GOLDENDALE, Wash. -- In Goldendale, Washington, about 30 miles from The Dalles, people camped out waiting to experience history. The year was 1979. It was the last time people in the Oregon area saw a total eclipse.
“I love the headline ‘Moon devours sun,” Oregon Historical Society executive director Kerry Tymchuk said as he read a newspaper headline from 1979 on the front page of The Oregonian.
“Every paper that was going to get a view of the eclipse, had a big story on the eclipse back then, Baker, Hood River or the Coast,” Tymchuk said.
About 40 years ago, people had their own ways of looking at the eclipse, similar to our eclipse glasses in 2017.
But go further back in time to 1918 and people then, also had a way to take in the rare sight.
“Mailed to you for 15 cents for a safe and convenient observation of the total eclipse of the sun,” said Tymchuk as he read a piece of paper describing what’s called a helioscope. It’s a piece of smoked glass. It was sold in Portland about 100 years ago.
“Close your left eye and cover your right carefully with the glass before looking at the sun,” the directions instructed.
There are a number of newspaper clippings from that time period too.
“They interviewed someone who recalled the 1869 total eclipse. She lived in Kentucky at the time. She was then a resident of Mcminnville and she talked about the fact that the 1869 one, how it scared the chickens who started to go to roost in daytime,” said Tymchuk.
Like today, many people in 1918 and 1979 were worried about the weather. The good news, some folks were at least able to catch a glimpse of the eclipse.
Watch: 1979 solar eclipse
Of course, visibility depended on where you were at. In 1979, Portland and other areas were clouded over. East of the Cascades, people had a better shot at seeing the eclipse.
If folks miss the big show this time around, the next chance to see a total solar eclipse in Oregon won't be until the year 2108.
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