New plaques mark 'Stand by Me' sites in Brownsville
(From May 23, 2019)
BROWNSVILLE — In 1985, as one of 100 extras in the movie "Stand by Me," Eldon Albertson of Halsey was paid $35 per day to mostly sit around and wait for the pie-eating contest scene to be shot over and over again in Pioneer Park.
But if Albertson — now 80 — had looked older, he would have earned $75.
“I made about $200 for five days,” he said Wednesday afternoon as three plaques commemorating the movie's scenes shot in Brownsville were unveiled.
“I am in the movie for about 15 seconds total,” Albertson continued. “They hired me to be one of the old geezers, but then they didn’t think I looked old enough. It was fun, but we mostly sat around and waited. I saw director Rob Reiner, but never got to speak with him.”
The movie was released in 1986 and received an Academy Award nomination.
Wednesday’s celebration was held at the Linn County Historical Museum, City Hall and Pioneer Park.
Each plaque provides information about the particular site and scenes in the film, plus a factoid.
For example, the four lead actors—Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Jerry O’Connell—were in their early or preteens and were fascinated by a two-headed calf then on display at the Brownsville meat locker. When they weren’t filming, the boys could often be found visiting the calf.
Joining Albertson at the event was fellow cast member Gary Riley, now 52, who played Charlie Hogan, one of several juvenile delinquents in the movie that was originally called "The Body," developed from Stephen King's novella of the same name.
“I was 18 and was supposed to have been in '[This Is] Spinal Tap,'” Riley said. “My scene was cut and Rob Reiner gave me this role to make up for it. I guess I’m in about 20 minutes of the movie.”
Riley now lives in Los Angeles, but is visiting a friend in Sweet Home. He described the set as “extremely mellow. It was really like 1959 and everyone got along great. It was like one big family and it was special.”
Riley and Katherine Wilson enjoyed telling stories while several dozen guests walked through City Hall displays in a town that was temporarily renamed “Castle Rock” in 1985.
Wilson was the movie's location scout. She said no one had any idea it would have such a positive effect and multi-generational following.
“It was raining hard when I went to Cottage Grove and took photos of the train, the Blue Goose and tracks,” she recalled. “I drove the film to Salem to the Oregon Film Commission and had it developed.”
Wilson—who also worked on "Animal House," which was filmed in Cottage Grove and Eugene—helped shuttle the movie’s cast from the Eugene Hilton each morning.
“Rob Reiner was just super to work with,” she said. “He really loved the kids and they loved him.”
Commemorating the movie's infamous pie-eating contest, guests enjoyed blueberry treats after the last plaque was unveiled at the park.
Several members of the Governor’s Office of Film & Television were present Wednesday, including executive director Tim Williams, marketing and communications manager Jane Ridley and senior program manager Bob Schmaling.
Williams said Brownsville is the second city in Oregon to install the plaques as part of the Historic Oregon Film Trail program. Astoria was the first—where "Goonies" was filmed—which brought a collective groan from the crowd.
“We actually started this project with a 140-foot mural at the Portland airport,” Williams said. “It features 21 movie posters.”
Williams said Oregon has a rich movie-making history, dating back to 1909.
He said over the next year, plaques will be placed in several towns, from the mid-valley to eastern Oregon.
Linda McCormick, whom locals good-naturedly call the “Queen of 'Stand By Me,'” said the movie's connection with visitors from around the world—especially from Japan—is touching.
This year’s Stand By Me Day will be held July 23 and one special guest will be a man from England whose wife is giving him the trip as a 40th birthday present.
“It’s a very personal journey for many people who connect with the actors and the story line,” McCormick said.
City Administrator Scott McDowell said that Brownsville, and its connection to the movie, provides the location “where reality and make believe come together.”
An a cappella choir performed “Stand By Me,” made famous by R&B artist Ben E. King.
Mayor Don Ware said he often communicates with international visitors distinguished by cameras around their necks, by simply using the code words, “Stand By Me.”
“This movie is meaningful to the history of our town,” he said.
Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.