Sweet Home, uh, Oregon

On May 17, 2012 · 4 Comments

I’m still working out all of the details on my upcoming trip to Oregon and Washington later this summer. The path is starting to become clearer to me as I fill in missing pieces. It appears I’m going to have to apologize in advance to my Portland readers. The route will likely skirt the city without actually entering it. I know, I know, so many geo-oddities in such a concentrated area and I’m probably going to have to bypass it. Life often requires compromises and I had to trade certain routes to keep peace in the family. I had to accommodate a preference of my wife in order to extract a concession, so Portland fell. You can always email me if you want to know the details about the nearby spot outside of Portland that I will be forced to visit instead. That’s what happens when there are four family members jockeying for personal definitions of cool stuff.

Anyway, and more to the point, check out this neat town I stumbled upon as I mapped various routes from the Oregon coast to the interior.

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I’m sure Sweet Home, Oregon a wonderful town. They’ve got nine thousand residents, great scenery, a nice website and all sorts of outdoor activities. Is it terrible of me that all of those great features were drowned-out by the constant droning of a song I couldn’t dislodge from my head, "Sweet Home Alabama?" — Turn it Up! I won’t get into controversies associated with that song, whether it tacitly favored or rejected racial segregation. I will note for the record that it’s considerably more nuanced than most listeners probably realize. You are free to research and form an opinion on your own. That didn’t matter in this scenario where I was concerned solely with the repetition in my mind. As I’ve discussed before, I don’t have to necessarily enjoy a song for it to lodge firmly within my brain, although I do like this one more than that other one.

For those of you unfamiliar with "Sweet Home Alabama" — maybe you live far away from the United States or you’re really young, or whatever — it was released by the band that epitomized the Southern Rock genre, Lynyrd Skynyrd, in 1974 and made it all the way to #8 on the U.S. music charts. The only other thing you need to know is that according to Wikipedia: "None of the three writers of the song were originally from Alabama. Ronnie Van Zant and Gary Rossington were both born in Jacksonville, Florida. Ed King was from Glendale, California." Actually you don’t need to know that. I just found it oddly funny. I concede that some people will claim that Jacksonville would more properly belong in Alabama, though.

I checked one of my all-time favorite sites, the U.S. Geographic Names Information System to investigate Sweet Homes. Sure enough, there is a Sweet Home, Alabama listed in their records.

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The good news is that the United States government recognizes Sweet Home, Alabama as a populated place. The source it lists for this designation is "McMillan, James B., Dictionary of Place Names in Talladega County, Alabama, 1985. p.138." Google Books recognizes that such a source exists but apparently it’s too obscure for them to have scanned and made available to the public within their collection of a bazillion different volumes.

Sweet Home Baptist Church is located there. They don’t have a website, or at least one that I could find because it’s lost within piles of awful Search Engine Optimization garbage links. Honestly, Sweet Home, AL is pretty underwhelming and I’m not impressed. This is an excellent opportunity for an enterprising Alabaman to put a housing development on an open field outside of Birmingham or whatnot and seize the state’s signature theme song ("Sweet Home Alabama Country Estates and McMansion Farm"). After all, it’s good enough for the Alabama Motor Vehicle Division (speaking of license plates).

But wait! I did find a few other Sweet Homes.

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Maybe we can change the song to Sweet Home Arkansas. It’s close enough, right? — a southern state starting with an A? Sweet Home, AR is a suburb of Little Rock, just a bit south of Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

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If that’s not sufficient, how about Sweet Home, Texas? This one was my personal favorite because it’s only a few miles from my grandmother’s birthplace in Yoakum, TX. She was born in 1909 and lived for another 102 years). It’s also very near Shiner where the Spoetzl Brewery (my visit) makes Shiner Bock and various other beverages. It’s not too far from Borden, the original one too, not that poseur version further north. You could visit all of these places easily as a day trip from Houston or San Antonio.

I’ll also give an honorable mention to Sweethome, Oklahoma. I don’t know any more about it other than it was reputedly settled by people from the Texas version that arrived in Oklahoma during the Run of ’91. Oh, and they spelled it funny.

On May 17, 2012 · 4 Comments

4 Responses to “Sweet Home, uh, Oregon”

  1. Peter says:

    And then there’s “All Summer Long” by Kid Rock, which is set in northern Michigan but pays tribute to “Sweet Home Alabama.” I thought maybe there was a Sweet Home, Michigan, but apparently there’s not.

  2. AF says:

    Ha! I drive through Sweet Home most Christmases when we visit my wife’s family in Bend, OR and then head over the mountains to Tangent, OR (which, by the way, is one of my favorite place names in the US).

    If you get a chance stop by some of the wineries in the area. I would recommend http://www.whiterosewines.com/tasting-room which is one of the prettiest one we went to in the area and had the best person running the tasting.

    Also, I don’t know if it fits in with geo oddities but the area has tons of covered bridges.

  3. Pfly says:

    Interesting–I thought perhaps Sweet Home, OR, was named after one of the other Sweet Homes, or had some other origin of note. But when I looked it up in ”Oregon Geographic Names” I found the origin of the name is unknown. It was first called Buckhead and changed to Sweet Home by someone sometime before 1874 (when the Sweet Home post office was established). The name Buckhead held on for part of the area until about 1880. Alas, another name origin mystery!

  4. Marc says:

    Bummer re: Portland!

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