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Mike Meyer – Baker City

Thank you Mike Meyer for being the first neighbor to submit a story on our web site. You can add a story by selecting ‘Be a neighbor’ at www.neighborsofbaker.org.

I love to write and have chosen a couple of memories from my childhood in Vancouver, Washington, my hometown for over 50 years.

Mike Meyer

My wife and I have been here a bit more than six years, six wonderful years. We left the Vancouver Washington area because of the ever increasing encroachment. We had no idea where we would end up. In our travels to find a new home we magically stumbled upon Baker City and immediately fell in love. Baker City has returned that love tenfold. It’s as if we have been embraced and hugged by a whole community! We have more friends than anytime in our lives. We are so blessed!

I love to write and have chosen a couple of memories from my childhood in Vancouver, Washington, my hometown for over 50 years.

The Kiggins

I recently read that the Kiggins theater was to reopen, this opened my memory banks. My earliest recollections of the Kiggins are from the late 1950s and early 60s. It was on south Main St. and across from Woolworths. I watched many a movie at the old Broadway theater also, but it is the Kiggins that I remember most. For 25 cents you could see a newsreel, weekly serial, cartoon and a double feature. I just now realize how amazing that sounds, but a fact nonetheless. There was a time in my childhood when it seemed like I attended the Saturday matinee every week. It was kinda like you were roped into it, otherwise you’d miss the next exciting episode of “Dick Granger and the Moon People” or some other poorly produced, obscure, black and white 15 part serial. These, of course, were made exclusively to lure 7 – 11 year olds to theaters week after week. It worked like a charm.

Every so often my Dad would wake me and my older brother Bob from our pleasant dreams and take us to the midnight matinee. This meant horror movies! Dad would always stop and buy a big sack full of candy on his way home from work for the occasion. This was his way of beating the overpriced lobby treats. Mom would give him the same lecture every time. “Don’t get them sick on a bunch of crap!” “You know they’re going to have nightmares!” “Jerry, are you even listening to me?” Little did Mom suspect that nightmares and consuming massive amounts of “crap” were essential to the whole wonderful experience. Off we’d go, bubbling with excitement and anticipation! I know my Dad got a big kick out of watching us, our eyes getting really big, our little bodies jerking at all the scary parts. In a lot of ways he was just a big kid himself. I really only remember one scene clearly from all those midnight movie excursions. I think the movie title was “Circus of Horrors.” In the scene a man opens a present he receives in the mail. Inside is a pair of binoculars. He is thrilled. He looks through them, you hear a click, and he let’s out a blood curdling scream! The camera follows the binoculars falling to the floor, long metal spikes covered in blood protruding from the eyepieces. The camera pans back to the screaming victim, hands covering eyes, blood flowing between his fingers. To this day that image remains emblazoned in my mind’s eye. So you see, mom, there was nothing to worry about.

A young Mike

Bullfrog Blues

I am thinking my best friend Pat Kelly probably owned several automatic weapons by the time we were 12 years old. For some reason (my Mom) I didn’t even own a BB gun. Lucky for me, another best friend, Jack, had recently acquired his second pellet gun and he invited me on a hunting trip. It was another carefree sunny summer day and what better way to enjoy it, as a couple of mindless adolescents, than to pick off a few unsuspecting birds. We headed down Ellsworth hill toward the river. We stopped and practiced our aims on any cans or bottles that crossed our paths. Soon we reached the railroad tracks where we put pennies on the rails, picking up the flattened remnants after the train had passed. We would hide in the brush and shoot at the new cars being carried, whizzing by in a blur. Without question our pellets led to some seriously disgruntled auto dealers. Our travel along the tracks eventually brought us to a short trestle spanning a picturesque pond, lily pads, cattails…and bullfrogs! They were flipping, flopping, jumping and croaking everywhere! We plopped our butts down in the middle of the bridge, legs dangling over the side, and started shooting. We were swept away by the sheer thrill!

“What are you fellas doing?” A loud gruff voice startled us! Looking up in unison we found ourselves gazing at a tall bearded man in full blown ranger attire. He had the hat, the patches, the shiny badge. It all spelled authority. There was nowhere to hide and nowhere to run. Jack, thinking fast, was the first to respond. “We were just shooting cans.” I lamely followed up with “yeah, just shooting cans.” The game warden didn’t have to say anything as we all looked at the dead floating frogs but, of course, he had lots to say. He informed us that we were just across the highway from a state fish hatchery and well within its boundaries. He was not a happy ranger. As he marched us, single file, to his office he lectured us about the penalties for trespassing on government property, the dangers of sitting on train trestles and the moral implications of killing innocent creatures. He confiscated our weapons, informing us that to get them back we would have to return with our parents. He pulled out an official looking notepad to take down our names, phone numbers and addresses. It turned out that this was the only time I was thinking straight since he first surprised us. I told him, in my most honest voice, that my name was Pat Kelly. I provided an appropriate fake address and phone number. Poor Jack had no such luxury, especially if he wished to ever see his rifles again. I found out later that Jack and his mother had an extremely uncomfortable meeting with the ranger, but he got his pellet rifles back. He really didn’t want to talk about it much after that. I don’t recall ever seeing those guns again.

I’ve been reading lately that bullfrogs are a non-native, extremely invasive creature. They have been eradicating our local frogs to near extinction. Many places have resorted to putting a bounty on them. If my buddy Jack and I had just waited 40 years we could have very well been hailed as heroes and even made a few bucks on the side!

Is that Pat Kelly?