Pioneer Pride: Part 20-The Rivalry

There was Conde McCullough, Oregon’s master bridge builder’s first elegant arch bridge, an Art Deco masterpiece, completed in 1922, spanning the Willamette River, connecting Oregon City to our despised nemesis West Linn. Before the new Oregon City High School campus opened in 2003, this bridge conveyed the players and coaches to the oldest continuous high school football rivalry west of the Mississippi River. Oregon City and West Linn are right across the Willamette River from each other. For a century or so, because of where the schools were located, perched on high ground, students, if they had binoculars, could actually see each other from a secret spot on each others’ campuses. We had binoculars and we knew the secret spot and we spied on the Lions, or rather, lionesses, whenever we had nothing to do at school on a clear day, which was pretty much all the time.

The schools were so close to each other, a stunning and probably unprecedented intimacy between rival cities and schools, that whenever the annual Friday Big Game under the lights occurred, the away team’s marching band, accompanied by cheerleaders and other students on foot or following in muscle cars, would march in what was essentially a patchwork parade, to the rival’s stadium. Usually in the rain! And to get there, they had to march across Conde’s bridge, a bridge that probably facilitated more acts of drunkenness, violence, vandalism, lust, gridiron lore, and daredevilry related to a high school football rivalry than any other bridge in American history. That bridge, with its seductive concrete arch pitched at such a low angle, tempted you to walk right up and over it. Many men and some women did exactly that in those anonymous daredevil days. I heard someone even rode a motorcycle over the arch and lived to seed a legend.

I think it was my freshmen year when the night before the big game, a bunch of Oregon City varsity football players raided the West Linn campus at midnight and painted red and white the testicles of the golden lion statue that graced their main entrance. West Linn played at Oregon City that year and beat us 50-0.

And my favorite rivalry story comes from 1974. Some Oregon City football players procured hydrochloric acid and used it to dislodge the lion statue from its pedestal. They somehow (drunkenly) hauled the lion to the bridge, tied a noose around its neck, secured the other end of the rope around a girder, and threw it over the side. A hanging. They left it there and fled.

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