Rotary roar: It happened at The Green … no lyin’

The Village Green’s manicured landscaping was a big draw. ERIN TIERNEY/CHRONICLE PHOTO

COTTAGE GROVE – The Village Green has only positive memories for my family and myself.

Jean, son Matthew and I were introduced to “The Green” in 1972 when I was asked to come to Cottage Grove to look at a job. We were put up in a suite with a fireplace, and fell in love with the location.  

As a young boy with my parents, and when I had started a family with Jean, we could not afford to stay at a place like The Green.

You could call the front desk and have your breakfast or dinner delivered to your room, meals superbly prepared.

In 1972 we did not take the job, but I was asked to come back in ’73, and then again in ’75, when we accepted the job in Cottage Grove. It was a hectic year. For the first four months I worked two or three days a week in Washington to tie up loose ends from my previous job. This meant spending almost three months at Village Green while we searched for a permanent home.  

Crikey! A lion on a leash 

 The Green offered the Map Room for many years to the Rotary Club for its weekly meetings.  

At one meeting, Terri Raines, who had started a wildlife rehabilitation facility called “Cougar Country” just north of Eugene. She was driving a pilot car for her father, who had a business of pilot cars escorting overwide machinery on roadways. I had invited her to a program, and she came with the lion on a leash.

When I met her in the parking lot before the program, she had a fully-grown mountain lion sitting in the passenger seat next to her. 

During her presentation, the lion was sitting by the podium while Terri was out in the audience with the smaller animals. That’s when the lion stood up, let out a growl and put its paws up on the podium. It created a momentary commotion at the nearest table. 

Terri later married Steve Irwin from Australia, who had a reptile park with his parents called Australia Zoo. They had a son and a daughter. Steve was stung by a sting ray and passed away from that injury in 2006. Terri and her family have since carried on his work.  

Where ideas were born

Part of my work in the Grove was to train skilled individuals, develop teams and write and implement apprenticeships in maintenance work by putting together seminars conducted by factory-trained technicians in the Charter Room at The Green.  

Next, I accepted an appointment as a member of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and at that time, the Chamber was holding its meetings at the Green. Bev Cooley was board president, and Lloyd Eastman was the newly-appointed Chamber manager. The first month of my new position, Lloyd and I attended a three-day conference in Portland. We had a couple of meetings to give a report on what we had learned at the conference in Portland. A week later, Lloyd had a heart attack and passed away.

The Chamber had just gone through a revision the year before. It was at this point that we hired Peggy Crawford as Chamber manager.

The loft was a special place for the Chamber to hold the annual awards banquet. As time went on, the Chamber was holding its board meetings in the boardroom opposite the Copper Rooster Restaurant. So many of the beneficial programs and ideas for the public and community were developed in this room – including bringing the first circus to CG. 

It was here, at this conference table, that Cooley asked me if I would head up the Bohemia Mining Days celebration. I ended up heading it for the next five years.  

By 1983, I was elected president of the Chamber, and was conducting a Chamber board meeting sitting in the same chair that Cooley had sat in when she asked me to become involved in the community.

In the door came Misty and Wayne Taylor, Jill and Don Fair, and Dave Spriggs, members of Prospectors and Golddiggers. 

They had invaded the board meeting, with Jill carrying a doll, wrapped in a blanket. They went around the entire table of 14-16 people, and when they came back, I was identified as being responsible for this doll wrapped in a blanket. This was my invitation to join the Prospectors and Golddiggers. 

In years to come, The Green offered the Board meeting room to South Lane Translator. We spent many evenings discussing the transition of translators from analog to digital. Today, the South Lane Translator System is considered one of the best in the world, offering over 30 free television stations to the community. 

Many of the Rotary projects were suggested and planned at these board meetings, as well as scholarship committees over the years.

I was handed the gavel to the Chamber presidency in the Loft Room. Crawford had connections through many political channels. During the presidency we developed a President’s Forum. During that 18-month period we had both the U.S. Senators, our Congressman, and the governor of Oregon as our luncheon speakers. 

The Loft Room, under the Fire Marshal Code, held 125. These President Forums were so popular that we had standing room only. And then Fire Chief Bruce Lamb told me that we had too many people, and we were going to have to cap the audience at 125.   

The only reason the Chamber banquets were moved the following year to Creswell (Emerald Valley Forest Inn) was because we did not have a facility large enough. 

