The Cannon Beach History Center houses two hand-bound volumes containing every printed issue of the Upper Left Edge. They’re about the same size as the make-believe slabs of stone in C.B. Demille’s film “The Ten Commandments.” Visitors must wear white gloves when leafing through them.
Volume 1, Number 1 was published in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Nine Hundred and Ninety Two. April. From the Latin aperire, “to open.” The following statement of purpose was front and center on four pages of inexpensive newsprint. It is not attributed to any specific writer.
Changes will come whether we take responsibility for them or not. It is the goal of the Upper Left Edge to report these changes and to attempt to participate on the side of the Arts and the Environment. We encourage our readers to do the same.
The sole person named as a writer on the front page of the first issue was Dr. Karkeys (the nom-de-plume of musician Gary Keiski). Our year-round resident fiddler, Keiski’s mindful riffs are as cherished as his reels.
The trueness of the things we value is in each of us, and is meaningless until we separate ourselves from the desires and aspirations that others, often those we love, or fear, may project upon us. When we do clear a path to our individual self, our truth does ring; meaning and value are real, and we find the foundation upon which we can choose, change, and create.
So it began. For over ten years, from 1992 to 2002, the Edge was printed and distributed monthly at bookstores, coffee shops, cafes, bodegas, and public houses. By the time of the last print issue it was circulated widely, from the north coast of Oregon to the Left Bank of Paris. After a decade of ink, it continued to be published online.
The founding publisher of the Upper Left Edge, Billy Hults, was a washboard player who first lived in Cannon Beach during the 1960s. He moved back here from Portland sometime around 1989, it’s hard for anyone to remember the exact year. Billy was on a mission that always involved beer and occasionally included admonishments about religion. He spread the gospel of live music — arranging gigs for bands and promoting them by word of mouth, printed circulars, and fliers he posted around town.
Dr. Karkeys says the Edge evolved from said circulars. The centerfold pages of the first issues were devoted entirely to musical gatherings – on Thursdays at Bill’s Tavern; and on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at The Whaler. Billy delivered his core message about art and community in a piece titled “Live Music!”
One function of recorded music is to replace the player’s part in the interaction of musician and audience during the musical performance. An Irish Setter could represent the audience. There could be a rehearsal for ‘listening to music.’ It wouldn’t be the same…
Billy was equally passionate about writing. Soon after his arrival in Cannon Beach, he began working at Jupiter’s Rare & Used Books — a second-hand bookshop located in a converted garage on Spruce Street. He got a SBA Loan as a Vietnam veteran to purchase the shop around the same time he started publishing the newspaper.
Those who know Billy may be surprised to learn that his name did not appear anywhere in the first issue. Yet it is clear from the masthead of issue number 2 that readers ignored warnings not to encourage him. He proclaimed himself Rev. Billy L. Hults — a title tied, at least in part, to his ordination as a Universal Life Minister (this morphed into “Our Beloved Reverend Billy Loyd Hults”). The title enabled him to make full use of the pontifical “we.”
We publish ads that we have seen and like. We publish ads for people and events we like, sometimes people give us money for this, and we think that is just fine.
The Reverend also featured select quotes from a wide variety of sources, many unknown, in big bold type at the head of each issue. Like: “Commit Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Beauty,” “You Can’t Eat Money,” “Life is Short, Art is Long.” In the third issue, Billy spotlighted an early version of what became known as his three basic rules of life – “Everybody Eats, Nobody Hits, and There Is No Third Rule.”
Billy had the support of an anchor scribe in this endeavor — a radical sage named Michael Burgess who became widely known as Uncle Mike. Burgess had developed a following with his columns in the Portland newspaper “This Week.” In the second issue of the Edge he began writing an advice column, “Ask Uncle Mike,” which was later compiled into two published books. The third issue of the Edge added Michael’s op-ed column, “Behind the Times,” and his horoscope, “Blame It On the Stars (first written under the pen-name “Grandma Zodiac”).
A dispenser of medicinal humor, Michael’s first summer installment of “Behind the Times” included the following advice for visitors to our sandy environs.
Cannon Beach natives (those who winter where they summer) don’t talk about it much, but we’re fiercely proud of our trained seagulls. Through the long months of winter, while you’re off in Puerto Whatnot sipping tangelo daiquiris and wallowing in sun-block, we surly natives slog down the beach to Bill’s Tavern to sing sea shanties, drink bark, and teach our totem birds to fetch.
It’s pretty picturesque, really. A National Geographic sort of thing with fetching derbies and spitting contests. In the rainforest, you learn to make your own fun.
The warm, fuzzy part is that you needn’t be a native to join in the colorful (and often quaint) custom. The trained gulls are everywhere. Simply find a spot on the sand (or better, a bench in town) put a muffin on your head and wait.
Many people contributed to the Edge over the years. So many, in fact, that any attempt to name us all will inevitable fall short of the mark. But we’ll try, what the heck. They included Jim Anderson, Augusta Benedict, Kim Bosse, Watt Childress, Angela Coyne, Douglas Deur, Brian Johnstone, Lou Hevly, Gary Keiske, June Kroft, Kathleen Krushas, Sally Lackaff, Alex LaFollette, Jeff Larson, Peter Lindsey, Ron Logan, Rob Milliron, Suze O’Banion, Alison Pride, Geraldine Rock, Peter “Spud” Siegel, Margi Shindler, and Victoria Stoppielo. Some of these folks were year-round north coast residents. Others cheered for the gulls from afar.
Yet who really led this expedition of art? It’s fun to think of Billy and Michael as historic founders, in part because they strike such iconic bohemian profiles. Yet such status does not mean these men could at any given time find their way out of a paper bag.
Truth be told, our little barnacled knot of explorers frequently lost our bearings — or rather tossed them to the wind — and were repeatedly rescued by a beautiful young native guide.
The Humble Ms. Sally Louise Lackaff continues to serve as our orienteer and oracle. From the beginning, her art has offered a visual identity for the newspaper. It is she who took the time to bind all the volumes of the Edge together so that they can be stored at the Cannon Beach History Center. It is her hand that drew “Our Founders” into the new online masthead, which is appropriate, because she is as much a founder as anyone. We are deeply grateful for her gentle mad love for this Edge and its quirky wildlife.
And we thank you, gentle reader, for being part of our story as we carry on. Corrections and additions to this little snapshot are welcome. Come by the Confessional and share a few memories, or converse about whatever comes to mind.