really leave you. Over the years as a creative I have floated from job to job and place to place, but Alpine is never far from me. Some would say I lived a sheltered life and didn’t see the real world. Perhaps. But what if being raised by good parents in a community that by and large supported each other is what is real? Place has a profound impact on people. And living next to giant mountains, knowing all your neighbors (in fact most of the whole town) I count as a reality that I wish more people could experience. Is it possible today? Sure, at least I am hopeful that towns across the world can be a haven for little kids who are trying to find themselves, as Alpine helped me find myself.

 

 

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