In Umatilla County, Oregon, Hermiston was supposed to be a sleepy small town, the satellite of Umatilla
proper, where McNary Dam
and the Umatilla Chemical Depot
were to bring jobs to a burgeoning city. Calvin Coolidge came out, riding on the back of a car and waving, promising a new era of prosperity and a mighty city south of the Columbia River. Jobs were supposed to bloom and lift the region from obscurity to a modern industrial marvel. City planners built wide roads of asphalt and brick buildings downtown, anticipating the boom.
The boom never came. Umatilla remained a backwater border town with a dam, a sparsely-populated industrial discount, and two strip clubs over across the way. Instead, Hermiston bloomed, coming in modern times to more than sixteen thousand residents in the shadow of nearby Hat Rock. As the years passed, trees, the ever-present sign of wealth (and farming) in the dusty Eastern Oregon/Eastern Washington near-desert, sprung up in droves, nestled in amidst the hollow to the north of I-84
Hermiston has not only the sole Walmart
for miles (the nearest one being half an hour to an hour off in Pendleton
), but a Safeway, a Big 5, and the first instance of Shari's, a Western dining chain notable for their hexagonal buildings. The town is quieter, and while arguably somewhat sleepier than seedy Umatilla, it contains many fewer trailer parks, much nicer hotels, and a few decent restaurants.
Local food specialties include a prototypical local downtown restaurant called McHales, which serves burgers, salads, wraps, and various pasta dishes. The local Eastern Oregon specialty, the ubiquitous beef brisket
, is present (and not recommended), as are serving platter-sized salads and fries.
For those less inclined to gorge, the town also has a fairly mediocre Thai restaurant and a pleasantly dubious selection of local taco trucks
serving up delicious lengua
with green tomatillo
Surrounding residential areas, ranch houses shrouded by hardy clusters of trees, spread out into the dusty surroundings: to the west lies I-82 and the chemical depot, to the north, the mighty Columbia River
, southwards I-84, and to the west, along US 730, the Washington State border and Walla Walla
, land of the onions.
Center For Columbia River History
Addendum: Hermiston has a recurring problem with local meth-addicted desert bears. Insurance rates are projected to increase due to damage from marauding ursines well into the 21st century. Local game and wildlife officials have responded by opening bounties for the creatures. Protests by local chapters of PETA are scheduled for Mondays at the local office on 3rd Street.