In Astoria, Oregon, visit the 'Goonies' house and more

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Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Tribune News Service)
May 7, 2015

ASTORIA, Ore.—Children of the 1980s grew up wishing they, too, could be one of the “Goonies,” the treasure-hunting teens in the 1985 movie hit executive produced by Steven Spielberg.

In sleepy Astoria, at the Northwest-most tip of Oregon, grown-up “Goonies” wannabes can fulfill their dreams, at least a little, by visiting locations where the movie was filmed.

Astoria remains a hub for “Goonies” fandom, especially when the town celebrates the film's 30th anniversary with a “Goonies” gathering June 4-7.

So far none of the film's major stars has committed to returning for this year's “Goonies” goings-on, which will include a block party, a trivia night and the already sold-out “Sailing With Sloth,” a river cruise with Randell Widner, the stunt double for John Matuszak, who played the “Goonies” character Sloth.

Even outside the “Goonies” festival, interest in the film is in full force year-round. Last Labor Day weekend, Dylan Reel of Portland, Oregon, and David Zorob of Peoria, Illinois, made the trek to Astoria for one primary reason: “We mostly came to check out the 'Goonies' house,” Reel said while standing in front of the home at 368 38th St., a neighborhood known in the movie as “The Goondocks.”

“'Goonies' is one of my favorite movies of all time, and the house looks just like it did in the movie,” Reel said.

Sandi Preston bought the “Goonies” house in 2001 when it was in foreclosure. Knowing it was the “Goonies” house had sentimental value: Her children were teenagers when the movie was released, and it became a family favorite.

Initially, not many tourists came to see The Goondocks, but after the 20th anniversary “Goonies” reunion in 2005, that changed, and the number of visitors steadily increased.

Sometimes as many as 1,000 people per day in the summer walk up the gravel drive, off a paved road, that serves as the entry to several homes, including Preston's famous house.

“Though I enjoy meeting new people, it's become very difficult to live here,” Preston said, citing the hassles of owning a piece of pop culture history. Her neighbors are frustrated with foot and vehicle traffic. “People walk up the driveway and stand in the middle of the access road or driveway and refuse to move when a resident needs to drive up or down.”

Visitors have also been seen urinating in her yard or neighbors' yards, and visitors often leave trash behind. But there have been some enjoyable moments, too.

“Most endearing was a woman whose son had died, and 'The Goonies' was his favorite movie. She had brought his ashes to Oregon,” Preston recalled. “I asked if she wanted to scatter some in the garden, which was in full bloom, so she and her family did that. It was so sweet. I read online that another person did that, in the middle of the night, without asking for permission. Oh, well, part of owning this house, I guess.”

Astoria has played a role in movies beyond “The Goonies,” though that film seems to garner the most attention.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1990 comedy “Kindergarten Cop” filmed at Astor School (3550 Franklin St.). The home of the boy who sought to “Free Willy” is located at 3392 Harrison Ave. And the house featured in 1985's “Short Circuit” is at 197 Hume Ave.

The Astoria Column has been seen in multiple movies, including 1992's “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III.” The 164-step tower was a gift from a descendant of fur trader and investor John Jacob Astor, the town's namesake, and was dedicated in 1926,

Tributes to these '80s and '90s flicks can be found at Astoria's tiny Oregon Film Museum, housed on the first floor of the former Clatsop County Jail that was featured in the jailbreak scene at the beginning of “The Goonies.”

Artifacts from these movies—“The Goonies” more than any other title—can be found inside the three-gallery museum, which also gives visitors the opportunity to record themselves re-enacting scenes from filmed-in-Oregon productions “The Goonies,” “Kindergarten Cop” and “Twilight.” Scenes are recorded and emailed to you a few weeks later.

Another 1980s classic, “Stand By Me,” was filmed partially in another part of Oregon: Brownsville, about three hours by car southwest of Astoria. Brownsville remembers “Stand by Me” every year and the 2015 celebration is slated for July 23. Details at historicbrownsville.com.

Beyond movies

Of course, Astoria has plenty to offer beyond movie locations.

A farmers market takes over the streets of downtown, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. every Sunday from May through October.

The Flavel House Museum, at the corner of Eighth and Duane streets, offers a trip back in time to the Victorian period with a tour of this 1885 Queen Anne Victorian home that features an original Eastlake-style woodwork interior.

A 1913 trolley carries visitors along the Astoria riverfront.

“It's the oldest operating trolley in the nation as far as we know,” said motorman Bob Westerberg during a trip between cannery buildings and past honking sea lions.

Westerberg is quick with a quip, commenting on the cost of upkeep for the 100-year-old Victorian homes perched on the Astoria hillside, looking down on the city center and the Columbia River: “Hear that swishing sound? It's all the money being dumped into those Victorians.”

The trolley travels past and has a stop at the Columbia River Maritime Museum, which collects and displays maritime artifacts from the Columbia River and the Pacific Northwest, including the lightship Columbia and the pilot boat Peacock.

Just be prepared to twiddle your thumbs or curl up with a book in the evening: Astoria rolls up and goes to sleep early. Even the ice cream stand Custard King closes most days at 6 p.m.

Bowpicker Fish & Chips, essentially a food cart housed in an old bowpicker boat at the corner of 17th and Duane streets, is open Wednesday through Sunday and closes most days at 6—unless it runs out of fish before then (follow it on Twitter for updated hours: @bowpicker).

For history buffs and beachcombers, two attractions are a must: Fort Clatsop, part of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, and Fort Steven State Park.

At Fort Clatsop, the encampment of the Lewis and Clark Expedition near the mouth of the Columbia River during the winter of 1805-06, visitors can see a replica of the fort that served as the winter home for the Corps of Discovery team before its return trip east. Across the Columbia River in Washington, Cape Disappointment is home to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, and a lighthouse that is often open for tours.

At nearby Fort Stevens, the beach beckons, but visitors might be more drawn to the skeleton of a ship than the Pacific Ocean.

The rusting, century-old shipwreck of the Peter Iredale still juts out of the sand, making for a unique beach photo. The four-masted, steel baroque ship ran aground in 1906 and has been slowly disintegrating ever since.

Climbing over the sand dunes to come upon this wreckage is not quite as dramatic as the final scene in “Goonies” when the pirate ship sails away, but the Iredale skeleton is a “Goonies”-esque, suitable substitute.

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