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Flag Pole Sitter Rounds Out 100

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Days at Oaks - Heads for 191

by Jack Roberts
Oregon Journal - September 21, 1952


W. L. (Happy) Howard is spending his 100th day today atop a 58-foot pole at the Oaks Amusement Park.

The persistent pole sitter is out to break the world's record, which he says was set by a Californian pole-perching gal who roosted for something like 164 days last year.

Happy says he'll spend 191 days on his pole and come down on Christmas eve. And if somebody outdoes his pole stint, Happy'll go up again and set a new mark. "It's a sport," yelled Happy in a long-distance interview with this writer (who had been hoisted to the top of a near-by ferris wheel to shout questions). Anything else I see anybody do, I intend to do better.

"When I get down from here, I'm going to set up standards of flagpole sitting for professional flagpole sitters."

The fact that Happy's living atop a telephone doesn't deter him from dubbing himself a flagpole sitter. It's the principle of the things, and Happy's not one to split hairs - or flagpoles. To while away the time, Happy sings, carves orange crates, reads Westerns and historical stories and listens to a broken-down radio that gets two Portland stations and several hot bebop stations in the Orient. "Only I don't understand Japanese or Chinese," Happy complains. Then on weekends the former carnival and circus performer puts on nighttime fire-eating sets for the crowds below. "I'm not so much a fire-eater," confesses Happy. "I'm a volcano. I spit fire out 6, 8, 10 feet. I take gasoline in my mouth and blow the flames out."

Happy hopes soon to run a platter program of his own from the pole perch, and then, too, he'll soon take a correspondence school course in real estate, in case the flagpole sitting business doesn't pan out. Happy's flagpole sitting almost came a cropper at the 89th day. He first went up the pole June 14 at Camas, WA but business arrangements didn't work out there. Hating to lose the 89-day start, Happy arranged with the Oaks folks to move him - pole and all to Portland. But the pole was too long. So he transferred to a five-foot pole on the back of the truck, rode to the Oaks and shinnied up to his new roost. There he perches, on a 5x5 foot platform with a bed roll, water jug, and broken radio folding chair and an orange crate. There's a telephone, too. Visitor's? Happy would be happy to have them but no one has the ambition - or climbing spurs - to go up and see him. Food, water and reading material go up in a bucket. Mrs. Happy lives in a trailer at the foot of the pole and cooks meals for him, and sends up the gasoline for Happy to blow out over the crowds.

"Never burned myself in 16 years of blowing fire," said Happy. "Until last week - I burned my mouth on some hot coffee."

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