Established in the 1840s, Brownsville is a small, rural town about 50 miles north of Cottage Grove. Today it has a population of just under 1,700 people, but while it might be slight in human numbers it is big in charm and friendliness.
Lately, I have been doing a little freelance writing for a regional magazine called Oregon Community Connection. They asked me to write an article on the filming locations of the movie Stand By Me. I am very familiar with our local filming sites (along what is now the Row River Trail) but I’ve never spent much time in Brownsville, which becomes “Castle Rock” in the movie. With all the sunshine we’ve been getting recently, I took the opportunity to make a trip up the freeway and look around.
Scouting out the filming locations for Stand By Me was fun and will be the topic of a future blog post. What I most want to write about now is the town of Brownsville, which began to charm me the minute I stepped out of my car.
Downtown historic Brownsville is just a few blocks wide in either direction. Most of the buildings date from the 1880s to the 1920s, and they still hold the charm and character of the original buildings. When I look at old photos of Brownsville, even those from the turn of the last century, many of the buildings are still remarkably similar to what they look like today.
What impressed me the most, though, was the friendliness of the people. I guess in some regard they are used to Stand By Me fans coming to town and standing in the middle of the road to get just the perfect shot to recreate a scene from the movie. I made no attempt to blend in, and spent my time wandering the streets with my camera and little map in hand. Most people I passed, regardless of age or gender, smiled and said “hi” with genuine warmth. One shop owner rushed over to move some machinery out of the way for a picture. In other towns, I would suspect that residents would have gotten tired of that by now, but not, seemingly, in Brownsville. But it wasn’t just me, everywhere I went people were stopping to talk with each other. I’ve spent a good share of time in small, rural towns and none can compare to the friendliness I experienced in Brownsville earlier this week.
Beyond seeing Stand By Me filming locations, I also took a bit of time to enjoy other parts of the town. They have a beautiful yarn store – the Brownsville Stitching Parlor – in an historic building in the center of town. And, after hearing many good things about the Linn County Historical Museum, I stopped by there and enjoyed their well-done exhibits. For lunch, I was tempted by a humongous, fresh made cinnamon roll from Randy’s Main Street Coffee (if you want a healthier lunch, they make their own bread for their sandwiches). With more time, I would have enjoyed the antique and gift shops that also dot Main Street, or the Brownsville Art Center.
I hope to make it back to Brownsville sometime soon. It can either be a destination by itself or part of a more adventurous day trip, say a wildflower hike up Iron Mountain or a tour of Linn County’s Covered Bridges.