While most University of Oregon basketball fans are waiting for tonight's game (March 23,2007) against UNLV in the "Sweet 16 NCAA championships," I was more intrigued while walking by David Miller selling his joke books on 13th Street, near the UofO Bookstore, next to the Duck campus in Eugene, Oregon.
Known as "Frog" since High School, Mr. Miller has been selling his very funny " Recycled Jokes by Frog," since 1986. He has been standing on the sidewalk, fronting a few small stores and eateries, just across from the entrance to the University of Oregon, gently stopping passersby and saying, "Have you heard about my new joke book......"
Frog graduated from the University of Ohio, with a degree in journalism in 1970... About the same time that President Richard Nixon was secretly bombing Cambodia. It is no secret that frog is a liberal...independent in his attitude toward commerce, and a pretty good business person who makes enough money to pay the rent.
When I'm in Eugene, I stop by to talk baseball with him. He predicted that the Chicago White Sox would win the World Series, and today tells me he thinks the Seattle Mariners have the pitching and hitting to make it to the World Series this October. I take him seriously on the subject.
The City of Eugene takes him very seriously.
As happens, periodically, in our great country, sometimes the Chamber of Commerce and various business interests decide to punish street vendors.
Eugene is a small city, and 13th Street has the flavor of a small town.
One day in 1990, the City of Eugene decided to "ticket" Frog, for selling his joke books without a license. Street food vendors, flower and balloon sellers had to be licensed.....but there was no category for someone innocently selling joke books.
Attorney Rebbecca Davis Defends Frog and Beats the System.
When word got out about his punishment, the citizens of Eugene became outraged. Hippies had moved to the town in the 1960s in droves. There is a huge alternative political community, and a lot of people who just plain support the First Amendment of our Constitution.
After all, this is the State and City which elected US Senator Wayne Morse when he was a Republican, Democrat, and Independent.
But, it was obvious that some people who had graduated college during the "Disco" age, had come to power in Eugene. A big mistake for them.
When Miller wanted to fight the case, local Attorney Rebbecca Davis, decided to take on the issue and defend the book seller for free.
They fought the case in a lower court, as I remember it, and won. The City in its stupidity, and against the wishes of most of the people I talked with, decided to appeal.
After the city spent $50,000 dollars to fight Frog, all the way to the Oregon Supreme Court (The city never did release the final costs, in its embarrassment and secrecy).....Ms. Davis argued successfully in favor of the First Amendment, and the fact that Oregon has a law which says that it is illegal to favor one class of vendors over another.
The Oregon Supreme Court ruled in favor of Frog and against the City of Eugene.
It just goes to prove that a child of the '60s can still beat the system.
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