A ‘haven’ in its heyday

In those days, the railroad station for boarding the train ride on the Blue Goose Railroad (OP&E) was in back of the nine-hole golf course behind The Green.

It was a haven for local people when we had power outages and storms – we could check in The Green as a safe haven. 

My last stay at the Green was after Jean had passed away in 2007, and I had to have surgery in ’15. I was advised by my surgeon I was not to stay alone for a night or two. I checked into the The Green, which gave time for a relaxing walk-through of the 14-acre gardens.

The Copper Rooster was one of a few destinations in Cottage Grove to take business associates, guests, and visiting relatives to lunch or dinner. It had an upbeat, big-city formal dining room in the Iron Maiden. One of my favorite meals at the Copper Rooster was a raw vegetable tray with several different cheeses and a rolled slice of ham, turkey, corned beef, with the option of soup.

Many people write about a brush with famous people. The Copper Rooster brings back Ernest Borgnine, an Academy-Award winner, and his wife, coming in for lunch, while Jean, Mathew and I sat at a table. They smiled at us as they went to the counter to sit on stools. For some reason, Earnest came over to us, and we had a very pleasant conversation. Jean got his autograph.

Another famous celebrity was Jack Elam. He had made many pictures, mainly Westerns, several with John Wayne. He is the fellow with the injured eye, called a wall-eye. A personable and likeable man, he engaged Jean and me in conversation. 

One nostalgic breakfast was with Stub Stewart in ‘89. The Dr. Pierce Barn was in severe decline. I was asked to form a committee to rejuvenate the Dr. Pierce Barn and preserve the 100-year-old billboard. The story appeared on the front page of the paper. The next day Stub Stewart called from Bohemia Lumber company and asked what they could do to help.  

Larry Wilson, a local contractor, and Roger Sinclair, retired city engineer, and I surveyed the needs of the Dr. Pierce Barn. A breakfast meeting was set up with Stewart, his financial representative, and myself for breakfast at the Rooster. Bohemia made a substantial commitment to materials over ham, eggs and coffee.

The Woodards had it in the heyday of 1960-86, as it was a day’s drive from two major cities on the West Coast. The travel time in light traffic on the freeway from Vancouver, B.C., to the Green was 7 hours and 3 minutes, and from The Green to San Francisco was 7 hours and 33 minutes.

Dirk Winter, owner of Moonstone Hotel Properties, purchased the VG property in 2001, but the tourist trade was hurt very severely by the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001. Between 2001-10, it was reported that Winter put $6 million into restoration of 24 rooms and modernization of the main restaurant and meeting rooms. 

A manager, Robert Hunt, was brought in to rebuild The Green. He became a Rotarian and a member of South Lane Translator Board. It was during this time when the Copper Rooster was discontinued, the Loft Room divided into smaller meeting spaces, and the one-of-a-kind spiral staircase from the ground floor to the Loft Room was removed and a traditional stairway added.

A professional architect/gardener from Eugene, Cynthia Eichengreen, was hired to develop the gardens as we see them today. There are 14 acres of landscaped gardens, with a variety of trees and plants, along with fountains and gazebos. 

Both the The Green and the local Rotary Club were born in 1960. Rotary was chartered, and the charter banquet was held in the Loft Room, in November of 1960. The Village Green opened its doors July 1, 1960.

Another memorable highlight: In the late 1980s, Halloween trick-or-treaters were sometimes in danger of traffic mishaps in the residential neighborhoods. Diane O’Renick of KNND radio, and a Rotarian, along with other service clubs, developed a Halloween Haunted House. This cut down door-to-door trick-or-treaters. The Green hosted this for some years. It grew so large it was moved to downtown.

Today, you see one of the largest gatherings of people and costumes on Main Street. This concept originated with the Service clubs and the Village Green.

To many, the Village Green was simply a restaurant and hotel. But to the community, and the business and wage-earning community, it was much more.

There were many sales of lumber, plywood, lam beams, dairy products, timber, real estate deals, and other projects agreed to over breakfast or lunch, or a golf match. The Green was a magnet for local businesses to bring money and bread-and-butter to local wage earners. 

The things we enjoy today, such as BMD and other events, don’t just happen. They require meetings, dedication, and work. The Green offered the facilities for many of these events and sales.

Today’s news of the Green’s closing brings an end to generations of memories. 



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