TOLEDO – Nearly 50 years ago, the city of Toledo was one of several Lincoln County locations that were memorialized in a film, and a dedication was held on Friday, Oct. 6, to commemorate that event.
In 1971, the motion picture “Sometimes A Great Notion” was created, portions of which were filmed in and around Toledo. That movie, based on the second novel by Oregon author Ken Kesey published in 1964, was directed by Paul Newman, who also costarred with Henry Fonda and Lee Remick.
To commemorate this and other movies that were made in Oregon, a project called the Oregon Film Trail was started and is installing signs at locations around the state where the movies were made. Last Friday, the newest Film Trail sign was officially unveiled alongside Main Street, just across from Toledo City Hall. The sign stands next to the site of the former Ross Theater, where a scene for the movie was filmed. The Ross Theater also screened the film upon its release. That theater was later damaged by fire and was torn down in 1991.
“Sometimes A Great Notion” was also filmed in Kernville, Newport and the Columbia River Gorge. An Oregon Film Trail sign for the movie can be found at Gleneden State Beach, close to the Kernville location.
The story of this movie revolves around the Stamper family that strives to keep their small logging business going despite opposition from the local union. A number of local residents were used as extras in the film, and some still living in the area fondly recall the small parts they played. Many residents were thrilled to spot the film’s stars on the sidewalks and in local shops as the movie was being made.
Friday’s dedication was hosted by Kathy Crane, executive director of the Toledo Chamber of Commerce. She said the idea for erecting a sign in Toledo was hatched after another Film Trail sign was erected in Depoe Bay, this one commemorating the filming of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
“C.J. Drake, from Georgia-Pacific, said, ‘Sometimes a Great Notion was filmed here, maybe we could do a sign.’ So that’s how it all started.”
Crane expressed thanks to Travel Oregon, the Oregon Coast Visitor’s Association, the Toledo Downtown Association and the city of Toledo for help in paying for and installing the sign. “We say thank you to all,” she said.
The Oregon Film Trail works with the governor’s office and places signs all over Oregon where these films have been produced. “They have a website and a map, as we do on the Toledo Oregon Chamber of Commerce website … that tells you where all of these different films have been made,” said Crane.
“All over the United States and the world, there are film buffs who, when they travel, they want to come to places where these films have been made,” Crane added. “So we’re hoping that because we’re on the trail now and because it’s very well publicized that we’ll get visitors coming to Toledo to visit our town. That’s really the most important thing to me, getting some tourists in here and making our town a destination place for people to come.”
After unveiling the new sign, Crane invited anyone in the audience to speak about their memories of the filming of the movie. One of those who spoke was Margaret Parry Epperson.
“I grew up on the Yaquina River, and we had the opportunity to watch the filming,” Epperson recalled. She said her sister, Arline, worked at J.C. Penney at the time. The store was closed when some guy came to the door and wanted in. Arline told him he couldn’t come in, but then some co-workers recognized him as Henry Fonda. “So they let Henry Fonda in J.C. Penney’s,” she said, “and behind him came Paul Newman and his wife and also Lee Remick. The girls went to the basement and bought yardage … they were into quilting. And they bought blue jeans, sweatshirts, denim jackets and good heavy socks for the movie.”
Epperson also recalled that whenever the food truck went up to Elk City Park to feed the film crew, “they’d honk the horn as they came by all our places.” So she and several others went up there one day to take a look. “There was Paul Newman holding a can of Olympia beer, so I go up to Paul — I wasn’t sure if should talk to him — and I think what shocked me the most was he was not as tall as I had visualized him. He was very, very short. Here I am looking straight into his beautiful blue eyes, and I’m going, ‘God you’ve got beautiful blue eyes.’ That’s all I could say, and he very politely said, ‘Thank you.’”
Following the dedication ceremony, Toledo Mayor Rod Cross told the News-Times he was grateful to those who worked together to make this happen.
“I really appreciate not only what Kathy (Crane) has done, but also what the Oregon Film Trail people did to get this recognized,” Cross said. This type of focus on Toledo’s history is something the community has wanted for years, he said. “It’s been a long time coming. I’m really happy for Kathy and the chamber, and I really want to thank the Oregon Trail for their help.”
Tim Williams, executive director of Oregon Film, said in a press release, “There aren’t many films that showcase and speak to the Oregon spirit as ‘Sometimes a Great Notion.’ Being able to honor and celebrate that project’s direct connection to a quintessential Oregon town like Toledo gives us all great pride. We wish to thank the city and its people for helping us achieve this recognition.”
Visitors and fans of other movies such as “Wild,” “The Goonies,” “Point Break,” “Kindergarten Cop,” “Twilight,” “Free Willy,” “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Stand By Me,” “City Girl,” “The General” and “Short Circuit,” among many others, have been coming to Oregon since these films were first released. Some of these Oregon Film Trail signs can be seen in Astoria, Gleneden Beach, Athena, Ashland, Depoe Bay, Silver Falls State Park, Ecola State Beach, Hammond Marina/Warrenton, Brownsville, and Salem, among others.
For a complete list of Oregon Film Trail sign locations, go online at www.historicoregonfilmtrail.com/map.