Portland was a very different place in 1974.

Pioneer Courthouse Square was a parking lot, hookers prowled the South Park Blocks, and storefronts stood deserted as shoppers flocked to swanky new suburban malls like Washington Square. The MAX was still only a dream in the minds of idealistic planners. A big night out meant surf and turf at the Hilton, then a brisk walk back to your car. The city's counterculture consisted of leftover hippies and barstool poets. The hot new pub was Produce Row, and the only local brewery was Blitz-Weinhard.

Into that dim scene came a new weekly newspaper. The first issue of Willamette Week hit the street on Nov. 13, 1974. It ran 20 pages and cost 25 cents. The front page featured stories about soaring health care costs and tough new restrictions on sex shops—both written by a young reporter named Richard Meeker.

This week's issue isn't about us, though.

Certainly, WW has helped shape this city. But we decided not to mark our 40th birthday by recounting our greatest hits. Instead we're zooming back to look at 40 moments in the past 40 years that made Portland the place it is today.

Only a few of those city-shaking events involve ballots—such as the stunning election of a populist barkeep as mayor. Some involve the law: One relentless man's effort to stop nuclear power in Oregon, and a landmark ruling protected the right of strippers to drop their G-strings. Some had an immediate impact— such as the moment things turned for the Portland Trail Blazers. Others—including the death of James Chasse at the hands of Portland police—burned for years. And some events were barely noticed at the time, such as the opening of a new coffee shop on Southeast Division Street and the DVD release of a theatrical flop based on a local author's little-known novel.

While some of these moments leave us shocked and angry still today, it's startling how much has changed for the better over the past four decades. That includes the cost of a crisp new WW.

You can keep that quarter, Portland. And thanks again for making us part of your city.


2011: Occupy Portland