Sting-rays and days of glaze
It happened every Saturday for many years.
A handful of young boys would get together and run a gauntlet of delights that began at Ben Franklin&
s variety store, then next door to Sprouse Reitz, there to ogle over the plastic scale model kits of airplanes and cars. After an inspired purchase they would walk across the street to Ingle Drugs to indulge in a chocolate phosphate or other soda fountain treat, then head down to the Ashland Hotel with its expansive porch overlooking the palm trees, emblematic of the turn of the century motto for Ashland: &
Where the palms meet the pines.&
On schedule and en mass they would geek their way into the lobby and drool over the hot nut case, buying a small bag of the least expensive and leaving nose prints near the cashews.
Again outside, they would listen to the half-dozen of so &
who were busy swapping lies while never missing the communal spittoon. Once full of nuts and tall tales, the boys would mount their Sting-ray bicycles and head up into Lithia Park to blaze most of the trails that we now perceive as well planned and carefully considered. After a full day of diversion and playfulness, they broke up to pedal home. Randy Scott Warren was their ring leader and it was the late &
145;50s in downtown Ashland.
Randy was born and raised in Ashland. His father bought, repaired and sold houses, resulting in Randy having lived in 20 or more houses and attending three elementary schools before attending the newly constructed junior high (middle school) on Walker. He got around and knew practically everyone.
His father was a lieutentant colonel in the National Guard during the Vietnam War. Seeing the handwriting on the wall his dad made sure that Randy and 10 of his buddies were in the Guard by his senior year, there to serve a six-year obligation. Because of this position none of the 11 was sent to the jungle in Southeast Asia. These were the times when &
were not expected to be shipped overseas with their second-rate equipment and put it on the line.
— — —
Randy Scott Warren stands next to one of his pieces — of art.
One day in the late &
145;60s, after getting off work from Mt. Ashland, Randy was flagged down by a long-haired hippie type whose VW van had broken down just downhill on the south side of the Siskiyou summit. Ever the Ashland helpful local, Randy and a few friends pushed the van, loaded with vinyl records to the summit. The long-haired hippie look-alike was Matt Frey on his way into town to open up Rare Earth in its first location: The old Bank Building (now Tree House Books) on the Plaza. Randy counseled that if Matt didn&
t brake too much he should be able to coast into Ashland, given all the weight of the records. Matt didn&
t and rolled through the off ramp to Ashland.
One afternoon Randy was sitting in his front yard on the corner of Granite and Nutley with Dan and Gary Roberts, two other local boys. A newspaper route manager spotted the kids and asked them if they wanted to earn some money delivering the Tidings. He asked their ages and Randy said he was 11. Once informed that to have a route one had to be 12 Randy piped up: &
Eleven was yesterday, today, I&
He got the job, to start in two days.
Upon returning home Randy asked his Dad to lend him some money for a bigger bicycle. The reply was: &
Son, I got my bike at the dump and I figure you can too.&
At the dump Randy spotted a Raleigh with Reynolds 531 tubing. It was a high-quality touring bike that had fallen on hard times. A few dollars later and it was his.
Randy took it to Edward&
s bicycle repair and key shop on Hargadine, across the street from the city/festival parking lot. He got it running, put on a strong rear rack and began delivering his 109 daily papers up such streets as Church and Nob Hill, which are both nearly cliff hangers. For this he gladly earned $12 a month.
In 1976 Randy graduated from SOSC (SOU) with a degree in environmental biology and a minor in art. He taught ceramics even as a student and his love of fired clay would resurface much later in his life, as we shall soon see. After graduation he went into construction. He built Alan DeBoer&
s house, which was later demolished to make room for Alan&
s new home, the best money could buy. While continuously in the building trade, something else called to Randy. His love of the outdoors collided with the thought of a Hobie Cat business, co-conceived by Donnie King, which first operated from some out-buildings behind Donny Castleman&
s Inside Edge ski shop on Ashland Street. Before the skis it was a western/saddle shop. Now it is a branch of Gateway Real Estate.
It was then that Randy found five acres next to Emigrant Lake on which he built his current residence. He cut a deal with the county for a new location for his Hobie Cat business, brought in a small, portable building on skids and installed a white sand beach with the help of Chuck Kenny. Business was good until the drought of 1987-88, when the water was so low that the building foundations for Klamath Junction were revealed.
Inspired by his son, Stu, Randy opened up the Brews Brothers drive-through in the Ashland shopping center in 2001. He had wanted to locate on Ashland Street near the then trailer park, but the Ashland Planning Department, in the person of one planner, had other ideas, or shall we say hallucinations, at the time. Randy was told that the goal was to discourage traffic on Ashland Street and eventually put a satellite parking facility on that end of town, forcing visitors and locals alike to park and take buses to the Plaza. (Didn&
t make much sense to me, as it was a state highway, I had thought that we had all learned by the failure of Eugene&
s walking mall, with no cars downtown). Spurned, but never defeated, Randy got permission to locate in the shopping center&
s parking lot.
Randy built the coffee shop at home, then, as such operations are inspected by the state, scheduled a building inspection. After the inspector signed off Randy suggested that he take a break and get a cheeseburger at the Emigrant Lake Tavern, as the Sheetrock would be up and ready to inspect in two hours. A cheeseburger and a Sheetrock inspection later the man from the state hit the freeway, still scratching his head about Randy and his ways.
In an epiphany to be described in a future article Randy and Brad Roupp founded Ashland Artworks at 291 Oak St., which became an art co-operative. I have been there several times during the First Friday Artwalks and appreciate the many separate cottages that draw the appreciative to this magical property.
Today I walked through the property, looking to take a photo of Randy for this article. I marveled at the hobbit-like workshops and studios which seemed to form a medieval village with weavings, carvings, metal working, fused glass, paintings, drawings, carvings, sculpture, prints, porcelain, raku vessels, wearable art and jewelry. I remembered how it looked and felt last year during a warm late spring Friday night as hundreds walked the lighted paths that traverse the whole. If you look carefully, you can see Randy&
s Sting-ray parked in the back, with peanut shells strewn about it as a distraction while Randy munches on some hot cashews while thinking of all things Raku.