Aberdeen's Influence on Kurt Cobain
The towns of Hoquiam and Aberdeen are located on the eastern edge of Grays Harbor in western Washington state. If you are a fan of the band Nirvana, you have probably heard of these names. If not, you are about to read how a town affected a person who in turn affected many people's lives.
Kurt Cobain was the singer and guitarist for Nirvana. He was born in Hoquiam (population 9,000) and after six months of life moved to Aberdeen (pop. 16,500), an old lumber town at the eastern-most point of Grays Harbor. The town is about four miles wide and three miles long. On the northern and eastern sides of town are steep hills where the richer families live in Victorian-style houses. At the foot of the hills is the poorer part of Aberdeen where Kurt grew up. (Gilmore 44)
Seattle is known to get a lot of rain. Aberdeen gets more: they get up to seven feet a year. The rain casts a "constant, dreary pall over the town" (Azerrad 11). Route 12 into Aberdeen is "bordered by an endless succession of trailer parks" with forests of trees behind them that have "vast stubbly scars where the loggers have been clear-cutting" (12). To author Sallie Tisdale, Hoquiam and Aberdeen are "sprawling and untidy" and "dull, mediocre, undecorative" towns. Almost all the views of the water are "marred by piles of logs and steaming mills." (213)
Aberdeen and Hoquiam are two of the oldest logging, sawmilling, and paper-manufacturing towns in the Northwest. Paper-producing companies, like Weyerhaeuser, ITT Rayonier, and others, have their mills here. (Fodor's 139) Logging used to dominate Aberdeen. But business has been declining lately and "layoffs are turning Aberdeen into a ghost town." One of the biggest mills which used to employ many workers now has five: "four men and a laser-guided computerized cutting machine." (Azerrad 12)
Aberdeen was once a thriving seaport with numerous lumber companies and "dozens of the West Coast's most popular whorehouses" (Gilmore 44). The town also became the end of a railroad line because of the lumber companies. Prostitution prospered with as many as fifty whorehouses in the downtown area. Prostitution was around until the late fifties when the police finally ended it. (Azerrad 12) The "lumber boom" slacked off a few years ago as "the economy fell and available lands were depleted." Now people are worried that the Northwestern logging industry will not be able to recover and Aberdeen "is marked for a slow ugly death." (Gilmore 44)
According to Kenn Oberrecht, Aberdeen's name is from a city in Scotland. The name is Gaelic and means "the meeting of two rivers." Aberdeen, in case you do not know, is at the joining of the Chehalis and Wishkah rivers. It is about one hundred miles south west of Seattle and 48 miles west southwest of Olympia. (164) The first sawmill was built in 1884 and the shipbuilding industry prospered until the 1920's.
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