Perhaps understandably, the only exposure many people have to the wonderful city of Eugene, Oregon, is largely in its capacity as a college town. As the home of the flagship campus of the University of Oregon, the town’s status and reputation has grown to the national proliferation it enjoys today, especially due to some collegiate football accolades. The meteoric rise and growth of the Oregon Ducks Division I college football program, which has become perennial conference (and even national) championship contenders within the past two decades.
Although Eugene has been an American settlement for hundreds of years now, officially having been incorporated into a township in 1862, much of the city grew around the success of the University of Oregon, and the school continues to serve as the foundation and center for the city. However, there’s much more to this place than its athletic success. Eugene is also known for its vibrant art and counterculture scenes, heavy community involvement in government, natural splendors, and a whole plethora of other interesting characteristics. Here are some fast facts about Eugene, Oregon.
Birthplace of Nike
Phil Knight, Nike’s current owner, founded the company in 1964 with his track coach at UO, Bill Bowerman. Originally known as Blue Ribbon Sports, the first iteration of the company had Bowerman and Knight simply acting as distributors for the Japanese shoe company, Onitsuka Tiger, by selling pairs out of the trunk of his car at track meets. Bowerman began designing and manufacturing his own track shoes using a waffle iron, eventually forming his own company with Knight in 1971 after their relationship with Onitsuka Tiger ended.
A well-known hot spot for both lush, dense greenery in the forests and an infamous training/gathering hub of some of the fastest athletes in the world, it’s fitting that Eugene got the nicknames Emerald City and Track Town, USA.
Eugene Skinner and his wife, Mary, were the original settlers in Eugene, which is where the city gets its name. Having come out West with Mary from Illinois in 1845, the couple claimed land in the Willamette Valley, built a farm, and started raising a family before ultimately starting a successful ferrying business across the Willamette River. They were intimately involved with the area’s growth/incorporation into the U.S. government: Skinner became a postmaster the same year Oregon was officially recognized as an American territory (1849), and he willingly donated a large portion of his property for county and city buildings.
Although there is a nearby Oregon town that is literally named Springfield, that obviously serves as the primary basis for the beloved cartoon city from The Simpsons. If you watch the show and pay close attention, there are multiple landmarks and environments that were inspired by Eugene (Max’s Tavern is almost a shot-for-shot copy of Moe’s from the show).
Eugene will host the Track and Field World Championships in 2022. What else would you expect from a place nicknamed Track Town, USA? Not coincidentally, Eugene is consistently one of the most popular destinations for top track events and competitions.
Hometown of Ken Kesey
Very much a hub for hippies and other countercultural attitudes, practices, and ways of thinking, Ken Kesey —one of the most prolific thinkers and authors of the era himself — was originally from Eugene. Known as the legendary author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, it’s believed that many of the foundational ideas and values that guided his thinking/writing were directly inspired by or derived from the Eugene community he grew up in.
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