Holiday Nostalgia

Whether it’s for your own or your visitors’ Oregon travels, WPA-style posters capture good memories.

By Kristin Belz August 6, 2012


Nostalgia for a time when car camping didn’t have to consider carbon emissions: Paul Lanquist’s posters depict an earlier era for our region’s splendors, which are protected in part by Discover Your Northwest donating part of the poster proceeds to stewardship of public lands.

Nostalgia can hit at any time. You might even anticipate its arrival, especially if you’re about to return from a great summer vacation. That’s why you buy souvenirs – to bring home a taste of the trip and feed your immediate nostalgia for the good old days.

You could also anticipate your summer house guests’ missing Portland big time once they’ve gone back to Dubuque, or Detroit, or wherever they’re from. Send them off with a going away present to remind them of their happy days in our Pacific Northwest paradise.

For these sorts of Pac NW location-specific bouts of nostalgia, medicate with a soothing image: WPA era-style posters. The wholesome, clean-lined 1930s illustration style doesn’t have to be pricey or vintage; it’s commonly employed to depict our traditional travel destinations in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. The choice of graphic style makes sense, since it matches the era in which so many of our top travel sites were built, developed or popularized.

Northwesterner Paul Lanquist (of Ariel, WA, near Mt. St. Helens) is a graphic artist who has depicted a whole roster of favorite Oregon (and Washington, Idaho and California) natural and cultural sites in the WPA style. Many of the best of his posters are available at the historic parks themselves or at Discover Your Northwest’s website.

Discover Your Northwest is a Seattle-based non-profit that supports Northwest public lands, promoting community stewardship of natural treasures such as Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier, and Haystack Rock. All of these have been captured in charming posters by Lanquist.

Hiking, climbing and canoeing are some of the activities he depicts rustic, plaid-and-wool-clad people participating in. We also see them partaking of car trips – the kind made in woodie station wagons, before gas prices and carbon emissions were a concern. And of course, Lanquist depicts the amazing natural sites themselves (Multnomah Falls, Yosemite) as well as the romantic, robust lodges the otherwise unemployed artists and craftspeople of the depression-era WPA program built, and that we still love to spend time at.

Timberline Lodge is one of those buildings that looms large on the mountain and in our memories. The poster is not the same as being there, but for about $20, as a reminder of good times, it’s an adequate substitute, and better than a postcard. Lake Crescent Lodge, Paradise Inn at Mt. Rainier, and the good old days of father and son fishing alongside the car (an American-made red pick-up fitted out with a camper canopy) will also bring you back to simpler times.

Meanwhile, visiting these premier public, natural area sites has dropped off since the early 1990s, according to the Discover Your Northwest organization. A percent of profits goes to support these places.

Lanquist’s posters (which include more subjects than just what DYNW has on its site; he loves dinosaurs, for instance) are available at his website.

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