Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Old Postcard Wednesday--Oregon State Penitentiary 1902...and Jerry Garcia 80 years later

  (This card is another from the packet of Salem historical postcard reprints I recently bought to share on OPW.)

My husband wore one of his Jerry Garcia ties to work on Tuesday and I told him it looked great (his Jerry Garcia ties are my favorites). That tidbit of domestic information has applicability to this postcard, really it does. Just see the end of the post to hear the synchronicity. First, a bit of history:
The Oregon State Penitentiary is the oldest prison in Oregon and the only maximum security institution currently operated by the Oregon Department of Corrections. The Penitentiary has been sited at three separate locations. Originally, the Penitentiary was called the Oregon Territory Jail and was located in Oregon City, then the capitol of Oregon. The Territory Jail was built in April, 1842. The Jail was later destroyed by fire on August 18, 1846.
Oregon Territory relied on local jails for the housing of prisoners until 1853. Legislature recognized the need for a new prison and authorized the construction of one in 1851. In 1853 a site was finally selected in Portland. An out of business whiskey shop on Front Street was used to temporarily house the inmates.
The construction of the Territorial Prison was plagued with problems and escaping prisoners. Construction of the prison began in January of 1854. One of the major problems of the Portland site was that two lots of land had been purchased for the prison, but they were on opposite sides of Front Street. The City of Portland refused to close or reroute that portion of Front Street. The Portland site was abandoned in 1866 and all prisoners were moved to the new prison in Salem. Unlike the old prison, which was constructed primarily of wood, the new Penitentiary was built of brick and resembled a fortress. The Oregon State Penitentiary is still located on the Salem site originally selected.

Because the perimeter walls were only 15 feet high, the Penitentiary was still plagued with escapes. In September of 1866 Warden J.C. Gardner patented the infamous Gardner Shackle, which was later called the Oregon Boot. The Gardner Shackle consisted of a heavy iron band that locked around one ankle. This kept the inmate off balance and deprived him of agility. The device was used to curtail the flood of escapees. 

The current Penitentiary is home to a population of inmates that fluctuates between 1900 and 2100. In the last few years the population has rarely been below 2000. The Penitentiary has 22 acres of land space within the perimeter walls. Within the boundaries of this self contained city are four cell blocks, two dormitories, several types of industries, five vocational training shops, a physical plant with ten shops, education dept., library, counselors, infirmary, canteen, dining room, kitchen and two recreation areas. [Source: - Dept. of Corrections]

While working on this post I had another of those I-love-the-internet moments, when I came upon a blog titled Cuckoobird. In a post written on February 6, 2007, titled: [mp3] Jerry Garcia – Oregon State Prison 5/5/82, the author writes:

I’ve been wanting to share this bootleg for a long time. The copy that my sister gave to me as a gift years ago is entitled Lonesome Prison Blues. This is Jerry Garcia playing acoustic with John Kahn on the bass in front of a small audience of inmates at the Oregon state penitentiary on 5-5-82.

The recording is decent with only a couple of flaws. Jerry was in great spirits this day and his playing reflects it. . . 

Note: Please click on the link to read the full post. Also, this is my first attempt to load a player into a blog post and if for any reason my attempt to load the tracks fails (quite likely, actually), well, you can fly over to Cuckoobird and enjoy! You can also listen to the concert at Welcome to Now, another great site, (where I acquired the shot of Garcia and Kahn), that offers the download of a "crystal-clear SBD recording of Jerry Garcia and John Kahn, live acoustic from the Oregon State Penitentiary in 1982."

I encourage you to listen to a few of the tracks. I have been listening to the concert while preparing this post and, OMG, what a find! It is a pearl of a recording. I am sure that the Oregon State Penitentiary inmates who were there that day are still talking about it.

Jerry Garcia at Oregon State Prison, Salem, OR (5-5-82)

 1. Deep Elem Blues 2:30
2. Friend Of The Devil 5:45
3. Jack-A-Roe 4:39
4. Babe, It Ain’t No Lie 6:12
5. It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry 5:33
6. Run For The Roses 3:45
7. Ripple 4:20
8. I’ve Been All Around This World 4:06
9. Valerie 6:32
10. Dire Wolf 3:43
11. Rubin And Cherise 5:50



Promising Poets Parking Lot said...

Happy Belated Mother's Day.

Promising Poets Parking Lot said...

Glad to discover your poetry talent,
Share a free verse with us today, bless you.
Keep up the excellence.

Owen said...

Holy Cow ! Far out !

You knew I was gonna love this one... Jerry on acoustic, doesn't get much better than that, and the sound is absolutely great here. And he chose the tracks for a prison crowd...

Oh boy, I want these tracks on my ipod !

Rest in peace Jerry !

Thanks Lydia, for a real good time...

Will be passing this on to some dead head friends in the states...

Owen said...

Oh my god, the Jack-a-roe is fabulous. That's always been one of my all-time favorites... wish I could play it even 1/1000ths as good as Jerry here... and man, John Kahn is really getting around on that bass ! Awesome...

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

OK - so i can't let this post pass without mentioning Johnny Cash live at Folshom Prison/San Quentin

I bought both as a double set a while ago and i dont think i've ever heard a finer set of gigs - you can tell that everyone really connected with him.

I listened to a couple of Jerry Garcia tracks from your post - and like the guitar work. Don't really know him much here.

What made me laugh the most was the thought of all those escapes as they transferred prisoners from one side of the road to the other - and they say that bad planning is a modern thing!

Hattie said...

Great stuff. Thanks.

Lydia said...

Promising Poets Parking Lot~ I appreciate so much your visit and comments!

Owen~ Am finally replying to comments after our "Blogger vacation." It was such fun knowing that you had fun with this. I love the tracks too and if I had a ipod they would be on it!
Jack-a-Roe is such a fine song and in this recording it sounds better than ever I think. I agree that it is awesome. :)

Hattie~ My pleasure. It really is!



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