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April 2nd, 2014 MARTY SMITH | Dr. Know
 

Dr. Know: Highway Punditry

What’s the deal with that wacky religious billboard just outside of Kalama?

drknowILLUSTRATION: Hawk Krall
I drove to Seattle over the weekend and passed that wacky religious billboard just outside of Kalama. What’s the deal? —Joseph

Ah, the legendary Uncle Sam billboard of Chehalis. For half a century, this conservative beacon—featuring messages like “PUBLIC LIBRARY: A GREAT PLACE FOR YOUR KIDS TO MEET SEXUAL DEVIANTS” and “DO YOU FEEL SAFER WHEN OBAMA IS LISTENING?”—has shone down on the liberals shuttling between Portland and Seattle like a Statue of Liberty that raises her middle finger instead of a torch.

The story is as old as the freeway: The first anti-government billboard here was erected in the ’60s by turkey farmer Alfred Hamilton to protest the building of I-5 through his property.

Alfred was temporarily mollified by the realization that he could make a buck or two by selling billboard space along the highway—until that Stalinist troll, Lady Bird Johnson, and her Highway Beautification Act derailed that gravy train. Couple these two governmental slights with a native disdain for liberal principles, and you pretty much have Alfred Hamilton’s supervillain origin story. Alfred died in 2004 at 84. The relief of the liberal elites was short-lived, however, as his son soon picked up the torch/finger.

That son actually lives just a stone’s throw from Portland—he’s Mike Hamilton, of Camas. (I considered not revealing his name, but then I figured that someone who posts his opinions in 5-foot-high letters next to a major highway is not exactly shunning the glare of publicity.)

Passionate and sincere, Hamilton says his conservative bombast is all about “looking out for the little guy.” Since this is also the stated goal of liberal bombast, it’s theoretically possible that Hamilton and his enemies might someday find common ground. Still, I doubt he and Bill Maher are going to be hugging it out anytime soon.


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