National Geographic : 1952 Nov
From Sagebrush to Roses on the Columbia I climbed into a decrepit army truck with the manager, and we chugged up the perilous height by twisting switchbacks. Carrier scoops were bringing tons of ore to a crusher near the road. In this crusher the rock was broken into pieces about as large as walnuts. By successive flights of descending stairs we went through the mountainside plant. On each level, crushers were grinding the ore smaller till pieces were the size of wheat. Now an astonishing thing happened. The grainlike substance was put into furnaces and subjected to a blast of flame at 1,900° tem perature. The kernels of stone popped like popcorn, to emerge a fluffy meal. "The perlite up at the mine weighs 85 pounds to the cubic foot," the manager told me. "This stuff weighs less than seven." From the popped perlite lightweight plas ter and acoustic tiles are made. The product saves thousands of pounds of weight in build ing construction, and acoustic tile made of it is one of the most effective sound deadeners ever discovered. The mining expert who had accompanied me explained that, according to one school of thought, perlite stone is a rhyolite which poured from a volcano in molten state ages ago and cooled quickly in some prehistoric lake. Quantities of water were imprisoned in it when it crystallized, and it is this stone locked water that expands under terrific heat and causes particles of the ore to pop. Columbia River Has Made Portland One day I asked Arthur Farmer, Portland civic leader, "What do you think most im portant in the development of this city?" "If we ever get around to building a civic monument," he replied, "we ought to dedi cate it to the engineers who dredged the Columbia and Willamette Rivers and gave us a harbor for ocean-going ships. "We used to be an inland town with no chance for world markets. Now with our 35-foot channel we are trading with Alaska, the Orient, and the rest of the world." Great steamers from afar now come into Portland harbor in ever-increasing numbers. Though the channel of deep water is wide enough for them to turn around on their own power, the port provides tugboats to help them maneuver when their boilers are cold. Most efficient of these boats is the Portland,a Mis sissippi River-type stern-wheeler (page 591). It is strange to see the anachronistic-looking craft pushing around the most modern ocean liners. The shipyards which made Portland boom during World War II are closed down, but there has been no diminution in the tempo of the city. With new industries springing up every day, there is work for everybody. Portland has never been a boom town save for a few years during the war. Primarily it is a pleasant home-town place of steady, healthy growth and leisurely habits. People find time to cultivate and enjoy fine lawns and flower gardens. On the hillsides, houses ranging from mansions to bungalows are built with picture windows framing Mount Hood. To me the friendly city is one of the most delightful in America. Most of the factories are run by electricity, and consequently the air is usually free of smoke. Business is brisk, but people always have time for visitors. Portland Parades Half a Million Roses For sheer beauty there are few spectacles to compare with the Portland Rose Festival (page 584). I sat enraptured in Multnomah Civic Stadium on June 13 as 45 flower-decked floats, interspersed with a score of bands, moved up the ramp in the two-hour parade of the 44th annual celebration of this event. On the theme "Childhood Memories," en tries ran the gamut from Mother Goose to Bible stories. The winning float represented a circus parade. It consisted of five sections with ringmaster, cages of animals, and cal liope, all done in red and white roses. More than 70,000 flowers were woven together to decorate the float. An exquisite pageant of Cinderella going to the ball in her magnificent coach-and-four was done in white daisies and pink roses. Blue flowers edged the carriage wheels and the harness. This float with 50,000 flowers was adjudged second in the competition. Never before had I seen such masses of flowers. A conservative estimate would place the number of blossoms on the 45 floats at half a million. Most remarkable to me is the fact that virtually all these flowers are grown in Portland gardens. The day after the main parade, 10,000 school children marched in a Junior Rose Festival. Their floats, pulled mostly by hand, were small models of some of the finest dis plays of the grownups' parade. Unfortunately rain poured incessantly on the procession, and make-up ran down the cheeks of the child actors. " Costumes were sodden, but the youngsters were game. I boarded a plane at the airport just at sunset. As evening shadows lengthened, I saw lights come on in the valley, but the snowy crown of Mount Hood still glowed in golden sunlight (pages 582-583). On the cover of a folder someone had left in the seat next to mine was the caption, "For You a Rose in Portland Grows."