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At the corner of NE Sandy, Thompson, and 48th Avenue, out in the Hollywood District, is Portland's Vernon Ross Veterans Memorial, a small monument with a very tall flagpole. I'd never heard of it until I ran across a brief mention of it in this brief document from the Parks Bureau, in which we learn when they did maintenance of some sort on various obscure spots around town. I was actually looking for info on the park at Hall & 14th, and the doc didn't tell me anything useful about that place, but it's full of other places I haven't covered yet. When I saw there was some sort of obscure memorial in town that I'd never heard of, I knew I had to track it down.
Or at least I started out by assuming it was obscure, since I'd never heard of it before. But as it turns out, it has a fairly prominent role once a year. Every year, Portland's Veterans Day parade winds through the Hollywood District and ends up right here, and the flagpole serves as the backdrop for speeches by various dignitaries and elected officials, generally including the mayor. This year marked the 35th edition of Portland's parade, the first coming in 1974 -- coincidentally when the Vernon Ross memorial was dedicated. As for the identity of Mr. Ross, the plaque here indicates he was the instigator of the memorial, rather than its subject as I originally assumed. The memorial itself doesn't explain who Vernon E. Ross was or why he was involved, but right across the street is the Ross Hollywood Chapel funeral home, which happens to be the longtime primary sponsor of the Veterans Day Parade. So I think that answers that question.
Updated 3/29/11: Thanks to the magic of the library's Oregonian historical archives, there are a few more details to relay. A July 12, 1974 article is titled Smallest block in city location for memorial. No, really, this spot is legally a platted city block, and it's our smallest, or at least it was in 1974. 48 square feet. The article says Ross bought the plot in part to prevent signs from being erected there. Ross also states that the plot is dedicated to the memory of Louis M. Heinrichs, a fellow World War I veteran.
A followup article on September 18, 1975 covers the donation:
Ross ... said he purchased the 7-by-15-foot piece of land for $3,200 and paid $19,000 to erect the flag memorial.
"The patriotism of our country has gone to the lowest level that it's been in our history," he told the City Council Wednesday.
Mayor Neil Goldschmidt praised Ross' efforts to improve the land as being "in the best tradition" of the city.
Ross died in November 1983. His obituary says he suffered a heart attack during the Hollywood Veterans Day Parade.
For a time the memorial was referred to by name as either "Ross Veterans Memorial" or "Ross Memorial Park", but both had fallen out of use (at least by the Oregonian) by the mid 1980s.
KATU has a short video clip of this year's parade, and there's an article with a photo slideshow at Salem-news.com, although neither piece shows the memorial.
One of the questions I often try to answer about various places is "Who owns it, and who runs it?" Ok, maybe that counts as two questions. Anyway, a few references around the net (like this one) refer to the place as the "Ross Hollywood Chapel Veterans Memorial Flag Pole", but the tiny triangle of land actually belongs to the city. Although my guess is that someone comes over from next door rather than from city hall when it's time to raise or lower the flag here, or tend to the roses. That might explain why the city barely mentions it anywhere on their website. The Parks Bureau doesn't list it in their inventory, for one thing. Also, a few years ago there was a proposal to erect a new war memorial on Mt. Tabor, and as part of the process the city compiled an extensive list of existing veterans memorials across Oregon. It mentions small monuments in the far corners of the state, but fails to mention this one. So we can assume the place isn't exactly on everyone's radar at city hall. Not that veterans monuments are the city's cup of tea, really. The monument, you may note, went up in 1974, at the tail end of Vietnam, and I wonder if it went up in part as a way of shaking a fist at the dirty hippies or something. And then the dirty hippies went on to take over the city and they've been running it ever since. Also, since January we've had a mayor who'd be quickly booted out of the military on account of being gay, and despite that it's still part of his job to put in appearances at events like this. His official blog doesn't mention the event at all, so I don't know how he felt about it, but it must've been deeply weird.
In any case, PortlandMaps knows the place as R259400, 48 square feet of land officially owned by the City Auditor's office. (Although I think that's just a way of saying it's general city-owned land not belonging to any particular department, or they just haven't bothered to record which department it belongs to.) In any case, 48 square feet is pretty tiny, but it still comes to 6912 square inches, compared to 452 square inches of Mill Ends Park. That's 15.3 times bigger. FWIW.