Salmon St. Fountain (And Amphitheater Fireworks)
|| One of the more iconic of Downtown Portland’s many fountains is the Salmon St. Fountain at the end of, surprise!, SW Salmon St, anchoring the Waterfront Park. These pictures were taken after work a few days days ago when our highs were still in the 80’s. With school starting there were only a couple families out enjoying it, so I may have to go back on some ridiculously hot Summer day next year. The Fountain cycles between water coming up through the center and water being shot from an outside ring of nozzles back into the center. I captured both modes for your viewing pleasure.
My very first experience with the Fountain, and the surrounding area, came on July 4th 2001. I had moved to Portland on the 1st and went downtown with a friend to see the fireworks. I’m from California originally, grew up in Santa Cruz, went to school in Santa Barbara, and worked in Bay Area before heading North to Portland. (Which is a whole other story in itself!) The important bit for this anecdote though, is simply that I had never lived in an area where the purchase of fireworks was legal. There was just too high of a fire danger, and the counties that did allow fireworks were all several hours away.
So imagine my surprise as I approached the little amphitheater by the Fountain full of people, many of whom were lighting fireworks! In the center of the crowd was a large open area in which people were setting them off. And by setting off, I mean lighting them and throwing them into the clearing, often from several rows back! As someone who had no experience with “private” fireworks it was a shock.
My dad had retired after 30+ years in fire service so I wondered to myself what the fire department would think of this if they knew. It wasn’t too long after I had the thought that I noticed the firetruck toward the back surrounded by the crowd. The firefighters were sitting on top of the cab, pointing and laughing at it all, and occasionally nudging one another to point out bits of the amateur show they may have missed. There was an older woman with a long lighter in one hand with a Walmart bag of fireworks underneath. She kept the lighter lit and used her other hand to pull out little fireworks, light them, and toss them into the clearing all in one continuous motion. It was surreal.
At one point a man trotted into the clearing where there was a mortar tube. He lit the fuse and ran, but bumped it as he did so. The mortar tube began swaying back and forth, scarily alternating between sky and crowd. An impromptu wave formed as people ducked out of the way when the tube was aiming towards them. The fuse was blessedly long enough though that the tube had finished its ambulations and was sighted straight up when it fired.
My friend, also a California transplant experiencing his first Pacific Northwest Fireworks show, and I decided to wander elsewhere to catch the full fireworks display still yet to come. As we were leaving a man ran through the crowd holding a huge mortar over his head. It was easily a yard tall and a foot wide on what looked like a thick plywood base. He lit the fuse and ran, luckily with no swaying, to a rousing chorus of cheers. When all that happened was a bunch of tiny fireworks popping up with little flashes and bangs though, the shouts for him turned to boos, and I doubt he lit anything else.
But… I digress. Mainly because I didn’t grow up with the Fountain as so many homegrown Portlanders did. For them, I hope, these would be timeless pictures connecting generation of Portland’s kids to a shared memory of fun and water on hot Summer days.