It started the day she was born. Emily Wellcome was delivered in Eugene, Oregon, on January 20th, 1961, at the very moment John F. Kennedy was taking the oath of office and becoming the 35th president of the United States. Emily’s parents were passionate Democrats and fanatic JFK supporters and had planned for weeks to attend a celebrating at the downtown Democratic headquarters and watch the inauguration on television. They ended up spending that day and most of the next at the hospital with their healthy new daughter. They never quite recovered from the disappointment.
You must login to vote
Nestled in the southern end of the beautiful Willamette Valley, near the confluence of the McKenzie and Willamette rivers, Eugene was an cool place to grow up. The summer’s were long and mild with dark and rainy winters. With a population of nearly 50,000, the economic anchor of the community was the University of Oregon. Opened in 1878, the university was located on a sprawling 295-acre campus filled with of classic architecture and old-growth trees. Both of Emily’s parents worked at the university; her father was a janitorial supervisor, and her mother was a food service specialist. Mrs. Wellcome also worked part-time as a wet nurse to help make ends meet.
The Wellcome’s and their three children lived in weathered old four bedroom house on Christensen Road. Emily had two rambunctious older brothers - eight year old Phillip, and six year old Richard. She was a enigmatic child who made friends easily. Eventually Emily started attending elementary school. Although Phillip was considered the most scholarly of the children, Emily was bright but seldom brought home good grades. She started high school in 1974. Emily was tall and busty with dark brown hair and brown eyes. She loved art, especially Andy Warhol’s Pop art. And she adored the Beatles. Emily was too young to remember them very well, but she had vivid memories of her parents yelling at her brothers because they constantly played Beatle records. In her junior year, Emily wrote an essay on the most influential person in her life:
“My favorite Beatle song is Hey Jude,” wrote Emily. “It is sung by Paul McCartney. But my favorite Beatle, and the most influential person in my life, is John Lennon. I admire his commitment to the love and peace movement and how he is spreading that message everywhere he goes. If I ever got the chance to met him I would hug him and thank him for all the good work he and his wife Yoko have done. And if I smoked marijuana, I would roll the biggest joint in the world and happily share it with him.” She received a C- on the project.
For her sixteenth birthday her father bought Emily a beat-up old orange VW bug. It was loud and burned a little oil but she loved the car. Mr. Wellcome made her promise to find a job to help pay for the car’s maintenance, otherwise, he threatened to take the car away from her and sell it for scrap. It wasn’t long before she was working part-time as an apprentice at a custom framing shop on Oak Street called Capper’s. It surprised her how quickly she took to the work. She used to think she was all thumbs until she started making picture frames. She worked at the store as often as possible.
Emily’s high school years past quickly. By the time she graduated in June, 1978, her GPA was a fairly respectable and she was the equipment manager of the league champion girl’s soccer team. Her parents had grudgingly encouraged her to attend college after graduation, but Emily decided that the time wasn’t right. She was restless and in the middle of an identity crisis, so she decided to work at Capper’s full-time until she figured out what to do with the rest of her life.
One of Emily’s problems was that she longed with all her heart to fall in love. Even though she was fairly popular in high school and dated frequently, she had never met a boy whom she’d really felt a romantic connection with. Her best friend, Aimee Patterson, was in love with her high school sweetheart. They planned to marry after graduation as soon as his probation for vandalizing school property was served. Aimee made Emily promise to be her maid of honor. This only made Emily feel worse.
Then late one chilly autumn afternoon Emily was at work when a charismatic young man strode into Capper’s. He was tall and good looking with dusty shoulder length blonde hair and he was wearing a brand new KZRZ radio t-shirt under a plaid jacket. KZRZ was the most popular hard rock station in Eugene. Everybody listened to it. The young man approached Emily and smiled.
“Hello,” he said. “My name is Steven Dowd and I’m here to pick up the Dookie Chutes poster I had framed,”
Emily knew exactly the poster he was talking about because she had framed it herself.
“Here it is,” she said. “I love the poster almost as much as I love the Dookie Chutes. I hope you like the matting.”
Steven said it was cool and asked if she had seen the concert that the poster was promoting.
“No, I wasn’t that lucky,” she sighed. “I couldn’t help noticing the big Jake Shudder autograph on it.” Jake Shudder was the Dookie Chutes lead singer.
Steven told Emily that he was a DJ at KZRZ and that he had introduced the band on stage that night. The Dookie Chutes had the current number one album in the country called “Steal This Record.” And their latest single, “Kiss Me, Rob Me, Kill Me,” sold over 350,000 copies in its first week of release. Steven said that he was lucky to get Shudder’s autograph because Jake passed-out moments after he signed it. Emily was impressed but a little suspicious.
“So you work for KZRZ” she said, tapping her finger on the counter. “That’s funny because I listen to the station all day long and I’ve never heard of Steven Dowd before.”
“Oh yeah,” smiled Steven. “That’s right. My real name is Steven Dowd, but I go by Steven Clean on the air.”
“Oh my god,” squeaked Emily. “You’re Steven Clean? I can't believe it. I love your show”
Steven paid for the work and thanked Emily for doing such great job of framing it. Then he asked her for a pencil and wrote a phone number on the back of the receipt. “This is the private KZRZ hotline phone number,” he said. “If you ever get the chance, call me and maybe we can get together for a drink.” Emily took the receipt and slipped into her back pocket. Then she grinned and said, “You can count on it, Mr. Clean.”
A couple of days later Emily called Steven and they got together late one night. They had a meal at Denny’s and talked and laughed all night long. It wasn’t long before Steven and Emily were dating. She loved everything about him; the way he looked; the things he said; the pot he smoked. And Steven loved nothing better than spending time with Emily. “She really cracks me up,” he told his friends.
Because Steven worked at night and Emily worked during the day, the only time they could really spend together, besides the weekends, was after Steven had finished his shift. That was always a magical time for them. Sometimes they would smoke a joint and drive around town listening to music. It was as though they were the only two people alive - winding their was through the dark, deserted streets of Eugene. Emily’s best friend Aimee was so jealous she developed high blood pressure.
In April, 1979, Steven invited Emily to move into his pad. He had a rather large one bedroom apartment downtown so there was plenty of room for her junk. Her parents disapproved, of course, but they realized that it was hopeless to try and stop her. Even they liked Steven. A small group of their friends, including her brother Richard, helped her move. Once everything was done, Emily prepared the first meal in her new home and everybody enjoyed a big spaghetti feast with tons of red wine. Emily had never been happier.
After nearly a year together Steven decided that the time had come to make a statement to the world about his relationship with Emily. Late one night, Steven told Emily that he loved her and that he wanted her to be his old lady. He reached in his pocket and produced an engagement ring. Then he fumbled around with it a little and slipped it on her finger. “Well?” he said, looking into dark brown her eyes. “You haven’t said a word. Is it yes or no?” Emily kissed him gently and whispered something in his ear. Steven didn’t understand her. “What did you say?” he said. “I said, I’d love to be your old lady,” she said. Then she kissed Steven again and he started to laugh.
The very next night, Donald Moody, an off-duty Eugene police officer, was driving aimlessly around town drunk. Steven had just finished his shift and was driving home. At about 11pm, Officer Moody ran a red light at 45 miles per hour and slammed into the driver’s side of Steven’s rusty Datsun 210. Officer Moody survived the crash but Steven was dead before the cars stopped spinning. Ten days later Emily discovered that she was pregnant.
Part Two to follow soon.