The Hap Taylor article in the Bulletin has made me want, for one last time, to explain how bad things were in Bend back then. (Hap Taylor and Sons went bankrupt in the mid-80s....just like everyone else.)
You know how my parents generation was scarred by the Great Depression, so that no financial decision was made without taking that into account? I've never been able to shake the mid-80s from my consciousness.
It was a time of opportunity, in some ways. I was able to buy the store, because the owner (Mike Richardson, who went on to become owner of Dark Horse Comics and Things From Another World and a bit of tycoon) wanted out, and I'm sure he thought he'd found his 'last fool' in me. I found sports cards to carry me through the 80's. I was doing O.K. when everyone around me was really hurting.
It's really hard to explain the psychology back them. We felt doomed and hopeless, and those businesses who hadn't already left downtown were trying to sell out. The figure that was bandied about was 40% vacancy, but it felt much worse. Think downtown Burns, only worse.
A series of restaurants went into the space the Toomies is now in. Nothing like the haunted look in waiter's eyes, as they stood, tuxedo ed in the window waiting for customers. My neighbor, Jerry from the Sole Shop, and I used to sit out on the sidewalk and play cribbage for hours.
I remember when some young fellow from California named Bauhofer decided to renovate the Old Post Office, most of us thought he was crazy. The rate of change was very slow. I think it was a couple of years later when the guy renovated the O'Kane building, and most of us wrote that off to some crazy Californian who had so much Carpenter's music royalties that he could throw it away.
That's why, when people think that downtown Bend coming back was inevitable, it just means they weren't here. Because it happened one project at a time, and each one was risky, and there were a bunch of missteps and failures along the way.
But the physical reality of downtown Bend, was really only a manifestation of the scary psychology back then. I don't think I was even willing to admit that MAYBE the recession was even over until the 90's. So all that Reagan talk about "Morning in America" was just gibberish.
So yeah, I've seen a boom town become a ghost town, and it's something you never forget.
3 days ago