Friday, December 19, 2014

Chinook Wind or Pineapple Express? You Might not Guess a Link to Bicycling!

Bemer S. Pague
"Chinook Wind" or "Pineapple Express"?

Neither term seems completely innocent.

Chinook comes from the fur trapper and settlement era, and at least hints as a reminder of dispossession and our ignoble origins.

Pineapple express is to my ear a flip off-rhyme with "Banana Republic," and also might say something about dispossession.

"Pineapple express" only dates from around 1990 it seems
Google Ngram viewer
Both terms seem to locate the storm pattern, a frequent source of flood and catastrophe, elsewhere. In these seemingly foreign origins, both terms encode at least a little hint of nativism. Both make me wary.

Your mileage may vary.

I think I prefer "Chinook," though, because of its association with the jargon and the creative seam where different cultures met, traded, and generated new ideas. It's older and seems to have a much deeper established usage. There's also more "there" there in Chinook than in the pineapple - at least for around here.

Weather Forecasting and Weather Types
on the North Pacific Slope
Bemer S. Pague (et. al.), 1897
It turns out that one of the important explainers and popularizers of the term "Chinook wind" was also an important bicycle advocate in the late 19th century.

Section on "Chinook Winds" in Weather Forecasting

Proposed Bike Path to Oregon City
Oregon City Enterprise,
June 23, 1898
"Weather prophet" Pague, as Bemer S. Pague was sometimes, known, was the lead Forecast Official in Portland in the late 1890s.

He was also President of the United Wheeling Association, an umbrella advocacy group for people who biked, principally members of cycling clubs in Portland.

During the first golden age of cycling, he helped build early bike path sections and advocated at the Capitol for statewide efforts.

Here's a notice in the Oregon City paper. The names might be a little familiar. Colonel L.L. Hawkins advocated for a bike path to Mt. Hood, and a little later chauffeured around John Charles Olmsted for what became the great Portland Park Plan of 1903. A descendent, William J. Hawkins III, authored a landmark text in local historic preservation, Classic Houses of Portland.

On the cover of that book is the Pittock Mansion. Henry Pittock was the publisher of the Oregonian at the time, and was rich.

These weren't the fringey riff-raff working on bike paths! Bikes still were leading edge ground transportation technology and status symbols.

The automobile changed this, of course, and it didn't take but a few years for cars to supplant bikes as new technology and bling. But we must also remember that cars remained expensive through the Depression; and because of their pervasiveness today, we badly overestimate the speed of their widespread adoption in the first half of the 20th century.

Fashions change, whether terms for storm systems or preferred vehicular conveyance. Even though present conditions always seem powerful with the force of their givenness, things weren't always so, and things won't remain so.

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