By Deb Murphy
Political correctness met Inyo County Wednesday evening at Supervisor Matt Kingsley’s town hall meeting in Lone Pine. Both appeared to come out the winner.
The initial topic was Inyo County’s Portagee Joe Campground off Tuttle Creek Road in Lone Pine. Not so much the camp itself, but the name.
Allen Berry had e-mailed the Supervisors his concern that Portagee was a pejorative term–as bad as spick or mick or kraut or the one word that need not be spoken–not appropriate for a campground operated by tax-payer dollars. Berry had lived in Modesto with a large Portuguese population. Portagee was something they could call each other, but offensive out of the mouth of a non-Portuguese person.
The e-mail sent Kingsley on a search for Joe’s and the campground’s history. He didn’t have to look far.
Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Carunchio, also at the meeting, went to his father, a former parks guy for the county and then to his uncle who was present for the official christening. His uncle was part of a crew sent to bulldoze an old facility in the area in the 1960s.
Joe’s campsite, or shack, that part wasn’t entirely clear, was just above the site. The guys decided to name the campground after Joe, AKA Portagee Joe.
“It was a bunch of blue-collar guys naming something after another working stiff,” said Carunchio.
Another long-time resident added to the story. “The man had a long history here,” he said “If you were in the cattle business, you knew all about him.” Apparently there are other Portagee things named after Joe.
Earl Wilson brought up Skinny Gates and Hard Rock Jim, two more unique Lone-Pinesque residents.
But there were folks disturbed by the potential offensiveness of an ethnic slur attached to a campground.
Carunchio came up with a compromise that seemed to settle the question: keep the name Portagee Joe, “out of respect to the man,” said Kingsley, but add information at the site to explain Joe’s history and how his name became attached to the campground.
Everyone seemed happy with the solution, hopefully Joe would be as well.