Two unidentified ladies in pioneer sunbonnets are ready to ride in the 1934 Oregon Diamond Jubilee parade. - SOHS #19265

Medford's time to Diamond shine

1934 was a pretty good year. The Feds got gangster John Dillinger in Chicago, the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series, the Three Stooges released their first short feature, and the Mail Tribune won a Pulitzer Prize.

All that was needed was a chance to dress up in some pioneer duds, and Gov. Julius Meier was more than willing to please. Supported by the Legislature, the governor proclaimed Medford the official location for celebrating Oregon's Diamond Jubilee — the 75th anniversary of statehood.

"The Valentine State is celebrating a little late," said a Utah newspaper, noting that Oregon was admitted to the Union on February 14, 1859.

Everyone knows holding a Valley celebration in February risks some unpredictable weather, so, organizers had decided to move the celebration to June 3-9.

Brilliant! Everyone knows holding a Valley celebration in early June also risks some unpredictable weather. Fortunately, before the storm clouds blew east, only one heavy opening-day downpour dampened anyone's spirit.

This was big. The parade would be two miles long, "assuring one of the longest parades ever presented in the state." The floats would show all aspects of Oregon's history in "lavish detail," and each would be pulled by horses. More than 200 horses would clip-clop up Main Street from Riverside to the new courthouse on Oakdale.

There would be real cowboys, real school marms and 24 real American Indians. The Grants Pass Cavemen would bring their cave ladies and their clubs.

Why, there was even a Lewis and Clark expedition of 48 white men, Sacajeawa and a black man portraying William Clark's servant York.

The governor, of course, led the parade, accompanied by "Portland's colorful marching band," and not far behind came the queen.

Now, if you're looking for a queen, you'd obviously ask the "oldest Oregon pioneer woman" you can find to raise her hand and step forward — right? Well, for all you guys who forgot to give your sweetheart a Valentine's Day card and are nodding your heads — who think that asking any woman, of any age, how old she is, would be a good idea — we've got news for you. Snap out of it, dummy!

Although she wasn't the oldest pioneer in the state, Ann Whiteaker of Eugene, the daughter of Oregon's first state governor, had a historic claim to the early days. She arrived at her coronation in a stagecoach driven by Fred Tice, one of the few surviving stagecoach drivers.

Angus Bowmer, in his pre-Oregon Shakespeare Festival days, enlisted more than 500 college students to perform in "Oyer-un-Gon" (Land of Plenty), his self-written pageant of Oregon history. Massive sets at the fairgrounds south of town — 40 feet tall and 150 feet wide — rode on tracks so they could be moved out of the way before the afternoon rodeo-style roundup.

The newspaper asked "numerous persons experienced in estimating crowds" to place the number of visitors in Medford for the week. More than 56,000, they said.

Wow! You have to admit. That's a lot of people in pioneer duds.

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at

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